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Best mid-range smartphone 2022: the top phones that won’t break the bank

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 $300/£300 to $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.

The best mid-range phone to buy today

Apple iPhone SE (2022)

The new iPhone SE (aka the iPhone SE 3, released in 2022) is one of the best-value iPhones ever made. While it looks rather 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.

Stuff Says…

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

Tech spec:

Display: 4.7in HD+ LCD ● Processor: Apple A15 Bionic • RAM: 4GB ● Storage: 65/128/256GB • Cameras: 12MP rear, 7MP front • Battery: 2018mAh • Weight: 144g

Realme 9 Pro+

The Realme 9 Pro+ will probably be the best overall choice for most people reading this list (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.

Stuff Says…

A killer camera makes the Realme 9 Pro+ a winner

Good Stuff

Best-in-class main camera

Bright, vibrant, smooth screen

Bad Stuff

Poor macro camera

No SD card slot

Tech spec:

Display: 6.43in 90Hz FHD+ OLED ● Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 920 ● RAM: 6/8GB ● Storage: 128/256GB ● Cameras: 50+8+2MP rear, 16MP front ● Battery: 4500mAh ● Weight: 182g

Poco X4 Pro 5G

The Poco X4 Pro 5G is a cheaper 5G alternative to the OnePlus Nord 2T. With looks that belie it’s mid-range status, its large rear camera bump and “laser-like” reflections help it stand out from the crowd — especially if you opt for the bright yellow model.

Looks aside, one of its best features is its buttery-smooth 120Hz FHD+ AMOLED display, which is up there with some of the top flagships we’ve ever tested. It’s powered by a large 5000mAh battery for all-day stamina too, with speedy 67W fast charging letting you top up in a flash if you do run low.

As with most mid-range handsets, the main camera is comfortably the best one on offer here, and the only one of the X4 Pro’s cameras to offer a dedicated night mode. If a large, speedy-charging battery, crisp display and main camera performance are high on your list of priorities, this could very well be the choice for you.

Stuff Says…

It’s not a flagship-fighting bargain like some of Poco’s other phones, but the X4 Pro 5G still packs in quite a lot for the money. There are more well-rounded sub-£300 rivals, but if battery life and a stellar screen are all you care about, it might be worth a glance.

Good Stuff

Sumptuous screen for an affordable phone

Main camera impresses at this price

Bad Stuff

Weak CPU vs rivals

Secondary snappers aren’t all that

Tech spec:

Display: 6.67in 120Hz FHD+ AMOLED ● Processor: Snapdragon 695 5G ● RAM: 6/8GB ● Storage: 64/128/256GB ● Cameras: 108+64+8+2MP rear, 16MP front ● Battery: 5000mAh

OnePlus Nord 2T 5G

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.

Tech Specs

Display: 6.43in 90Hz FHD+ AMOLED ● Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 1300 • RAM: 8/12GB ● Storage: 128/256GB • Cameras: 50+8+2MP rear, 32MP front • Battery: 4500mAh • Weight: 190g

Poco X4 GT

If you’re after power above all else, then the Poco X4 GT definitely warrants a closer look. The most powerful phone on our list after the iPhone SE, it’s powered by MediaTek’s flagship Dimensity 8100. Coupled with it’s incredibly smooth 144Hz display, it’s an ideal choice for serious mobile gamers.

The price for that higher-than-average refresh rate though, is an LCD screen as opposed to an OLED one, which means you won’t be enjoying true blacks and super-vivid colours. Battery life doesn’t take a hit though, and we comfortably got through a day’s worth of heavy use on a single charge. There’s also 67W fast-charging on the cards, surpassing far more expensive handsets from Samsung and Apple.

As usual, only the main 64MP camera is worth writing home about, with good shots in bright environments. Night shots are okay, though you’ll need a steady hand to get the best out of them due to the lack of a dedicated Night Mode or optical image stabilisation.

Stuff Says…

A strong budget contender with great performance and battery life for the money. Screen and camera let the side down slightly, but given the launch price they are only minor grumbles. Less of a deal at full RRP.

Good Stuff

Potent performance for an affordable phone

Main camera takes detailed, colourful shots

Bad Stuff

OLED phones not significantly more cash

Typically weak secondary cameras

Tech spec:

Display: 6.6in 144Hz FHD+ LCD ● Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 8100 ● RAM: 8GB ● Storage: 128/256GB ● Cameras: 64+8+2MP rear, 13MP front ● Battery: 5080mAh ● Weight: 205g

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Despite rumours suggesting there’s no plans for a Galaxy S22 FE in the works at Samsung HQ, the Galaxy S21 FE remains a formidable option in the mid-range category. It’s got Qualcomm’s mighty Snapdragon 888 CPU running the show, for a start, along with up to 8GB RAM for multitasking shenanigans.

Unlike most of its rivals, it’s got a decent camera setup across the board too, with 3x optical zoom offering the ability to get closer to subjects without sacrificing on detail. There’s even a 32MP camera for selfie lovers, and, of course, the premium design and build you’d expect to find in a Samsung handset.

It’s certainly a lot less garish and more muted compared to some of the competition, and we particularly like the more minimal rear lens setup. At just under £500 though its considerably more expensive, and only offers 25W charging speeds.

Stuff Says…

A step below the flagship Galaxy S22 series in certain areas, but also significantly kinder to your bank account.

Good Stuff

Quality cameras

Plenty of power on offer

Bad Stuff

Dull colours

Only 25W charging

Tech spec:

Display: 6.4in 120Hz FHD+ LCD ● Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 8100 ● RAM: 6/8GB ● Storage: 128/256GB ● Cameras: 12+12+8MP rear, 32MP front ● Battery: 4500mAh ● Weight: 177g

Honor 50

The Honor 50 resembles the more expensive Huawei P50 Pro, and despite its plastic build, looks just as smart, feeling like a premium bit of kit in the hands. Crucially, unlike Huawei’s offering, it has the full Google-app experience, unlocking the full power of the Play Store.

Round the front you’ll find a 120Hz OLED display that’s up there with some of the best we’ve seen, though it doesn’t quite reach the retina-searing brightness levels of more expensive flagships like Samsung’s Galaxy S22 range. While the rear camera setup looks impressive, only the main 108MP camera delivers truly good results however, capturing buckets of detail with each shot.

Despite having a smaller battery than some rivals we found that it could comfortably last more than a whole day of use, with nippy 66W fast charging included for extra convenience. You can get slightly better performance for the money, but if you’re chasing the P50 Pro’s looks for much less, this has you covered.

Stuff Says…

Honor’s first solo effort away from the Huawei mothership packs design punch and a gorgeous screen, plus it finally brings Google’s apps back into the fold – but rivals either match it for the money, or offer more for little extra cash

Good Stuff

Mostly competitive hardware

Sleek styling

Bad Stuff

Extra cameras add little value

Too many unwanted apps

Tech spec:

Display: 6.57in 120Hz FHD+ OLED ● Processor: Snapdragon 778G 5G ● RAM: 6/8/12GB ● Storage: 128/256GB ● Cameras: 108+8+2+2MP rear, 32MP front ● Battery: 4300mAh ● Weight: 175g