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Not all of us can afford a high-end phone like the Samsung Galaxy S series or Apple’s iPhones, but the good news is that you don’t have to spend $1,000 to get a phone that combines top-notch performance with a beautiful design; in fact, there are plenty of mid-range devices that provide an equally excellent experience. Some of them cost half the price or even less. Check out our rankings of the best smartphones that cost between $300 and $600.
Mid-range phones manage to combine high-end specs with great value. It may be necessary to compromise some, but it’s often worth it if you want to save hundreds of dollars.
Fortunately, the mid-range phone market has made huge strides recently with leading manufacturers who are able to bring premium features, traditionally expensive, at lower and more accessible prices, giving us the opportunity to try out certain features only found on flagship models but spending a fraction of the price.
This led to a wave of brilliant phones that cost around $450 showing that there’s no reason for users — except for the most demanding ones — to pay $1,000 for a new phone. So even if you can afford a top-of-the-range phone, we still recommend that you check the mid-range offers before buying.
The only downside is that more choices has made it quite difficult to know which device is best for your needs, since in the mid-range market there is a huge disparity between models on screen quality, camera performance, and battery life.
Fortunately, we’re here to help you: our team of experts created this guide on what to look for, along with our regularly updated selection of the best mid-range phones that describes in detail the best models in this price range.
How to buy the best mid-range phone for you
Buying a phone is a delicate matter, with many different things to consider, but there are a few key questions to ask yourself:
What is a mid-range phone?
When we talk about mid-range phones, we generally mean models that cost between $300 and $600 since it is in this price range that we find the smartphones with the best balance between price and functionalities. In fact, it’s hard to define a mid-range phone just by looking at the spec sheet and that’s why we opted for a price range instead.
Some mid-range models have an all-round approach, with solid specs in all areas; others focus on one key aspect, such as a high-end display or camera; others still, were full fledged flagships just a couple of years ago and therefore boast high-end specs at a discounted price, but they sport slightly older hardware and software.
Try to remember that specs are not everything. We’ve reached some sort of ceiling when it comes to smartphone technology, so even though these mid-range phones might not be as fast as flagship models, they have more than enough performance for most users. The secret is finding the model that balances value, performance, functionality, and design in a way that suits you.
And since everyone’s priorities are different, then it’s a good idea to understand which one you value the most. Is a long battery life at the top of your wish list? Or are you more interested in taking quality photos?
What should I look for on a mid-range phone?
So here’s what to look for when you read the spec sheet of a mid-range phone: you’ll need a powerful enough SoC that can run all the applications and games you intend to use, not only now but also in a year or two.
Also check that there is enough storage (a minimum of 64 GB) depending on your usage (videos, photos, music and games take up a lot of space). If it can be expanded via a microSD card, then this is a nice bonus.
The display is perhaps the most crucial feature: after all, you’ll be staring at it all day. You can find a number of mid-range phones with gorgeous screens, but that’s not certain, so make sure to read our comments before buying.
The biggest variable among mid-range models at the moment is their approach to photography. By now you can easily find phones with quad camera modules at this price range, which can offer a lot of versatility. Similarly, there are also devices that sport only a couple of lenses but of higher quality. Our advice is to focus on the primary camera and the ultra-wide lens; they have to take quality photos in well-lit environments and produce reliable results even in harsher conditions. The rest of the lenses at this price range are usually there only to make up the numbers.
Last but not least, the battery must last a whole day, while support for fast charging is now a prerequisite.
These are the best mid-range phones you can buy today
OnePlus Nord: best premium experience
Every time OnePlus released a new device, it was heralded as the best value phone yet. At least that was the case until the OnePlus 8 (Check on Amazon) tried – and failed – to move away from the brand’s budget roots; thankfully the OnePlus Nord is a welcome return to what defined the company’s success all these years. And at this price (Check on Amazon), it’s essentially a flawless phone.
There were corners to be cut in order to achieve a lower price (it costs half the price of the OnePlus 8 at the time of its launch) but for the most part, these cuts do not affect the bottom line. The screen is now flat, rather than curved, and there is no official IP rating. But for the rest, the OnePlus Nord is a far better phone than “flagship devices” costing hundreds of dollars more.
