There's a shake-up at the top of the best Samsung phones rankings, as Samsung's new Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has reset the bar for judging the phone makers handsets. If you're looking for big-screen phones, you've got a lot of impressive choices, with both the Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20 joining the Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra as some of the best phablets Samsung has to offer.
But Samsung phones come in all shapes, sizes and prices. As a result, finding the best Samsung phones from this crowded field means identifying the right kind of phone for your needs and your budget.
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Fortunately, we've tested all the latest Samsung models while re-examining some older phones that came out last year. Here's what we think of each Samsung phone, ranked from top to bottom.
What are the best Samsung phones?
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is currently our pick for the best Samsung phone you can buy right now, edging out the Galaxy S20 Plus. You'll pay $100 more for the Note 20 Ultra, but you'll see where that extra money goes, thanks to a dynamic screen, impressive S Pen and other productivity-enhancing features.
As for the S20 Plus, it delivers nearly all of the features you'll find in the Galaxy S20 Ultra, but for a lower price than that model. Meanwhile, if paying more than $1,000 is a big ask, the Galaxy Note 20 still delivers many of those phones' top features while keeping its price at $999. And the Galaxy S20 FE lowers the entry price even further, while still keeping many great features of the Galaxy S20 lineup.
If you're dead set against spending a lot of money, you can turn to the Galaxy A51, Samsung's midrange phone. At $399, it won't break the bank, though you'll be making some performance and camera trade-offs you wouldn't have to with Samsung's pricier phones, including last year's S10 models. Samsung has also started rolling out less expensive 5G phones, including the Galaxy A71 5G.
As for Samsung's foldable phones, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 has emerged as the best foldable phone you can buy. That's no knock on the Galaxy Z Flip 5G, which is an impressive handset in its own right for people who prefer flip phones.
The best Samsung phones you can buy right now
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is Samsung's ultimate smartphone and the best Samsung phone you can buy right now. While the Galaxy Note 20 commands a high price — at $1,299, it's more expensive than the Galaxy S20 Plus though not as pricey as the S20 Ultra — but its many advances are well worth the premium Samsung charges.
One of the most eye-catching features on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the phone's dynamic refresh rate that automatically adjusts based on what you're using the phone for. There are other productivity-minded features, too: The S Pen is more responsive than ever, with latency reduced to 9ms. Samsung's DeX feature works wirelessly with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. And the phone is powered by the Snapdragon 865 Plus, currently the best chipset available for Android phones.
The Note 20 Ultra's hefty camera bump takes some getting used to, and people who balk at paying four figures for a smartphone will want to look elsewhere. But the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra delivers the most versatile big phone experience of any Samsung handset.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.
The Galaxy S20 Plus is the standout among the Galaxy S20 lineup, not because it offers the most high-end features — the Galaxy S20 Ultra has a more powerful telephoto lens and main camera — but because it manages to strike the right balance between premium features and price. While the the Galaxy S20 Plus isn't equipped with a 108MP main camera like the S20 Ultra, the four cameras that are there produce excellent shots that match up well with what the best camera phones produce. You'll still get excellent pictures — including crystal clear zooms from that 64MP telephoto lens — if you opt for the Galaxy S20 Plus, and you'll save $200 off the more expensive Ultra.
All the other top features packed into the S20 lineup are on hand with the Plus model. That includes 5G connectivity — the S20 supports both mmWave and low band-based networks — and the Snapdragon 865 processor that delivers the best performance we've seen from an Android phone. The Galaxy S20 Plus also enjoys the same 120Hz refresh rate Samsung has given all its new flagships, so you'll get the smoothest scrolling available (albeit only at lower resolutions). A 4,500 mAh battery keeps things powered up, as the Galaxy S20 Plus lasted just over 10.5 hours on our battery test.
The Galaxy S20 can be had for less money, and the Galaxy S20 Ultra packs in a couple more premium features. But the Galaxy S20 Plus splits the difference to be the Samsung phone you'll want to get.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review.
As good as the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy S20 Plus are, both phones cost well over $1,000. The Galaxy Note 20 comes in at $999, and you don't have too make too many compromises to save hundreds of dollars for a still powerful phablet.
The Galaxy Note 20's 6.7-inch display skips the faster refresh rates found on those more expensive phones and instead of a glass back, you get a plastic one. Neither sacrifice is too great, though, especially when it means getting a phone with cameras that perform as well as the Note 20's triple lenses do. You also get the S Pen — the secret weapon of the Galaxy Note lineup — and all of the note-taking improvements that have come with this year's updated phones.
