large image

Trusted Reviews is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Best mid-range smartphones 2021: 9 great value phones

After thorough testing, Trusted Reviews ranks the best mid-range phones to buy right now – discover the leading mobiles offering top-notch capabilities at a fraction of the price of full-fat flagships

Smartphones have become increasingly advanced over recent years, with fast performance, multiple cameras and even foldable screens cropping up on more and more devices over time. But, these premium features don’t come without their price. That’s why we’ve put together this list of all the best mid-range handsets available right now. 

While flagship phones continue to impress, the mid-range market has also grown massively in recent years. Major smartphone brands including the likes of Apple, Samsung and Google have gotten in on the game, offering affordable alternatives for those of us looking for a number of flagship features without the flagship price. 

Most mid-range phones usually fall within the £400 to £750 (or $400 to $800) range, making them tempting alternatives to those left aghast at the handful of £1000+ phones we’ve seen launch over the last few years – albeit usually with a few sacrifices to justify the smaller price tag. 

In this list, you’ll find all the best mid-range phones we’ve rigorously tested this year along with links to our full, in-depth reviews.

If you’re actually looking for the best flagship phones out there, you’ll want to check out our best phones guide. If you’re on a tighter budget, you can head over to our best cheap phones page to find the most affordable handsets we’d recommend right now.

How we test

Learn more about how we test mobile phones

Every phone we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, screen accuracy, battery life, performance and camera prowess.

These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real world checks, such as how much battery it loses per hour streaming video.

We also make sure to use every phone we review as our primary handset for at least 4 days to ensure our review is as accurate as possible. You can see a more detailed breakdown of our testing methodology in our how we test phones guide.

Pixel 6

A cheaper alternative to the Pixel 6 Pro
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • So many great software features
  • Nice array of colours
  • Strong camera hardware for the price

Cons

  • Some jank in the software
  • The display lacks the 120Hz refresh rate of many similarly priced rivals
  • A couple of odd design choices

The Pixel 6 is the Google’s newest mid-range phone and a more affordable alternative to the Google Pixel 6 Pro

The phone is the first from the company powered by its own Tensor chipset, offering major improvements in AI and machine learning over previous Pixels to enable new features like auto-translations built into the phone. 

The phone features a new three-tone design sure to stand out in a crowd, a 6.4-inch display and is the first device to run Android 12 out of the box so you know its got the latest software on board. 

On the back on the phone, there’s a dual camera made up of a 50-megapixel (f/1.85) wide angle lens and a 12-megapixel (f/2.2) ultra-wide angle lens backed up by Google’s advanced photo-processing algorithms, along with new photography features like the Magic Eraser, Real Tone and Face Unblur. 

However, unlike the flagship Pixel 6 Pro, the Pixel 6 does not include a 120Hz display or a third telephoto lens for zooming in close to your subject. 

Reviewer: Max Parker

Full review: Google Pixel 6 Review

OnePlus 9

A flagship phone for less
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Well calibrated screen that’s perfect for gamers and movie fans
  • Solid camera with an advanced pro mode for tinkerers
  • Outstanding, future proof performance

Cons

  • Lack of variable refresh rate means the screen eats up battery in its highest setting
  • Camera’s image processing can be a little heavy handed

If you’re a power user that desperately wants a flagship phone, but can’t afford to spend over $1000 then the OnePlus 9 is the best option at the moment.

It features all the key trappings you’d expect from a flagship. Highlights include 5G connectivity, top of the line internal components plus a few exclusive extras that put it a cut above its arch-rival, the Galaxy S21, during our tests.

The biggest are its improved Hasselblad camera setup. Built in partnership with the iconic camera brand the OnePlus 9’s rear camera beats the Galaxy S21 when it comes to color reproduction and features a more useful secondary ultrawide sensor, which is great if you regularly shoot landscape shots.

It’s also one of the fastest charging phones we’ve reviewed. During our tests its Warp Charge tech let the phone go from zero to 100 percent charge in less than 30 minutes, which is seriously impressive.

The only slight downside is that, unlike the Galaxy S21, the phone’s 120Hz AMOLED screen doesn’t feature a variable refresh rate. This means it offers slightly shorter battery life than we’d like if you set the screen to its highest settings.

Read our full OnePlus 9 review

Buy now at Appliances Direct, £629

Buy now at John Lewis & Partners, £629

Asus Zenfone 8

The best small Android phone around
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Great size for those who find Android phones big
  • Impressive speed
  • Lovely screen
  • Impressive value

Cons

  • Can get hot when gaming
  • No telephoto camera
  • No wireless charging

The Asus Zenfone 8 sets itself apart from other phones on this list by being both a small device and one that packs plenty of power.

