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The best Samsung phones: High-end, mid-range, and entry-level models
Samsung has been the king of the Android world for years now, and the South Korean giant’s lineup of phones has something for everyone. When deciding the best Samsung phone for you, there are a few things to consider:
- How far can you stretch your budget?
- How important is camera performance?
- Will you use your Samsung phone for gaming or demanding apps?
- What form factor do you want? Small? Large? Folding?
Once you’ve decided what’s important to you, we’ve done the hard work for you. We’ve tested and reviewed literally every Samsung phone on the market, boiling down the options to just six phones. If you want some more insight, check out our detailed buyer’s guide to learn more.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus is the best Samsung phone for most people
If you just want a great Samsung phone, the Galaxy S23 Plus is the one to get. It slots in perfectly where the Galaxy S22 Plus left off. In fact, it’s among the best Android phones to buy, period. The Galaxy S23 Plus doesn’t reinvent what made its predecessor great, instead refining what we look for in a phone: flagship performance, great cameras, and the best software support in the industry.
Like all of Samsung’s premium smartphones, the S23 Plus is built for speed. Most years, Samsung adopts a two-processor approach, packing certain models with the latest from Qualcomm, while others get an in-house Exynos chipset. Not this year. Now, all Galaxy S23 models — no matter the size — come with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 onboard. Whether it’s high-intensity gaming or just scrolling through social media feeds, the S23 Plus should take everything in stride.
Sometimes flagship performance means weaker battery life, which we saw last year. This year, the Galaxy S23 Plus gets most of its capacity back, rising from 4,500mAh to 4,700mAh. We haven’t put the battery through its paces, but we’re expecting Qualcomm’s flagship chipset to be more efficient this year — always a good thing. Charging is speedy, too, packing 45W wired and 15W wireless speeds. Granted, you will need to buy a USB Power Delivery PPS-compatible charger, which is not included in the box. Wireless charging is a bit slower, taking 90 minutes.
Although the premium Galaxy S23 Ultra will likely maintain its edge among the best camera phones, the S23 Plus is still a great shooter. It holds on to the same hardware from previous generations, but that’s not a bad thing. We expect the 50MP main sensor, 12MP ultrawide sensor, and 10MP telephoto sensor to continue producing excellent photos in our testing. Samsung even gave the Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus a selfie camera boost — jumping from 10MP to 12MP.
Other plusses are the streamlined design, bright 120Hz display, and excellent software features in One UI. While we were a bit put off by the amount of pre-installed apps the phone comes with, most (but not all) of them can be uninstalled. That’s a small price to pay for the plethora of customization options Samsung packs in its OS. The company also offers the best software support in the Android world, with four years of OS updates and five years of security updates. Of course, that’s a selling point for all Samsung phones, and not just the S23 Plus specifically.
At the end of the day, the S23 Plus is our pick for the best Samsung phone you can get for under $1000. Unless you really want an S Pen or next-level camera zoom, you won’t miss anything from the S23 Ultra. The S23 Plus truly represents the best of Samsung, and we think it’s the ideal phone for just about anyone.
What makes it stand out
- Slimmed-down design: The Contour Cut camera is gone, but the slim design still feels great.
- Versatile cameras: The triple-camera setup is great for just about any situation.
- Great performance: All Snapdragon, all the time, means that the Galaxy S23 Plus is a strong performer no matter what.
- Gorgeous display: The bright, crisp 120Hz display is easily visible outside, even on sunny days.
- Upgraded battery: We didn’t love Samsung shrinking the Galaxy S22 series batteries, so it’s nice to see larger cells come back.
The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G offers unbeatable value
If you’re looking for a more affordable Samsung phone, the Galaxy A54 5G is fixing to be one of our favorites. Coming in at just over half the price of the pick above, the Galaxy A54 offers incredible value. It’s not flagship-level, but with improved performance and a nearly Galaxy S23 design, you might not mind.
Starting with the cameras, it features a three-camera setup that’s reminiscent of its flagship cousins. We were really impressed with the color accuracy, offering a much less aggressive level of color saturation when compared to older Samsung phones. However, it’s slightly disappointing to see Samsung hang onto the macro camera and ditch the telephoto from the previous Galaxy A53.