Throw in excellent performance from a Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset — the same one in the more expensive Note 20 Ultra — and you'll be impressed by all the value Samsung has packed into the $999 Galaxy Note 20.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 review.
Maybe you were impressed by the different Galaxy S20 models that debuted this spring but put off by the fact that they cost $999 or more. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is here to alleviate that sticker shock by packing in many of the best features in the S20 but for $300 less.
This $699 phone runs on a powerful Snapdragon 865 system-on-chip with 5G connectivity. Its 6.5-inch OLED display features the super-fast 120Hz refresh rate that makes for smoother scrolling. And while its 8MP telephoto lens isn't as sharp as the 64MP lens on the S20, we're still impressed by the Space Zoom feature.
You'll make some tradeoffs with the Galaxy S20 FE — the phone features a plastic case and its included charger isn't as fast — but this is a great phone for people who want premium features at a reasonable price.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review.
Samsung clearly learned from the missteps with the original Galaxy Fold, building a much more thoughtfully designed foldable with the Galaxy Z Fold 2. And while we appreciate the larger displays — both the cover screen and the interior panel are larger than before — as well as the reinforced hinge, what really makes the new Fold standout is its role as a productivity booster.
The reinforced hinge brings the same Flex Mode that Samsung introduced with the Galaxy Z Flip to the Fold lineup, allowing you to split your screen into different functions. Multitasking with three apps returns, and you can now pair apps together to launch at the same time. Other apps have been redesigned to take advantage of the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s full screen, essentially turning your phone into a tablet.
At $1,999, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 certainly isn’t cheap, but you get a lot of value for money, including three rear cameras and a Snapdragon 865 Plus processor. This doesn’t just surpass the original Fold — the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the best foldable phone you can buy.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review.
You’ll find cheaper phones made by Samsung, but you won’t find many handsets that deliver more than the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
At $1,399 for the base model with 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, the Galaxy S20 Ultra doesn’t come cheaply. But you can really see where Samsung packed in all those extra features. The 6.9-inch display can feature a 120Hz refresh rate (at lower resolutions) that really make for noticeably smoother scrolling. Opt to forego that faster refresh rate, and you can enjoy nearly 12 hours of battery life, thanks to the 5,000 mAh battery powering the Galaxy S20 Ultra. And the Snapdragon 865 driving the phone helps Samsung’s ultimate flagship produce the best benchmark scores we’ve seen yet from an Android phone.
The Galaxy S20’s true standout feature is its camera, though, with a 108MP main shooter and 48MP telephoto lens joined by an ultra wide-angle lens and a time-of-flight sensor. These lenses combine to present very crisp, highly detailed shots, even when you zoom in. (The Galaxy S20 Ultra’s beefed-up telephoto lens supports a 10x lossless zoom, after all.) As impressive as that is, we're bothered by some autofocus issues that emerged as we continued to test the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Samsung has issued a fix and we'll be retesting soon to see if the S20 Ultra can take its place among the best camera phones.
You don’t have to spend $1,400 to get a very good Samsung phone, especially with prices dropping on last year’s S10 models. But if you are willing to part with that much cash, you’ll get the one of the most feature-packed Samsung phones ever built.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review.
The Galaxy S20 Ultra has all the features and the Galaxy S20 Plus has the best balance between capabilities and price, so it's easy to overlook the Samsung Galaxy S20, especially in light of this model's below-average battery life. Now that the Galaxy A51 5G is available, the Galaxy S20 is no longer Samsung's least expensive 5G phone, and the Galaxy S20 FE is a cheaper flagship than the S20 at $699. (If you're wondering whether Samsung's cheapest flagship is the one to get, here's our face-off between the Galaxy S20 FE vs. the Galaxy S20.)
Verizon customers should be aware that they can buy a version of the Galaxy S20 specially tailored to that carrier's 5G network. The Galaxy S20 5G UW can use Verizon's high-speed mmWave-based network, and it will also work with the more extensive low-band 5G coverage coming to Verizon later this year.
There's more to the S20 than 5G. The three rear lenses take attractive pictures, even without the time-of-flight sensor found on other models. We were particularly impressed with the phone's 64MP telephoto lens and its 3x lossless zoom. You're also getting an excellent display with a super-fast 120Hz refresh rate — the same feature that highlights the more expensive S20 models.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 review.