This is a premium looking smartphone, equipped with six cameras and with one of the latest 5G enabled chipsets: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G! In addition, OxygenOS is one of the best – if not the best – Android software skin out there.
This way the OnePlus Nord competes against the Pixel 4a (Check on Amazon) and the iPhone SE 2020 (Check on Amazon) for the mid-range crown; it impresses with its design and ease of use, has stellar hardware specifications, an excellent 90Hz display, and a versatile camera module. It offers thus the most comprehensive package of the three.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G: best cheap 5G phone
The OnePlus Nord N10 is a solid Android device if you want a mid-range phone with access to 5G.
For (Check on Amazon) this phone sports a 6.49-inch sharp and bright screen (it’s an LCD IPS panel, so it doesn’t have OLED’s deep ink blacks) with an above-average refresh rate of 90Hz, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 SoC with 6 GB of RAM for improved performance, the very responsive and easy-to-use OxygenOS operating system, and a quad-camera module (64 MP primary camera, 8 MP ultra-wide lens, 2 MP macro lens, and a 2 MP depth sensor) that takes detailed, colorful photos (sometimes too colorful), especially in low light conditions — but not like the Pixel 4a (Check on Amazon) — thanks to OnePlus’s Nightscape camera mode, allowing it to capture brighter photos at night.
It also boasts some highly sought after features like stereo speakers, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a MicroSD slot (if 128 GB of basic storage space are not enough for you), a fingerprint reader mounted on the back, NFC for payments, and even a fast charge (30W) 4,300mAh battery that can last a whole day.
Sadly, its ultra-wide lens is not that good, the performance of the fingerprint reader is somewhat disappointing, and will not receive system updates beyond Android 11 and only two years of security updates.
Given its price (Check on Amazon), we have expected to see some significant sacrifices compared to a $450 phone — like the OnePlus Nord (Check on Amazon) — and OnePlus has made a few. But these are smart sacrifices that add up to an excellent all-around device and one of our favorites so far.
Google Pixel 4a: best Android experience
If you’re searching for the best mid-range Android smartphone then you have to check out the Pixel 4a. It’s a truly fabulous device at an incredibly affordable price (Check on Amazon).
It uses the same rear camera and image processing technology as the flagship Pixel 4 (Check on Amazon), so you’ll get a very similar experience for photos and videos. In fact, its photos are indistinguishable from those taken with the Pixel 4. The only thing missing is the secondary telephoto lens of the Pixel 4, but this omission is justified by its much lower price.
In addition to the excellent camera, the Pixel 4a comes equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor and 6GB of RAM – it doesn’t have the same performance as a flagship device but it’s no slouch either. Google also doubled its internal memory (now 128GB) with respect to its predecessor, the Pixel 3a (Check on Amazon). It also fitted it with a headphone jack and a fingerprint sensor.
This time around there’s only one variant of the Pixel 4a — there’s no XL version — that uses a fantastic 5.8-inch Full HD+ OLED display.
The only reason for you to gloss over it is if you have to have a 5G model — but the 5G variant of the Pixel 4a could arrive before the end of the year if you can wait – or a display with a higher refresh rate — like the ones we find on the OnePlus Nord (Check on Amazon) and Realme 6 (Check on Amazon).
Otherwise, the Pixel 4a is a charming phone with a compact design (which is rare these days), smooth performance, excellent cameras, good battery life, easy-to-use software, and at least three years of guaranteed Android updates.
Google Pixel 3a: a valid alternative
The Google Pixel 3a (Check on Amazon) isn’t the best mid-range phone; there are better smartphones at this price.
However, many will really appreciate this device. The Google Pixel 3a is aimed at those who want Google’s design and Android “stock” experience at a cheaper price.
But the real goodie here is the camera. While there are smartphones with more megapixels out there, unless you pay much more, you won’t get better shots. Similar to the more expensive Pixel 3 (Check on Amazon) – a phone that was considered the best camera phone when it came out — the Pixel 3a packs the same 12-megapixel camera (f/1.8) supported by the excellent AI (Artificial Intelligence) software from Google.
