Best mid-range "$400-$500 flagship" phones this year

Best mid-range
These days, you can get a phone with a flagship-grade look, feel and even performance for just about $400 to $500. And since this trend has been taking over in the last couple of years, many people would just call these phones "affordable flagships".

The price on these phones has fluctuated a bit, but generally has hovered around these prices, and considering the quick astronomical growth of phones from Apple, Samsung and even Huawei, these phones look like an even better value for the money today.

The "$400 flagships" that we've picked below all excel in terms of performance and their design and overall finish. While not all of these phones are available on US carriers, most will be compatible with at least T-Mobile and AT&T, and are readily available via retailers like Amazon or B&H.

With all this in mind, let's get started: here are the best mid-range "affordable flagship" phones.

1. OnePlus 7

*Not available in the US


Pros

  • Great value for the money
  • Impressively fast performance
  • Good battery life
  • Recharges very quickly

Cons

  • Low-light camera performance not quite flagship grade
  • No wireless charging

OnePlus remains our top choice for a budget flagship this year.

The OnePlus 7 might not be quite as impressive as the 7 Pro edition which has that 90-hertz display, the new vibration motor and the triple camera magic, but the regular 7 is a super solid performer at a very reasonable price that delivers when it comes to the fundamentals.

And those fundamentals are the extremely zippy performance thanks to the Snapdragon 855 chip under the hood, the clean, clutter-free experience and the improved quality from the single rear camera sensor. Add to that an impressive battery life, flagship-grade design and super fast charging, and the OnePlus remains the best option for most buyers in this price range.


2. Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL


Pros

  • Incredible, best-in-class camera
  • Smooth performance
  • Clean software, years of guaranteed software updates

Cons

  • Dated looks, plastic body
  • Chip is not the fastest around


The Google Pixel 3a bring a small revolution in affordable phones: at just $400 for the small 3a and $470 for the larger 3a XL model, these two gadgets bring the flagship Pixel camera phone experience, something that simply no other phone in this price range can match. So if you want a cheap phone and a great camera, that's pretty much your only option.

Google makes a few compromises to get the 3a to be so affordable: first and foremost in terms of styling and looks as the 3a series are made of plastic and don't quite have the solid build quality of a modern flagship, and secondly, the bezels that are definitely way bigger than on contemporaries and give the phones a decidedly dated look.

But if you don't care about that, you would be pleased with the performance and the 3 years of timely software updates are another great thing that you will not get on other devices.


3. Xiaomi Mi 9

*Not available in the US

Pros

  • Premium build quality
  • A good combination of rear cameras
  • Fast performance
  • Super competitive price

Cons

  • The fingerprint sensor is a bit unreliable

The Xiaomi Mi 9 is the most affordable phone with the newest Snapdragon 855 on board and it is probably the most affordable phone with that flagship chip on board. It features a very sleek, thin design, excellent camera performance and a battery that lasts a long time.

The only big downside is the MIUI custom interface that serves ads in certain countries like India (you don't get ads in the MIUI version on Xiaomi phones in Europe, however).



4. Honor View 20

*Not available in the US

Pros

  • Unique V shape design
  • 7nm Kirin 980 processor is fast
  • Big battery
  • 48-megapixel camera performs well

Cons

  • No AMOLED screen

Honor is an offshoot of Chinese giant Huawei, but it operates with no physical stores and relies on word-of-mouth and has no big marketing budget, which saves it a ton of money. This is what makes phones like the Honor View 20 possible.

The View 20 sports a 6.4-inch LCD screen and Huawei's own Kirin 980 chip inside, the first 7nm chip ever released for Android phones. Huawei's years of effort in making chips have definitely paid handsomely as the Kirin 980 beats the Snapdragon 845 in terms of performance. The View 20 also sports a big, 4,000mAh battery and is a looker, with that distinct V-shape on the back. The phone also features a 48-megapixel Sony sensor for the main camera that we expect to see in many phones in 2019. This sensor combines four pixels into one to deliver 12-megapixel images with superior night time performance.



5. Pocophone F1



Pros

  • Incredible value for the money
  • Great battery life
  • Fast performance
  • MIUI is rich in features

Cons

  • Plastic back might not please everyone
  • A bit on the thick side
  • LCD screen, not AMOLED
  • No wireless charging

The Pocophone F1 was one of the biggest surprises of 2018 and it's a great value still this year.

