Best Samsung phones 2021: finding the Galaxy phone for you

There are so many excellent Samsung phones that even if you’ve decided you’re only interested in the South Korean phone maker, choosing between the best Samsung phones can be tricky - but we're here to help.

This year alone we’ve had the flagship Samsung Galaxy S21 range, along with the foldable Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, and more, so there's a lot to choose from. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is likely to land before long as well, and then before you know it we’ll be in 2022 with our eyes on the Samsung Galaxy S22 range.

But some of the top options are older too, especially if you're after an affordable Samsung phone, so we've included phones fit for almost anyone.

When buying any phone it's worth considering not just the price, but also the screen size - do you want a big immersive display or a small one that's easier to use one-handed? Battery life is key to many people too, as you probably don't want to run out of juice before the day is up.

Then consider what else matters to you, from photography to sheer power. If you don't plan to take a lot of pictures or do much more than use social media, then you might not need to spend out on the best options in these areas.

To make things easier, we've included an overview and a specs list for each, and we’ve highlighted the key good and bad points, so you can make a quick decision as to whether each phone is a good fit for you.

But if you’re open to other brands then make sure to check out some of our other best smartphone guides too, many of which are linked below.

Best Samsung phones 2021

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The best Samsung phone

Release date: January 2021 | Weight: 227g | Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm | OS: Android 11 | Screen size: 6.8-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3200 | CPU: Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100 | RAM: 12GB / 16GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Battery: 5,000mAh | Rear camera: 108MP + 10MP + 10MP + 12MP | Front camera: 40MP

The best camera zoom
Mesmerizing design
Expensive at any level
No microSD card slot

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is Samsung’s top, premium flagship for 2021, and what a phone it is. For the first time Samsung has offered S Pen support on an S-range handset here, meaning that you can optionally get the Galaxy Note range’s best feature.

But even without that, this is a stunning handset, with a brilliant quad-lens camera capable of 10x optical zoom. In fact, in our review we called it the best camera zoom on any readily available Android phone.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra also looks great, with a smooth Gorilla Glass back that has a matte finish that looks better than the reflective Galaxy S20 range, while around the front there’s a curved edge-to-edge 6.8-inch screen.

And speaking of that screen, for the first time on a Samsung phone you get both a QHD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate at the same time. And being a high-end Samsung screen this is one of the best around.

There’s also oodles of power of course, and while obviously very expensive, this actually has a cheaper starting price than the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra did at launch.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

Samsung Galaxy S21

(Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung Galaxy S21

The best Samsung phone for flagship buyers on a budget

Release date: January 2021 | Weight: 169 | Dimensions: 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm | OS: Android 11 | Screen size: 6.2-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 | CPU: Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB / 256GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 64MP + 12MP | Front camera: 10MP

Fantastic, versatile camera
Cheaper than the Galaxy S20
No microSD support
Screen isn’t the best

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is the most basic and affordable of the Galaxy S21 range, but it has a lot going for it beyond its relatively low price.

The triple-lens camera is highly versatile, including the three core lenses that we’d expect from a premium smartphone – namely a main one, a telephoto, and an ultra-wide. They all perform well too.

There’s also high-end power, solid battery life, and an AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. At 6.2 inches it’s also a lot more compact than the rest of the S21 range, so it’s ideal if you don’t want a massive phone.

And beyond being the most affordable of the range, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is actually a step down in price from its predecessor, so it’s a bit of a bargain – though to achieve that the screen resolution has been dropped to Full HD+, and the back of the phone is ‘Glasstic’ rather than actual glass.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review

A Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus against a white background

(Image credit: Samsung)

3. Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

The best Samsung phone if you don't need Ultra excess

Release date: January 2021 | Weight: 200g | Dimensions: 161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8mm | OS: Android 11 | Screen size: 6.7-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 | CPU: Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB / 256GB | Battery: 4,800mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 64MP + 12MP | Front camera: 10MP

Gorgeous new design
Great performance
No microSD support
Expensive (but justified)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus is perhaps the least interesting of the three Samsung Galaxy S21 models – lacking the sheer excess of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, while costing a chunk more than the Samsung Galaxy S21, but this is still a top handset.

It offers a much larger screen than its cheaper sibling, at 6.7 inches, and it packs a glass back, where the standard Galaxy S21 makes do with plastic. It also has a larger 4,800mAh battery – though with the larger display that extra battery power is necessary.

Elsewhere it’s a very similar phone, but that’s no bad thing, as it has a top-end chipset, plenty of RAM, a capable triple-lens camera, an in-screen fingerprint scanner, and a stylish design.

