Here’s our guide to what to look for – along with our regularly updated selection of the best mid-range smartphones in 2021.
Best Mid-Range Smartphones 2021
How to buy the best mid-range smartphones for you
When we talk about mid-range smartphones, we generally mean handsets that cost between £300 and £500 to buy outright. It’s true that the latest and greatest smartphones keep on getting more and more expensive – Huawei recently announced a foldable phone costing £2,000 – so strictly speaking the middle of the market is a moving target. But our price bracket is the one to focus on, as it’s where you’ll find the best balance of price and features.
1. OnePlus 8T: An exceptional phone at a fantastic price
Over the years, OnePlus has quite rightly earned a standout reputation for its well-priced flagship-beating handsets. The Chinese smartphone giant’s newest mid-range smartphone, the OnePlus 8T, is undoubtedly it’s the finest offering yet.
Indeed, it’s arguably one of the best-priced smartphones we’ve ever tested. That’s partly because it’s one of the first phones to offer super-fast 65W charging (going from zero to full in just 40 minutes), but it’s also inherited the buttery-smooth 120Hz screen from the OnePlus 8 Pro, as well as the top-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor. Its 26-hour battery life is equally impressive too.
What makes all of this even more appealing is the fact that the OnePlus 8T costs half as much as most current flagship handsets, while offering similar features. For less than £550, you really can’t do much better.
2. Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro
The global Redmi Note 9 Pro is priced at about €200 and it has a lot to offer. First – it has a large screen with one tiny cutout. Then, it’s one of our battery champs and it supports 30W fast charging.
We also enjoyed the output of its 64MP main and 8MP ultrawide cameras, which aren’t bad either. It is one of the few phones to offer high quality 2x digital zoom by fully utilizing the 64MP sensor. Then there is the Snapdragon 720G chip, which is ideal for gaming on the budget.
It’s got flaws too, naturally. The uneven backlight around the notch is a bit of an eyesore. The flipside to the large battery is that the Redmi 9 Pro is a bit chunky, too. And then there is the fact that Realme offers a 90Hz screen on a cheaper phone.
Still, if the 90Hz screen isn’t a must-have, the Redmi Note 9 Pro is a real powerhouse and will last you days on a single charge.
3. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Although £699 might be pushing the definition of mid-range, when you have flagship devices costing double, it’s simply the situation we find ourselves in. Thankfully, Samsung has crammed many of its best flagship features into the Galaxy S20 FE, without making too many sacrifices.
The highlights here include an attractive 120Hz OLED flat panel offering punchy colours and deep blacks, 6GB of fast RAM and 128GB storage. You’ll also find a triple camera array on the rear of the device, which is headlined by an excellent 12-megapixel camera capable of capturing bright, detailed and intensely colourful photos. Through testing, we found it more than good enough for taking photos for use on social media and video-calling over Zoom. However, we’d still say the Pixel series offers the very best camera experience in this price bracket.
Samsung has also included plenty of features that are often ditched at this price, including Qi charging, an IP68 water-resistance rating, and expandable storage.
The real star of the show here is the Snapdragon 865 chipset (there’s also a 4G Exynos 990 version available for £100 less), which not only gives the FE better performance than other European versions of the S20 but superior battery life, too. There’s 5G support to boot – although, as we found during testing unless you live in an area with 5G coverage, the latter isn’t a huge selling point.
Finally, there’s the FE’s design. This isn’t quite as high-end as that of the S20, since the rear of the device is made of tough plastic rather than glass. But using it as my everyday phone, I found the matte finish attractive – and, unlike most glass-backed phones, it wasn’t a magnet for fingerprints. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is also available in a range of eye-catching colors, including a deep blue and striking red.
4. Realme X50 5G
The standard Realme X50 does the same thing for the mid-range market as the Pro model does in the flagship space.
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 even Google’s Pixel 5 a run for their money in certain areas.
5. Samsung Galaxy A51
The Galaxy A51 is probably the best mid-ranger you can get from Samsung. It sports a great display and a fantastic build quality, considering the price of the phone. It also has dual-SIM capabilities and four rear cameras that take decent photos.
The handset comes equipped with a headphone jack and a microSD card slot. The battery has a capacity of 4,000mAh and should get you through the day. Other specs and features worth mentioning include a punch-hole display, Android 10 with Samsung’s One UI on top, and 128GB of storage.
Additionally, the in-display fingerprint scanner is slow and often unreliable. Despite these drawbacks, the Galaxy A51 is still one of the best cheap phones you can get.
It also provides a relatively affordable entry-point to 5G, with the special edition Galaxy A51 5G. It will cost you around $100 more but is still far more affordable than other current 5G-capable phones.
6. GOOGLE PIXEL 4A 5G
The Google Pixel 4aa is Google’s most recent mid-range smartphone. No doubt, it is one of the top mid-range smartphones in the market presently. This device comes with a 6.2-inch OLED FHD+ punch-hole panel that supports a 60Hz refresh rate. This display comes with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels. In the camera department, this device uses a 12.2 MP main sensor as well as a 16MP 107° Ultra-wide camera on the rear. Upfront, it has an 8MP shooter for selfies. Google has a reputation for having one of the best cameras in the smartphone market. Thus, its dual rear camera does not matter, the output is massively good. On the software end, this device comes with pure Android 11, another feature that many people will like.
