Best mid-range smartphones of 2020: 6 great mid-priced flagships

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

Which is the best mid-priced phone?

While there’s a general understanding of what mid-range means in relation to smartphones, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the definition has changed in recent years.

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 7T
  • Best for features: Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro
  • Best camera: Google Pixel 3a
  • Best for GoPro fans: Moto One Action
  • Best for gaming: Red Magic 3
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So what is a mid-range phone anyway? For us, it’s phones that are mid-priced – not at the premium end (like the iPhone 11 Pro) or at the budget end of the market. Created by the sheer amount of competition between modern phone makers, this appealing mid-range space offers an impressive amount of bang for your buck from a number of established manufacturers, with models that encompass a range of uses.

How do we select the best mid-range smartphones?

As with any of our other best mobile phone rankings, this list is designed to reflect 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, where we slip in our SIM cards and use 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, 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 smartphones, to make your buying decision as easy as possible.

If you’re still unsure, check out our list of the best budget phones.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

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Xiaomi Mi 9 camera macro green ring

1. Xiaomi Mi 9

Best budget flagship

Pros:

  • Versatile camera experience
  • Superb value for money
  • Fantastic performance
  • Excellent screen

Cons: 

  • Slightly temperamental fingerprint sensor
  • No IP certification

The Xiaomi Mi 9 is unquestionably formidable. It has 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.

The Mi 9 embodies Daft Punk’s sentiment of Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, albeit with less of the cool factor that its rival, the similarly priced OnePlus 7, has accumulated over the years.

The Mi 9 is able to go up against the might of Apple and Samsung at a much lower price point, and that’s something to keep in mind when you’re searching for a new smartphone.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.
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2. OnePlus 7T

An excellent piece of hardware

Pros:

  • Super smooth Fluid AMOLED screen
  • Speedy charging
  • Powerful performance

Cons: 

  • Camera still not industry leading

If you don’t fancy the Mi 9, the OnePlus 7 is the next best option. The phone uses the same Snapdragon 855 chipset as the Xiaomi, can be specced with up to 8GB of RAM and has impressively long battery life.

Based on its appearance and performance, the OnePlus 7T is essentially a halfway house between 2018’s OnePlus 6T and 2019’s OnePlus 7 Pro. You get an improved in-display fingerprint sensor, a dewdrop front-facing camera set into a beautiful OLED screen and a precision-engineered glass and metal body, along with signature OnePlus traits such as its Oxygen OS user experience, 20W fast charge tech and a physical alert slider.

While you lose out on the Pro’s swanky 90Hz display, triple rear camera and 30W Warp Charge capabilities, this phone still performs like a champ and would serve you well over a couple of years – or more, potentially, thanks to OnePlus’s commitment to software updates.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro screen

3. Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro

An excellent, affordable smartphone that’s easy to recommend

Pros:

  • Excellent design
  • Great camera
  • Snappy performance

Cons:

  • The interface has some quirks
  • No waterproofing
  • No wireless charging

The new Mi 9T Pro seems too good to be true. With this model, Xiaomi is going after the Honor 20 and OnePlus 7, combining flagship specs and slick design with 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. The phone costs just £399 and is significantly better than any other similarly priced devices packing flagship specs.

The Mi 9T Pro delivers an excellent gaming experience and performance in general. Thanks to a Snapdragon 855 processor coupled with 6GB RAM, the phone powers through benchmarks and games alike. While it doesn’t quite stack up against current dedicated gaming phones for a number of reasons, it isn’t far behind, and compared to the best of 2018 – the Razer Phone 2 and Asus ROG Phone – the Mi 9T Pro wins out.

