Samsung hasn't made a bad phone in some time. The Galaxy A53 5G is no exception - it combines premium features in a mid-range frame to offer a valuable proposition to users. The only let-down is that performance has taken a knock compared to some older Samsung devices. Still, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
Samsung’s best smartphones are also its most expensive smartphones. It doesn’t make sense to make them the cheapest of the lot, after all. That’s poor capitalism. But devices like the Galaxy A53 5G are narrowing the gap between Samsung’s flagship devices and its mid-range lineup.
The A53 stocks up on some of the S22’s best features, at less than half of the price. We’re not saying this phone has it all, because it doesn’t, but it’s packing enough to make it an attractive option for users on a budget. So much so that we can almost forgive Samsung for choosing Awesome Blue and Awesome Black as colour options. Almost.
Smartphones, as devices, used to be almost complicated. You’d find vents and ports on all sides. That’s scaling back, to the point where just two sides of the Galaxy A53 are marred by… stuff. The upper right side hosts a volume rocker and power button. The lower edge is where everything else lives. The SIM slot, speaker vents, and USB-C charge port are clustered together like sheep under a tree.
Up front is the 6.5in Super AMOLED display. It’s a completely flat screen with minimal bezels all round, and a hole-punch camera peeking through the upper centre. The rear is a plastic panel that manages to feel acceptably premium, even if that’s not what the total at the bottom of the receipt says. There are four camera sensors and an LED flash bulging out of the upper left-hand side.
Surrounding the whole lot is a curved metal band, that’ll stay shiny as long as you cram the A53 into a case. As for the remaining bits, the box offers a serious clue. Don’t expect anything other than a charging cable and some paperwork with your new smartphone. Samsung doesn’t do that anymore.
We’ve seen better
For a phone as attractive as the Galaxy A53, we were expecting a little more performance. There is, on paper, no reason why it shouldn’t prod substantial amounts of buttock. Our review unit arrived with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM. Those bits aren’t the issue, however.
Samsung’s fitted this phone with an Exynos 1280 processor, a 5nm chipset that… just isn’t as good as the Snapdragon 778G found in this phone’s predecessor. The Galaxy A52s was, and is, a fantastic device almost across the board. Mid-range phones are almost always a balancing act and that phone found its equilibrium. The A53, though, could have done with an improved chipset. We’ve been wondering about the future of Exynos ever since the S22 showed up with Snapdragon chips everywhere. Well, that and the recent rumours.
The long and short of it is that performance doesn’t match the other components here. There’s enough storage (if you’re reasonable) and that 6.5in display runs at a stunning 120Hz. It’s enough to make you wonder why anyone looks in the direction of Samsung’s S-series. But actual use is a little more plodding than we would have liked. It’s not as capable as some older phones we’ve encountered — perhaps ironically, Samsung made those too. But it’s not all a case of ‘meh’.
The good bits
If you’re willing to put up with a touch of stuttering and slowdown, there is loads to love here. The Galaxy A53’s rear camera consists of four sensors. A 64MP main, a 12MP ultra-wide, and dual 5MP lenses (macro and depth) do duty from the volcanic bulge at the back. Unlike many budget phones with a high megapixel count, the images they capture are pretty decent.
Make no mistake, you’ll see better performance from a premium phone. Any premium phone. But images are bright and clear. Samsung’s colour reproduction is as enthusiastic as ever. But the Galaxy A53 doesn’t need bright daylight with the sun overhead to render decent images. It’ll also perform better than you’d expect in less flattering conditions. Even proper low-light benefits from Samsung’s sensors and software, producing images you wouldn’t mind sharing with the world. It’s that S-series camera tech trickling down to the middle of the road.
And that’s not all that comes from the higher-ups. 5G is obviously a feature, as Samsung will point out at every available opportunity. There’s an in-display fingerprint sensor, a 5,000mAh battery, and an IP67 rating. The latter isn’t something you can find in every phone at this price point, and it ups the value proposition a fair amount.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G verdict
It’ll cost you R8,000 to own one of these. As phones with this feature-set go, that’s not a massive amount of money. But whether you should buy a Galaxy A53 or not relies heavily on what your last Samsung smartphone was. If you already own a Galaxy A52 or the A52 S, you can give this one a miss. The performance upgrade isn’t worth plonking down more money for. But if you’ve got anything older, and are looking to upgrade to a feature-packed budget phone, Samsung’s A-series headliner is worthy of your attention. And your cash.