Best mid-range smartphones 2019: Cut-price flagships that still deliver

Trusted Reviews ranks the best mid-range phones to buy right now: Mobiles with top-notch capabilities at a fraction of the price of full-fat flagships

Which is the best mid-priced phone you can buy?

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 undergone something of a transformation in recent years.

This is due primarily to the sheer competition waged between modern phone makers. As phones like the iPhone XS and Galaxy Note 10 series from Samsung get more expensive, the gap between the price ranges widens.

The result is a richly competitive mid-range space offering an impressive amount of bang for your buck from a number of established manufacturers.

With this in mind, we’ve tested the best mid-rangers out there right now and compiled this list so you can get the right phone for you. Read on for a full look at each model.

How we select the best mid-range smartphones

Just 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 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, and 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 smartphones, to make your buying decision as easy as possible.

If you are still not sure, check out our list of the best budget phones.

Related: Best mobile phone deals


Xiaomi Mi 9 camera macro green ring

1. Xiaomi Mi 9

Best budget flagship of 2019

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 the Daft Punk 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 for a lot less, and that’s something to keep in mind when you’re searching for a new smartphone.

 

2. OnePlus 7T

An excellent bit 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 your 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-lasting battery life.

Based on its appearance and performance, it’s essentially a halfway-house between last year’s OnePlus 6T and this year’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 like its Oxygen OS user experience, 20W Fast Charge tech and a physical alert slider.

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

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

Looking at the new Mi 9T Pro and its specs, it all 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 to dedicated 2019 gaming phones from a numbers point of view, it isn’t far behind, and compared to the best of 2018 – the Razer Phone 2 and 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, two things we did – after which 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 in 2019.

Google Pixel 3a front straight handheld4. Google Pixel 3a

The perfect antidote 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 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 is merely OK and the body is made of plastic.

 

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 and, at £219, offers a great alternative to value-packed Honor and Huawei phones – particularly if lingering question marks over those brands’ long-term Android support worry you.

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 it’s not quite perfect at launch, and there were a few little glitches and moments of misbehaviour in the camera app. These all seem minor issues, though, that will soon 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 out there right now, backed up an assortment of interesting accessories

Pros:

  • Great gaming accessories
  • Massive battery capacity
  • 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 – rocking a Snapdragon 855 processor, up to 12GB RAM and an Adreno 640 GPU but creator Nubia 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 6.65-inch 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. This showed in our results as the Red Magic 3 suddenly started seeing even better processing scores than the Black Shark 2. It also prevents the phone from becoming uncomfortably hot to hold and the noise is so faint it’s unlikely to distract, especially if you’re plugged in using headphones or enjoying loudspeaker audio from the decent pair of front-facing stereo speakers.

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 clips onto 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 since clipping on the controllers will block 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 out there right now, and our pick for the best mid-range phone for gaming.

Still not sure what to buy?

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend, using industry standard tests to evaluate products. We’ll always tell you what we find. We may get a commission if you buy via our price links. Tell us what you think – email the Editor