Galaxy A53 5G review: This impressive sub-$500 Android can finally kill flagships for you

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While flagship smartphones seem to get the most attention, the mid-range market has come a long way in recent years thanks to advances in technology and better support for long-term software updates. After spending a couple of weeks with the new Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, it’s clear that I could still function fully with a mid-range phone and save hundreds of dollars over what I’m now spending on flagships.

Samsung’s recent public commitment to software upgrades, including for the Galaxy A53 5G, is a major reason to review the A53 5G over one Google Pixel 5A 5G. Samsung offers one year more support than Google and has already proven in recent years that it is serious about timely Android security updates. Personally, I’m not a fan of Google’s Pixel hardware due to device bugs, bugs, and poor cellular coverage. On the other hand, Samsung phones have the best reception of any phone, advanced software features are included as part of OneUI, and Samsung offers an almost premium experience for the same price.

As

  • Affordable price
  • Solid battery life
  • Reliable cellular performance
  • Nice ad
  • Good camera results

don’t like

  • Occasional delay in performance

While Samsung’s flagship phones are twice as expensive as the A53 5G, it is S21 FE is only $150 more. For that price increase, you get a better processor, more cameras, and Samsung DeX, while giving up a microSD card slot. The A53 is a great sub-$500 option, and I personally would prefer it over that Google Pixel 5a, TCL 20 Proand other mid-range phones under $500. There are some other great options, but Samsung’s commitment to software support is something that other smartphones in this price range can’t match.

Likewise: Best Samsung Phone: Discover a New Galaxy

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G hardware

The Samsung Galaxy A53 has a manageable size with a flat 6.5-inch Infinity-O-AMOLED display. A bit rare on a sub-$450 phone is support for a screen refresh rate of up to 120Hz, allowing you to experience smooth scrolling on the phone. A front-facing 32MP punch-hole center camera is positioned in the display with reasonable minimal bezels on all four sides, making the phone easy to hold and use.

A glossy black plastic rim wraps around the phone, with power and volume buttons on the right, a USB-C port, a speaker and microphone on the bottom, and a microphone opening on the top. There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack, but there is a microSD card slot with the SIM card tray on the bottom.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNet

The back has a nice matte finish in the Awesome Black color scheme. Fingerprints appear on the back, but they also wipe off easily. There is also a simple Samsung branding on the back. On the back in the upper left corner are four camera ports and a flashlight. The back panel flows seamlessly from the flat back up and around the cameras, giving it a sleek, finished look. Samsung refers to this design feature as Ambient Edge.

Starting at the top left and working down a column, Samsung offers a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera, a 64-megapixel main camera, and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. We find a 5 MP macro camera with the LED flash underneath on the right. Camera performance was solid, and I particularly like that the depth sensor supports portrait mode shooting without having to stray too far from the subject. Macro shots also look great from the Galaxy A53.

The Samsung Galaxy A53 packs a large 5000mAh battery and combined with the Samsung processor, the phone is likely to get two days of battery life. Wireless charging is not supported, but 25W fast charging is possible with the right charger. Note that the Galaxy A53 doesn’t come with a charger, which is another way Samsung has managed to save some money.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNet

5G is supported, including support for mmWave, and in my testing I’ve experienced rock-solid cellular performance and fast download/upload speeds. Samsung is a leader in this area, and if staying connected in areas with poor network coverage is important to you, consider a Samsung phone.

