Best 5G phones for 2021


While the super-fast data speeds of 5G once seemed like a distant dream, 5G is now common, with all of the top phones released in the last year, including the iPhone 12 series and Samsung’s Galaxy S21 being fully enabled to take advantage of those speeds. Better yet, we’re now seeing the service become available on much more affordable handsets meaning it’s not just the wealthy who can take advantage of 5G speeds. 

Though it won’t replace 4G in its entirety, 5G is the next generation of mobile connectivity. 5G works fast, and many industries will benefit from the new network, including drones, self-driving cars, and the Internet of Things. Its growth across the US, the UK and the wider world has been fast, but it’s still not everywhere, so make sure it’s available — or at least coming soon — in your area before you splash the cash on a 5G enabled handset. 

Remember though that a 5G phone will still work as normal on a 4G network (albeit at lower speeds) so don’t be afraid of buying a 5G phone like the S21 Ultra even if you’re not in a 5G zone. In fact it’s good practice to future proof yourself; you may not be in a 5G zone right now, but it may well be that 5G will come to your area in the three years or so you have your phone, so at least you’ll be ready to take advantage of it when it arrives. 

But with 5G handsets being offered by pretty much every major phone manufacturer now it can be difficult to work out which is best for you. We’ve done some of the hard work and put together our list of our top 5G-enabled phones that you can go and buy right now. 

Read: Cheaper 5G phones are on the horizon, but they probably won’t be very good

Patrick Holland/CNET

In October Apple unveiled four iPhones, all of which are 5G phones. At the helm of the lineup is the iPhone 12, which starts at $829 (£799, AU$1,349) and features the A14 Bionic processor and dual rear cameras. If you’re looking for something smaller and cheaper, the iPhone 12 Mini is your best pick for a 5G capable phone. And if you want something more premium, the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are decked out with more features.

Read our Apple iPhone 12 review.

 

Angela Lang/CNET

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the best phone Samsung makes right now, packing everything you’d expect from an elite flagship phone. It’s got a big, vibrant screen, and incredible rear camera setup (including a zoom lens unlike anything we’ve seen) and it’s absolutely stuffed with power. This phone doesn’t come cheap, but it’s the phone to go for if you’re looking for the best of the best in an Android handset. 

Read our Note 20 Ultra review.

 

Angela Lang/CNET

The Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G are 5G phones from Google that have long-lasting batteries, excellent cameras with fantastic low-light capabilities and software support from Google. As the more expensive of the two 5G phones, the Pixel 5 smartphone costs $699 (£599, AU$999) and has a 90Hz display, wireless charging or reverse wireless charging.

Read our Pixel 5 First Take.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite its high price tag and being a Verizon exclusive in the US, the Edge Plus is still a premium 5G smartphone worth looking into. It features a Snapdragon 865 chipset, a giant battery, an OLED screen with a high refresh rate and multiple rear cameras with heavy-duty specs. As CNET’s Patrick Holland declared, it’s “one of the most wonderful Android phones I’ve tried in a long time.”

Read our Motorola Edge Plus review.

 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro impressed with their excellent performance, their slick designs and their generally decent cameras. While both are 5G-enabled, it was the base OnePlus 9 that particularly wowed us, with its much better battery life and its more affordable price tag. It’s the phone to go for if you want a flagship experience but don’t want to empty your bank account to get it. 

Read more.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

There’s a lot to like about the Galaxy S21, but the best thing about it has got to be the price. Samsung’s next-gen flagship lineup starts at $800, and you can find it on Amazon right now for an extra $100 off. Samsung made some trade-offs to get to that price: The phone has 4GB of RAM less than its predecessor, the wall charger and headphones don’t come in the box and it doesn’t have a microSD card slot for expanded storage. But even with those sacrifices, you’re getting a lot for your money, including a striking design, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip and 5G connectivity.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S21 review.

 

Angela Lang/CNET

A  combination of 5G connectivity, solid specs, and a tempting price tag earned the Galaxy S20 FE a CNET Editors’ Choice award for 2020. Plus, it’s got a great screen, a lightning-fast Snapdragon 865 processor, and a potent triple camera.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S20 5G review.

 

Angela Lang/CNET

The LG Velvet is a polished, midrange 5G smartphone, available in the US on AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. The device costs $588 to $700, depending on the carrier — Verizon’s more expensive model can access a faster version of 5G. The Velvet has a high-end look, a headphone jack and a sizable 6.8-inch display.

Read our LG Velvet review.

 

OnePlus Nord and Nord N10 5G

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

As part of OnePlus’ midrange family of phones, the Nord N10 5G (pictured here) features a 90Hz display, a headphone jack and a generous 6.49-inch screen. The new phone will be available in Europe first then North America at a later date. It follows the company’s first Nord phone, which also has 5G and is only available in the UK.

Read our OnePlus Nord review.

 

Angela Lang/CNET

Right before it unveiled the Note 20, Samsung announced the Galaxy Z Flip 5G, a 5G variant of the Galaxy Z Flip that went on sale earlier this year in February. The foldable clamshell phone costs $1,450, though it’s currently on sale for $750, and is sold through Samsung, AT&T and T-Mobile.

Read our Galaxy Z Flip 5G first take.

 

Motorola

The $445 One 5G is one of the best, most affordable 5G phones available. This cheap phone has a total of six, yes six, cameras, a 90Hz high-refresh rate display and fast-charging technology. It’s available now in the US on AT&T and Verizon’s mobile networks.

Read our Motorola One 5G review.

 

Angela Lang/CNET

In addition to its headphone jack (a rarity among top-tier phones these days), the LG V60 is unique because it works with a case accessory that effectively doubles the size of its screen. Known as Dual Screen, it allows the V60 to fold open like a book, so you can display two apps on both displays or view content as a single tablet (albeit with a big hinge in the middle).

Read our LG V60 ThinQ 5G review.

 

Samsung

 

Patrick Holland/CNET

At the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, Motorola announced two flexible Razr phones within months of each other. The 2020 version is the better one of the two. Available for $1,400 (£1,399, which is about AU$2,470) this model has 5G support, a 48-megapixel camera, more memory and a faster Snapdragon 765G processor. 

Read our Motorola Razr 5G review.

 

Sony

The $950 (£799 or about AU$1,350) Xperia 5 II is a pricey but gorgeous phone for users who like to play games, shoot photos and record video. Its 120Hz display is silky smooth and its quasi mirrorless camera can record 4K 120fps video. And while it can connect to 5G, the US model of the phone cannot.

Read more.

 

Angela Lang/CNET

 

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