The Galaxy S10 Plus sets a high bar for all smartphones, let alone devices just from Samsung. The phone's Infinity-O display creates an immersive experience with apps and videos filling up the screen, with no obtrusive bezels or notches. (Those two circular cutouts for the S10 Plus' front cameras can be a little distracting, especially on white backgrounds.) And with a Snapdragon 855 processor, the S10 Plus can keep up with any of the Android phones that came out in 2019.
With an ultrawide and telephoto lens joining the S10 Plus' main rear camera, you can expect excellent photos, though other camera phones outshine the S10 Plus when the lights are low. Still, with a Scene Optimizer feature that adjusts camera settings based on what you're photographing, you'll get a great-looking shot more often than not.
The S10 Plus' high price last year may have scared off some shoppers, but the arrival of the Galaxy S20 lineup has dropped the S10 Plus to $849. You won't get the new features Samsung added to the S20 models, but at less than $900, the S10 Plus is as affordable and compelling as it's ever been.
See our full Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review.
With a price that's $150 less than the Galaxy S10, the more compact Galaxy S10e requires some trade-offs, though not as many as you might expect. You still get the standout features of Samsung's Galaxy S10 lineup — a still-powerful Snapdragon 855 chipset, an AMOLED screen and the ability to wirelessly charge other devices through Samsung's cool Wireless PowerShare feature. The biggest sacrifices you have to make are settling for two rear cameras instead of three and giving up the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor underneath the display of the pricier Galaxy S10 models. (On the the S10e, the fingerprint reader is on the phone's power button.)
In addition to its high value, the Galaxy S10e will also appeal to people who've felt left out as phone-screen sizes surge beyond 6 inches. With a 5.8-inch display, the Galaxy S10e fits comfortably in your hand. And thanks to the Infinity-O display, which places the front camera cutout within the display, you still enjoy plenty of screen real estate.
If the Galaxy S10e was a bargain last year, it's even more of a value now that Samsung has dropped the starting price to $599 — the same amount Apple now charges for its older iPhone XR.
See our full Samsung Galaxy S10e review.
With the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, we finally have a foldable phone that can hold its own with other devices. Just like the Motorola Razr, Samsung drew on the flip phones of yesteryear for inspiration, but unlike Motorola's flawed device, the Galaxy Z Flip feels solid and well built. Credit the layer of Ultra Thin Glass that Samsung uses on the phone's 6.7-inch interior display and the overall quality of the phone's hinge.
Folding the device into something the fits neatly into a pocket isn't just a cosmetic gimmick. Samsung has figured out a way for you to make the most of the Galaxy Z Flip's foldability, with a Flex mode that splits activities between the top and bottom half of the display. The Galaxy Z Flip also supports multitasking with many apps, allowing you to run two apps at a time.
The Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset powering the phone delivers strong performance, though more recent handsets are faster (including Samsung's own Galaxy S20 models). The two rear cameras on the Galaxy Z Flip produce shots that are almost as good as the best camera phones, though we'd still prefer either the iPhone 11 Pro or the Pixel 4 when it comes to taking photos. For that reason — and for the Galaxy Z Flip's still lofty $1,380 price — it's hard to recommend this foldable phone over less expensive, more capable flagship devices. But the Galaxy Z Flip proves that a foldable phone can truly deliver the goods, and that's a big step forward.
If you want 5G connectivity, Samsung has released the Galaxy Z Flip 5G. It features a better processor — the Snapdragon 865 Plus — and new colors, but it's essentially the same phone with a higher $1,449 price.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review.
The Galaxy S10 finds itself wedged between the S10 Plus and S10e in size, features and price. As a result, you might be tempted to gloss over this 6.1-inch phone, but that would be a mistake. Most of the features you'll find in the Galaxy S10 Plus are in the S10, including the powerful Snapdragon 855 processor, high-performing triple-lens rear cameras and the ability to charge other devices wirelessly. The S10 even offers decent battery life — 10 hours and 19 minutes on our test — despite having a smaller battery than the S10 Plus.
The biggest difference between the S10 and S10 Plus comes down to the front cameras. Our testing found that the double lenses on the S10 Plus performed a little better than the S10's lone selfie cam. If you can swing the extra $100, the extra screen space on the Galaxy S10 Plus is worth it. But if you don't need a supersized phone and still want high-end features, the Galaxy S10 fits the bill. Even better, it now costs $749, as a low cost alternative to the $999 starting price for the Galaxy S20 lineup. You can also see how the Galaxy S10 compares to the iPhone 11 Pro from Apple.
