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Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy S10 at Amazon
"Packs Samsung’s most powerful hardware to date, boasting record-breaking speeds among Android phones."
Best Display: Samsung Galaxy S10e at Amazon
"The front-facing camera has been moved to the top right corner to give the screen a nearly bezel-less feel."
Runner-Up, Best Display: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 at Amazon
"The highlight is its 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen that produces 2960 x 1440 resolution."
Best Features: Samsung Galaxy S9 at Amazon
"A landmark release for Samsung’s smartphone lineup that's now available at a more wallet-friendly price."
Best Budget: Samsung Galaxy J3 at Amazon
"A solid performer with all the basics and more."
Best Value: Samsung Galaxy S7 at Amazon
"With fast wireless charging, 32GB of built-in storage, and a water-resistant frame."
Best for Durability: Samsung Galaxy S8 Active at Amazon
"A device that can stand up to rigorous use."
Best Basic: Samsung Galaxy J2 Pro at Amazon
"A budget-friendly smartphone with a five-inch Super AMOLED display."
The best Samsung phones represent the cutting edge of Android smartphone technology. Samsung has long been a market leader and one of a very select handful of companies that's been able to offer any significant competition to stave off an Apple smartphone monopoly. Samsung's phones offer a level of flexibility, even modability, that's not capable inside Apple's walled garden, without compromising on quality, performance, or aesthetics.
Samsung's best rival (or even exceed) the sheer horsepower of any other smartphone currently available, with bleeding-edge mobile processors and internal specs. And they pair those impressive capabilities with some of the best displays and cameras on the mobile market, all in sleek chassis constructed from gorgeous (and durable) materials.
Powerful Snapdragon 855 processor
Exceptional picture quality
Glass back plate adds unnecessary weight
The new Galaxy S10 packs Samsung’s most powerful hardware to date: its Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor boasts record-breaking speeds among Android phones, reaching up to 2.0 Gbps for streaming and web-browsing. It also comes with 8GB of RAM (double that of the S9), a 3400mAH battery, and either 128GB or 512GB of storage.
The phone itself is quite durable, inside and out. It has an IP68 dust-and-water resistance rating, the highest possible ranking, which means it can survive being submerged in water. The hardware is also well-suited for high-demand apps and games with an intelligent cooling system that effectively protects your battery’s longevity. Additionally, the S10 is compatible with wireless charging. It even comes with a new PowerShare feature, which allows you to share your phone’s charge with other Galaxy devices.
Moving on to exceptional picture quality, the Galaxy holds four lenses: a 10MP selfie-cam, and a triple-threat set of wide-angle lenses on the back. Among its rear-facing cameras, the Galaxy has a 16MP ultra-wide lens that captures a 123-degree panoramic scope. The other two cameras hold 12MP lenses and are well-suited for close-up and mid-range shots. All cameras offer dual-aperture settings for day and night shoots, which deliver sharp, brilliant colors for all lighting scenarios. In testing, our reviewer Andrew loved the stunning display and space-saving hole punch design.
"The Samsung Galaxy S10 is one of the absolute best phones you can buy today." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester
Well specced for the price
Display not as crisp as pricier models
The Galaxy S10e is Samsung’s answer to the budget question. To be fair, it isn’t exactly a budget phone, as it doesn’t get down to truly budget prices, but it’s a good deal cheaper than the flagship. The S10e is also the smallest phone in the current S10 line measuring at 5.8 inches. It is an HD+ screen with a resolution of 2280 x 1080, so it won’t be as crisp as the bigger brothers. One concession you are making with the S10e is the fact that there are only two cameras on the back (a 16MP ultra-wide and a 12MP standard camera), ditching the S10’s 12MP telephoto.
