The best affordable mid-range phones reviewed and rated: from the Xiaomi Mi 9 to the Pixel 3a.
What constitutes as the best ‘mid-range’ phone has changed rather dramatically in recent years. With flagship phones like the iPhone XS Max , Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus comfortably pushing passed the £/$1000 mark, from a price perspective the goalposts have undoubtedly shifted in the same direction.
At the same time, there are new handsets taking a fresh approach – offering the best possible hardware at the lowest possible price – that also fit within what we would consider mid-range in 2018/early 2019; handsets like the Pocophone F1, which offer near-flagship specs without the price-tag.
With these factors in mind, here you’ll find a rundown of phones that we think offer the best bang for your buck while costing around half as much as you would expect to pay for a 2019 flagship.
How we select the best mid-range smartphones
Just as with any of our other ‘best smartphone‘ rankings, this list is designed to reflect the best that the current smartphone market has to offer based on constraints like price and feature-set. We review every phone we consider before it can be placed in a line-up such as this, slipping our SIM cards in and using each phone as our main device solidly for a week at the very minimum.
We test claims on performance and battery life with both real-world and artificial benchmarks, we trial new features and cast a careful eye over every facet and flaw that these phones might possess, all in the pursuit of providing a clear, concise review of the latest smartphone to make your buying decision as easy as possible.
Related: Best Budget Phones
1. Honor View 20
Interesting features for the price
- New screen design looks great and deals with the notch issue
- Good battery life and very fast charging
- Very capable camera
- A headphone jack
- No wireless charging or IP rating
- Strange performance quirks
- Software still needs work
The Honor View 20 made a splash as the first big flagship of 2019. Going up against OnePlus is no mean feat, however, the View 20 has all the right ingredients to counter its fellow Chinese phone maker’s top dog.
The design alone is eye-catching with an ‘Aurora nanotexture’ back that gives the phone its distinctive V-shaped reflective pattern. You’ll also spot a multi-camera array up top with a primary sensor that boasts a staggering 48-megapixels, meaning it can capture unbelievably crisp stills. There’s also a secondary 3D ToF (time of flight) camera that lets you grab depth information for all sorts of things, including augmented reality experiences.
Flip the phone over and its front-facing snapper counts as a world-first. We’ve heard talk and seen images of cut-out camera designs for a while but the View 20 is the first to get this technology out into the market. The phone’s extended 6.4-inch Full HD+ display features a camera that’s surrounded by pixels. Aside from looking cool and feeling cutting-edge, its 25-megapixel resolution paired with the phone’s AI vision smarts means it’s well-equipped to take great selfies too.
On the inside, the phone also packs a powerful 7nm Kirin 980 chipset and a whopping 4000mAh battery that delivers excellent longevity and boasts impressively rapid 22.5W SuperCharge fast charging.
2. Xiaomi Mi 9
Best budget flagship of 2019?
- Versatile camera experience
- Superb value for money
- Fantastic performance
- Excellent screen
- Slightly temperamental fingerprint sensor
- No IP certification
The Xiaomi Mi 9 is unquestionably formidable. It’s among the first phones to arrive rocking Qualcomm’s latest and greatest chipset, the Snapdragon 855, plus it packs in all sorts of other goodies including fast wireless charging, HDR visuals and a triple rear camera array, headed up by a 48-megapixel primary sensor.
For the same price as the 6T, the Mi 9 lives the Daft Punk methodology of harder, better, faster and stronger, albeit with less of the ‘cool factor’ that its smaller rival has accumulated over the years.
The Mi 9 is able to go up against the might of Apple and Samsung for a lot less, and that’s something to keep in mind when you come searching for a new smartphone.
3. Google Pixel 3A
- 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
There’s so much to like about the Google Pixel 3A and it’s comfortably one of the best phones you can for £399.
The highlight here is the camera. 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. You’ll find phones with more megapixels out there but unless you end up paying a lot more you won’t get a camera that’ll take snaps this good.
Camera aside, the Pixel 3a packs a glorious screen too. It’s an OLED panel with punchy colours, excellent viewing angles and no notch to speak of.
Sacrifices are made in some areas and if you want every spec and feature going you’ll probably want to pick up something else, the Xiaomi Mi 9 for example. There’s no IP rating or wireless charging, the mid-range Snapdragon 670 chipset in merely ‘ok’ and the body is made of plastic.