The size is far more comparable to the iPhone 12 with the 5.9-inch display and thanks to some software tweaks you can use the phone well with just one hand.

Where the Zenfone 8 stands above other smaller devices, like the Pixel 5, is in the internals. Here you’ve got a flagship Snapdragon 888 chipset (with 5G), up to 16GB RAM and 30w charging. The screen can also ramp up to 120Hz – the Pixel 5 is stuck at 90Hz.

It might be small, but Asus has still managed to fit in a pair of stereo front-firing speakers and a 3.5mm port for your wired headphones.

Not all is perfect, though. There’s no wireless charging and the lack of a zoom camera means versatility in photography is limited when compared to some other phones on this list. It can get a little when gaming, too.

Read our full Asus Zenfone 8 review

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

The best mid-range Samsung Galaxy phone
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Snapdragon 865 in the UK
  • Lovely 120Hz panel
  • Available in a nice array of colours

Cons

  • Secondary cameras aren’t great

£699 might be pushing the definition of mid-range, but with flagship devices costing twice this these days, it can sometimes put more affordable phones into context. A good example of this is the Galaxy S20 FE, which Samsung crammed many of its 2020 flagship features into 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 last year’s 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, which is fairly similar to Samsung’s current Galaxy S21. It’s built of tough plastic rather than glass. But using it as my everyday phone, I found the matte finish attractive – and, unlike most plastic-backed phones, it wasn’t a magnet for fingerprints. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is also available in a range of eye-catching colours, including a deep blue and striking red.

It’s also worth noting that we expect the Galaxy S21 FE to launch this year, so it may be worth holding out for that launch if you like the sound of Samsung’s more affordable S Series line.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review

Buy now at BuyMobiles, £26 p/m, £39 upfront

Buy now at BuyMobiles, £23 p/m, £99.99 upfront

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

A great all-rounder with 5G
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Great screen
  • 5G
  • Long battery life
  • Years of software updates
  • OIS makes the camera better

Cons

  • Basic design
  • Poor secondary cameras

At £399 (no current US price available), the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is one of the cheaper options on this list and is a great pick if you want to save a bit more money without sacrificing too many features.

The star of the show here is the 6.5-inch OLED display which, like some of the pricier phones around, has a quick 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling and responsive gaming. You’ll notice that quick screen constantly, as it just makes the phone feel a lot smoother than you’d expect.
It’s a quality panel in other ways too. The OLED tech gives you inky blacks and vivid colours, while the 1080p resolution is more than sharp enough. There’s no proper HDR support, but the bright screen still looks great for watching Netflix on.

Inside the phone you’ll find a Snapdragon 750G chipset paired with 6 or 8GB RAM. This is a slower chipset than many phones on this list in terms of benchmarks and overall performance, however we found it more than capable of handling day-to-day tasks and gaming. You’ve got 128GB storage too, and a slot for expansion – something you won’t find on the Galaxy S21.
Another impressive feature is battery life, which we found easily lasted through the day and then some. It’s a 4500mAh cell and charges up via an included 15w charger.

On the back of the phone you’ll find a good main 64MP camera with OIS (optical image stabilisation) along with a couple of less impressive secondary cameras and an adequate 32MP selfie camera.
There aren’t too many sacrifices here. You get an IP rated body, various colour options and Samsung promises three years of security updates. The design is a bit basic though, and it’s very much made out of plastic.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review

Buy now at BuyMobiles, £21 p/m, £29.99 upfront

Buy now at Appliances Direct, £379

Google Pixel 4a

A mix of the 4a and 5
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Great camera that’s the same as the Pixel 5
  • Bigger display than the Pixel 5
  • Decent performance and 5G

Cons

  • Design a bit bland
  • The Pixel 5 packs in more features for not much more money

Sitting bang in the middle of Google’s 2020 range of Pixel phones is the 4a 5G. It’s very much a mixture of the 4a and 5 models, combining the design of the former with the camera and 5G support of the latter.

It’s the biggest of the Pixels, too, coming with a 6.2-inch display. This OLED panel looks great, even if we do wish it had a 90Hz refresh rate. It’s missing wireless charging too, and an IP rating which are two features often missed at this price. Other specs include a 765G Snapdragon chipset, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It runs Android 11.

Battery life during testing was good, but it’s the dual camera that really shines. It’s the same unit as included in Pixel 5, which means in tests it proved capable of taking super-detailed shots in all manner of conditions, including low light. If camera is your main focus then this should be very high on your list, especially if you don’t want to spend more on the Pixel 5.