It’s certainly expensive, particularly considering the display is only 1080 x 2400, and the lack of a microSD card slot means you might want to shell out for a 256GB model, but these are minor complaints about what’s otherwise an excellent phone.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The best Samsung phone for stylus fans

Release date: August 2020 | Weight: 208g | Dimensions: 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.9-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3088 | CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus / Exynos 990 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Battery: 4,500mAh | Rear camera: 108MP + 12MP + 12MP | Front camera: 10MP

5x camera zoom crushes it
New useful S Pen features
‘Ultra’ expensive
Slower charging

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is a beast of a handset with a beast of a price, but it has the specs to match, with a 108MP main camera, a 12MP periscope one, and a 12MP ultra-wide one, while the screen is a massive 6.9-inch 1440 x 3088 AMOLED one with 496 pixels per inch and a refresh rate of up to 120Hz.

But the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra doesn’t stop there, as it also stands out from rivals thanks to its S Pen stylus, letting you doodle on the screen, sync voice recordings with your hand-written notes, and more.

Plus, the phone also has top-end power of course, including 12GB of RAM and either a Snapdragon 865 Plus or Exynos 990 chipset. Which you get depends on where you are in the world, but they’re both exceedingly powerful.

There’s also 5G, loads of storage, a premium design, an in-screen fingerprint scanner, and a big battery, so this is a phone that almost has it all – though the charging could be faster and it’s slightly disappointing that you can’t use both a 120Hz refresh rate and a QHD+ resolution at the same time.

The biggest stumbling block though is simply the price, but if you have the money and want everything that the Note 20 Ultra is offering, then it’s a fantastic choice.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 on a white background

(Image credit: Samsung)

5. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

The best foldable Samsung phone

Release date: August 2021 | Weight: 271g | Dimensions: 158.2 x 67.1 x 14.4-16mm / 158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4mm | OS: Android 11 | Screen size: 6.2-inch / 7.6-inch | Resolution: 2268 x 832 / 2208 x 1768 | CPU: Snapdragon 888 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 256GB / 512GB | Battery: 4,400mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP | Front camera: 10MP / 4MP

S Pen support – finally
More durable design
Still very expensive
Cameras could be better

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is Samsung’s best foldable phone yet, thanks in part to its support for the S Pen stylus, which makes it a great device for sketching and handwriting on.

That’s helped by the massive 7.6-inch foldable screen, which we found big enough to even work on spreadsheets from. We found the 6.2-inch cover display a bit more cramped, but both screens have a 120Hz refresh rate, which makes them pleasant to interact with.

We were also impressed by the durability of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, and it’s not just sturdier than before, it also packs water resistance. Add to that a top-tier chipset and this is almost a perfect foldable – though its high price still holds it back.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review

A Samsung Galaxy S20 FE against a white background

(Image credit: Samsung)

6. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

The best Samsung mid-ranger

Release date: October 2020 | Weight: 190g | Dimensions: 159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.5-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 | CPU: Snapdragon 865 / Exynos 990 | RAM: 6GB/8GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB | Battery: 4,500mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 8MP | Front camera: 32MP

Can take great pictures
Powerful processor
Not very ‘lite’ in price
Cheap-feeling design

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is basically a Samsung Galaxy S20 Lite, but it retains many of the Galaxy S20’s best bits.

The highlights are its screen, camera, and chipset. For the first of those you get a 6.5-inch 1080 x 2400 Super AMOLED screen with a silky smooth 120Hz refresh rate.

The camera meanwhile is a triple-lens one, consisting of a 12MP main snapper, a 12MP ultra-wide one, and an 8MP telephoto one, ensuring all the main photography bases are covered. In our review we also found that these lenses performed well.

Finally, the chipset is either the Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990 – the former is what you get with the 5G version of the phone, while the latter comes with the 4G model, but both are high-end. The build could be better and the price is perhaps a bit steep, but otherwise the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition really is a fan pleaser.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition review

A Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

(Image credit: Samsung)

7. Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

The best Samsung phone for those who don't need the latest model

Release date: March 2020 | Weight: 186g | Dimensions: 161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.7-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3200 | CPU: Snapdragon 865 / Exynos 990 | RAM: 8GB/12GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Battery: 4,500mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 64MP + 12MP + ToF 3D | Front camera: 10MP

Powerful yet sleek
Much-improved zoom
Ever-higher price
Improvements are mostly iterative

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus sat at the top of this list throughout 2020, only being knocked further down now that the S21 range is here.

So unsurprisingly this is an absolutely fantastic phone. The design isn’t massively changed from the Galaxy S10 Plus, but most other elements have been upgraded. The screen now has a silky-smooth 120Hz refresh rate, it packs a more powerful chipset, and its cameras have had a big boost.

