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Home / Features / Best mid-range smartphone 2024: top affordable phones we’ve tested

Best mid-range smartphone 2024: top affordable phones we’ve tested

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 are all featured frequently in affordable mobile bingo. But those days are over – here’s our guide to the best mid-range smartphones that all cost below $500/£500.

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 8a (buy now) is the best mid-range smartphone you can buy. It’s the latest phone in Google’s more affordable ‘a’ series. 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

While the iPhone SE (2022) (buy now) 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

With the 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

The Google Pixel 7a (buy now) is a more affordable version of the Pixel 7, but 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

The Nothing Phone 2 (buy now) is 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.

The best mid-range phone you can buy today:

Google Pixel 8a on green and blue gradient background

1. Google Pixel 8a

Stuff Verdict

With similar hardware to its more expensive siblings, the Pixel 8a is the cheapest way to access Google’s AI smarts. With amazing photography skills, the Pixel 8a is the mid-range smartphone to beat.


  • Same superb photography skills we expect from Pixel phones
  • Performance punches above its price bracket
  • Slick design and strong build


  • Gemini AI chatbot not available in UK and Europe
  • Charging speeds remain behind rivals
Google Pixel 8a specs
Screen6.1in, 2400×1080 OLED w/ 120Hz
CPUGoogle Tensor G3 octa-core
Memory8GB RAM
Cameras64MP, f/1.9 main w/ OIS + 13MP,f/2.2 ultrawide rear
13MP, f/2.2 front
Operating systemAndroid 14
Battery4,492 mAh w/ 18W wired, 7.5W wireless charging
Dimensions152.1 x 72.7 x 8.9mm, 188 g

The Pixel 8a is part of Google’s affordable ‘A’ series, which promises a similar Pixel experience to its more expensive siblings for less money. We think this 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. Previous Pixel A phones had a few specs that lagged behind some of the competition, but the latest 8a has fixed that, making it unquestionably the best mid-range smartphone around.

Okay, the charging speeds remain slightly behind rivals, and not all AI features are available to buyers in the UK and Europe, but unless you’re willing to spend nearly double the money on a flagship with even more versatile cameras, the Pixel 8a is everything you’ll ever need.

2. Apple iPhone SE (2022)

Stuff Verdict

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


  • Familiar design
  • Incredibly powerful


  • No Face ID
  • Display not as good as some
Apple iPhone SE (2022) specs
Screen4.7in, 750 x 1334, Retina IPS LCD
CPUApple A15 Bionic
Memory4GB RAM
Cameras12 MP, f/1.8, PDAF, OIS (rear)
7 MP, f/2.2 (front)
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Operating systemiOS 15
Battery2018 mAh, 20W wired
Dimensions138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm, 144 g

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 affordable mobile 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 Verdict

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.


  • Refines everything that Made Phone 1 so fun
  • Streamlined software puts a fresh spin on the Android home screen


  • Rivals still hold the crown for photography
  • Not such great value in certain territories
Nothing Phone 2 specs
Screen6.7in, 2410×1080 OLED w/ 120Hz
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 octa-core
Memory8/12GB RAM
Cameras50MP, f/1.9 w/ PDAF, OIS + 50MP, f/2.2 ultrawide w/autofocus rear
32MP, f/2.5 front
Operating systemAndroid 13 w/ NothingOS 2.0 UI
Battery4700mAh w/ wired, wireless charging
Dimensions162x76x8.6mm, 201g

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 is 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 on a genuinely refreshing take on the affordable smartphone formula, Phone 2 should sit near the top of your list.


4. Red Magic 8 Pro

Stuff Verdict

Quite simply the best value gaming phone around right now, with powerful specs and not to mention a seriously geeky, fit-for-purpose UI that’s perfect for anyone who loves to game and tinker.


  • Looks great for a gaming phone
  • Striking uninterrupted screen
  • Excellent gaming performance and internal fan


  • Main camera misses out on OIS
  • Occasional interface niggles
  • Screen refresh rate isn’t best-in-class
Red Magic 8 Pro specs
6.8in, 2480×1116 AMOLED w/ 120Hz
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
Cameras50MP, f/1.8 w/ OIS + 8MP, f/2.4 ultrawide + 2MP, f/2.4 macro rear
32MP front
Operating systemAndroid 13 w/ RedMagicOS
Battery6000mAh w/ 65W wired charging
Dimensions164x76x8.9mm, 228g

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 the overall best mid-range smartphone as well as the best mid-ranger gaming phone.