The software is the worst thing about this phone and even this is still perfectly useable. The phone’s annoying quirks, for example, 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. After we did these two things, the experience 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, it’s a no-brainer. The Xiaomi Mi 9T is one of the easiest phones out now to recommend, combining exceptional value for money with a 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 the fact it has a headphone jack makes it something of a unicorn among flagship-specced devices available now.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Google Pixel 3a front straight handheld

4. Google Pixel 3a

The perfect alternative to the £1000 smartphone

Pros:

  • The best camera you’ll find at this price
  • The best screen you’ll find at this price
  • Great size
  • Headphone jack

Cons: 

  • 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 buy 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 can 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, however, 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 also no IP rating or wireless charging, the mid-range Snapdragon 670 chipset is merely OK and the body is made of plastic.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

 

Moto One Action

5. Moto One Action

A solid, affordable Android with an unusual GoPro-like action camera feature

Pros:

  • Neat action camera feature
  • Bright, good-looking screen
  • Enough power

Cons:

  • Fairly large punch hole
  • Plastic back
  • Camera is not a revelation

The Motorola One Action is an affordable Android phone with the added unusual feature of a super-stabilised wide-angle action camera. This lets you shoot very smooth-looking footage while running or cycling.

If this isn’t your main priority, it’s worth noting that this is a solid phone. At £219, it offers a great alternative to value-packed Honor and Huawei phones, particularly for those worried about the lingering question marks over these brands’ long-term Android support.

Battery life could be a little better, however, and its build is not as impressive as the G7 Plus. The Motorola One Action’s screen is mostly excellent, with just a couple of irritations. The big punch hole limits how much of the display can be used for video, although this is app-specific, and the Motorola One Action’s auto brightness mode is another quibble. You might also expect the Motorola One Action to run perfectly, given its stripped-back software, but at launch there were a few little glitches and moments of misbehaviour in the camera app. These all seem like minor issues, though, to be ironed out with a software update or two.

The Motorola One Action’s most unusual feature is the ultra-stabilised wide-angle action-cam-style video. Compared to the standard camera, which already has pretty solid software stabilisation, the improvement is real. This action-camera feature removes most of the up-down swaying you get when shooting video when running, or even walking. The effect is almost as smooth as that of a low-end gimbal, which actively controls the position of the camera, counteracting any minor movements you make while still letting you pan around. There’s less judder than with the normal camera and while the video is a little soft, it’s perfectly usable.

Some of the Motorola One Action’s supposed advancements are slightly thin but this does seem a more well-rounded phone than the spec-hungry One Vision. And, while the action camera won’t appeal to everyone, you can’t go far wrong here – although Motorola’s own phones offer compelling alternatives if great battery life or a high-end feel are top priorities.

Red Magic 3

6. Red Magic 3

One of the best-value gaming smartphones available now, backed up by an assortment of interesting accessories

Pros:

  • Great gaming accessories
  • Massive battery capacity
  • Internal fan keeps phone cool
  • Incredibly good value
  • Superb performance

Cons:

  • Refresh rate not as good as pricier rivals
  • Enormous size makes typing awkward
  • Camera lacks versatility

The Red Magic 3 joins the growing contingent of smartphones designed specifically for gaming, squaring off against the likes of the Black Shark 2Asus ROG Phone and Razer Phone 2.

This handset is by no means lacking in specs – it rocks a Snapdragon 855 processor, up to 12GB RAM and an Adreno 640 GPU – but creator Nubia has included one 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 6.65in display may make the Red Magic 3 a struggle to squeeze into the pocket of your skinny jeans but it does ensure a lovely widescreen visual feast. And with a 90Hz refresh rate, the Red Magic 3 provides a super-smooth visual performance for fast-paced games. This grants it a big advantage over the likes of 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 forthcoming Asus ROG Phone 2.

The internal turbo fan may seem like an odd 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 incredibly useful, as clipping on the controllers blocks the original ports on the handset. At £41.90, however, only hardcore mobile gamers need apply.

With ultra-powerful components running the show, the Red Magic 3 is easily one of the most powerful Android phones available, and our pick for the best mid-range phone for gaming.

Read our full Red Magic 3 review

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