There is a Snapdragon 855 processor running it all, but the lowest version comes with 6GB of RAM. You can opt to upgrade it to match the 8GB of the standard S10 if you'd like. It also happens to be the lightest phone in the family at 5.29 ounces, so if sleekness and portability are priorities, then this could be a good bet. You can go for 128GB or 256GB of storage just like the rest, and colors include Prism Black, Prism White, Prism Blue, Prism Green, and Flamingo Pink just like the larger S10, but if you want Canary Yellow, that's also an option with the S10e. In his review, Andrew calls the S10e nearly as impressive as its flagship siblings, but available at a significantly lower price.
"If you’re craving the latest and greatest in smartphone technology but want to save a little scratch in the process, the Galaxy S10e is a very worthwhile alternative." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester
Gorgeous Super AMOLED screen
Handy S Pen
Physical Bixby button
If you’re looking for a great display at a slightly more affordable price, then look to the Galaxy Note 9. To be clear, this device is far more than its display — it’s actually one of the best devices Samsung has ever produced. The highlight is its 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen that produces 2960 x 1440 resolution with some of the most accurate colors for any flagship device. Plus, that extra space gives you more than enough room to run two applications at once. The Note 9 also comes with the S Pen, Samsung’s integrated stylus, and it has never been more useful. Capable of acting as a shutter button for the 12-megapixel rear camera, the S Pen can be used to write and draw on the screen.
Keeping all of this activity powered is a massive 4000mAh battery which is likely to last all day for most users. Stereo speakers make watching video on the large display absolutely awesome. Last but not least is an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance. Our tester Andrew calls the Note 9 one of the best big boy, extra-large smartphones on the market.
"The 6.4-inch screen is unparalleled, it packs in plenty of power, and the S Pen stylus makes it easy to jot down notes and sketch out ideas, wherever you are." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester
Sharp quad HD+ display
Dolby Atmos speakers
Speedy LTE modem
Less capable than the S10
Released in the spring of 2018, the Samsung Galaxy S9 is still considered a landmark release for Samsung’s smartphone lineup that's now available at a more wallet-friendly price. It has a 5.8-inch screen and quad HD+ resolution (2960 x 1440) display, 3000 mAh battery, 4GB of RAM, eight-core processor and expandable memory.
Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy S9 uses Qualcomm’s latest processor combing a quad 2.8GHz and 1.7GHz speed with 4GB (S9) or 6GB (S9 Plus) of RAM and a new LTE modem for faster gigabit downloads, setting a standard for the market. Its speakers use surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology for high-quality audio feedback. The S9’s cameras have a 12MP AF sensor rear camera with dual aperture mode and a front 8MP AF sensor camera, giving it a slightly better improvement from its previous S8 model. Colors come in midnight black, lilac purple, and coral blue, as well as an upgraded S9 Plus model. Despite being replaced by a newer iteration, our reviewer Andrew was still very impressed with the capabilities of the S9.
"It's loaded with cutting-edge tech, including an incredible screen, a super-speedy processor, and wireless charging, along with fun perks like Gear VR support." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester
Great budget option
Solid AMOLED display
Long battery life
Subpar photo quality
Samsung may be best known for its flagship models, but the company also makes some great budget devices like the Galaxy J3. Primarily for use on AT&T, this is a solid performer with all the basics and more. It isn’t a flashy device, but for the price, you don’t expect it to be. What you can expect is a convenient device that’s comfortable to hold, with enough power to get you through your day.
The five-inch AMOLED display has 720p resolution, perfectly suitable for gaming, watching YouTube videos, streaming TV shows, and reading text. Ultimately, it’s the lower resolution display that actually helps the J3 achieve up to 12 hours of talk time on a single charge. Beneath the display is Samsung’s traditional physical home button and the capacitive buttons are on either side.
Entry-level performance is to be expected and that’s what you get. The device handles multitasking without any stuttering, and its five-megapixel camera is about what you’d expect from a budget device. The photo quality definitely leaves something to be desired, but that’s par for the course in this price range.