The most exciting lens is its 64MP telephoto one, facilitating a 3x hybrid optical zoom, but there are also 12MP main and 12MP ultra-wide ones, as well as a depth sensor.

Add in a massive 4,500mAh battery, 5G support, and all the things you expect from a Samsung flagship - like water resistance and an in-screen fingerprint scanner - and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is clearly one of the very best phones from any company, not just the South Korean giant.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review

A Samsung Galaxy S20 against a white background

(Image credit: Samsung)

8. Samsung Galaxy S20

The best Samsung phone for small screen fans on a slight budget

Release date: March 2020 | Weight: 163g | Dimensions: 151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.2-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3200 | CPU: Snapdragon 865 / Exynos 990 | RAM: 8GB/12GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 64MP + 12MP | Front camera: 10MP

Good camera upgrade
Samsung’s best display yet
Quite expensive
Lowest spec in the range

While slightly less exciting than the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus and S20 Ultra, the standard Galaxy S20 has a lower price going for it, as well as a more pocket-friendly size.

Though at 6.2 inches this is still far from a small phone, and with a QHD+ resolution, a 120Hz refresh rate, and one of the best quality AMOLED screens yet put on a phone, the display is worth shouting about.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 also has an impressive camera setup, headlined by a 64MP telephoto sensor, which is joined by a 12MP main and 12MP ultra-wide one – so it misses out only on the S20 Plus’s depth sensor.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 is also available in a 5G flavor, has a large 4,000mAh battery, and top-end power, thanks to either a Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990 chipset (depending on where in the world you buy it).

Read our Samsung Galaxy S20 review

A Samsung Galaxy Note 20 against a white background

(Image credit: Samsung)

9. Samsung Galaxy Note 20

The best Samsung phone for stylus fans on a budget

Release date: August 2020 | Weight: 192g | Dimensions: 161.6 x 75.2 x 8.3mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.7-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 | CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus / Exynos 990 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Battery: 4,300mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 64MP + 12MP | Front camera: 10MP

Versatile three-camera array
S-Pen is brilliant, as ever
Expensive for a phone with a plastic back
Only has a 60Hz display

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 is less exciting than the Note 20 Ultra. In fact, given its plastic back and FHD+ screen, it’s rather less premium than you might expect from a handset in the Note range, but it’s still well worth considering if you want a relatively affordable phone with an S Pen.

And this phone has more than just the S Pen going for it. The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 also has high-end power, thanks to its Snapdragon 865 Plus or Exynos 990 chipset (depending on region) and 8GB of RAM. Plus its triple-lens camera (with a 12MP main, 64MP telephoto, and 12MP ultra-wide sensor) allows for versatile photography.

Despite its lesser specs this is still far from an affordable handset, but if you can’t stretch to the Note 20 Ultra and you want something newer than the Note 10, then it remains a good choice.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 review

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

(Image credit: Samsung)

10. Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

The best budget Samsung phone

Release date: March 2021 | Weight: 189g | Dimensions: 159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4 mm | OS: Android 11 | Screen size: 6.5-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 | CPU: Snapdragon 750G 5G | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128/256GB | Battery: 4,500mAh | Rear camera: 64MP + 12MP + 5MP + 5MP | Front camera: 32MP

Solidly built
Good display
Mediocre power
Lacks excitement

A solidly dependable choice for a mid-range handset, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G doesn't offer anything you'll love but with a high-refresh rate screen and a better rear camera than elsewhere in the A series, you'll appreciate what it can do.

And, of course, there's 5G connectivity at a good price, as well as a solid design that may feel a little cheap, but also feels robust and workable. 

The main highlight here is the Super AMOLED screen that looks fantastic, especially when watching videos, so streaming fans should take note of this one.

Read the full Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review

How we tested

We only include phones that we've fully reviewed in this guide, so every entry has been extensively tested. As such, we can be confident of how each model compares to other Samsung phones, and to the wider smartphone landscape.

As well as the review score, we consider the specs of a phone, how well it all comes together in practice, how much it costs, how good value it is, and how it compares to the competition.

What should I look for when buying?

Different things are important to different people, but price, screen size and battery life are three key considerations for many buyers. Then consider what else matters to you in a phone - be it the power, the camera or anything else - and focus on getting something that's good for that.

Do I need a high-end handset?

Samsung makes phones at all different price levels, and if you're a lighter user - for example mostly just using the web browser, social media and a few basic apps - then you don't need to spend a lot. High-end handsets are for those who want it all, including a great camera and the power to run demanding games.

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