On the front side, the A54 5G sports a bright, crisp, and speedy 120hz AMOLED display. It once again imitates the premium Galaxy S23 series, offering rounded corners, even bezels, and great color accuracy. Of course, the lower price point means the bezels are a bit thicker, but you won’t notice them after a while.
This thing is also a battery beast. It packs a beefy 5,000mAh battery, which has held up nicely in our early testing. Charging is also speedy, with 25W wired power topping off in a little under an hour and a half. There’s no charger in the box though, so you’ll need to buy a compatible charger if you don’t already have one at home.
If we had to nitpick, our only complaint is performance. The Exynos 1380 has no problems with browsing social media and streaming video, but it doesn’t scratch its mid-range rivals. For example, Apple’s modest iPhone SE (2022) packs its flagship Bionic A15 chipset, and the close Android foe, the Pixel 7a, packs the Tensor G2 chip under the hood. Still, unless you’re a big mobile gamer or want to edit video on your phone, this is a fine tradeoff to make for great battery life and a lower price tag.
What makes it stand out
- Flagship design: The Galaxy A54 looks so much like an S23 you might not mind its plastic frame.
- Long battery life: Expect the Galaxy A54 5G to last well over a day and a half, even without battery-saving mode enabled.
- Great display: The 120hz AMOLED display is crisp and bright, even in daylight.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra is the power user’s dream phone
If you want the best, most powerful Samsung phone (without dipping into foldables), the Galaxy S23 Ultra is it. The top dog in the S23 lineup continues the traditions of the now-defunct Galaxy Note line to provide a power user’s dream phone, still offering an integrated S Pen.
The performance here is stellar, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. We expect no hiccups, studders, or slowdowns while testing the device on everything from social media to intense gaming. However, we’re still a bit disappointed by the lowest-specced model at 8GB of RAM. Samsung did raise its storage to 256GB for the base model, but this is the only Galaxy S23 with two RAM options. Anyway, if you’re going to spend the money on a Galaxy S23 Ultra, the 12GB/512GB model is the sweet spot.
Another huge selling point for this phone is the cameras. You won’t find better cameras on any other Samsung phone or perhaps any other phone on the market. We expect it to dominate in our camera testing, and we’re eager to experience the differences between the new 200MP Isocell HP2 and the previous 108MP sensor. We already know that the quad camera setup provides excellent versatility and amazing results, including in low-light situations. We ran it through the gauntlet of tests, but the takeaway is that every image was clean, sharp, and punchy. Unlike most smartphone cameras, zoom performance is also excellent, although results beyond 30x fall off rapidly.
Make no mistake about it, this is a large phone. The massive AMOLED screen clocks in at 6.8 inches, which is far too large to use with one hand. Samsung flattened the sides just slightly, which makes it feel even bigger in the hand. On the bright (literally) side, it’s one of the brightest and sharpest screens we’ve ever tested, but if you’re coming from a smaller phone, there will be a learning curve.
Now for the downside: this is a very expensive device. It starts at $1,200, and if you want to get the 12GB/512GB model we recommend, that’ll add extra cost on top. If you can afford it, though, it’s worth it. This phone is an absolute powerhouse.
What makes it stand out
- Integrated S Pen: If you use it, this can be a game-changer for productivity. Or Candy Crush. Your call.
- Amazing cameras: This is the best camera phone on the market, especially if you want manual controls.
- Gorgeous screen: The S23 Ultra screen is excellent, setting a high bar for the competition.
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is the best foldable for most people
Foldable phones are still a relatively young category, but the Galaxy Z Flip 5 takes a big step forward for 2023. If you’ve been eyeing a foldable for your next phone, the much larger Flex Window makes Samsung’s clamshell an easy one to consider. It offers nearly twice the real estate as the previous Galaxy Z Flip 4, complete with some full-scale app experiences.
The biggest selling point here is still the form factor. Samsung’s clamshell foldable phone still fits comfortably into a pocket (at least most pockets) and opens up to reveal a 6.7-inch AMOLED display. Unfortunately, it still isn’t quite as bright or crisp as a traditional display, but Samsung inches closer and closer every year. However, it’s not as wide as a normal smartphone, which makes it much easier to use with one hand. Of course, the real selling point for the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is the Flex Window, which looks and feels a lot like the cover screen on the Motorola Razr Plus. You’ll have to install Good Lock for most app experiences, but then you can open everything from Instagram to Strava on the 3.4-inch panel.
