It’s hard to dislike Samsung’s new Galaxy A53 5G. This Android phone costs just $450 and is all most people need, even besting our current top pick, the Google Pixel 5A, in a few areas. It’s appearance is a bit drab—the matte plastic design is also a haven for fingerprints—but if you don’t want your phone to stick out like a sore thumb, it’s a great affordable option.
Samsung’s A Game
Put the A53 5G next to its predecessor, the A52 5G, and you might have a hard time telling them apart. Two areas where the new A53 might disappoint are with the removal of the headphone jack and the lack of a charging adapter in the box. These trends started with high-end flagships and are now trickling down, which some users aren’t happy about.
Thankfully, the A53 5G succeeds with the features that matter most. Take the screen, for example. The 6.5-inch OLED screen gets much brighter than the display on Google’s $450 Pixel phone, making it fairly legible during sunny days here in New York. It maintains a 120-Hz screen refresh rate too, so scrolling through apps and the interface feels responsive and buttery smooth (just make sure to turn this on in the settings menu).
The large screen is good for my big paws, and the slim design helps for smaller hands. It’s paired with stereo speakers that actually sound great. My TV has been broken for a little over a week, but I’ve been more than OK catching up on shows on the couch with this phone.
It has a 5,000-mAh cell, which is slightly larger than last year’s A52, though real-world battery life is similar. There are days I push it hard and see it hit 30 percent by midnight. But more often than not, it hangs somewhere around 50 to 45 percent by the day’s end, leaving enough juice for most of the following day. Still, neither phone quite offers two full days of battery life.
This is one of the few Samsung phones sold in the US that use its homegrown processor, the Exynos 1280, and it’s paired with 6 gigabytes of RAM. Benchmark tests show its performance is similar to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G powering its predecessor, which is a bit of a shame. Don’t get me wrong—just like last year’s version, the A53 5G handles most everyday tasks just fine. There are, however, situations where you’ll huff and puff as you wait for it to load up directions on Google Maps, or wait for the camera app to launch. I don’t recall experiencing such frustrations with the Pixel 5A.
The good news? This A53 will strangely get more version upgrades and security updates than its Pixel peer. (I still don’t understand how Google, which manages the Android operating system, is letting Samsung eat its lunch in this department.) That means four OS upgrades and 5 years of security updates, so it’ll keep getting patched until 2027. That’s pretty stunning for a sub-$450 Android phone.
Speaking of the software, it’s fine. Whenever I test Samsung phones, I start to miss the clean Android software experience found on Pixels and Motorolas. The interface design here isn’t my favorite (why do I have to scroll through my app drawer horizontally?!). Thankfully, like all Androids, you can customize and change much of this via third-party apps and launchers.
Most cameras on Android phones that cost less than $600 suck. The exception has been the Pixel A-series phones—I’ve yet to see a device that can dethrone Google’s prowess here. Samsung closes the gap and delivers a pretty satisfactory camera system with this new model, though it’s not quite reaching Pixel heights, particularly in low light.
During the day, the 64-megapixel main camera can capture detailed photos. The colors are the problem. Take the photo of the fire escape on a rainy day in the gallery above. In Samsung’s photo, the shade of the building is much lighter than it was in real life (the Pixel 5A photo is much closer to reality). In high-contrast scenes, details in the A53 5G’s images suffer a smidge too. When the sun sets, you still get pretty great photos! But they’re often grainier and don’t have the sharpness or color accuracy of the Pixel 5A.