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Home / Features / Best mid-range smartphone 2023: affordable phones reviewed

Best mid-range smartphone 2023: affordable phones reviewed

On the search for the best mid-range smartphone below $500/£500? You're in the right place

There was a time when any smartphone short of a pricey top-tier flagship would serve up a disappointing experience. Bland designs, poor build quality, and a slow, stuttery experience all featured frequently in mid-range smartphone bingo. But those days are over – here’s our guide to the best mid-range smartphones in the $450/£450 to $650/£650 range.

Today, you can buy cracking handsets that are nigh-on inseparable from smartphones that cost twice as much, covering almost all of your needs without bleeding your wallet dry. From premium builds to nippy performance, all-day battery life, and even decent cameras, there are plenty of handsets out there that more than nail the basics, while capable of serving you well for years to come.

What is the best mid-range smartphone?

We think the Google Pixel 7 (buy now) is the best mid-range smartphone you can buy. While part of Google’s 2022 flagship line-up, is technically a mid-range handset by our priced-based definition. You’ll love its impeccable camera skills, punchy performance, minimalist Pixel design and pure Android experience.

Other mid-range smartphone recommendations

  • Best mid-range iPhone: iPhone SE (2022) (buy now)
    While it doesn’t have the most modern design, it more than makes up for it on the inside, with the same powerful A15 Bionic processor as the iPhone 13.
  • Best mid-range gaming phone: Red Magic 8 Pro (buy now)
    You get Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 2 power and 256GB storage, along with a seriously geeky, fit-for-purpose UI that’s perfect for gamers.
  • Best cheap mid-range phone: Google Pixel 7a (buy now)
    A more affordable version of the Pixel 7, the 7a still delivers some of the best camera image processing you can get from a phone without dropping serious cash on a flagship.
  • Best-designed mid-range phone: Nothing Phone 2 (buy now)
    A genuinely refreshing take on the mid-range phone formula, Phone 2 is a step up from Nothing’s debut effort in almost every area. We still love the distinctive styling and clever lighting, only now it comes with more power, longer battery life and a bigger screen.

How to choose the best mid-range smartphone for you

Choosing the best mid-range smartphone is a lot like choosing the best smartphone, but if you’re reading this then you’ve already defined a budget of between $450/£450 and $650/£650. If that’s still too much money, then you should check out Stuff’s guide to the best cheap smartphones.

These smartphones tend to offer a good balance between features and affordability. You may miss out on some headline features, such as a super-zoom camera or massive OLED display, but if you want a phone that’s brilliant at the basics without anything flashy, then these are perfect for you.

As we mentioned in the introduction as well, performance shouldn’t be an issue, with mid-range processors from reputable brands like Qualcomm Snapdragon and MediaTek performing much better than they used to.

In terms of display, you should be looking for smartphones with at least Full HD (1080p) resolution and an IPS or AMOLED panel for vibrant colours and good viewing angles.

Despite being mid-range, you can expect a decent camera with multiple lenses and sensors (although, it may not be market-leading). You can look for features like optical image stabilization (OIS) or night mode.

If you’re looking for more specific buying recommendations, then you can check out Stuff’s guides to the best smartphone for gaming, the best smartphones for photography, and the best Android phones.

How we review the best mid-range smartphones

We have used and reviewed every phone on this list, so you can trust us when it comes to recommending the best mid-range smartphone to buy.

We usually spend a week or longer reviewing phones, testing out all of the software features, build quality and performance. Our reviews are very comprehensive, testing every single aspect of a smartphone, including battery life, quality of the display, and camera.

For more information on Stuff’s rating and review process, read our page on how we test products.

The best mid-range phone you can buy today:


1. Google Pixel 7

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

The smaller Pixel steps up on camera quality and finally feels like a premium phone, while keeping price on its side. It still feels artificially held back compared to the Pro, though

Good Stuff

Same superb photography skills we expect from Pixel phones

Build is slicker than last year’s effort

No price increase

Bad Stuff

90Hz refresh rate limit feels arbitrary

Plays second fiddle to Pixel 7 Pro

That’s right — the Pixel 7, while part of Google’s 2022 flagship line-up, is technically a mid-range handset by our priced-based definition, which, depending on how you look at it, makes it a superb bang-for-buck option. And there’s lots to love here.