Although it works like a standard smartphone when open, the Z Flip 5 has a few software tricks that other phones can’t match. When half open, the phone enters Flex Mode, which essentially splits the screen into two parts. This can be used to display two different apps or two parts of the same app, for example, a YouTube video at the top and YouTube comments at the bottom. Our favorite integration is with the camera, which places the viewfinder at the top and the shutter button on the bottom for easy group selfies.
Speaking of the camera, the Z Flip 5 is certainly a capable shooter, but it hasn’t really picked up any upgrades over its predecessor. You’re still looking at a pair of 12MP snappers — one wide and one ultrawide. The setup does serve as a great selfie alternative, though. Apart from group selfies using the Flex Mode, the screen on the front can also serve as a viewfinder, which allows you to take selfies with larger, more capable external cameras.
Apart from that, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is a great little phone. Performance is stellar thanks to the overclocked Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy. Battery life is about the same as its predecessor, which makes sense when you pair the upgraded processor with a more demanding cover display. It’s still limited compared to traditional phones, but it’s enough for a typical day. It took a little over an hour to charge while plugged in or an hour and a half wirelessly. Once again, though, there’s no charger in the box.
What makes it stand out
- Flex Window: Samsung’s larger cover screen allows for much more in-depth app experiences and better widgets.
- Very pocketable: The small size fits easily in pockets and purses and is great for one-handed use.
- Relatively affordable: You won’t find a better-priced foldable anywhere on the market, though the Motorola Razr Plus costs the same amount.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the best tablet replacement
While the Galaxy S23 Ultra is a productivity powerhouse, the new Galaxy Z Fold 5 takes things to the next level by unfolding into a bright, sharp, 120Hz 7.6-inch tablet. To sweeten the deal, the interior screen is compatible with an S Pen, although there isn’t one included in the box. However, unlike the Galaxy Z Flip 5, Samsung’s book-style foldable hasn’t changed too much for 2023.
The large interior screen is obviously the big selling point here, but the rest of the phone is top-notch, too. It features two of the same lenses as the S23 Plus, both of which are great everyday performers. The third ultrawide lens is also a nice addition, although it’s slightly wider than that found on Samsung’s non-folding flagships. The interior screen has an under-display camera to minimize its visual impact, but Samsung hasn’t upgraded it since introducing the feature a few generations back. It’s fine for video calls, but that’s about it.
On the performance side, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy is more than powerful enough for smooth and consistent performance on the Galaxy Z Fold 5, even on the larger screen. We’re expecting similar battery results from Samsung’s lightly upgraded foldable, as well as an identical charging experience. It took nearly an hour and a half to charge the Galaxy Z Fold 4 from dead to full, and the Galaxy Z Fold 5 carries over the same specs.
The biggest downside here is that this bad boy starts at $1,800, and that’s still without an S Pen. That will run you either $50 or $100, depending on which model you choose, and with no pen holder in the chassis, you’ll probably want to buy a case for it, too. This isn’t a phone for anyone on a budget, although you can save a bit of money by picking up the Galaxy Z Fold 4 instead. You’ll have a gap between the display when folded, but that’s about the only change.
What makes it stand out
- It folds: The phone opens into a very nice 7.6-inch tablet.
- S Pen compatibility: Get even more out of your phone with an S Pen (sold separately).
- Great software: Android 13 has been optimized for larger devices, providing a much better experience.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE offers affordable flagship performance
Samsung’s Fan Edition family has been on an interesting journey. After landing among the best phones of the year with the Galaxy S20 FE, the follow-up Galaxy S21 FE felt like a case of too little, too late. Now, Samsung is back to recapture some of its early success with a new mid-ranger, the Galaxy S23 FE. On the surface, it follows the Fan Edition formula to the letter, and it does so while saving you $200 off the price of a Galaxy flagship.
For starters, the Galaxy S23 FE certainly looks the part. It’s almost identical to Samsung’s Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus, swapping frosted rear glass for a glossy panel but otherwise matching the refined design language. The Galaxy S23 FE’s 6.4-inch AMOLED panel lands comfortably between the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus, offering plenty of real estate for games or streaming. It’s a slightly older panel of Gorilla Glass 5, but we had no complaints about the color recreation or 120Hz refresh rate.