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G specifications

  • processor: Samsung Exynos 1280
  • main display: 6.5 inch, 2400 x 1080 pixel resolution, Super AMOLED Infinity-O with 120 Hz refresh rate
  • operating system: Android 12 with OneUI 4.1
  • R.A.M.: 6GB
  • warehouse: 128GB internal memory with microSD card slot
  • cameras: 12 MP ultra wide angle f/2.2, 64 MP f/1.8 wide angle, 5 MP f/2.4 depth sensor and 5 MP f/2.4 macro camera. 32MP f/2.2 front camera.
  • connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS/Galileo/GLONASS, NFC
  • sensors: Accelerometer, Barometer, Ultrasonic Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor
  • Dust/water resistance: Protection class IP67
  • battery: 5000 mAh non-removable with fast charge support.
  • Dimensions: 159.6 x 74.8 x 8.1 mm and 189 grams
  • color: Awesome Black

The phone also has dual stereo speakers that sound surprisingly good with excellent volume and clarity. This is one of those areas that usually suffers on a mid-range phone. These specs show a very capable option with some features rarely used, such as ultra-wideband and Wi-Fi 6 missing from the list compared to the latest flagship.

Likewise: Galaxy S21 FE 5G review: flagship specs, great reception and Samsung goodies

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G software

The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G starts with Android 12 and Samsung One UI 4.1. The April 1, 2022 Android security update is present on our test device. Samsung’s new software upgrade policy means you’re likely to get up to four operating system upgrades and five years of security updates. The company has a proven track record of providing regular security updates and I look forward to the extended support for Samsung phones.

I personally appreciate some Samsung apps like Internet, Calendar, Gallery, Samsung Notes and Samsung Health. They are installed by default and offer a slightly different experience than standard Google apps. Microsoft apps including Office, OneDrive, Outlook and LinkedIn also come standard on the A53 5G.

With Samsung Calendar, you can view Google Calendar, Outlook, and other calendar services all in one consolidated calendar interface. The Internet offers a better overall browsing experience than Google Chrome. Samsung Gallery lets you quickly and easily create a custom collage, while Google Photos places the photos where Google wants them to be.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNet

The camera software is Samsung’s most prominent app on the A53. There are tons of settings, options, and modes for you to explore. Shooting modes include Fun, Single Take, Portrait, Night, Photo, Video, Pro, Pro Video, Food, Panorama, Super Slow-Mo, Slow-Motion, Hyperlapse, and Macro. This is the first time I’ve seen Fun Mode on a Samsung phone and it looks like it’s bringing in Snapchat Lens effects. If there are modes you use frequently, tap and hold on the mode and drag it to the quick access menu so you don’t have to tap the More option first to see all modes.

Also: Galaxy S22 Ultra Review: Even more perfect, and it would be an iPhone 13 Pro Max

Filters, aspect ratios, timers, flash settings, scene optimizers and much more are designed to help you capture the best possible content with the Galaxy A53. You can turn on shot suggestions to guide you, and this is a great option for learning how to best use the phone’s cameras.

Daily experiences and conclusions

When I saw the announcement for the Galaxy A53, I wasn’t that excited as I wasn’t expecting a sub-$450 Samsung phone to be worth considering. After using the phone for a few weeks, I’m now wondering why I’m spending double the price and more on the latest flagships. Granted, the photo quality is better on the high-end flagships, but I’m just an amateur taking photos and sharing them with family and friends. I have limited photo skills and won’t win photo contests, so having the ultimate shooter in my hands doesn’t really matter to me.

While the display’s high refresh rate is fantastic, I do see a small lag in content appearing on the display and when switching between apps from time to time. It only really bothers me when I skip to a flagship and see the differences, but for the low price of $450 it’s clearly an acceptable compromise that the majority of owners probably won’t notice.

A feature that bothers me on mine iPhone 13 Pro max is that I have to stand 20 feet away from someone to get a good portrait shot outside. The Galaxy A53’s depth sensor supports closeness to the subject to take decent portrait shots. In addition, there are several shooting modes that allow you to get creative when taking photos, even if you are not a professional.

If you’re looking to save some money on a smartphone and want an option to get work done and have fun, then the Samsung A53 5G is worth considering. The peace of mind that you can count on years of software updates is a huge benefit and something that sets Samsung apart in the mid-range market. Powerful specs, expandable storage, and quality construction make this a phone that should serve you well for years to come.


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