As a result, the Google Pixel 3a takes the best photos of any mid-range phone, and even of many others that cost much more. In addition, the Night Sight Mode guarantees stunning shots even in low light conditions.
The screen of the Pixel 3a is superb, too. It is an OLED panel with bright colors, excellent viewing angles, and no notch.
On the software side, the stock Android experience and timely updates, for at least 3 years, have long been one of the best reasons to buy a Google device.
However, there are trade-offs in some areas. There is no IP rating or wireless charging, the mid-range Snapdragon 670 chipset is simply OK and the body is made of plastic. If you want the very best specs and features you’ll probably want to look elsewhere, for example at the Xiaomi Mi 9 (Check on Amazon).
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G: best mid-range phone for most people
The Samsung Galaxy line of phones does not start and end with the S and Note Series. The A-Series, for example, is a very tempting proposal that offers flagship goodies without the premium price.
At (Check on Amazon) the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is one of the cheapest options on this list and it’s a great choice if you want to save some money but without sacrificing too many features.
Perhaps its most impressive feature is its design; you might be honestly fooled into thinking that this is a high-end phone.
What sets it apart, though, is the 6.5-inch OLED display with a 120 Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling and more responsive gaming. It is also a quality panel all-around. OLED technology delivers ink deep blacks and vibrant colors, while its 1080p resolution is more than enough. It doesn’t support HDR, but the screen is bright enough to watch Netflix.
Inside, we find the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G SoC combined with 6 or 8 GB of RAM. It’s a slower chipset than many other phones on this list in terms of performance, but we’ve found it more than able to handle all of our daily and gaming activities. Add to all this 128 or 256 GB of internal memory and an expansion slot — something you won’t find on the Galaxy S21 — and there’s really little to complain about.
Another impressive feature is its battery life, which will easily last you a whole day. It is a 4,500mAh cell with a 25W fast charger (included in the package).
On the back, you’ll find a good 64 MP main camera with optical image stabilization (OIS) and two less impressive secondary lenses (12MP ultra-wide lens, 5 MP macro, and a 5 MP depth sensor) plus a solid 32 MP selfie camera.
You also get IP67 water and dust resistance certification, an in-display fingerprint reader that works really well while Samsung promises three years of system upgrades and 4 years of security updates.
If you’re a Samsung fan, or just want a reliable and impressive smartphone that doesn’t cost too much, then the Galaxy A52 5G (Check on Amazon) might be the perfect phone for you.
Samsung Galaxy M51: a valid alternative
The Samsung Galaxy M51 (Check on Amazon) is Samsung’s latest mid-range device and comes with a huge 7,000mAh battery with a 25W fast charge support (0 to 100% in just under two hours) and reverse charging via the USB Type-C port!
It also boasts the excellent 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Plus display with Full HD+ (2,400×1,800 pixels) resolution and a 20:9 aspect ratio. And although up until now Samsung always used its own processors (Exynos) to power its mid-range devices, the Galaxy M51 sports the snappier Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G SoC, 6 or 8 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. And with Samsung’s One UI so well optimized for Android, you can expect a solid performance.
We were also very impressed with the cameras. This smartphone boasts a quad-camera module on the back: 64 MP main camera, 12 MP ultra-wide lens, 5 MP macro lens, and 5 MP depth sensor, plus a 32 MP selfie camera.
While there are better phones on our list, this mix of specs makes the Samsung Galaxy M51 (Check on Amazon) a great choice for someone looking for solid performance, a good camera, and exceptional autonomy.
Apple iPhone SE (2020): best cheap iPhone
The new iPhone SE (2020) (Check on Amazon) offers undeniably the best value for money of all iPhones. It’s a phone dedicated to function over shape, prioritizing raw performance over design or aesthetics.
Unlike most Android phones in this price range that rely on mid-range processors, the new SE uses the world’s fastest processor, the same A13 Bionic we find in 11-series iPhones, and that’s enough to make this iPhone the fastest mid-range smartphone available right now.
