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 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
1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra - Best overall
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 zoom levels.
The expansive 6.8in display delivers both high WQHD+ resolution and an adaptive refresh rate up to 120Hz, and with new S-pen stylus support, it fills the productivity niche of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra too.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review
2. Samsung Galaxy S21 - Best value
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 the latest Android 11 (dressed in Samsung's own One UI 3.1, at launch) and a lower starting price than even the 4G version of last year's Galaxy S20 and the S21 is a difficult handset to overlook.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review
3. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra - Best for productivity
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
4. Samsung Galaxy S21+ - Great for multimedia
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
5. Samsung Galaxy S20 - Great all-rounder
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
6. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE - Best value
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
7. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip - Best foldable
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. Most people probably shouldn’t spend this much on a phone, but if you can afford to then nothing else right now can match the Z Flip.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review
8. Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite - Great value
Due to it's unusual release timing, the Galaxy S10 Lite doesn't really feel like an S10. It arrived around a year after the other S10 phones and therefore much closer to the S20 range.
It also looks like an S20, so we're still a bit confused by Samsung's thinking here. Naming aside, this is an excellent phone for the money with an excellent screen, decent cameras and more powerful internals than you might expect. There are also features like an in-screen fingerprint scanner, solid battery life and speedy charging
What you miss out on is things like wireless charging and waterproofing - oh and there's no headphone jack. Unless you can find the S10 or S10+ at a similar price, this is probably the S10 to go for.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite review
9. Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ - Great for productivity
It's pretty clear the Galaxy Note 10+ is a phone that will satisfy fans of the series by offering all the things that Note users love.
A big screen, a gorgeous design, and almost all the high-end 2019 specs you can throw at a phone. We particularly love the display and the cameras, which just about distract from the missing headphone jack.
It is expensive though, especially the 5G model, so unless you really will make use of the real estate and S Pen, an S20 or S21 might be a better choice.
If you can swing it, there's also the newer Note 20 Ultra to consider.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review
10. Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra - Great performance
The S20 Ultra is not a phone that most people should buy. It’s too expensive, too big and too ugly for the remaining few to ever want to show off.
Still, it’s a phone packed with technical achievements, not least in the camera, which with a 108Mp main sensor and up to 100x 'Space Zoom' telephoto capture, even if it’s maddeningly inconsistent.
The 120Hz refresh rate is the crowning jewel to what might be one of the best displays on a phone in 2020, but the hit to battery life, as a result, is bittersweet.
It's a problem exacerbated by Samsung’s inferior Exynos 990 chipset, found in handsets outside the US (which received the superior Snapdragon 865), leaving them with poor power efficiency and hamstrung performance.
Its unique selling points render the S20 Ultra a compelling buy, but for most, it just goes a few compromises too far. At least its successor makes a much better case for the 'Ultra' branding.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review
Samsung Galaxy phone buying advice
The S21 line is the 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, there's always 2019's Notes to consider too. As with last year's line, Samsung offered two different sizes of Note 10; with the Note 10 and the Note 10+ - the latter of which also comes in a separate 5G flavour. As with the Galaxy S10 Lite, there's also a more affordable Note 10 Lite, which didn't arrive until the start of 2020.
Samsung also has a few foldable phones in the Galaxy Fold, Galaxy Z Flip, and Galaxy Z Fold 2. We don't recommend getting the original Fold, but the Z Flip is still the best folding phone there is (save for perhaps its 5G-toting refresh), and the Z Fold 2 is quite the capable machine too.
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 particular highlights from last year. 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.