Best Samsung Phones Android Central 2021
Samsung is the biggest phone manufacturer in the world, and with good reason — it makes incredible phones, combining outstanding hardware design with handy features that differentiate its phones. The Galaxy S20 FE is the best Samsung phone you can buy right now for its value and hardware, but there are plenty of other devices that hit different sizes and price points.
- Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
- Best Flagship: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
- Best Compact: Samsung Galaxy S21
- Best for Productivity: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
- Best Foldable: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
- Best for Less: Samsung Galaxy A71 5G
- Best On a Budget: Samsung Galaxy A51
- Best Entry-level Pick: Samsung Galaxy A21
1. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Best Overall
The Galaxy S20 FE fundamentally changes the value equation for Samsung and is one of the best Android phones you can buy right now. The phone offers most of the same features as the regular Galaxy S20, but the fact that it is available unlocked for just $600 makes it a standout value.
While the regular Galaxy S21 starts at $800, you are better off buying the S20 FE; the S21 also has a plastic back, and other than the Snapdragon 888, you are not getting any huge upgrades.
The Galaxy S20 FE is powered by the same Snapdragon 865 chipset that's in the Galaxy S20 series, and you also get 5G connectivity. It offers the same excellent AMOLED screen as the S20 and has 120Hz refresh rate, making everyday interactions buttery smooth. The best part, however, is that it has the same 12MP primary sensor as the regular S20, ensuring you get the same great caliber of photos in any lighting condition.
Samsung hasn't removed any of the extras either. The Galaxy S20 FE has IP68 dust and water resistance, 15W wireless charging, and even 5W reverse wireless charging. The 4,500mAh battery lasts all day without any issues, and there's 25W wired charging as well.
The Galaxy S20 FE has picked up the One UI 3.0 update, ensuring you get all the new features in Android 11. The only downside with the phone (if you can call it that) is that it has a polycarbonate back instead of glass, but the matte texture masks the fact that it has a plastic build. And the value you're getting here is incredible.
- Incredible 120Hz display
- Top-end specs
- Incredible cameras
- 5G connectivity
- 4,500mAh battery with 25W fast charging
- No headphone jack
- Polycarbonate build
2. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Best Flagship
If you are looking to upgrade to a phone in the Galaxy S21 series, the obvious choice would be the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Samsung reserved its best innovations for the S21 Ultra this year, with the phone featuring a 6.8-inch QHD+ AMOLED screen with dynamic refresh that scales from 11Hz to 120Hz.
It also gets the latest cameras, including a 108MP primary lens along with two zoom lenses that deliver 10x optical zoom and a wide-angle shooter. In short, the S21 Ultra delivers considerable camera upgrades over the S20 series, and the highlight is that it starts at $200 less than its predecessor.
Also, an interesting addition this year is compatibility with the S Pen, allowing you to use Samsung's stylus with the phone. The device comes with the latest Snapdragon 888 chipset and delivers outstanding performance gains across the board, the 5,000mAh battery lasts more than a day, and the new design is striking — particularly with the matte finish.
There isn't a charger in the box and you are missing out on a microSD slot this generation, but with 128GB of storage for the base version, you don't have to worry about running out of storage. With the S21 Ultra, you are getting a flagship that's worthy of the name. If you're in the market for a Samsung flagship, you cannot go wrong here.
- Sublime QHD+ AMOLED panel
- Snapdragon 888 with global 5G
- Compatible with S Pen
- Stellar battery life
- Outstanding cameras with 10x optical zoom
- No microSD slot
- No bundled charger
3. Samsung Galaxy S21: Best Compact
It may not be super "compact," but the standard Galaxy S21 brings plenty to the table, and the highlight is that it is debuting for $200 less than its predecessor. Samsung achieved this by reducing the resolution of the screen to FHD+ — the S20 had a QHD+ panel — and ditching the glass back for a plastic option. The 6.2-inch AMOLED screen still has 120Hz refresh.
That said, you still get the latest internal hardware in the form of a Snapdragon 888, and this time there's Sub-6 and mmWave 5G connectivity as standard. There's no microSD slot or a charger in the box, but the base version comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
You also get reliable cameras, all-day battery life, and all the extras you care about: IP68 water resistance, 15W wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging. If you're in the market for a smaller Samsung phone, the Galaxy S21 has a lot to offer.
- Gorgeous 120Hz AMOLED panel
- More affordable
- Snapdragon 888 with Sub-6 and mmWave
- Reliable cameras
- Great battery life
- Plastic body
- No microSD slot
- No bundled charger
4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Best for Productivity
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is Samsung's gigantic flagship. The phone has a massive 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED panel and it is powered by the Snapdragon 865+ chipset. You also get 12GB of RAM as standard, with storage options from 128GB to 512GB.
The Note 20 Ultra is the phone you get if you want the largest device in the market today. The large screen is ideally suited for games and consuming videos, and the 120Hz AMOLED panel has outstanding colors, delivers HDR10 content in Netflix and other streaming services, and you get stereo sound.
Then there's the stylus. If you're used to a stylus on earlier Note devices, there's plenty to like on the Note 20 Ultra. Samsung made it easier to take notes thanks to lower latency, and there are better handwriting recognition features that make the device an ultimate tool for productivity.
You also get a 108MP camera at the back along with a 12MP zoom lens that goes up to 50x hybrid zoom, 12MP wide-angle lens, and a 10MP camera at the front. There's the ability to shoot 8K video, Wi-Fi 6 and global 5G connectivity, IP68 water resistance, wireless charging, and that bold new design looks outstanding.