Read our full Google Pixel 4a 5G review

Buy now at Appliances Direct, £449.97

Buy now at Amazon, £478.99

iPhone SE 2

A fast and cheaper iPhone
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Good cameras for most people
  • Great software that won’t confuse non-techies

Cons

  • Dull design

The iPhone SE 2 is a simple device. It looks very much like the iPhone 7 or 8, but it has the internals of the newer iPhones. It’s fast, packs a good camera and okay battery life.

What really sets this phone apart from other handsets on this list is its size. This is a small phone, whose screen we found was atypically easy to use one-handed during testing.

The SE 2 comes with a physical Touch ID home button, too. Other features worth noting include an IP67 rating, wireless charging and it’s available in an eye-catching red colour, too.

If you’re on the hunt for an iPhone and your budget is less than £500, this really is your only choice if you’re looking new. Of course, there’s also the iPhone 12 Mini available for £699 – however the smaller size might put some off.

Read our full iPhone SE 2 review

Buy now at Mobile Phones Direct, £21 pm, £29.99 upfront

Buy now at BuyMobiles, £23 pm, £39 upfront

Motorola Edge 20 Pro

A 5x periscope zoom camera for under £700
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • 5x zoom camera is rare at this level
  • Solid outdoor display brightness
  • Good general and gaming performance

Cons

  • Mono speaker
  • Main camera lags behind the best a little
  • More powerful phones at available at the price

In our review, reviewer Andrew Williams calls the Motorola Edge 20 Pro the “most expensive Motorola phone most of you should consider buying” and there’s a reason for that. 

The phone features a slim design, a bright display and is powered by the Snapdragon 870 5G processor, a tweaked version of last year’s Snapdragon 865 that offers fast performance and can handle gaming. 

The highlight here is the triple camera array, which consists of a 108-megapixel wide angle lens, a 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle lens and an 8-megapixel periscope zoom lens. The latter lens is particularly impressive, offering 5x optical zoom at an affordable price, but the main camera falls behind some rivals. 

The battery is smaller than average, but nevertheless offers a decent amount of battery life despite its size. 

Reviewer: Andrew Williams

Full review: Motorola Edge 20 Pro Review

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

Packed with high-end features
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Great screen
  • Capable, versatile cameras
  • Fast charging

Cons

  • No long-term software support
  • Software lacks some polish
  • Camera processing isn’t up there with the best

The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra is the Chinese manufacturer’s attempt at creating a mid-range “ultra” phone and it offers a competitive range of features. 

These include a 6.67-inch AMOLED display with a speedy 144Hz refresh rate and Qualcomm’s high-end Snapdragon 888 5G chip commonly found inside more flagship Android phones. 

Triple camera array consisting of two 64-megapixel sensors – a main sensor and an ultra-wide sensor – and an 8-megapixel periscope zoom lens. There’s a wide array of shooting modes and colour reproduction is strong, but some photos can come out overly sharpened

The battery life is decent and the inclusion of 65W fast charging and a fast charger in the box means you can charge the phone to 70% in as little as 30 minutes. 

The main disadvantage here is the software, which lacks some polish and doesn’t appear to be supported with long-term updates, meaning the phone may not hold its resale value. 

Reviewer: Sean Cameron

Full review: ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Review

FAQs

How much does a mid-range phone cost?

The team at Trusted Reviews defines mid-range smartphones as any handset costing between  $400-$800 (£400-£750). We raised our definition last year, following a gradual rise in prices in the top end of the market.

Are mid-range phones good?

Over the last few years the mid-range phone market has blossomed, with key companies including Google, Xiaomi, OnePlus, Oppo and Samsung creating mid-range handsets with features traditionally reserved for flagship devices. Recent highlights have included 5G connectivity, high refresh rate screens and improved rear camera sensors. The team of experts at Trusted Reviews recommend most users consider a mid-range smartphone before investing in a flagship as a result.

Are there 5G mid-range phones?

5G is an increasingly common site in the mid-range market with Samsung, Oppo, Motorola, OnePlus and Google having mid-range phones supporting the connectivity.

Comparison Specifications

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
CA RRP
AUD RRP
Manufacturer
Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Rear Camera
Front Camera
Video Recording
IP rating
Battery
Wirless charging
Fast Charging
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
ASIN
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Model Number
Resolution
HDR
Refresh Rate
Ports
Chipset
RAM
Colours
Bin capacity

Why trust our journalism?

Founded in 2004, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

Today, we have 9 million users a month around the world, and assess more than 1,000 products a year.

author icon

Editorial independence

Editorial independence means being able to give an unbiased verdict about a product or company, with the avoidance of conflicts of interest. To ensure this is possible, every member of the editorial staff follows a clear code of conduct.

author icon

Professional conduct

We also expect our journalists to follow clear ethical standards in their work. Our staff members must strive for honesty and accuracy in everything they do. We follow the IPSO Editors’ code of practice to underpin these standards.