I see this question come up a lot on here and other forums I browse, and decided to find out what the real difference was inside. Spending $50 on the branded water filter for the fridge is not something any of us look forward to, especially when there are off-brands for $10-20 that spout all the same certifications. I've always been weary of the cheap ones, and have too much on my plate at the moment to install a real in-line filtration system like a lot of you have. So, I bought a real Samsung OEM water filter (directly from Amazon, not a 3rd party seller) as well as the Waterdrop Advance, which has decent ratings, states it's NSF 42 & 53 certified, and was only $10 after a coupon. I then cut each in half on the bandsaw to compare the insides.
Both filters came in a cardboard box, with the filter capped and shrinkwrapped inside. The Samsung box was physically larger, but the filters themselves were the same size. I removed the shrinkwrapping and caps, then weighed them on a digital scale. The Samsung weighed in at 8.9 oz whereas the Waterdrop tipped the scales at 10.2 oz.
Now the fun part! I ripped each down the middle on a bandsaw, which sliced through them pretty easily. While they both look similar inside at first glance, I found quite a number of differences. First is the color and texture of the filtration material. I’m not sure how well it came out in the pictures, but there was a stark difference in color. The Samsung filter looked light gray and was smoother and cleaner looking, whereas the Waterdrop was a much darker black and seemed slightly coarser. I looked online to see if I could find information about qualities of charcoal to help explain the color and texture difference. The main thing I came across is that activated carbon is much better than regular charcoal. The Samsung page states that it uses “high-quality activated carbon” and the color looks just like the Wikipedia image for activated carbon. Waterdrop on the other hand looks more like images I see for charcoal. The Amazon product page also does not state what the filtration material is, so I have to assume it’s not the higher quality activated carbon that Samsung uses. As far as weight, the carbon in the Samsung weighed 3.8 oz, whereas the charcoal in the Waterdrop weighed 4.1 oz.
Next, both filters have a filtering paper wrapped around the carbon/charcoal. In both models the paper covers about 90% of the charcoal, however the Samsung filter uses about three times as much paper. Also, the Samsung paper was much stronger. You can’t see this in the pictures, but I tore each type several times. The Waterdrop paper tore instantly with the smallest amount of force. The Samsung paper had some kind of reinforcement and would stretch a bit before tearing, which required a decent amount of force considering how thin and light it was. It reminded me a little of a Tyvek envelope, but not nearly as strong as that.
Then, I looked at the casing itself. The Samsung seemed to be better designed, and had nice curved water channels in the bottom to evenly disperse the water around the carbon material. The Waterdrop had some plastic divides at the bottom of the casing, but they were not evenly dispersed or evenly sized. I will say that this is probably pretty minor though. One difference that could be pretty big, is that with the Samsung the water outlet is molded into the carbon filter. This means the only way for water to get out of the filter and into your glass is to pass through the carbon. With the Waterdrop, the outlet was molded to the casing and the charcoal was just pressed up against it. I have no way of checking the fit, but if there was ever a gap there it would be possible for water to bypass the charcoal filtration material on its way out of the filter.
Lastly, the Waterdrop had a double o-ring unlike the Samsung which only had one. I didn’t check the fit so I can’t compare, but I’ve only used the Samsung and it’s always a very tight fit. I’m not sure how a double ring would change that.
In summation, the Samsung does appear to be better in several ways, some more important and some less important. This makes sense because the Samsung is $50 and the Waterdrop is $17, so I expected there to be some differences. I only change the filter once or twice a year, so I’ll keep sticking with the Samsung until I can get an in-line filter installed.
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