Multitasking poses no problem. Games run buttery smooth. Even the single rear camera takes surprisingly good photos in good lighting conditions due to the serious image processing of the A13.
In addition, the SE 2020 offers the same excellent iOS experience and is equipped with features such as Wi-Fi 6, wireless charging, and waterproofing (IP67). All this for just (Check on Amazon). Yes, the design of its aluminum and glass structure is dated, its camera (12 megapixels with Smart HDR, portrait mode and depth control) and its autonomy are just “OK” but its performance is up there with the other 2020 flagships.
It’s also your only real choice if you prefer more compact phones — its small 4.7-inch screen is perfect for one-handed use.
It’s unlikely, however, that it will win over Android users who can get even more features for even less money by resisting Apple’s appeal. For them, it will be hard to forgive Apple’s choice to use a Retina HD (720p) LCD display. Also, there is no headphone jack, there is no MicroSD slot, and while the phone supports fast charging, in the box you will find a paltry 5W charger.
Be that as it may, if you want a reliable camera, super-fast performance, and guaranteed iOS updates, without spending an arm and a leg, then this is the iPhone for you.
OnePlus 8T: best flagship killer
If all you’re interested in is the spec list, OnePlus devices should always be at the top of your list. Over the years, OnePlus phones gained the moniker of “flagship killers” and the 8T (Check on Amazon) is undoubtedly the best one so far.
It costs a bit more than the Nord (Check on Amazon), but it inherits the stunning 6.55″ AMOLED display from the OnePlus 8 Pro, which offers a refresh rate of 120 Hz (which is not afflicted by the occasional stuttering or the weird scrolling we saw on previous models), as well as the high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC, up to 12 GB of RAM and up to 256 GB of storage space (no microSD slot though).
The rear camera module consists of a 48 MP main sensor with optical image stabilization (camera performance is better than previous models when using the main lens) while the 4,500mAh battery offers a 24-hour battery life (with moderate use) and a 65W super-fast charging (from 0 to 100% in just 40 minutes)!
At launch, these improvements were difficult to justify, but now that the 8T has fallen in price it makes much more sense for users who can afford to pay more than the North.
All in all, the OnePlus 8T is a very attractive proposal, and it would have been our top pick if it took better pictures. Its photos, unfortunately, aren’t as good as the ones you’ll get from the Pixel 4a (Check on Amazon) — despite being cheaper — thus if photography is your priority, grab the Google device instead.
That being said, what makes this phone almost irresistible, is the fact that it costs half of most high-end models, while still offering very similar features. For (Check on Amazon), you can’t really do much better.
OnePlus 7T: a valid alternative
If all you care about is the phone’s spec sheet, then an OnePlus device will always be at the top of your list.
The company is known to sell devices with the best hardware, at a cost unmatched by anyone else, and the 7T (Check on Amazon) is OnePlus’s last “flagship killer” – the OnePlus 8 (Check on Amazon) offers nothing new and it costs more.
The OnePlus 7T spec sheet is like a geek’s wish list. There’s a Snapdragon 855 chipset, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of internal memory (but no microSD slot). You also get a stunning 6.55-inch 90Hz AMOLED display and a 48-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization.
As you can tell, all these fancy components, pay off when it comes to performance: the OnePlus 7T flies; there are no slowdowns or the jerky scrolling we’ve seen on the previous models.
The 3,800mAh battery typically lasts for more than a day and the supplied fast charger will charge it from 0 to more than 60% in half an hour.
Camera performance is also better than previous models. Image stabilization helps, both for video and still images, and there are warmer colors, more detail, and less noise compared to photos we get from phones that cost more.
Finally, the operating system, called OxygenOS, based on Android 10, is lauded as providing the best user experience.
Had the company also kept the headphone jack, the OnePlus 7T would have earned the title of best mid-range phone.
Samsung Galaxy A51: best Android phone under $300
Samsung’s Galaxy series does not start and end with the S and Note lines. The A line-up offers devices that resemble Samsung’s flagships, at a reasonable price.
In practice, Samsung’s A-series phones allow the South Korean giant to experiment with features before inserting them into the next flagship. That means that these devices offer a “top-of-the-line” experience at a fraction of the cost.
