We take a deep dive into Samsung’s recent smartphone output to find the perfect phone for your needs
Samsung is locked in a neverending smartphone battle with its biggest tech rival, Apple. Some might argue that Samsung is winning, if not on every front, then at least in terms of value for money. Unlike its Californian rival, Samsung has flooded the market with a series of Galaxy phone models that span a healthy price range, from the dirt-cheap Galaxy A13 to the extra-large Galaxy S23 Ultra.
READ NEXT: The best smartphones to buy
Which Samsung phone you choose will depend on a range of factors. Budget is likely the primary component when making this decision, but you’ll also want to weigh up other important factors such as screen size, display quality, battery life and camera characteristics. Have a read of our rundown so that you can make the most informed choice before bringing your next Samsung phone to the checkout.
How we test Samsung phones
As with all smartphones, we generally start testing Samsung handsets by downloading the Geekbench and GFXBench apps from the Google Play Store. Testing the CPU and GPU, respectively, these apps produce a set of scores that we use to compare the phone to other Samsung models and similarly priced competitors. For the display, we use a colorimeter and DisplayCal software to measure how accurately colours are reproduced, as well as results for the contrast ratio and maximum brightness.
That same DisplayCal software is then used to set the brightness to 170cd/m2, in order to maintain consistency across devices for our battery test. We then engage flight mode and run our standard looping video, noting the timestamp at which the phone died. Finally, we look to the cameras, taking a wide range of shots with all the lenses, including interiors, landscapes, low-light and portraits. We’ll also shoot some rapid panning video to judge the efficacy of the stabilisation.
The best Samsung smartphones to buy in 2023
1. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: The very best for flagship lovers
Price when reviewed: From £1,249 l Check price at Amazon
With the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Samsung kicked off the new year with a bang. Not a huge amount has changed externally from last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra, but the biggest new addition is the move to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, which not only seriously improved performance, but battery life is significantly longer as well.
If you’re in the market for a new flagship smartphone, there’s simply nothing better. Samsung’s latest all-singing and all-dancing smartphone has seen a major upgrade in the photography department, with a fancy new 200MP main sensor. What impressed us the most, in fact, was the S23 Ultra’s zoom capabilities. With a pair of 3x and 10x telephoto lenses (as well as a primary 108MP sensor), the S22 Ultra’s pictures looked absolutely sublime in our tests, capturing every detail with tonally perfect colours, no matter the lighting conditions.
The sublime 6.8in 120Hz screen also returns (perfect for doodling with the bundled S Pen). Sure, there are far cheaper handsets you can get your hands on in 2023, but if you’re after the very best that Android (not just Samsung) has to offer, then this is definitely it.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2; Screen: 6.8in, 3,088 x 1,440; Camera: 200MP, 10MP (10x zoom), 10MP (3x zoom), 12MP (wide); Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB; Operating system: Android 13
Also consider: Samsung Galaxy S23
Want to spend less on the latest Samsung flagship? The good news is that the regular Galaxy S23 is still a terrific option, that is provided you don’t mind a few cutbacks. For a huge £400 less than the Ultra, the Galaxy S23 is a smashing alternative for the cost-conscious buyer. It uses the same top-spec Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, pumping out the same ultra-fast performance figures and its 50MP main camera impressed in testing as well. It also has the added benefit of being a lot smaller than the Ultra (6.1in vs 6.8in), so if large-screened handsets aren’t really your thing, the entry-level S23 should be your next phone purchase. Check price at Samsung
2. Samsung Galaxy A21s: The best budget Samsung phone
Price when reviewed: £150 l Check price at Amazon If you aren’t too keen handing over flagship-sized sums for the latest and greatest Samsung, then the Galaxy A21s is the perfect choice for the budget-conscious. It’s not the flashiest smartphone on the market, but where it counts the Galaxy A21s is a remarkable smartphone that’s filled to the brim with features for very little money. Somehow, Samsung has managed to squeeze in a total of five cameras which, again, is rather generous considering how much it costs. It has a massive 48MP camera, which is excellent, as well as a macro, wide-angle and depth-sensing lens. Samsung certainly knows how to make a well-priced smartphone, and the Galaxy A21s, complete with Android 10, a snazzy design and a lovely screen, absolutely smashes our expectations.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A21s review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Samsung Exynos 850; Screen: 6.5in, 1,600 x 720; Camera: 48MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro), 2MP (depth); Storage: 64GB; Operating system: Android 10
3. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5: The best foldable
Price when reviewed: £1,749 l Check price at Amazon
Samsung’s high-end foldable is the best we’ve ever seen. The kinks have been ironed out, and the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the ultimate culmination of previous improvements, with an IPX8 water resistance rating, hard-wearing design, overall performance and stamina increases and huge changes to the software.
