Not everyone can afford a flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or iPhone 12 Pro, but the good news is that plenty of cheaper devices offer an excellent experience all the same.
Some are half the price or even less, so don’t panic if your bank account is looking a little bare and you’re in need of a new smartphone. We’ve reviewed and ranked the best mid-range phones you can buy today.
We define a mid-range phone as one that costs between £250 (the higher limit of our even cheaper budget phones chart) and £600 in the UK, on a SIM-free basis. You’ll find anything more expensive than that in our general best smartphone ranking, which tends to focus on flagship fare, along with our pick of the best Android phones.
Mid-range smartphones aim to combine flagship-level features with great value. You may have to compromise slightly on one aspect or another, like the camera or build quality, but it’s often totally worth it to save hundreds – and some of the phones at the top of the price range are flagships in their own right.
Phones from the likes of Realme, Xiaomi, and OnePlus are prime choices, and we’ve listed our current favourites below. Read past our rundown for more mid-range phone buying advice.
Best mid-range phone 2021
1. OnePlus Nord – Best overall
An outstanding affordable buy from 2020, with great performance, 5G, OnePlus’ signature Oxygen OS user experience and a more diverse camera setup than the company has ever used on a phone. What’s not to love?
What the OnePlus Nord really demonstrates is the company’s ability to prioritise the features that users are looking for right now and wrapping them up in an attractive package with a compelling price point.
Read our full OnePlus Nord review
2. Realme X50 5G – Best specs for less
The Realme X50 and slightly pricier X50 Pro both offer phenomenal value for the specs they deliver.
A 120Hz display, the excellent Snapdragon 765G chip, 5G, superb battery life and a surprisingly-capable main camera collectively render the X50 a far better phone than anything you’d expect at this price.
It even gives devices like the OnePlus Nord and Google’s Pixel 5 a run for their money in certain areas.
Read our full Realme X50 5G review
3. Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro – Best value
The Redmi Note 10 Pro is one of the best phones you can buy at its price point, with Xiaomi delivering exceptional value for money.
Highlights here start with the stunning screen, offering AMOLED technology and a 120Hz refresh rate, and continue with an excellent set of cameras. The headline is a 108Mp whopper which is backed up by a reasonable ultra-wide and a surprisingly decent telemacro.
Core specs are decent, hinging on the Snapdragon 732G to ensure smooth performance. However, the Redmi Note 10 Pro doesn’t support 5G, which might be a deal breaker.
MIUI is also a downside with its overly complex interface that’s simply not as stylish or easy to use as many rivals – even if you can make it a lot better than default with some tweaking.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro review
4. OnePlus 8T – Best software
The OnePlus 8T costs a little more than the Nord, but for that you get a faster 120Hz refresh rate, more powerful chipset, and twice the charging power with 65W wired speeds.
At full price those upgrades are a little hard to justify, but now that the 8T has dropped in price a little since launch it makes much more sense for those whose budgets will stretch a little higher than the Nord’s price.
The more recent OnePlus 9 is also available, but we actually recommend the 8T instead – the 9 costs a fair bit more, and other than adding in wireless charging the improvements are minimal. Stick with the 8T and save some money.
Read our full OnePlus 8T review
5. Red Magic 6 – Best for gaming
Nubia’s Red Magic 6 manages the trick of delivering the top-tier specs demanded by a gaming phone without breaking out of the mid-range pricing bracket.
The 165Hz refresh rate is the fastest around right now – besting even the priciest gaming phones around – and you also get a Snapdragon 888 chipset combined with up to 12GB of RAM and 256GB storage. You’ll also get 66W fast charging, though be warned: the phone only ships with a 30W charger in the box.
Like most gaming phones the camera is a little lacklustre, and the design is…specific. But if that’s what you’re looking for, the Red Magic 6 is hard to beat on value right now.
Read our full Nubia Red Magic 6 review
6. Realme 8 Pro – Best for battery
The Realme 8 Pro ups the company’s camera credentials with a 108Mp main camera that really does deliver the goods, backing it up with a lightweight design and two-day battery life.