Under the hood, this device comes with a Snapdragon 765G 7nm EUV Mobile Platform with Adreno 620 GPU. Supporting this chip is 6GB LPDDR4X RAM and 128GB (UFS 2.1) storage. To keep its lights on is a 3800mAh battery that supports 18W fast charging. Other features include Dual SIM (nano + eSIM), a rear fingerprint sensor, 5G SA/NSA, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, etc.
7. OnePlus Nord 5G
The OnePlus Nord 5G is part of the company’s new Nord lineup. It runs on Android 10 based OxygenOS and features a 6.44-inch Full HD+ Fluid AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection. It is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chipset It features a quad camera setup at the back and a 32MP selfie camera. It is powered by a 4,115mAh battery with Warp Charge 30T fast charge. It offers a smooth user experience and provides ample RAM and storage.
8. Best Mega-Flagship: Galaxy S21 Ultra
Starting off with the super-high-end, we’ve never really recommended a device at this high price range, but Samsung’s new super aggressive pricing and general execution on then new Galaxy S21 Ultra means it’s a device that even though very expensive, does deliver on its price point.
The S21 Ultra is defined by an industry-leading 1440p 120Hz OLED screen: It features a new generation OLED emitter, a polysilicon backplane, and software as well as hardware variable refresh rates. It literally checks off every feature list that a display can have today, and it gets extremely bright, and is extremely power efficient, leading to great battery life.
Samsung’s new camera setup this year iterates on the previous generation. While there are still quirks with Samsung’s unorthodox module setup, it also some of the biggest strengths in the market right now. In our review, we weren’t quite satisfied with the processing of the cameras, however, Samsung does have a track record of continue to iterate and improve things through firmware updates throughout the device’s first year.
What really stands out for the S21 Ultra at this time is the pricing, especially in the US. While last year the S20 Ultra started at an MSRP of $1399 and was actually sold at that price for most of the first months, this year the $1199 MSRP S21 Ultra barely remained at that price for a few days before Samsung immediately discounted it to $999. At that price, the phone becomes insanely competitive, at least compared to what we’ve gotten used to these last few years. European street prices today aren’t discounted as much, but the phone is still available at 1129€ right now, which is also quite below the S20 Ultra prices of last year.
9. Best for iPhone Lovers: Apple iPhone SE (2020)
Recommending Apple phones in this price range is tricky because the company prices most of its models firmly at the premium end of the market. Spend less and you’ll get less: in this case, a phone released in 2020 with a design from several years earlier.
It looks dated compared to the other phones on this list, and some of the specifications aren’t much to get excited about either. Given that, is the iPhone SE really worth buying?
For many people, the answer is a definite yes. The latest iPhone SE is an upgraded version of a model whose popularity caught Apple by surprise. A phone that does the basics well, can access the Apple app store, and costs under five hundred bucks, is exactly what a significant chunk of the population is looking for.
Even in what is by Apple standards a budget device, you’ll still find features that more-expensive phones from other manufacturers don’t have. IP67 water and dust resistance are a big one, along with wireless charging.
The cameras, too, are extremely good for the money. Shots taken in good lighting are often barely distinguishable from those coming out of phones costing twice as much. Video footage, too, is very good, even in 4K (which goes all the way up to 60fps.)
The processor in the SE is the same as what you’ll find inside the latest iPhone 11 Pro that costs $1000+. That not only makes the SE remarkably fast for the money but also means it should keep getting iOS upgrades for the next several years.
Apple builds quality is very high, especially with a design like this that’s been around forever and had all the kinks worked out of it years ago. We know plenty of people who’ve dropped their iPhones repeatedly onto hard surfaces and walked away with nothing more than a small dent.
Sure, we know several who’ve smashed the screen to pieces as well, but for a phone not marketed as being particularly rugged, the SE should take plenty of abuse.
Being able to walk into a physical Apple store to deal with any problems, at least if you’re traveling in the right parts of the world, is also a significant comfort.
Of course, Apple has to give you some reason to buy its more-expensive models, so the iPhone SE isn’t perfect. Even though the 4.7″ screen is quite a bit larger than what was on the original SE, this is still a small phone by current standards. Small phones have small batteries.
You may get to the end of the day without needing to plug in a portable battery when the phone is new and you’re not pushing it too hard, but it’ll be a different story in a year or two.
As impressive as video and still shots are in good lighting, you can’t say the same at night. There’s no dedicated night mode, and it shows, with a lot of noise and dark pictures when the lighting gets bad. Google’s budget Pixel model (above) costs about the same but does a much better job here.
There’s no headphone jack, and while the phone is capable of fast charging, the 5W charger in the box doesn’t provide it. There’s that dated design, of course, and as with all Apple devices, no micro-SD slot if you run out of space in the future. You don’t get FaceID or multiple rear cameras either.
What you do get is a phone that for a reasonable price performs well, takes good photos most of the time, and has the benefits of physical stores, a wide range of quality apps, and dedicated tools like Facetime and iMessage that you can’t get on other devices.
For many travelers, that’s exactly the combination they require.
10. Motorola moto G 5G plus
The Motorola Moto G 5G Plus isn’t just a great phone because it offers 5G future-proofing. It’s a great phone for all it offers, from the excellent battery life, the big screen experience, power, and super smooth hardware.
It is a little plasticky, the cameras are oversold and there is no in-display fingerprint sensor, but otherwise, there’s little within this class that can touch this Moto.
Finder expert review team extensively tested each of the phones on this list, reviewing the design, camera output, performance, battery life, and any other special features for each handset. Our editorial team has selected the phones on this list based on their overall quality and value compared to other phones in the market. Selection and order are not based on the rating. Hope you will choose the right product for you