From its impeccable camera skills and punchy performance, to a minimalist Pixel design and pure Android experience, this could be the ultimate choice for Google fans. Sure, it has a few specs that are lagging behind some of the competition (including a 90Hz display and slower charging), but on the whole, there’s little else as well-rounded as the Pixel 7 for the money, making it a very tempting option indeed…

2. Apple iPhone SE (2022)

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

If you’re iOS rather than Android, there’s no better option. Flagship power in a compact shell

Good Stuff

Familiar design

Incredibly powerful

Bad Stuff

No Face ID

Display not as good as some

The new iPhone SE (aka the iPhone SE 3, released in 2022) is one of the best-value iPhones ever made. While it looks seriously old-fashioned by today’s standards thanks to its home button and thick bezels, it more than makes up for it on the inside — despite costing less than half the price of the iPhone 13, it’s still rocking the same incredibly powerful A15 Bionic processor.

If you prefer dinkier screens for easy one-handed use, then its 4.7in LCD display (sadly not OLED) will be an absolute joy to use, banishing over-stretched thumbs for good. If you don’t mind the fact that it’s only got a single camera, smaller battery, and no Face ID smarts, then this should definitely be a consideration for Apple fans on a budget. Is it the best mid-range smartphone on sale? No siree – but it is the best mid-range Apple one.

Nothing Phone 2 best mid-range phones

3. Nothing Phone 2

Stuff Says…

A beautiful big-screen blower with unique style and plenty of substance. Rivals have it beat in one or two areas, but none have Phone 2’s charm.

Good Stuff

Refines everything that Made Phone 1 so fun

Streamlined software puts a fresh spin on the Android home screen

Bad Stuff

Rivals still hold the crown for photography

Not such great value in certain territories

Buy the Nothing Phone 2 from Nothing here

Don’t be fooled by the see-through shell: the Nothing Phone 2 is no gimmick. Sure, the transparent design and lighting strips do plenty to catch the eye, but there’s also one of the best mid-range smartphone models on sale lurking beneath the surface.

The 6.7in OLED display punches above its weight, while the construction materials give it the feel of a more premium device. The CPU is last year’s flagship, so plenty potent: running Nothing’s minimalist take on Android 13, it operates very smoothly in day-to-day use, with no noticeable slowdowns.

Battery life much improved over Phone 1, and while the revised rear camera hardware can’t dislodge Google as the best snapper going under £600, it still shows meaningful gains over Nothing’s debut effort. If you’re keen for a genuinely refreshing take on the affordable smartphone formula, Phone 2 should sit near the top of your list.

Stuff best midrange phones Google Pixel 7a

4. Google Pixel 7a

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

Gains features missing from its predecessor, while staying fast, long-lasting and able to take a killer photo. The Pixel 7a is the mid-range Android phone to beat.

Good Stuff

Fantastic still images for a mid-range phone

Slick design and strong build

Performance punches above its price bracket

Bad Stuff

Price bump over last year’s effort

Charging speeds remain behind rivals

The Pixel 7a might have received a price bump over its predecessor, but is still a lesson in budget-minded brilliance. It distils the two-tone styling of its premium Pixel siblings, with a metal frame and composite shell that does a convincing impression of glass. Up front, the 6.1in OLED panel is perfectly crisp and pleasingly vibrant, and now benefits from a faster 90Hz refresh rate. Rivals are faster still, but scrolling is a little slicker than before.

A Tensor G2 chip inside bests almost everything in this price bracket. A Google smartphone in the purest form, it flies through Android 13 without a stutter. The same goes for its camera skills: powerful algorithms extract impressive results from the 64MP main sensor, which is even more impressive in low light than last year’s model. Autofocus is rapid, colours well-judged and almost every still is stuffed with detail. Unless you need a telephoto, this is a heck of a lot of Android phone for your cash.


5. Red Magic 8 Pro

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

Quite simply the best value gaming phone around right now

Searching for an excellent value gaming phone? Your answer is the RedMagic 8 Pro. For a reasonable mid-range sum, you’re getting Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 2 power and 256GB storage, along with a seriously geeky, fit-for-purpose UI that’s perfect for gamers and tinkerers alike.

We particularly loved its large, uninterrupted near-bezel-less display in our review, along with its transparent back that offers something different from the norm. And while its camera won’t deliver best-in-class performance, it’s hard to argue with its overall features at this price — making it a great choice for overall best mid-range smartphone as well as best mid-ranger gaming phone.

6. Motorola Moto G82

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

It’s not the pinnacle of performance, but the G82 is more evidence that Motorola is a master of well-specced smartphones that don’t drain your wallet

Good Stuff

Superb screen for the cash, with high refresh rate

Stabilised main camera takes impressively clear snaps

Long-lasting battery

Bad Stuff

More powerful rivals don’t cost much more

Macro camera doesn’t add much value

No 4K video recording

Hitting the price-performance sweet spot, the Moto G82 is a welcome reminder that Motorola knows how to nail a keenly priced all-rounder. A surefire steal of a smartphone, it packs a superb OLED panel with high refresh rates, a giant 5000mAh battery and an optically stabilised 50MP main camera – all specs you’d expect to find in handsets costing a good chunk more.

