Samsung makes some of the best smartphones in the world, but knowing which one to go for isn’t the easiest of tasks.
Do you want the flagship-class experience offered up by the likes of the Galaxy S range, the stylus-supported Note line, or one of the Z-series foldables? Maybe Samsung’s diverse (and cheaper) Galaxy A-series has what you’re looking for?
The company has worked hard to have its phones stand out from the crowd too, with a tailored user experience called One UI and added-value apps and services – like the Galaxy App Store and Themes Store. There are also unique camera modes, plus features like AR Emoji, Game Booster, the company’s Bixby assistant and a bunch of other experiences that you won’t be able to find elsewhere.
Best Samsung Galaxy phones 2021
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – Best overall
Pros: Rich camera experience | Great performance | Stunning screen | Good battery life
Cons: Big and heavy | Expensive
After 2020’s disappointing Galaxy S20 Ultra, Samsung has finally earned the name with a follow-up that delivers almost everything you could want from an Android flagship; admittedly at a price that only a few can afford, and in a form factor that will simply be too big for some.
The camera stands unrivalled – in terms of versatility – with a 108Mp main shooter backed up by an ultrawide and two telephoto lenses at different optical zoom levels (3x and 10x).
The expansive 6.8in display delivers both high WQHD+ resolution and an adaptive refresh rate up to 120Hz, making it great for gaming and with S-pen stylus support, it fills the productivity niche of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra too.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review
Samsung Galaxy S21 – Best value
Pros: Nice 120Hz display | Compact design | Strong performance
Cons: Some downgrades over S20 | Plastic build
The baby of 2021’s Galaxy S lineup, the Galaxy S21 doesn’t push the envelope in any one area but at the same time addresses the S20’s bland design with some new aesthetic and colour choices.
What’s more, it also offers up better battery life and the new 5nm chipset at its heart (the Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100, depending on where you pick one up) is some undeniably powerful silicon, granting the phone great long-term performance and integrated 5G.
Add to that Android 11 (dressed in Samsung’s own One UI 3.1) at launch and a lower starting price than even the 4G version of 2020’s Galaxy S20 and the S21 is a difficult handset to overlook.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 – Best foldable
Pros: Elegant folding design | Water resistant design | Affordable (for a foldable)
Cons: No telephoto camera | Middling battery life | Still needs to be tougher
Samsung took its already-groundbreaking Galaxy Z Flip foldable, improved every aspect – from design to performance – and then made it cheaper too!
The Z Flip 3 is a beautiful expression of the evolution of foldable smartphone tech and somehow manages to incorporate water resistance into its design.
Battery life and the dual cameras could be better but despite flagship-class performance in a groundbreaking design, the Flip 3’s pricing also proves that foldables can tango in the same space as conventional smartphones without any major sacrifices.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 – Best for productivity
Pros: Great for multitasking | Water resistant design | Consistent cameras
Cons: Some apps require manual optimisation | Terrible UDC | Cumbersome
There are a host of refinements that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 lords over its predecessor; with a cleaner, hardier design that somehow integrates water resistance, an expanded feature set (including S Pen support) and a lower starting price.
While processing, gaming and camera performance may not be industry-leading, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 focuses on making the foldable concept more attainable without presenting any real sacrifices in any particular area.
What the Fold 3 does highlight within this burgeoning product category, however, is that building experiences for folding form factors is hard and right now, Samsung is the principal driving force behind that getting any easier.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review
Samsung Galaxy S21+ – Great for multimedia
Pros: Nice 120Hz display | Well-rounded | Strong performance
Cons: Less sharp display compared to S21 | Slow to charge
There’s no denying that the Samsung Galaxy S21+ is both an exceptional flagship and one of the most well-rounded phones of the year so far, but ironically it stands in the shadow of its smaller sibling, the standard Galaxy S21.
If you prefer the larger 6.7in display that the S21+ offers up, you’ll also enjoy its HDR10+ visuals and, most exciting of all, a super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate. Performance is also top-notch, meaning it’s great for enjoying media and gaming, there’s 5G onboard and 25W fast charging means you can refill the phone’s 4800mAh battery in a little over an hour.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G – Best mid-ranger
Pros: Nice 120Hz display | Water resistant design | Decent OIS-laden camera
Cons: Underwhelming performance | Inconsistent fingerprint sensor | Better value elsewhere
The Galaxy A52 5G delivers a balanced, well-considered mid-range smartphone package, with a few standout features, like its excellent 120Hz Super AMOLED display, IP67 water resistance, a lead 64Mp camera with OIS, a 3.5mm headphones jack, and four years of security updates.
