The best mid-range phone 2021

Not everyone can afford a flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or iPhone 12 Pro, but the good news is that plenty of cheaper devices offer an excellent experience all the same.

Some are half the price or even less, so don’t panic if your bank account is looking a little bare and you’re in need of a new smartphone. Here, we have reviewed and ranked the best mid-range phones you can buy today.

We’re defining a mid-range phone as one that costs between £250 (the higher limit of our even cheaper budget phones chart) and around £600 in the UK, on a SIM-free basis.

Mid-range smartphones aim to combine flagship-level features with great value. You may have to compromise slightly on one aspect or another, like the camera or build quality, but it’s often totally worth it to save hundreds – and some of the phones at the top of the price range are flagships in their own right.

Phones from the likes of Realme, Xiaomi and OnePlus are prime choices, and we’ve listed our current favourites below. Read past our rundown for more mid-range phone buying advice.

Best mid-range phone 2021

1. OnePlus Nord – Best overall

OnePlus Nord

An outstanding affordable buy from 2020, with great performance, 5G, OnePlus’ signature Oxygen OS user experience and a more diverse camera setup than the company has ever used on a phone. What’s not to love?

What the OnePlus Nord really demonstrates is the company’s ability to prioritise the features that users are looking for right now and wrapping them up in an attractive package with a compelling price point.

Read our full OnePlus Nord review

2. Realme X50 5G – Best specs

Realme X50 5G

The standard Realme X50 does the same thing for the mid-range market as the Pro model does in the flagship space.

A 120Hz display, the excellent Snapdragon 765G chip, 5G, superb battery life and a surprisingly-capable main camera collectively render the X50 a far better phone than anything you’d expect at this price.

It even gives devices like the OnePlus Nord and Google’s Pixel 5 a run for their money in certain areas.

Read our full Realme X50 5G review

3. Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro – Best value

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro

The Redmi Note 10 Pro is one of the best phones you can buy at its price point, with Xiaomi delivering exceptional value for money.

Highlights here start with the stunning screen, offering AMOLED technology and a 120Hz refresh rate, and continue with an excellent set of cameras. The headline is a 108Mp whopper which is backed up by a reasonable ultra-wide and a surprisingly decent telemacro.

Core specs are decent, hinging on the Snapdragon 732G to ensure smooth performance. However, the Redmi Note 10 Pro doesn’t support 5G, which might be a deal breaker.

MIUI is also a downside with its overly complex interface that’s simply not as stylish or easy to use as many rivals – even if you can make it a lot better than default with some tweaking.

Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro review

4. OnePlus 8T – Best software

OnePlus 8T

The OnePlus 8T costs a little more than the Nord, but for that you get a faster 120Hz refresh rate, more powerful chipset, and twice the charging power with 65W wired speeds.

At full price those upgrades are a little hard to justify, but now that the 8T has dropped in price a little since launch it makes much more sense for those whose budgets will stretch a little higher than the Nord’s price.

The more recent OnePlus 9 is also available, but we actually recommend the 8T instead – the 9 costs a fair bit more, and other than adding in wireless charging the improvements are minimal. Stick with the 8T and save some money.

Read our full OnePlus 8T review

5. Realme 8 Pro – Best for battery

Realme 8 Pro

The Realme 8 Pro ups the company’s camera credentials with a 108Mp main camera that really does deliver the goods, backing it up with a lightweight design and two-day battery life.

You’ll have to put up with Realme’s garish ‘Dare to Leap’ branding on the back, and unfortunately the AMOLED display is only 60Hz – though the touch sample rate is a nippy 180Hz, which is great for gaming.

Charging is also fantastic at 50W wired, though curiously this is slightly slower than last year’s Realme 7 Pro.

Really, the Realme 8 Pro’s biggest problem is just that it’s remarkably similar to Xiaomi’s upcoming Redmi Note 10 Pro, which just manages to pip it on one or two specs.