Look, there's nothing really missing here, and if you're looking at the best Samsung phone for productivity, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the device to get.
- Best stylus experience on any phone
- Outstanding performance
- Large AMOLED screen
- Excellent battery life and fast charging
- Expandable storage
- No headphone jack
- Might be too big for some
5. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2: Best Foldable
With the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Samsung ironed out all the kinks from its first generation of foldables. The result is a futuristic device that holds up to the rigors of everyday use without any issues.
The Z Fold 2 has an outer 6.2-inch screen with a 60Hz refresh, but it's the inner 7.6-inch panel that is of particular interest. The inner screen has a 120Hz refresh rate — just like the Galaxy S20 and S21 series — and Samsung made a lot of changes to the panel itself to bring it on par with its regular flagships.
The foldable also has great cameras, stellar internal hardware in the form of the Snapdragon 865+ and 12GB of RAM, a 4,500mAh battery with 25W fast charging, and will get three years of Android platform updates.
While Samsung nailed the fundamentals and introduced a new hinge that is more durable, there is the question of long-term reliability and how the device will fare after a few years' worth of use. That said, if you're interested in trying out a foldable right now, the Z Fold 2 is the obvious choice.
- Unique foldable design
- Reinforced hinge for better durability
- Outstanding hardware
- Great cameras
- Decent battery life
- Unknown long-term reliability
6. Samsung Galaxy A71 5G: Best Mid-range Option
The Galaxy A71 5G is one of Samsung's best phones yet — and not just in the mid-range segment. There really isn't anything missing on the device. You get a massive 6.7-inch AMOLED screen (second only to the S20 Ultra) backed by robust internal hardware, versatile quad cameras at the back with a 64MP primary sensor, and incredible battery life with 25W fast charging.
Combine that with a gorgeous design and it's easy to see why the Galaxy A71 is one of the best devices around. The phone also comes with great hardware that should hold its own for several years, and the U.S. model that's highlighted below has 5G connectivity on all U.S. carriers, which is a big deal.
Oh, and Samsung will deliver three guaranteed Android updates, and the A71 will get the update to Android 13 down the line. If you're looking for a reliable option without spending too much money, the Galaxy A71 should be at the top of your list.
- Outstanding battery life
- Gorgeous design
- Massive AMOLED screen
- Robust internal hardware with 5G
- Great 64MP camera
- Slow fingerprint sensor
7. Samsung Galaxy A51: Best On a Budget
The Galaxy A51 continues the heritage of the A50 by bringing the best features that Samsung has to offer to a more attractive price point. The phone has a large 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display with vibrant colors and excellent contrast levels, and you also get a 48MP camera at the back along with a 12MP wide-angle lens, a 5MP macro lens, and a 2MP portrait module.
The design itself has also been refreshed, with the Galaxy A51 looking just as modern as Samsung's flagships. There's a hole-punch cutout for the front camera, and thanks to thin bezels, the phone isn't too unwieldy to use. The A51 has a generous 4,000mAh battery with 15W fast charging, and while it isn't the fastest phone in the world, it gets all the basics right.
The best part about the Galaxy A51 is that it comes with 5G connectivity in the U.S., with the particular model featuring better internal hardware than the global version. The fact that you get to access 5G alone makes the Galaxy A51 a more enticing option, and when you consider that Samsung will deliver three Android updates to the phone, it becomes a fantastic mid-range choice.
- Premium design
- Three guaranteed Android updates
- Vibrant AMOLED screen
- Great battery life
- Decent cameras
- Unlocked model limited to Sub-6 5G
8. Samsung Galaxy A21: Best Entry-level Pick
Need a good Samsung phone without spending too much money? The Galaxy A21 may just be the ideal device. The phone has a modern design that's in line with the Galaxy A51 and A71, and you get a large 6.5-inch screen — albeit one that's limited to 720p.
The phone delivers decent performance in day-to-day use, has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a decent 16MP lens at the back, and the best part is that the 4,000mAh battery lasts two days with ease. The Galaxy A21 may not have the same exciting hardware like some of Samsung's other offerings, but it holds up great in everyday use and you're getting great value all things considered.
- Outstanding battery life
- Modern design
- 3.5mm jack
- Great value
- Screen limited to 720p
- Dated hardware
The Galaxy S20 FE is still the best Samsung phone in 2021
The Galaxy S20 FE is Samsung's best phone in 2021, and the default choice for people who want the best value while still getting great hardware. The 12MP camera takes gorgeous photos, the 120Hz AMOLED screen is sublime, it has wireless charging and IP68 water resistance, and a large 4,500mAh battery.
The Galaxy S20 FE absolutely destroys its rivals when it comes to value, and it is great to see Samsung offer such an attractive option for considerably less than its regular flagships. If you want a value flagship right now, this is the phone to get.
But if you are interested in a true flagship that has all the latest tech, you will want to take a look at what the Galaxy S21 Ultra has to offer. The phone is the only one in the Galaxy S21 series to feature a QHD+ AMOLED screen, and it has the latest Snapdragon 888 silicon along with massive camera upgrades and all the extras you'll need.
On the lower end, Samsung offers the Galaxy A71 5G, with hints of the flagship Galaxy S models trickled down to a mid-range price that can be incredibly appealing if you can't push your budget as high as the S20 FE. The Galaxy A71 has 5G connectivity and great hardware that's designed to last a few years, and it will get three guaranteed Android updates.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Harish Jonnalagadda is the Asia Editor of Android Central. A reformed hardware modder, he now spends his time writing about India's burgeoning phone market. Previously, he used to ponder the meaning of life at IBM. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.
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