It’s not perfect, though. Performance could and should be better for the money, the fingerprint sensor is curiously sub-par, and this isn’t an all-time classic Samsung design. Rivals offer more bang for their buck, even if they don’t come with Samsung’s pedigree or level of customer support.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra – Great for productivity
Pros: Beautiful display | Solid performance | Integrated S Pen
Cons: Exynos performance weaker than Snapdragon | Unwieldy | Middling battery life
Samsung’s top 2020 Note is still an absolute powerhouse. Provided you’re comfortable with the sheer size of it and the high asking price, there’s little this phone can’t do.
Better yet, Samsung’s addressed the camera issues found on the Galaxy S20 Ultra, making the system on the Note 20 Ultra far more capable and competitive.
The S Pen gains a few new remote gestures called Anywhere Actions, Samsung Notes is now far more powerful and the phone’s display sits among the best of 2020.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review
Samsung Galaxy S20 – Great all-rounder
Pros: Nice display | Strong performance | Great user experience
Cons: Bland design | Middling battery life | Better value elsewhere
The best entry in the S20 series and simply Samsung’s best phone of 2020. It’s compact, powerful and packs a versatile camera system that may not have matched the top-tier S20 Ultra on zoom or detail but still met – and sometimes beat – it across the rest of the board.
While battery life remains a slight concern, that’s really the only major fault here. The Android ecosystem offers more for less elsewhere, but usually without Samsung’s level of prestige or polish, and in this case, we think that’s worth paying for.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 review
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE – Great value
Pros: Beautiful 120Hz display | Strong performance | Great battery life
Cons: ‘Glasstic’ body | Middling cameras | Faster charger costs extra
A lower price tag than the standard S20, achieved by a move to polycarbonate bodywork, less RAM, a lower resolution display and weaker cameras. That all said, the S20 FE still strikes an impressive price/performance balance.
The larger screen and bigger 4500mAh battery mean it’s great for enjoying media and gaming, and outside the US it’s likely the only way you’re going to get your hands on a Snapdragon-powered member of the S20 family.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip – Great foldable
Pros: Innovative folding design | Strong performance | Limited camera performance
Cons: No water resistance | Pricey | No 5G
The Galaxy Z Flip isn’t a perfect phone. It’s expensive, there are only two main camera lenses, and the fingerprint sensor sucks.
Price aside, these are minor quibbles, however, and even while this may not be the best phone we used in 2020, it’s still one of our favourites. With the Z Flip, Samsung has nailed the compact foldable form factor, and by comparison every other 2020 flagship felt ungainly and oversized.
This phone looks great, offers solid performance and flagship features, and is just plain cool. The biggest challenge it faces is that its successor – the Z Flip 3 – offers more for less.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review
Samsung Galaxy phone buying advice
The S21 line is the company’s latest mainstream flagship range – consisting of the standard Galaxy S21, the S21+ and the mighty S21 Ultra. The Galaxy S20 phones remain good options at their lower prices though, and they’ve also been joined by the Galaxy S20 FE, which offers great value for money, considering the hardware at play.
If you want a true productivity powerhouse, then consider the Galaxy Note 20 series, which went on sale in August 2020. The standard Note 20 doesn’t seem like the best bang for your buck but having reviewed the Note 20 Ultra, we can confirm that it’s a beast; just make sure you’re comfortable with its gargantuan proportions before laying down cash for one.
Of course, if the Note 20 Ultra doesn’t cut the mustard and you can swing for the high price, then the new Galaxy Z Fold 3 delivers a more versatile folding form factor, embraces S Pen functionality and offers up an expansive 7.6in screen that’s tailor-made for multitasking. If you like the idea of a foldable that’s more compact, however, then the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is probably your best option on the market, right now.
If all of these are too rich for your blood, then Samsung’s A-series spans the super-affordable to flagship-like, across a number of devices; with the Galaxy A51 being a particular highlight from last year (although the Galaxy A52 5G is now in our midst). The M-series costs even less, but these rarely get released in the West – save for the brilliant Galaxy M31, which we looked at towards the end of 2020.
You can also browse our overall list of the best phones to see how rivals like the iPhone 13 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra compare to the best Samsung phones out there.
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