The most expensive smartphone you can buy at the moment, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is well worth the cost if you’re lucky enough to afford it, especially since it uses the most powerful Android chipset yet, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 which, in our tests, provided one of the biggest gen-on-gen gaming performance improvements in a number of years. If you’re after a phone that inspires “ooh’s” and “aah’s” from friends, and you’ve also got a lot of cash burning a hole in your pocket, then this is the handset to get.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2; Screen: 7.6in, 2,1768 x 1,812 (inner), 6.2in, 2,316 x 904 (cover); Camera: 50MP, 10MP (3x zoom), 12MP (wide); Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB; Operating system: Android 13
4. Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Fan-tastic value
Price when reviewed: £469 | Check price at Amazon Not got a huge amount of money for a Samsung flagship but don’t want to scrimp on features? Thankfully, the S21 FE pretty much has it all: high-end specs and a long list of flagship-worthy features at a reduced price. Cheaper than the S21 but with similarly speedy performance, a dazzling display and a great set of rear cameras, the S21 FE (or, Fan Edition) is one of last year’s best-value smartphones. If you’re put off by the prices of this year’s flagships, then the Galaxy S21 FE is easily the next best thing.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888; Screen: 6.4in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 12MP, 8MP (zoom), 12MP (wide); Storage: 128GB/256GB; Operating system: Android 11
5. Samsung Galaxy A54 5G: Samsung’s best-value smartphone
Price when reviewed: £449 l Check price at Amazon
Alternatively, if you have even less money to spend on a new Samsung phone, and you still aren’t willing to sacrifice too much in the way of features, then the mid-range Galaxy A54 5G is a safe bet.
With a large, colour accurate 6.4in screen, triple camera array and solid performance, there’s very little to dislike. Not to mention that the battery life is exceptional, with the Galaxy A54 5G lasting almost 27 hours in our tests. The only downside is that the Display isn’t HDR compliant, but this is a small niggle when you consider just how much stuff you’re getting for relatively little money.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A54 5G review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Samsung Exynos 1380; Screen: 6.5in, 2,340 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 12MP (wide), 5MP (macro); Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 13
5. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: The best-value foldable
Price when reviewed: £1,049 l Check price at Amazon
Alongside the Fold (featured above), the Z Flip 5 is another tremendous folding flagship. Featuring the same high-level features, such as IPX8-rated waterproofing, a surprisingly sturdy gapless design and a 120Hz refresh screen, the Flip 5 is much better value, since it costs a heck of a lot less. And with Flip-friendly changes such as an increase to the size of the cover display, upgraded performance and a handful of UI improvements, the Flip 5 is pretty much as good as it gets all for a fraction of the price.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2; Screen: 6.7in, 2,640 x 1,080 (cover: 3.4in, 748 x 720); Camera: 12MP and 12MP (wide); Storage: 256GB, 512GB; Operating system: Android 13
6. Samsung Galaxy S22 (Renewed): Still great value
Price when reviewed: £397 l Check price at Backmarket
Samsung flagships needn’t cost the earth. If you’re in the market for a new top-end handset and don’t have S23-sized sums to pay for one, then last year’s Galaxy S22 is still a great pick. It’s still one of the fastest smartphones we’ve tested, the display is top-notch and the triple cameras hold their own against more recent phone releases such as the iPhone 14.
As ever, this recommendation only applies if you don’t mind buying a refurbished model. However, if this doesn’t bother you then you’ll be rewarded with a great phone at a remarkably low price.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Samsung Exynos 2200; Screen: 6.1in, 2,340 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 10MP (telephoto), 12MP (wide); Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 12