The Pocophone really exceeds expectations: it is incredibly fast, equipped with the flagship Snapdragon 845 system chip on board, and it has a very good looking LCD display and a very decent camera (but it falls short of premium phones in this regard). All of that at an unprecedented starting price of just $350! No wonder people are excited, you can buy three Pocophones for the price of one iPhone XS and still have a benjamin left in your pocket.

We also love the large, 4,000mAh battery under the hood and we get between a day or even two out of it, so battery life is really great too.

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78 Comments

1. pifon

Posts: 76; Member since: Jun 15, 2013

much better choices compared to "Best budget big screen phones (2017)" article.

23. sgodsell

Posts: 7184; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

The Axon 7 deserves to be the first one on this list, especially since it has a QHD display (2560x1440), a SD 820, and is Daydream VR compatible. The next one in this list for me is the OnePlus 3T. I just wish OnePlus would have made it Daydream VR compatible. The next one for me would be the Xperia C, because I really like Sony, and it already has the latest Nougat and February security updates.

35. jellmoo

Posts: 2562; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Honestly, the number 1 spot for me could go to either the Axon 7, OnePlus 3T or the Honor 8. I think each has pros and cons. I own the Axon 7 and think it's a great device, but the little issues I've had hold me back from calling it the overall winner.

38. Razrman

Posts: 100; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

I also have the Axon 7 as my alternate phone and is really good. It already has Nougat 7.1.1 but the camera is the only thing I don't like. Also the battery life is very good. The sound quality is amazing.

48. piyath

Posts: 2445; Member since: Mar 23, 2012

1) Honor 9 2) Oneplus 5 3) LG G6 4) Axon 7 5) Honor 8 6) iPhone SE 7) Xperia X 8) Moto Z2 Play 9) Galaxy A5 10) U play and Nova 2

56. Papa_Ji

Posts: 834; Member since: Jun 27, 2016

1) OnePlus 5/5T 2) Mi 6 3) S7 edge 4) Mi Note 3 5) S7 6) Honor 9 7) Mi 5s/5s plus 8) Huawei P 10 9) G6 10) Xperia XZ1 Compact Note 5 , Mi 5 ,Axon 7 , Nova 2, Moto Z/Z2 Play, LePro 3, 1+ 3/3t ,mi note 2.....

61. WingMan unregistered

It is a 2016 phone :/ and is now discontinued as you may know. Last price was around $230 for it whic is one hell of a good deal.

64. sintruder

Posts: 162; Member since: Aug 30, 2012

Why is everyone ignoring the honor view 10? It's the best under $500 in my opinion. It's incredible value with 128gb storage.

44. tangbunna

Posts: 474; Member since: Sep 29, 2016

such a paid review. mi6 with sd835 at around $400 too but seems it didnt pay for this review. lolz

2. kiko007

Posts: 7493; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Top three for me: 1. ZTE Axon 7 2. OnePlus 3 3. iPhone SE Reasoning for each: 1) The Axon is a media consumption beast! Great screen, sound, and performance. 2) Obviously 1+ is up here. Never owned one of their products, but always here great things. Plus the Custom ROM community is smitten with the damn things. 3) If you want to take a dip into iOS without breaking the bank OR buying outdated hardware, look no further than the iPhone SE. Not to mention its the only "mini" device left in this ever more massive phablet market. Honorable mention: Huawei Honor 8 (Yes....Pun intended) Reason for omission: Media consumption isn't great. ROM support isn't there either. However, still an excellent phone you can get for under $350 most places.

9. iDroidPhony

Posts: 59; Member since: Sep 21, 2016

that is the top 3 for me, too. although oneplus 3t is number one. like the honor 8 too for the dual camera.

18. skyline88

Posts: 697; Member since: Jul 15, 2013

no way Axon 7 has better UI and software than OnePlus 3/3T

42. Doakie

Posts: 2478; Member since: May 06, 2009

No but it has a higher resolution​, expandable storage, front facing speakers, and a 2 year warranty when OnePlus is questionable in their quality/warranty response.

43. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

I'm updated to the most recent version of Android with my 3T, and I have a number of performance bugs. I may have to do a full wipe and factory reset. I'll go do that now...

