Which is the best mid-priced phone?
While there’s a general understanding of what mid-range means in relation to smartphones, the definition has changed in recent years as technology and pricing have evolved.
With this in mind, we’ve tested the best mid-rangers available right now and compiled this summary list so you can get the right phone for you. You can also read on to explore our full review and test for each model.
- Best value mid-range phone: Xiaomi Mi 9
- Best performance: OnePlus 8
- Best for features: Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro
- Best camera: Xiaomi Mi Note 10
- Best for Google: Google Pixel 3a
- Best for Samsung: Samsung Galaxy A51
- Best for gaming: Red Magic 3
So what is a mid-range phone anyway? For us, it’s phones that are mid-priced, found neither at the premium and of the market nor in the budget ranges. Created by the sheer volume of competition between modern phone manufacturers, this appealing mid-range space offers impressive bang for your buck from established brands, with models that encompass a range of uses.
Related: Best iPhone Deals
How do we select the best mid-range smartphones?
As with any of our other best mobile phone rankings, this list reflects the best that the current smartphone market has to offer, taking into account constraints such as price and feature set. To earn its place in our line-up, each phone undergoes a TR review – we slip in our SIM cards and use each phone as our main device solidly for a week at the very least.
We test claims on performance and battery life with both real-world and artificial benchmarks, trial new features and cast a careful eye over every advantage and flaw that these phones possess, to provide a clear, concise review of the latest smartphones and make your buying decision as easy as possible.
If you’re still unsure, check out our list of the best budget phones.
1. Xiaomi Mi 9
Best budget flagship
- Versatile camera experience
- Superb value for money
- Fantastic performance
- Excellent screen
- Slightly temperamental fingerprint sensor
- No IP certification
The Xiaomi Mi 9 is unquestionably a serious piece of kit. It features Qualcomm’s latest and greatest chipset, the Snapdragon 855 and packs in all sorts of other desirables, including fast wireless charging, HDR visuals and a triple rear camera array headed up by a 48-megapixel primary sensor.
While it has less of the cool factor than the rival OnePlus 7, which is similarly priced, the Mi 9 embodies Daft Punk’s sentiment of Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. It can hold its own against the might of Apple and Samsung at a much more affordable price point, and is definitely worth considering when you’re seeking out a new smartphone.
- Read our full Xiaomi Mi 9 review
2. OnePlus 8
An excellent piece of hardware
- 5G with no massive price hike
- Top-end processor
- Rich, brihgt OLED screen
- Rubbish macro camera
- No optical zoom
- No wireless charging or IP rating
OnePlus has traditionally produced real winners at this price point, and this year’s model is no expectation. Bringing 5G for a reasonable price, along with a top-class processor ensures that this is one of the best mid-range choices for those seeking a powerhouse performer for less. In terms of sheer power, this will hold its own even among Android flagships, and the 5G capability gives it some future-proofing too.
On top of that, it’s got a great screen that boasts vibrant colours, perfect contrast and a sharp resolution, all along with a 90Hz refresh rate that makes scrolling extra-smooth and is a rare feature for this price.
However, we weren’t quite as impressed by the camera; the macro camera wasn’t worth a thing, and there’s no optical zoom for sharp close-up shots. What’s more, while the premium models in the series finally got upgraded to have wireless charging and an IP rating, the OnePlus 8 still has to go without.
- Read our full OnePlus 8 review
3. Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro
An excellent, affordable smartphone that’s easy to recommend
- Excellent design
- Great camera
- Snappy performance
- The interface has some quirks
- No waterproofing
- No wireless charging
The Mi 9T Pro seems almost too good to be true. With this model, Xiaomi rivals the Honor 20 and OnePlus 7, offering flagship specs and slick design at a mid-range price. Unlike the competition, however, the Mi 9T Pro has a headphone jack, not to mention a Super AMOLED Full HD+ full-screen display, meaning there are no notches or hole punches in sight. At just £399, this phone is significantly better than any other similarly priced devices packing flagship specs.
Performance in general is excellent, particularly the gaming experience. A Snapdragon 855 processor coupled with 6GB RAM lets this phone power through benchmarks and games alike. While it doesn’t quite stack up against the cream of the current crop of dedicated gaming phones, it doesn’t fall far short, and compared to the best of 2018 – the Razer Phone 2 and Asus ROG Phone – the Mi 9T Pro wins out.
The software isn’t perfect, though it is perfectly useable. Annoying quirks include scanning for viruses every time you install an app. While this sounds great, it doesn’t merely scan in the background; it takes you to a different screen. You can remove this feature, however, and also reinstate an applications tray with a custom launcher, as we did. The experience then went from a 60% to a 90%, but if you’re not prepared to tweak the UI to suit you, some elements might get a bit frustrating.
If you need a new phone that won’t break the bank, the Xiaomi Mi 9T is one of the easiest phones out now to recommend. It combines exceptional value for money with premium, accessible design, powerful internals and a very good stills and video camera. The phone’s all-screen display and under-display fingerprint scanner are also highlights at this price, and it has a headphone jack, making it something of a unicorn among flagship-specced devices available now.
- Read our full Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro review
4. Xiaomi Mi Note 10
A lot of hardware at a value price
- Smoothly curved glass front and back
- Great zoom cameras
- High-quality 108MP main sensor
- Camera is slow
- Protruding camera housing
- Some software quirks
- Low-light images aren’t best in class
The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 is a mid-range phone with some high-end device design traits. It packs five cameras, a main 108-megapixel sensor and a generously sized battery that lasts pretty well.