The Samsung Galaxy A51 (Check on Amazon) has a sleek, eye-catching design and a premium finish (along with handy extras such as a headphone jack and a MicroSD slot), but it doesn’t stop there.
The 6.5-inch AMOLED display, with a crisp resolution, great colors, and contrast, is a joy to look at. Its four-lens rear camera module offers you great versatility and solid results. The quality of the photos doesn’t compare to what you get from the Pixel 3a, though.
Autonomy is great too. The Galaxy A51 will easily last you a full working day.
If you want an impressive phone that doesn’t cost much, then the Galaxy A51 is a best buy.
Samsung Galaxy M31: a cheaper alternative
If you cannot spend (Check on Amazon) for the Samsung Galaxy A51, then we recommend the Galaxy M31 (Check on Amazon), which is for all intents and purposes Samsung’s budget alternative to the A51. Although this means that Samsung had to cut some corners in some areas, such as design and build quality.
In fact, the glossy polycarbonate back — almost impossible to keep clean — and the plastic frame don’t look sturdy enough and don’t give a good feel in your hand. Similarly, despite having a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display with Full HD resolution, Samsung did not equip the M31 with an in-display fingerprint sensor.
That said, its camera is comparable to that of the A51. It features a 48MP primary lens that beats any other main camera at this price range, except for the 64MP one in the A51.
The Galaxy M31 uses the same Samsung Exynos 9611 chipset, so in terms of performance, both devices are on par.
Where the M31 (Check on Amazon) beats the A51 is in battery life. This device sports a huge 6,000mAh battery which grants it exceptional autonomy! On the downside, it takes longer to recharge, since it only supports 15W fast charging.
Realme 6: best mid-range all-rounder
Realme 6 is one of this year’s most innovative mid-range phones and its 6.5-inch display with a 90Hz refresh rate is not the only reason.
It is also equipped with the Mediatek Helio G90T processor which is very capable (has a very similar performance to the Snapdragon 730G) especially in games, runs a clean Android skin, its 4,300mAh battery has an excellent autonomy and support for 30W VOOC fast charging, while its quad-camera module offers plenty of versatility and shoots quality photos even at night.
Its plastic built isn’t that great, but you can’t ask for more from a cell phone that costs (Check on Amazon). It still offers Gorilla Glass 3 screen protection and a P2i water-repellent coating, however.
All in all the Realme 6 offers the best value for money of all Android smartphones at the moment.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro: best bang for your buck
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro (Check on Amazon) is one of the best deals you can find today and deserves serious consideration. It features a large 6.67-inch screen with HDR10 support, a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G processor, optimized for games, a quad-camera module based on Samsung’s outstanding 64MP sensor, and, the icing on the cake, a battery that will easily last for more than a day.
The design isn’t spectacular, but it’s not ugly either. The FHD+ IPS panel looks great – for a phone at this price range – and sports a hole punch notch for the selfie camera. The rear camera module takes photos on par with the Samsung M31 but falls short at night.
Under the hood, we find the Snapdragon 720G, an 8nm processor that produces less heat and offers better efficiency. Combined with the massive 5,020mAh battery, it grants this device great autonomy. It also supports 18W fast charging.
The only real threat to the Redmi Note 9 Pro, is the cheaper Realme 6 and its 90Hz display!
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro: our favorite
The Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro looks almost too good to be true. With this model, Xiaomi rivals the Honor 20 and the OnePlus 7T, offering flagship specs and a sleek design at a mid-range price. Unlike the competition, the Mi 9T Pro also sports a headphone jack, not to mention a Super AMOLED Full HD+ display, with no notch or punch-hole. At (Check on Amazon), this phone is better than any other device at a similar price.
The performance is excellent. The Snapdragon 855 aided by 6GB of RAM allows this phone to run any app or game.
Xiaomi’s MIUI software needs an overhaul, the camera performance in low light is not exactly brilliant, and it doesn’t have an IP rating, but otherwise, this device offers the very best performance to price ratio compared to any other phone.