It’s not the last word in performance for the money, and you can get more power for not much more cash. But Motorola’s marvellously minimalist take on Android runs bloat-free and briskly enough, while 30W charging means a full refuel in an hour. Provided you don’t need the option to record 4K video, you’re getting a lot of smartphone here for your readies.

7. OnePlus Nord 2T 5G

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

A neat 5G smartphone with decent specs at a tidy price: the Nord 2T is one of the best mid-range Android smartphones you can buy

Good Stuff

Everything is super quick

The charging speed is brilliant

Bad Stuff

Photo samples are mixed

Not sure about the camera housing

The OnePlus Nord 2T 5G might have a horrifically convoluted name, but it more than makes up for it with a beautiful, premium design, bolstered by quality specs and performance in all the right places. Slathered front and back in gorilla glass, it’s available in grey or a head-turning Jade Fog finish, making it one of the best looking mid-range handsets money can buy.

Ready for super-fast 5G, it’s powered by MediaTek’s powerful Dimensity 1300 processor, which has made a name for itself as one of the best mid-range CPUs currently available. It’s got a triple-camera setup too, though its main snapper will be the one that gets the majority of the legwork done.

Throw in speedy Google, Samsung and Apple-trouncing 80W fast charging, a 90Hz AMOLED display, and a dual-SIM slot for extra flexibility, and you’ve got one of the top mid-range Android picks around.

POCO X5 Pro 5G with box

8. Poco X5 Pro

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

Far from perfect, but a welcome refinement to Poco’s wallet-friendly line.

Good Stuff

A good screen for a midrange phone

The main camera grabs plenty of detail

Rapid charging & strong battery life

Bad Stuff

Weak secondary cameras

Textured rear feels a bit cheap

MIUI 14 is a heavy Android skin

A better budget gaming phone than its forebear, with a UI that runs delightfully smoothly – not always a given when talking this sort of cash. The Poco X5 Pro is also thinner and lighter than the phone that came before, and brings back great battery life (and fast charging).

Adding 4K video recording is welcome, but there haven’t been too many meaningful updates to the camera hardware, so this isn’t the phone for photographers with tight purse strings.

The screen doesn’t get quite as bright as the X4 Pro, and the weird-feeling plastic back won’t be to all tastes. But ultimately it doesn’t make you feel like you’re compromising in too many areas, so find one at the right price and it’s still a good buy.

9. Realme 9 Pro+

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

A killer camera makes the Realme 9 Pro+ a winner

Good Stuff

Best-in-class main camera

Bright, vibrant, smooth screen

60W fast charging

Bad Stuff

Poor macro camera

No SD card slot

No zoom camera

The Realme 9 Pro+ might just be the best overall choice for most people searching for the best mid-range smartphone (unless, of course, you’re after an iPhone).

Its primary selling points are a 90Hz OLED display, and a best-in-class main camera that genuinely goes to to toe with premium flagships come day or night. It can even shoot HEIF 10-bit photos like the iPhone 13 Pro, for smoother gradients and colours for enthusiasts to work their editing magic. Its digital zoom isn’t too shabby either, and the same goes for its 8MP ultra-wide snapper.

As usual, the third macro camera isn’t really worth using more than a few times for experimentation, but given the imaging quality elsewhere, that’s fine by us. Powerful enough for smooth gaming with 60W charging thrown in for good measure, this is one of the best mid-range handsets currently available, at a borderline budget price tag.

Honor Magic 5 Lite colour options

10. Honor Magic 5 Lite

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

A keenly-priced mid-ranger with sharp looks, a quality screen and stellar battery life – although mobile photographers have better options for similar cash.

Good Stuff

Stylish looks and quality display

Great battery life

Main camera a decent enough performer

Bad Stuff

Secondary cameras a weak link

Outperformed by similarly-priced rivals

One of those phones for people who spend more time in Google Chrome than Call of Duty, the Honor Magic 5 Lite is a great-looking handset that sticks with a modestly mid-range CPU in order to go big in other areas, like its screen. A 6.67in AMOLED is a treat for the eyes, especially at 120Hz, and the 5100mAh battery is capable of excellent longevity away from the mains.

While its secondary snappers don’t add a whole lot of value, the main sensor does a decent job to justify the price. The super slim dimensions, glass rear and choice of head-turning colours are what give the Magic 5 Lite its strongest appeal, so if you like your tech to make a design statement, it’s a great choice.