Home Tech Best mid-range phone 2020: Which is right for you?

Best mid-range phone 2020: Which is right for you?

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Not everyone can afford a flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy S10 or iPhone 11 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 you’re 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 £500 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 Honor, Xiaomi and Motorola are prime choices, and we’ve listed our current favourites below. Read on below the chart for more mid-range phone buying advice.

Best mid-range phone reviews

1. Xiaomi Mi 9

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 29 November 2019

Devilishly fast, insanely beautiful and offering the best value for money you’ll find in any smartphone, anywhere. Mi 9 is a cracking deal at £329, and well worth the upgrade from even Mi 8.

New is an in-display fingerprint sensor as standard, Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 855 processor, 20W wireless charging, a larger screen and a triple-lens camera that includes a massive 48Mp lens.

A Tech Advisor award winner at MWC 2019, Mi 9 is one of the best phones in the world, yet it comes at a mid-range price. It is also one of the top-rated camera phones.

It’s available direct from Xiaomi at £329, or on contract from Vodafone. 

Read our Xiaomi Mi 9 review.

2. Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 21 November 2019

The Pixel 3a might not be the all-singing, all-dancing mid-range option and, in some ways, there are better phones at the same price.

However, you probably have different reasons for wanting this phone. The Pixel 3a will appeal to those wanting a cheaper option to get Google’s design and pure Android across areas such as the camera and the OS at a whole.

Then there’s the promise of updates for years to come which is something not many rivals can deliver. 

Read our Google Pixel 3a review.

3. Xiaomi Mi Note 10

Xiaomi Mi Note 10

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 8 January 2020

With Mi Note 10 Xiaomi has made a giant step forward in design, and complements its elegant body with enhanced MIUI 11 software. Its USP is the penta-lens 108Mp camera, which wows on paper but can’t stand up to the best cameraphones. More successfully, then, 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 Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review.

4. Samsung Galaxy A70

Samsung Galaxy A70

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 2 December 2019

The Samsung Galaxy A70 gets enough right to make it a good buy at its price. Its huge OLED screen is perfect for watching video, the phone looks great and Samsung’s software may appeal more than some of the Chinese rivals that offer a little more for your money. 

Very good battery is the final sweetener that makes the A70 very easy to get on with.

Read our Samsung Galaxy A70 review.

5. Asus ZenFone 6

Asus ZenFone 6

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 22 May 2019

Rather than following the trend of notches and hole-punch camera cutouts, the ZenFone 6 offers an innovative Flip Camera system that provides a high-end shooting experience on the rear and front, without compromising on screen real estate.

Images captured are detailed and vibrant, and the ability to record at [email protected] with EIS is a nice touch, too. It’s a versatile bit of kit, and more than a gimmick.

Beyond the camera setup, the ZenFone 6 is a stunning bit of kit; it boasts a curved rear that fits nicely into the palm of your hand, a glossy design and most importantly, a 6.4in full-screen display free of bezels and notches.

And with a 5,000mAh battery that comfortably provides all-day usage, there’s not much to complain about – especially at such a cheap price point.

Read our Asus ZenFone 6 review.

6. Moto G8 Plus

Moto G8 Plus

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 8 November 2019

The Moto G8 Plus delivers in principal areas like photography, performance and battery life. It also brings a premium-looking design, a clean user experience and some smart modifications on top the Android experience to the table.

The biggest challenge it faces is pricing. Despite being a touch cheaper than its predecessor, the competition has grown more fierce over the past year and newcomers, primarily from Chinese manufacturers that weren’t previously established in Europe now throw their weight around with more impressive specs or lower price tags for equivalent performance.

Read our Moto G8 Plus review.

7. Oppo Reno 2

Oppo Reno 2

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 16 October 2019

If you already have any other Oppo smartphone, it’s probaby not worth splashing out on the Reno 2. For everyone else, it looks like a good option if you want an Android phone with good cameras, excellent performance and long battery.

You may be among those who still do not trust the resilience of motorised cameras. Although we understand your doubts, the wing-shaped design of the Reno 2 seems good and also allows you to have a beautiful screen without notches.

Read our Oppo Reno 2 review.

8. OnePlus 7

OnePlus 7

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 15 October 2019

The OnePlus 7 is a fairly cautious upgrade from the 6T: the same design and the same display with beefed up specs, a new camera, and a few small software tweaks. It’s not a game-changer by any means, but it’s a confident, competitive mid-range phone with high-end specs that should appeal to anyone who’s been tempted by a OnePlus device before.

If you stand it up against the 7 Pro it probably won’t seem all that exciting, but with a £150 price difference between the two that’s probably not unreasonable – and there’s still plenty in the 7 to tempt anyone who can’t quite afford the 7 Pro’s full-on flagship price point..

Read our OnePlus 7 review.

9. Huawei Nova 5T

Huawei Nova 5T

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 21 November 2019

While some manufacturers are looking for a headline feature to stand out from the crowd, the 5T quietly prioritises everyday usage by mastering the fundamentals of a solid smartphone. The design is superb, cameras great and battery life better than expected.

We are missing some premium features here – wireless charging, expandable storage, OLED display – but it’s remarkable how quickly you can look beyond these when you use the phone regularly.

As a complete package, it has to be considered among the very best mid-range phones you can buy.

Read our Huawei Nova 5T review.

10. Honor 9X

Honor 9X

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 14 November 2019

The Honor 9X manages to mimic some elements of flagships but for a fraction of the price. With a geometric, shimmery exterior and a notch-free display thanks to a pop-up camera, you’d find it hard to believe that this is a phone below £250 – especially when you take into consideration the camera that comes with it. 

Of course it’s not without its flaws. The triple lens camera isn’t quite as good as the specs suggest, and night mode in particular doesn’t hold up, while performance across the board gives away that this isn’t as high-end as it looks. But still, you get a lot for the price, and a phone that looks like a lot more.

Read our Honor 9X 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, Honor, 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.