Read our full Realme 8 Pro review

6. Realme 7 5G – Best for affordable 5G

Realme 7 5G

Don’t mistake the Realme 7 5G as a repeat of the standard model with a 5G modem tacked on. While it shares a near-identical camera setup, practically everything else – from the processor to the display – has been overhauled.

A 120Hz LCD, a huge 5,000mAh battery with 30W ‘Dash Charge’ fast charging and the first phone to boast MediaTek’s Dimensity 800U chipset, make this an impressively-powerful and yet affordable mid-ranger.

At launch, it boasted the title of “Europe’s most affordable 5G phone” too (a title which has since gone to the budget Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T).

Read our full Realme 7 5G review

7. Realme X3 SuperZoom – Most versatile camera

Realme X3 SuperZoom

Provided you can handle the sizeable Realme X3 SuperZoom, this phone strikes a favourable price/performance balance that focuses on camera capabilities above all else.

Factor in the high-refresh-rate display, speedy 30W fast charging and decent high-end performance, and its price tag looks rather enticing.

Read our full Realme X3 SuperZoom review

8. Google Pixel 4a – Best for ease-of-use

Google Pixel 4a

If you’re in the US and looking for a great mid-range Android phone the Pixel 4a is one of the best choices you can make. It really is a knockout handset from Google with so much on offer for an incredibly affordable price.

In the UK, as far as features are concerned, competition is much tougher from rivals with things like 5G support and higher refresh rate displays, if those are important features.

Otherwise, it’s a charming phone with a rare compact design, smooth performance, excellent cameras and easy-to-use software with at least three years of updates.

Read our full Google Pixel 4a review

9. Realme 7 Pro – Fastest charging

Realme 7 Pro

The Realme 7 Pro is only six months older than the 8 Pro, so there’s still plenty here to get excited about.

You get the same OLED display, with power efficiency improvements that deliver stellar battery life. Charging is the star of the show though, with the 65W ‘SuperDart’ adapter providing a full charge in just over 30 minutes – 15W faster than even the 8 Pro offers.

The Snapdragon 720G processor can handle gaming with ease, while the software is refreshingly close to stock Android. 

The cameras aren’t perfect and all too often the fingerprint sensor didn’t work as intended, but there’s still a lot to like here. The big thing you’re missing out on is a high refresh rate – if that’s a priority, then look elsewhere.

Read our full Realme 7 Pro review

10. Xiaomi Mi Note 10 – Best display

Xiaomi Mi Note 10

With the Mi Note 10 Xiaomi has made a giant step forward in design and complements the phone’s elegant body with enhanced MIUI 11 software – though MIUI still lags behind rival software setups.

Its USP is its penta-lens 108Mp camera, which wows on paper but can’t stand up to the best camera phones. More successfully, though, battery life is incredible.

This is not a flagship phone but it’s a strong all-round mid-ranger, and thanks to an attractive price point it has serious appeal.

Read our full Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review

Specifications to look for in a mid-range phone

It’s difficult to define a mid-range phone by its specification, hence why we’ve opted for a price bracket instead.

Some mid-range phones will take the all-round good-value approach, with capable specs in each area; others will focus on a key trait, such as the camera or display, and promise flagship-rivalling capabilities in that one aspect; others still used to be those flagships, so will offer fantastic specs at a brilliant price, but may be running on slightly older hardware.

Chinese phones are a great choice in the mid-range market because they balance very good specifications with a lower price than what you would expect to find in the UK. You may have heard of Xiaomi, Realme and OnePlus offering staggering value when compared to some of the better-known brands, but there are plenty of other less well-known Chinese manufacturers that can also offer a very good deal.

Try to remember that it’s not always about specs either. We’ve hit something of a ceiling when it comes to smartphone tech anyway, so although these phones may not be as fast as your average flagship, they are almost certainly fast enough for most users. Go for a phone that balances value, performance, features and design in a way that appeals to you and your needs.

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