Less expensive that newer generations
Solid display between Super AMOLED and QHD
Solid 12 MP camera
Slightly older processor
When it was first released, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 was a flagship device full of bells and whistles. The newer models are even more advanced, but the S7 shows no signs of aging even at two years old. At 5.1 inches, its 2560 x 1440 resolution display is small compared to today’s smartphones, but the intersection of Super AMOLED and QHD resolution gives you sharp images with vibrant colors.
Inside the device is a Snapdragon 820 processor that’s tied to 4GB of RAM. That was once Qualcomm’s premier processor and its performance backed it up. Apps open almost instantly while even the most demanding mobile games don’t skip a beat. The rear of the device has a 12-megapixel DualPixel camera that captures outstanding shots. And when you consider the fast wireless charging, 32GB of built-in storage, and water-resistant frame, this device still holds its own. All totaled, it’s a great value.
High capacity battery
Solid processor, display, and cameras
Only 4GB of RAM
What happens when you combine the flagship Galaxy S8 with a more durable design? You get the Galaxy S8 Active, a device that can stand up to rigorous use. This phone features a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM, plus 64GB of internal storage and a microSD slot for expandable memory.
The Active also has a shatter-resistant screen that can handle drops up to five feet and a high-strength aluminum frame that’s military-grade rated. An IP68 rating adds water resistance up to five feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Dust and sand don’t stand a chance either. On top of its durability, this phone also has a 4000mAh battery for all-day use and wireless charging capabilities. Throw in the same gorgeous display and cameras as the traditional Galaxy S8 and this is an easy winner for durability.
One of the least expensive, competent smartphones
Decent battery life
Great display for the price
If all you need is the bare minimum in a smartphone, look to the Samsung Galaxy J2 Pro. This budget-friendly smartphone has a five-inch Super AMOLED display. For the price, the 960 x 540 resolution display still offers accurate and sharp colors, well within expectations for this price bracket. The Snapdragon 425 quad-core processor has plenty of power for day-to-day app use, but will probably struggle to keep up with any kind of complex gaming or multitasking.
The eight-megapixel rear camera is another budget feature—none of Samsung’s vaunted AI from its flagship models is included, meaning you’ll have to deal with lower-quality photos and limited editing options on the phone itself. A five-megapixel camera sits above the display for selfie shots and video calling. Luckily, you do get a sizable 2660 mAh battery for all-day use. Samsung even boasts that the battery is good enough for up to 60 straight hours of music playback.
It probably comes as no surprise that the Galaxy S10 is out top pick for Samsung handsets, representing an improvement in almost every dimension over the already excellent and well regarded S9. But if you want a more affordable, top-notch Samsung smartphone without having to cut too many corners, the S10e is also a very worthy contender.
Alex Williams has been working as a tech journalist for more than five years, specializing in consumer electronics like smartphones as well as video games and gaming hardware and wearables.
Andrew Hayward has been covering the latest tech since back in 2006 for a number of major media publications. His top specialty is smartphone and mobile accessories, meaning he was the perfect choice to review a number of the Samsung handsets on our list.
Display - Smartphones have come a long way since the flip phone days—now, most phones are all screen and no (physical) buttons. Displays are measured diagonally and range from under 5 inches up to 6.5 inches or more. Resolution is also a big factor, but can significantly add to a phone’s cost. The best screens out there are HD+ super AMOLED with a 2960 x 1440 resolution. Size and resolution combined make the viewing experience infinitely better, whether you’re watching a YouTube video, Skyping with family, or reading an article.
Camera - Unless you’re a dedicated photographer, you probably rely on your phone to double as a camera. Lucky for you, Samsung phones have especially impressive hardware that makes them a solid alternative to a point-and-shoot. Typically, the rear-facing camera has a larger sensor—12 megapixels or so—and the front-facing camera primed for selfies and video chatting will have a smaller sensor (around 8 megapixels).
Battery life - Why is it that we can land a rover on Mars but can’t seem to make a phone battery that lasts throughout the day? The newer crop of Samsung phones solve that mystery with impressive batteries up to 4000mAh. For those who are always texting or streaming, that should be ample power to get you through the day and more.