5. Motorola Moto G82

Stuff Verdict

It’s not the pinnacle of performance, but the G82 is more evidence that Motorola is a master of well-specced affordable mobile


  • Superb screen for the cash, with high refresh rate
  • Stabilised main camera takes impressively clear snaps
  • Long-lasting battery


  • More powerful rivals don’t cost much more
  • Macro camera doesn’t add much value
  • No 4K video recording
Motorola Moto G82 specs
Screen6.6in, 2400×1080 AMOLED w/ 120Hz refresh rate
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 695 octa-core
Memory6GB RAM
Cameras50MP f/1.8 w/ PDAF, OIS + 8MP, f/2.2 ultrawide + 2MP, f/2.4 macro rear. 16MP, f/2.2 front
Storage128GB on-board, microSD
Operating systemAndroid 12
Battery5000mAh non-removable
Dimensions161x75x8mm, 173g

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.

6. OnePlus Nord 2T 5G

Stuff Verdict

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


  • Everything is super quick
  • The charging speed is brilliant


  • Photo samples are mixed
  • Not sure about the camera housing
OnePlus Nord 2T 5G specs
Screen6.43in 2400×1080 90Hz AMOLED
CPUMediaTek Dimensity 1300
StorageAndroid 12 with OxygenOS 12
Operating system50+8+2MP rear, 32MP front
Dimensions159x73x8.2mm, 190g

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

7. Poco X5 Pro

Stuff Verdict

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


  • A good screen for a midrange phone
  • The main camera grabs plenty of detail
  • Rapid charging & strong battery life


  • Weak secondary cameras
  • Textured rear feels a bit cheap
  • MIUI 14 is a heavy Android skin
Poco X5 Pro specs
Screen6.67in, 2400×1080 OLED w/ 120Hz
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 778G octa-core
Memory8/12GB RAM
CamerasCamera 108MP, f/1.9 main w/ PDAF, 8MP, f/2.2 ultrawide, 2MP f/2.4 macro.
16MP, f/2.5 front
Operating systemAndroid 12 w/ MIUI 14
Battery5000mAh w/ 67W wired charging
Dimensions163mmx76x 7.9mm, 181g

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.

8. Realme 9 Pro+

Stuff Verdict

A killer camera makes the Realme 9 Pro+ a winner


  • Best-in-class main camera
  • Bright, vibrant, smooth screen
  • 60W fast charging


  • Poor macro camera
  • No SD card slot
  • No zoom camera
Realme 9 Pro+ specs
Screen6.43-inch 90Hz OLED
CPUMediaTek Dimensity 920 5G
Cameras50MP primary (f/1.8), 8MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 2MP Macro (f/2.4) rear, 16MP (f/2.4) front
Operating systemAndroid 12
Battery4500mAh, 60W Super DART fast charging
Dimensions160.2 x 73.3 x 8 mm, 182 g

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 toe 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

9. Honor Magic 5 Lite

Stuff Verdict

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


  • Stylish looks and quality display
  • Great battery life
  • Main camera a decent enough performer


  • Secondary cameras a weak link
  • Outperformed by similarly-priced rivals
Honor Magic 5 Lite specs
Screen6.67in, 2400×1080 OLED w/ 120Hz
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 695 octa-core
Memory6GB RAM
Cameras64MP w/ PDAF + 5MP ultrawide + 2MP macro rear
16MP front
Operating systemAndroid 12 w/ MagicUI 6.1
Battery5100mAh w/ 40W wired charging
Dimensions162x74x7.9mm, 175g

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 of justifying 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.

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 affordable mobiles 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 test 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.

Profile image of Esat Dedezade Esat Dedezade Contributor


Esat has been a gadget fan ever since his tiny four-year-old brain was captivated by a sound-activated dancing sunflower. From there it was a natural progression to a Sega Mega Drive, a brief obsession with hedgehogs, and a love for all things tech. After 7 years as a writer and deputy editor for Stuff, Esat ventured out into the corporate world, spending three years as Editor of Microsoft's European News Centre. Now a freelance writer, his appetite for shiny gadgets has no bounds. Oh, and like all good human beings, he's very fond of cats.