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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

Flagship smartphones pack some of the most cutting-edge mobile tech around, but the cost can range from a little pricey to extortionate. That’s where mid-range phones come in. If you’re looking for a capable phone with flagship features at a reasonable price, this guide is for you. 

The mid-range market has grown massively in recent years, with major manufacturers like Apple, Samsung and Asus coming out with more and more affordable handsets. Google even went so far as to launch its flagship Pixel 5 at a true mid-range price last year. 

So, what number do we consider mid-range? Mid-range phones usually range from £400 to £750 (or $400 to $800 if you’re in the US). It’s no wonder more affordable options are having their moment with how many flagships have crossed the £1000 mark in recent years and there’s truly no reason for most users to have to pay that much for a good smartphone. 

That said, companies don’t reduce their prices without making sacrifices and which features each phone excels with can vary wildly from phone to phone. Some mid-range phones boast a long battery life, while others feature sharp displays and more capable cameras. 

Below, you’ll find the best of the best mid-range handsets with scores taken directly from our in-depth reviews. Each phone in this list has been put through rigorous benchmarks and real world tests to make sure it’s worth your money.

This list is also updated throughout the year as more phones are released, so check back regularly to ensure you’re seeing our most up to date recommendations.

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.

OnePlus 9

A flagship phone for less
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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
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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
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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

Google Pixel 5

A simple Pixel
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Pros

  • Best camera at this price
  • Great battery life
  • 90Hz screen

Cons

  • Bland design
  • Faster performance available elsewhere

The Pixel 5 might be Google’s flagship product, but in terms of pricing it remains a mid-range device. This £599 phone isn’t a performance champ like the OnePlus 8T; however, it does have plenty going for it.

For example, the camera is the best on this list by a sizeable margin. Testing it around London, we found the 12-megapixel main unit and 16-megapixel ultra-wide take excellent shots, with lovely colours and fantastic HDR. For the price, this the best camera around.

There’s good, if not class-leading performance, from the Snapdragon 765G chipset and 8GB of RAM, in addition to 5G and an attractive 90Hz OLED panel. Google also continues with luxuries such as a metal body, IP rating and wireless charging. 

Read our full Pixel 5 review

Buy now at BuyMobiles, £35 p/m, £0 upfront

Buy now at BuyMobiles, £36 p/m, £0 upfront

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

A great all-rounder with 5G
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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

Motorola Edge

Motorola impresses with a mid-range marvel
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Pros

  • 5G
  • Decent screen
  • Great battery life
  • Motorola’s software is great

Cons

  • A little buggy
  • Curved screen can be irritating

The Motorola Edge Plus may come packing the true high-end specs, but it is the Motorola Edge that feels the more interesting device. Like the OnePlus 8T which tops this list, the Edge provides 5G support.

Reviewing it, I found the Motorola Edge a striking phone, with it sporting a curved screen that droops heavily over the sides. While the curves makes it slightly more difficult to hold, particularly in the rain, the screen itself is decent. The OLED panel offers users FHD+ resolutions and HDR10 support, which made it one of the best handsets we’ve tested at this price for movie binging – especially if you’re paying extra for HDR quality on services such as Netflix.

Inside the phone sits a very capable Snapdragon 765 chipset, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. An IP rating and wireless charging are lacking, though.

Using it daily, I found that battery life was great – as you’d expect from a 4500mAh cell, which is larger than the norm for a phone at this price.
You’ll find three cameras on the back, with the 64-megapixel main sensor capable of capturing some excellent photos. Motorola continues its run of delivering a decent software provision here, with nice gestures and handy additions.

Read our full Motorola Edge review

Google Pixel 4a

A mix of the 4a and 5
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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

LG Velvet

LG’s most tempting phone in some time
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Pros

  • Much-improved design
  • Big, bright and colourful screen
  • 5G
  • Headphone jack

Cons

  • Only a 60Hz screen
  • Some odd performance issues

The LG Velvet is the brand’s latest attempt at an upper mid-range device and it’s one of its most tempting from the Korean tech heavyweight in years, thanks to an improved design and the addition of 5G.

Like many phones we’ve seen this year, the Velvet is powered by the very capable Snapdragon 765G chipset. And while this device isn’t the fastest around, especially next to the Galaxy S20 FE and OnePlus 8T, it will still get the job done. In addition, it offers a 5G modem, so if you have the right network and contract then you’ll benefit from those faster data speeds.

Other highlights include a big, bright and colourful display along with an actual 3.5m port for plugging in your headphones. You can even tack on the Dual Screen case to expand your view across two displays.

Read our full LG Velvet review

iPhone SE 2

A fast and cheaper iPhone
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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

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

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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.

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