02/02/2021

Best Mid-range Smartphones: Top 5 Picks for 2021

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

Nobody was expecting Samsung to launch 'another' Galaxy S20 but cheaper in the middle of 2020. However good things happen when you don't expect them, and Samsung's Galaxy S20 FE 5G is definitely worth every penny, despite its retail price of £699 being a bit of a stretch for a mid-ranger.

ProsCons
👍 Snapdragon 865 chipset in the UK👎 Plastic rear panel
👍 Great battery life👎 Gorilla Glass 3 protection
👍 Stunning 6.5-inch display with 120Hz

The key feature that the S20 FE 5G stole the show with is the Snapdragon 865 processor in the UK. Paired with a 6GB of RAM, the chipset delivers great performance and the phone can easily last 2 days on a single charge with moderate use (that’s what we’ve observed in lockdown mode). We wouldn’t call 5G support one of the main selling points, because you can take advantage of it if you’re living in the area where 5G has been launched in 2020, but hopefully the network will expand soon enough. From our observations the 5G connectivity doesn’t impact the battery life that dramatically which is probably one of the main concerns upgraders from 4G to 5G devices have. The S20 FE has a 4G sibling which costs £100 less and is powered by Exynos 990 chipset, so if you’d rather save on 5G, this can be a good alternative.

The flat 6.5 inches screen displays vibrant colours offering a great viewing experience and the 120Hz refresh rate is just a pleasure, although the screen resolution is locked at 1080p. A slight disappointment here for us was the Gorilla Glass 3 display protection and given the fact that today phones are launching with Gorilla Glass 6, this seems like a harsh sacrifice for trying to keep the costs down. Along with this comes the plastic back panel which many might find cheap to the touch, but the matte finish is very user-friendly meaning it doesn’t attract fingerprints and you’re less likely to smash it into pieces.

The triple rear camera setup has an excellent 12MP main sensor that captures colourful and detailed shots, and telephoto camera’s 3x optical zoom capabilities does a great job as well. Just look at this motion shot.

Overall, the Galaxy S20 FE 5G is a decent phone and packs a bunch of high-end features including wireless charging, IP68, ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor and is just a pleasure to look at and use on a daily basis.

OnePlus 8T

OnePlus phones are known for their flagship killing performance and looks, and the OnePlus 8T is no exception, nicely blending features and affordability together.

ProsCons
👍 Goes from zero to full charge in 40 minutes👎 IP rating is missing
👍 Superb display with 120Hz refresh rate👎 Rear depth and ultra-wide cameras
are behind competition
👍 Powered by the top-end Snapdragon 865👎 No wireless charging
👍 Costs half as much as current flagships on the market

In this power hungry world the OnePlus 8T offers incredibly fast performance with up to 12GB of RAM, Snapdragon 865 chipset and 120Hz screen. If these specs don’t tell you much, how about charging to 100% from empty in only 40 minutes? The OnePlus 8T was one of the first devices to ship with 65W fast charging technology in mid-range space and its users are loving it, because who wouldn't?

On the back of the phone, there’s four rear cameras with the main sensor being 48MP. It’s not a bad selection, but there are better camera phones in this price bracket with less sensors doing a better job.

Of course OnePlus had to pick and choose which features make their way to the OnePlus 8T. The wireless charging and IP water-resistance rating did not meet the cut to keep the price of the phone at £549, but the rest of the features do make up for it.

iPhone SE 2020

Many smartphone users prefer familiar and compact designs over edge-to-edge thin slabs of glass, and the second generation of one of Apple’s most popular phones does just that. There’s nothing complicated about the iPhone SE 2020 and it has everything you need.

ProsCons
👍 Apple’s great performing A13 Bionic under the hood👎 Old school design
👍 Lengthy software support👎 Battery life is rather short
👍 Sufficient cameras
👍 Good value for money

If you’re on the lookout for an iPhone on a budget, the new SE should be on your shortlist along with great refurbished iPhones. The iPhone SE 2020 has the same speedy processor as the iPhone 11 lineup and it comes with a good old home button, so you won’t need to fiddle around with FaceID technology and gesture navigation to use the handset.

The latest SE comes in various vibrant colour finishes and the rear camera won’t let you down. Another feature worth noting is the 18W fast charging that minimises the impact of a rather short battery life according to modern standards and Apple says you get a 50% charge in just 30 minutes. Paying less than £500 for an iPhone these days and getting a decent handset that will likely be supported for more than 3 years is absolutely worth it.

OnePlus Nord

The OnePlus Nord is considered OnePlus’ return to its budget roots and it does not disappoint when compared to the OnePlus 8 series.

ProsCons
👍 Fast charging👎 Fingerprint scanner is a bit slow
with a screen protector on
👍 Wide-angle front camera👎 Battery life can be disappointing
for heavy users
👍 90Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling
👍 Affordable

Being one of the cheapest 5G smartphones on the market right now and costing under £400, the OnePlus Nord is a good-looking smartphone with flawless performance and very fast charging. The 90Hz refresh rate, once reserved only for Pro models within the OnePlus portfolio, offers buttery-smooth scrolling and the flat screen design is a welcome change because let’s be honest curved displays have become more of a gimmick recently. OnePlus made a great job at bringing the price of the Nord down and if you’re not put off by the lack of IP certification and want your phone to pack a bunch of good cameras, the OnePlus Nord is an incredibly tempting choice.

Google Pixel 4a

Last but not least we have the Pixel 4a on our list. A fantastic device that represents an absolute value proposition and will outperform the above phones’ cameras with just a single rear lens paired with expectational computational photography capabilities.

ProsCons
👍 Solid performance👎 Plastic build
👍 One of the best cameras out there👎 Okay battery life
👍 Compact👎 Screen tops at 60Hz
👍 Speedy software upgrades

The Pixel 4a has lots of things going on for under £400. The 5.8-inch bright and sharp OLED display at 1080p is a major improvement from the Pixel 3a, single camera captures jaw-dropping low light shots and it has plenty of internal storage and RAM.

There’s no longer pronounced top and bottom bezel, and the front camera is hidden in a small display cutout which makes the Pixel 4a arguably more good-looking than its flagship Pixel 4 devices. The smartphone has dual speakers and a headphone jack that is making its way out of device lineups. If you don’t mind a plastic body that gives away the phone’s price point and you’re not after all the bells and whistles, this superb camera phone is going to be the decision you won’t regret.

Antonia

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