Of course, in order for Samsung to keep the Galaxy S23 FE more affordable than its proper flagship lineup, there are a few sacrifices under the hood. It swaps the overclocked Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy for the older Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and pairs it with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Both the RAM and storage are in line with what we expect for the money, though it’ll be important to see if the Snapdragon chipset can handle thermal performance better than when it was introduced.
Ultimately, the Galaxy S23 FE remains one of Samsung’s best offerings. It strikes a great balance between performance and price while managing to match its flagship cousins at just about every turn. If you’re not sure that you want to spend $1,000 on a smartphone, the Galaxy S23 FE might be your best bet.
What makes it stand out
- High-end style: The Galaxy S23 FE picks up right where Samsung’s flagships left off, pairing flat front and back panels with a gently curved frame.
- Flexible cameras: A classic wide/ultrawide/telephoto trio means the Galaxy S23 FE packs a wide zoom range and offers support for Expert RAW without the flagship price tag.
- Updated connectivity: The Galaxy S23 FE supports modern standards, including Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi 6e, and NFC for mobile payments.
The Samsung Galaxy A14 5G is great for people on a tight budget
Finally, we have the best Samsung phone for those on a budget, the Galaxy A14 5G. It seems unlikely that we’ll get a proper Galaxy A32 replacement at this point, so we’re stepping down a level. Don’t get us wrong, the Galaxy A14 is still a good phone for its price, it’s just not the home run that the Galaxy A32 offered.
Samsung’s lower end of the budget range can’t be compared to the likes of the Galaxy S23 lineup, but we still think that there are options that represent more than enough for most users. That said, Samsung’s entire budget range offers style to match its flagships, so you won’t feel left out. Despite its low-level position, the Galaxy A14 5G offers a 90Hz refresh rate and Full HD display to work with.
Most cheap Samsung phones have underwhelming cameras, but the Galaxy A14 has been good so far. The 50MP primary shooter is similar to that of the Galaxy A54, which is a solid shooter in its own right. However, Samsung paired it with 2MP depth and macro sensors, which are almost never useful.
Perhaps the best part of the Galaxy A14 is that it got a price cut this year. It now costs just $199, keeping your wallet nice and happy.
What makes it stand out
- Incredible value: The sub-$200 price tag is just right — and it’s free at many carriers.
- Great battery life: This phone always lasted for longer than a day in our testing, often reaching two days.
- Headphone jack: Yes, Samsung still has one or two models with a headphone jack in 2023.
What we look for in the best Samsung phones
We’ve reviewed hundreds of Android phones over the years here at Android Authority, so we’ve developed a keen eye for what you look for in a smartphone. If you’re thinking of picking up a Samsung phone specifically, here’s what to look for:
Look for value
It’s tempting to jump right for the most expensive Galaxy S23 Ultra or Z Fold 5, but these phones offer much more than most users will ever need. For that reason, we recommend the S23 Plus from the premium lineup since it hits the best price-to-performance ratio. Likewise for budget devices like the A54 5G and A32 5G.
Samsung phones all use the company’s in-house One UI software, which is a slightly tweaked version of Android with extra features. They also all offer four years of version updates and five years of security updates, so even the cheapest phones will remain up to date for a long time. However, phones on the low end will show their age much sooner.
Nowadays, megapixel counts don’t mean nearly as much as software smarts, but Samsung phones are generally great performers. They all tend towards heavier saturation in photos, for better or worse. However, rather than looking for high MP counts, we recommend looking for phones with dedicated ultrawide and telephoto lenses where possible. The added versatility is a big plus in your mobile photography kit.
Build materials and design
Price is generally the deciding factor in how good a phone’s build quality is, but there are a few things to look out for. For example, Gorilla Glass Victus is much more resistant than Gorilla Glass 5, although you’ll still probably want to get a case if you want it to last. Camera housings are another contentious issue design-wise, but if you are going to get a case, you won’t even notice it.
It’s tough to find a better value than ordering from Samsung itself. Amazon may offer faster shipping, but the Samsung website usually offers the best trade-in values and additional perks. For example, the Galaxy S23 series offered up to $200 in free Samsung credit with your purchase.