4. Pocophone F1
- Excellent value for money
- Superb performance
- Fantastic battery life
- Decent cameras
- MIUI for Poco will take some getting used to
- Thick bezels
- Plastic build
- No NFC
Being supported by Chinese tech giant Xiaomi’s manufacturing infrastructure has allowed new player Pocophone to make a serious splash with its first handset, the Pocophone F1. For around $/£300 you get a liquid-cooled Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with at least 6GB of RAM, a huge 4000mAh battery, a decent notched Full HD+ display and a surprisingly good pair of AI-enhanced main cameras.
The MIUI for Poco skinned Android experience will take a little getting used for anyone who hasn’t used a Xiaomi phone before, but the price/performance balance this handset strikes borders on astonishing.
It comes in three polycarbonate finishes (red, blue or black) or, if you’re willing to fork out a little more cash, the Kevlar-backed ‘Armored Edition’ seen above.
5. Honor 10
- Sleek design
- Powerful hardware
- Good value
- EMUI Android skin is bloated
- Some performance bugs
Honor released a lot of great value-for-money smartphones last year, but its most recent flagship, the Honor 10, is among the best. It’s a stylish and capable smartphone that gives you most of what the pricier Huawei P20 offered for under £300 (originally £400).
You get dual AI-enhanced cameras set within the phone’s eye-catching ‘Aurora’ reflective glass back, fast charging and the same Kirin 970 processor that powered some of Huawei’s top 2018 smartphones, complete with an NPU (neural processing unit) for AI-based tasks.
The company’s EMUI software experience is highly customisable but might be the biggest issue as it also brings with it a few bugs and a little slow-down from time to time. Nothing some focussed software updates can’t fix, though.
6. Moto Z3 Play
Ideal for versatility
- Moto Mods are still brilliant
- A simple Android experience with genuinely good tweaks
- Very fast charging
- Weak battery life
- Expensive compared to rivals
While the highly affordable Moto G6 family made headlines throughout 2018 and the Moto G7 in 2019, we’ve seen little in the way of more premium offerings from Motorola, particularly in the UK. Your best option right now is the latest Moto Z3 Play, which offers a refined design over the Moto Z2 family, some new imaging technology and the product line’s signature Moto Mod functionality.
Cleaner than even OnePlus’ Android user experience, Motorola takes a harder line on ensuring its phones feel uncluttered and snappy, while still offering a few extra features and functions that you might not expect. The Z3 Play retains gesture-based shortcuts for activating things like the flashlight and camera but overall the UI still looks and feels like stock Android 8.1 Oreo.
The phone’s 3000mAh battery is nothing revolutionary in its own right but thanks to Motorola’s Turbo Power tech, it juices back up in record time and there’s even a Moto Mod battery pack in-box to keep you going even longer. Speaking of mods, if you’ve used the company’s modular accessories before, you’ll appreciate that ability to slap a louder speaker, physical gamepad controls or even a projector onto the back of the Z3 Play, to add new functionality in an instant.
7. Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)
Best for design
- Great OLED screen
- Solid value
- Ultra-wide camera is fun
- Weak GPU
- Slow charging and no USB-C
The Samsung Galaxy A7 is a lower-cost alternative to last year’s Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9. It’s a compelling choice with some neat extras including an extra ultra-wide camera and a strong OLED screen; two things you’d rarely normally find at this price.
This is far from a gaming phone, though. The Galaxy A7 has a solid CPU but its graphics chipset is among the weakest in this class and we’d recommend something else if you love mobile gaming.
The ultra-wide secondary camera is a great feature too, giving some variety to the shots you take. The main camera is perfectly adequate, especially at the £309 price.
8. Nokia 7 Plus
Best for ease-of-use
- Big, bright screen
- Impressive battery life
- Android One has potential
- Lots of app crashes and software bugs
- Could do with some design tweaks
A big display, a big battery, lossless optical zoom on its primary dual camera and a clean and up-to-date Android One experience make the Nokia 7 Plus an easy recommendation.
One of HMD Global’s best phones since licensing the Nokia brand, the Nokia 7 Plus left us pleasantly surprised by what it brought to the table, considering it can be had for under £350. The polycarbonate body of the Plus comes with the Nokia line’s signature copper accents, helping it stand out from the crowd. There’s a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor too.
The Snapdragon 660 processor is more conservative than what the majority of phones in this lineup come packing but paired with clean Android One software onboard, this phone feels just as fast and fluid as any more premium handset.