You’ll have to put up with Realme’s garish ‘Dare to Leap’ branding on the back, and unfortunately the AMOLED display is only 60Hz – though the touch sample rate is a nippy 180Hz, which is great for gaming.
Charging is also fantastic at 50W wired, though curiously this is slightly slower than last year’s Realme 7 Pro.
Really, the Realme 8 Pro’s biggest problem is just that it’s remarkably similar to Xiaomi’s upcoming Redmi Note 10 Pro, which just manages to pip it on one or two specs.
Read our full Realme 8 Pro review
7. Google Pixel 4a – Best camera
If you’re in the US and looking for a great mid-range Android phone the Pixel 4a is one of the best choices you can make. It really is a knockout handset from Google with so much on offer for an incredibly affordable price.
Outside the States, competition is much tougher from rivals with features like 5G support and higher refresh rate displays, if those are important features – though of course the larger Pixel 4a 5G also offers competition when it comes to connectivity.
Otherwise, this is a charming phone with a rare compact design, smooth performance, excellent cameras and easy-to-use software with at least three years of updates.
With word that the Pixel 5a isn’t set to launch outside the US and Japan, the 4a is set to remain the best budget Google phone for a while yet.
Read our full Google Pixel 4a review
8. Realme 7 5G – Best for affordable 5G
Don’t mistake the Realme 7 5G as a repeat of the standard model with a 5G modem tacked on. While it shares a near-identical camera setup, practically everything else – from the processor to the display – has been overhauled.
A 120Hz LCD, a huge 5,000mAh battery with 30W ‘Dash Charge’ fast charging and the first phone to boast MediaTek’s Dimensity 800U chipset, make this an impressively-powerful and yet affordable mid-ranger.
At launch, it boasted the title of “Europe’s most affordable 5G phone” too (a title which has since gone to the budget Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T).
Read our full Realme 7 5G review
9. Moto G100 – Best for working on the go
The Moto G100 is a powerful and capable mid-ranger with a twist: Motorola’s ‘Ready For’ dock, which comes included with the phone in the UK (though is optional in some markets), and lets you hook the phone right up to a monitor for a portable desktop experience.
You’ll need to pair a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse too, but if you do you get a dedicated desktop interface, making this an ideal option for anyone who wants a basic mobile work setup.
Otherwise you’re getting a powerful Snapdragon 870 chip, 90Hz display, and stock Android – though the camera setup is admittedly a little basic.
Read our full Moto G100 review
10. Oppo Find X3 Lite – Budget fast charging
The Oppo Find X3 Lite delivers a solid mid-range spec sheet headlined by its impressively fast 65W wired charging speeds.
There’s little here you won’t find elsewhere – a Snapdragon 765G chipset, 90Hz display, and quad camera – which means the Find X3 Lite doesn’t do too much to stand out from the pack.
On the other hand Oppo’s ColorOS software is becoming one of the better Android options out there, and if this particular balance of features weighs up right for you then you shouldn’t rule it out.
Read our full Oppo Find X3 Lite review
Specifications to look for in a mid-range phone
It’s difficult to define a mid-range phone by its specification, hence why we’ve opted for a price bracket instead.
Some mid-range phones will take the all-round good-value approach, with capable specs in each area; others will focus on a key trait, such as the camera or display, and promise flagship-rivalling capabilities in that one aspect; others still used to be those flagships, so will offer fantastic specs at a brilliant price, but may be running on slightly older hardware.
One common element is that you’ll likely have to give up on nice-to-haves like wireless charging or a waterproof rating – these still tend to be reserved for the most expensive phones on the market.
Chinese phones are a great choice in the mid-range market because they balance very good specifications with a lower price than what you would expect to find in the UK. You may have heard of Xiaomi, Realme, and OnePlus offering staggering value, but there are plenty of other less well-known Chinese manufacturers that can also offer a very good deal.
Try to remember that it’s not always about specs either. We’ve hit something of a ceiling when it comes to smartphone tech anyway, so although these phones may not be as fast as your average flagship, they are almost certainly fast enough for most users. Go for a phone that balances value, performance, features and design in a way that appeals to you and your needs.
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