In some areas, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 is made to the same standard as a phone costing twice as much. Its sides are metal, and both the front and rear of the device are substantial, curved pieces of glass. There’s no plastic border between the metal and glass, which is highly unusual for a phone costing less than £600.
The Mi Note 10 has a 6.47-inch screen, an OLED panel with a 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution – excellent for the money. You may find larger, but you won’t find much better, particularly if the curvy front appeals.
Day-to-day performance is technically sound, as you’d hope from a device with a good CPU and 6GB of RAM.
Most of the cameras that feature on the Mi Note 10’s rear are impressive. There’s a 2x zoom, a 3x zoom lens the phone crops into for 5x images, an ultra-wide and a dedicated macro. The macro sensor is the only real dud – in almost all situations the other cameras offer better results. Normal shots are packed full of detail; 108-megapixel shots even more so. The camera is unusually good at dealing with the light levels of tricky scenes such as sunsets. However, the camera is where you’ll discover the Xiaomi Mi Note 10’s most significant performance issues. It’s slow. There’s shutter lag of around half a second, and image processing takes a long time.
This isn’t the most polished smartphone on the market. The camera is slow, it isn’t the most attractive phone despite all that curved glass, and fingerprint scanner performance is poor. However, you do get plenty of hardware for your money and, despite its flaws, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 offers good value.
- Read our Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review
5. Google Pixel 3a
The perfect alternative to the £1000 smartphone
- The best camera you’ll find at this price
- The best screen you’ll find at this price
- Great size
- Headphone jack
- No IP certification
- Lack of wireless charging
The Google Pixel 3a is comfortably one of the best phones you can buy for £399 – there’s much to like about it on all fronts.
The highlight is the camera and, while you’ll find phones with more megapixels out there, unless you pay a lot more you won’t get snaps this good. Like the much pricier Pixel 3, the 3a packs a 12-megapixel f/1.8 camera with a load of Google’s excellent AI software on board.
The Pixel 3a’s screen is superb too. It’s an OLED panel with punchy colours, excellent viewing angles and no notch to speak of.
There are compromises in some areas, however. There’s no IP rating or wireless charging, the mid-range Snapdragon 670 chipset is merely OK and the body is made of plastic. If you want every spec and feature going you’ll probably want to look elsewhere – to the Xiaomi Mi 9, for example.
- Read our Google Pixel 3a review
6. Samsung Galaxy A51
A solid, affordable Android with a versatile camera system
- Attractive design
- Good screen
- An impressive, versatile camera
- Battery life could be better
The Samsung Galaxy A51 has a sleek, eye-catching design that catches the light for a premium-looking finish (along with handy extras like a headphone jack and a Micro SD card slot), but it offers far more than just that.
The 6.5-inch OLED screen is a joy to use for watching your favourite videos, with a sharp resolution and great colours and contrast. Its four-lens camera offers great versatility at this price with the option to use wide-angle, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses for smart, sharp shots.
On the other hand, the battery was a little underwhelming despite its promising 4000mAh capacity. In our benchmarking tests, the processor didn’t exactly hold its own in comparison to its rivals.
- Read our full Samsung Galaxy A51 review
7. Red Magic 3
One of the best-value gaming smartphones available now, backed up by an assortment of interesting accessories
- Great gaming accessories
- Massive battery capacity
- Internal fan keeps phone cool
- Incredibly good value
- Superb performance
- Refresh rate not as good as pricier rivals
- Enormous size makes typing awkward
- Camera lacks versatility
This handset has plenty of specs, with Snapdragon 855 processor, up to 12GB RAM and an Adreno 640 GPU – and creator Nubia has included an extra feature to blow its competitors away, fitting a turbo fan for active cooling. Throw in an enormous battery, built-in capacitive shoulder triggers, an RGB light strip and a fiercely competitive price, and you’ve got one of the very best gaming smartphones currently available.
The 6.65-inch display means the Red Magic 3 is a hefty piece of kit, but it also provides a lovely widescreen visual feast. A 90Hz refresh rate ensures a super-smooth visual performance for fast-paced games. This puts the Red Magic 3 ahead of the pack when it comes to competitors such as the Black Shark 2, which can only muster 60Hz, but can’t quite match up to the 120Hz panels utilised by both the Razer Phone 2 and the Asus ROG Phone 2.
The internal turbo fan is an unusual addition to a smartphone, but Nubia claims that pairing the fan with the phone’s liquid cooling tech improves CPU clock speeds drastically, compared to passively cooled gaming phones.
Nubia has launched a pair of controllers with the Red Magic 3, as well as a case that lets you clip them onto each side of the phone, and the Red Magic Adapter, which attaches to the phone’s Gaming Port and allows you to hook up an Ethernet cable for a more reliable internet connection. The adapter has a headphone jack and USB-C port, which is extremely useful, as clipping on the controllers blocks the original ports on the handset. Hardcore mobile gamers are the most likely purchasers, at £41.90, however.
Ultra-powerful components make the Red Magic 3 easily one of the most powerful Android phones available, and it’s our pick for the best mid-range phone for gaming.
Read our full Red Magic 3 review
Still not sure what to buy?
Check out our comprehensive list of buying advice and ranked lists:
- Best mobile phone deals – our guide to the best savings and prices across a range of phones and contract types
- Best Android phone – our guide to the latest and best Android-specific phones
- Best Samsung phone – our guide to what’s what in the world of Samsung
- Best camera phone – the best phone snappers ranked for you
- Best Apple iPhone – our guide to the right iPhone for you
- Best phablet/big phone – our guide to the best of the bigger phones
- Best smartphone – our guide to where to start
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