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Best Samsung phones 2021: finding the Galaxy phone for you

The best Samsung phones including the Galaxy S21 Plus, S21 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus (left), Galaxy S21 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra (Image credit: Samsung)

There are so many excellent Samsung phones that even if you’ve decided you’re only interested in Samsung, choosing between the best Samsung phones can be tricky.

This year alone we’ve had the Samsung Galaxy S21, Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, all of which are top-class flagships. And this list will likely be updated soon, as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 have also now been announced – so just as soon as we’ve put them through a full review we’ll see how they rank.

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 there are loads of great Samsung phones already available and in our list below, including some slightly older ones and some more affordable ones, so there should be something for almost everyone.

We’ve gone beyond just listing the best options though – you’ll also find an overview and 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: Future)

1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

A top tier smartphone, and it takes our best crown

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+The best camera zoom+Mesmerizing design
Reasons to avoid
-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 more: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

Samsung Galaxy S21

(Image credit: TechRadar)

2. Samsung Galaxy S21

Not the best of the S series, but nevertheless great

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic, versatile camera+Cheaper than the Galaxy S20
Reasons to avoid
-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 more: Samsung Galaxy S21 review

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

3. Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

A slightly larger version of the Samsung S21, but is it for you?

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous new design+Great performance
Reasons to avoid
-No microSD support-Expensive

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: Future)

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The Ultra done right

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+5x camera zoom crushes it+New useful S Pen features
Reasons to avoid
-‘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 S20 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

5. Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is just right

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Powerful yet sleek+Much-improved zoom
Reasons to avoid
-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

Samsung Galaxy S20

(Image credit: Future)

6. Samsung Galaxy S20

The most one-hand-friendly version of Samsung's 2020 flagship

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Good camera upgrade+Samsung’s best display yet
Reasons to avoid
-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

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

(Image credit: Future)

7. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Basically the Samsung Galaxy S20 Lite

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Can take great pictures+Powerful processor
Reasons to avoid
-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 a 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

Samsung Galaxy Note 20

(Image credit: TechRadar)

8. Samsung Galaxy Note 20

Not the best choice, but still good

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Versatile three-camera array+S-Pen is brilliant, as ever
Reasons to avoid
-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