See our full Samsung Galaxy S10 review.
Up until this year, if you wanted a 5G phone from Samsung, you had to buy one of the phone maker's flagship handsets — and, as a result, pay up for the privilege. The arrival of the Snapdragon 765 system-on-chip and its integrated 5G modem has brought 5G connectivity to less expensive phones, including the Galaxy A71 5G.
The $599 Galaxy A71 5G offers good battery life, decent performance and — most importantly — connectivity with all kinds of 5G networks. (The version built specifically to work with Verizon's high-speed mmWave-based 5G coverage costs $50 extra.) You'll also appreciate the big, 6.7-inch OLED screen, which reinforces the idea that you have big screen options beyond the pricey Galaxy Note series.
The problem with the Galaxy A71 5G is that there are cheaper 5G-ready devices out there, including Samsung's own Galaxy A51 5G. For $100 more, you can get the Galaxy S20 FE, which boasts more impressive features along with 5G connectivity. And if 5G isn't that important to you, you'll want to consider even cheaper phones outside of Samsung's lineup.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A71 5G review.
Samsung's Galaxy A phones have been a welcome addition to the midrange market, and there's plenty to like about the Galaxy A51. Samsung's phone features an excellent OLED screen and a sleek design. The four rear cameras proved versatile in our testing, and with 128GB of built-in capacity, Samsung didn't skimp on storage. All of this comes in a phone that costs $399, so you don't have to pay Galaxy S prices to get a good smartphone.
Still, the Galaxy A51 disappoints in some areas, especially if you're looking a phone that can rival Apple's low-cost iPhone SE. For starters, those cameras perform best in ideal conditions — when the lights are low, the quality of photos drops noticeably. And the Exynos 9611 powering the Galaxy A51 underwhelms, especially when you consider that Apple uses its top-of-the-line processor in the similarly priced iPhone SE.
Despite some disappointments, the Galaxy A51 remains a good budget buy if you're loyal to Samsung phones. Just be aware that there's a 5G-capable version of the A51 coming later this year.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A51 review.
How to choose the best Samsung phones
Picking which Samsung phone to buy is primarily driven by budget considerations. You're not going to spring for a Galaxy S20 Ultra, for example, if you're not prepared with at least $1,400, even if you opt to spread those payments out over time. But other factors need to be taken into consideration as well.
Start with how you use your smartphone. If it's primarily a productivity device, you'd want to focus on the Galaxy Note lineup, specifically because of the powerful S Pen that comes with Samsung's large-screen phone. If you turn to your phone for photography, the Galaxy S series is usually first in line for Samsung's camera innovations.
Budget-minded shoppers will want to consider the Galaxy A51, as we noted, but there's a 5G version of the Galaxy A51 on the way for $499. Meanwhile, the Galaxy A71 5G is now on sale for $599. (A version that runs on Verizon's super-fast 5G network is available for $649.)
Be aware that there are always new Samsung phones lurking around the corner. Now that Samsung has introduced the Note 20 lineup and the Galaxy S20 FE, the Galaxy S21 should follow in 2021.
How we test Samsung phones
To find the best Samsung phones, we test the company's handsets the same way we test every smartphone we review. We run benchmarks on each phone, including synthetic benchmarks like Geekbench 5 and GFXBench to measure graphics performance. That allows us to compare Samsung device to other phones, including Apple's iPhone. In addition, we use real-world testing that includes a video transcoding test using Adobe Premiere Rush.
In our lab, we measure the brightness of the phone's display (in nits), as well as how colorful each screen is (DCI-P3 color gamut). In these cases, higher numbers are better. We also measure color accuracy of each panel with a Delta-E rating, where lower numbers are better and score of 0 is perfect.
To determine how long a Samsung phone's battery lasts, we have the phones continuously surf the web over LTE with their screens set to 150 nits of brightness. The average smartphone lasts for 10 hours, with the best phone battery life reaching 11 hours or more in our testing.
Our camera testing involves taking photos with each Samsung phone we review and comparing them to similar shots from comparable models.We take shots of landscapes, food, portraits and more, and also allow you to be the judge with side-by-side comparisons in our reviews.