47. domfonusr

Posts: 1083; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

There are places where people can get the iPhone SE 32GB for less than $200 these days, like Boost or StraightTalk, or from Best Buy for AT&T. On Cricket they were selling the 16GB version for $169.99, but I didn't jump on it right away because it is financially a bit of a stretch, and I would rather have more than 16GB of ROM if I'm not going to have a microSD card slot. They apparently sold out, and so now they offer the 64GB version for $229.99. I'm hoping that the price will come down further if/when the new SE gets announced/released. I would rather see the Motorola Moto E4 come to Cricket, and buy that for something under $100, but if it never comes to Cricket I would pick the iPhone SE next. If I can't really afford to buy the SE when that time comes, and the Moto E4 never comes to Cricket, then I'll probably end up with an LG Harmony (or possibly a Samsung Galaxy Amp Prime 2, if I think I can tolerate having the back button on the right). There is no way I will pay $399.99 for an iPhone SE, even if it is worth it. I have $100 to spend on an Android phone, or I'll go to $200 for an iPhone, but not more.

3. Captain_Doug

Posts: 1037; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Axon 7 should be higher. The SD 820 is a beast.

19. MK10R

Posts: 9; Member since: Apr 09, 2013

Agreed.../s%

4. PootisMan

Posts: 266; Member since: Aug 02, 2013

No Moto Z Play?

5. sissy246

Posts: 7065; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Honor 8 ZTE Axon 7 OnePlus 3T

6. libra89

Posts: 2271; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Great list! I agree with the iPhone SE and Honor 8. I have both and they are awesome! Can't imagine having any other iOS or Android phone.

7. dannybrown

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 03, 2017

Alcatel idol 4s is much better as Nova and wher is moto z play?

28. Derass

Posts: 149; Member since: Aug 06, 2015

I'm also surprised that the Alcatel Idol 4(S) isn't on this list.

8. mahima

Posts: 727; Member since: Nov 20, 2014

I'll take mi note 2 over these phone any day...

10. iDroidPhony

Posts: 59; Member since: Sep 21, 2016

isn't mi note 2 expensive?

59. worldpeace

Posts: 3127; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

IIRC its $550 at launch, and going down since then

26. raky_b

Posts: 383; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

It cost more, it's OS is not optimized like other hare, old android version without any security patches, battery life is not great but it's similar to some on this list, screen is terrible (blue), and it is not internationally available, so it comes without any warranty.

51. worldpeace

Posts: 3127; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

- Mi Note 3 is around $400 (with SD660), just around the price on that list - MIUI is optimized and get weekly update - MIUI have the most active forum, with millions of active users - Mi Note 2 beat S8+ and Note8 battery life in gsmarena battery test (they haven't test Mi Note 3) - Bluish screen? which review say that? (color temp can be adjusted in setting, just like other android) - and if you join MIUI beta program, you'll get Oreo as soon as next month - gearbest and other online shop give 1-year international warranty (but, I don't use xiaomi, I'm fine with samsung, lol)

11. Alter

Posts: 229; Member since: Mar 25, 2016

OnePlus 3T is what I would go with. For a while I was really excited about the Axon 7 until ZTE decided to use painted on capacitive buttons. Then owners reported that the camera performance was middling and my excitement for the phone vanished. Such a shame because I like the design, screen and speakers more than the OnePlus flagship.

12. poptart574

Posts: 223; Member since: Feb 29, 2016

Vivo xplay 5 flagship killer at 400+ or get the xplay 6 and buy one of the very best phones on the planet right now.

13. MrRadioActive

Posts: 3; Member since: Apr 25, 2012

ZTE Axon 7 "*Only works on AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States"? I have mine on Verizon CDMA and LTE with no issues whatsoever, out of box, no mods. I'm also running dual SIMS with T-Mobile and Verizon, again, flawlessly. I get 4G LTE on Verizon and I'm able to place and receive calls, send and receive SMS/MMS messages, and switch between each providers data service. Hands down, best phone for the buck. Also have an LG V20, LG G5, Samsung S7 Edge, several Huawei phones/tablets (stuck with them), and an HTC 10. AXON 7 6GB blows them all out of the water. I don't find any issues with the camera as has been reported. Also, I would not touch a Huawei phone with a 10-foot pole; customer service sucks horribly.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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