Table of Contents
Google Pixel phones
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
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.
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 the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.