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

Samsung's latest upper mid-range smartphone punches above its $450 price and after a few weeks with it I'm left wondering why I spend twice the amount on flagship smartphones.
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Written by Matthew Miller, Contributor on

While flagship smartphones seem to get most of the attention, the mid-range market has made huge strides over the past couple of years, thanks to advances in technology and better support for long-term software updates. After spending a few weeks with the new Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, it is clear I could continue to fully function with a mid-range phone and save hundreds of dollars over what I spend now on flagships.

Also: The best Samsung phones: Explore a new Galaxy

Samsung's recent public commitment to software upgrades, including for the Galaxy A53 5G, is a significant reason to consider the A53 5G over a Google Pixel 5A 5G. Samsung is offering one year more support than Google, and it has already proven over the past couple of years that it is serious about timely Android security updates. I am personally not a fan of Google's Pixel hardware due to device failure, bugs, and substandard cellular reception. On the other hand, Samsung phones have some of the best reception of any phone, advanced software features are included as part of OneUI, and Samsung offers a near-flagship experience for the same price.

Pros
  • Affordable price
  • Solid battery life
  • Reliable cellular performance
  • Lovely display
  • Good camera results
Cons
  • Occasional performance lag

While Samsung's flagship phones are double the price of the A53 5G, the S21 FE is just $150 more. For that price increase, you get a better processor, more cameras, and Samsung DeX while you do give up a microSD card slot. The A53 is a great option at less than $500, and I would personally choose it over the Google Pixel 5a, TCL 20 Proand other sub-$500 mid-range phones. There are some other great options, but the Samsung's commitment to software support is something that other smartphones in this price range cannot offer.

Also: Best Samsung phone: Explore 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. Something a bit rare on a sub-$450 phone is the support for a screen refresh rate up to 120 Hz so you can experience smooth scrolling on the phone. A center hole-punch, 32MP front-facing camera is positioned in the display with adequate minimal bezels on all four sides so you can hold and use the phone with ease.

A glossy black plastic edge encases the phone with power and volume buttons on the right, a USB-C port, speaker, and mic on the bottom, and a mic opening on the top. There is no 3.5mm headphone jack, but there is a microSD card slot in with the SIM card tray on the bottom.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNet

The back has a lovely matte finish in the Awesome Black color scheme. Fingerprint smudges will appear on the back panel, but they wipe off easily too. A simple Samsung branding is also located on the back. Four camera openings and a flashlight are found on the back in the upper left corner. The back panel transitions seamlessly up from the flat back and around the cameras, giving it an elegant, finished appearance. Samsung labels this design feature as Ambient Edge.

Starting at the top left and working down in a column, Samsung provides a 12MP ultra-wide camera, 64MP main camera, and a 5MP depth sensor. We find a 5MP macro camera with the LED flash below it to the right. The camera performance has been solid, and I particularly like that the depth sensor supports portrait mode shots without having to stand back far away from the subject. Macro shots also look great from the Galaxy A53.

The Samsung Galaxy A53 has a large 5000 mAh battery and when combined with the Samsung processor getting two days of battery life out of the phone is a likely result. Wireless charging is not supported, but 25W fast charging is with the right charger. Note that there is no charger included in the box with the Galaxy A53, another way Samsung was able to save some money.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNet

5G is supported, including support for mmWave, and in my testing, I was able to experience rock solid cellular performance and fast download/upload speeds. Samsung leads in this area, and if staying connected in poor coverage areas is important to you, then you should consider a Samsung phone.

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G specifications

  • Processor: Samsung Exynos 1280
  • Main display: 6.5-inch, 2400 x 1080 pixels resolution, Super AMOLED Infinity-O with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Operating system: Android 12 with OneUI 4.1
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB internal storage with microSD card slot
  • Cameras: 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2, 64MP f/1.8 wide angle, 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor, and 5MP f/2.4 macro camera. 32MP f/2.2 front-facing camera.
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 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: IP67 rating
  • Battery: 5000mAh non-removable with fast charging support.
  • Dimensions: 159.6 x 74.8 x 8.1mm and 189 grams
  • Color: Awesome Black

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

Also: Galaxy S21 FE 5G review: Flagship specs, excellent reception and Samsung goodies

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G software 

The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G launches with Android 12 and Samsung One UI 4.1. The April 1, 2022, Android security update is present on our review unit. Samsung's new software upgrade policy means you will likely receive up to four operating system upgrades and five years of security updates. The company has a proven track record of regular security updates, and I look forward to experiencing extended support for Samsung's phones.

I personally find value in some Samsung apps, such as 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, are also installed on the A53 5G by default.

With Samsung Calendar, you can have Google Calendar, Outlook, and other calendar services all appear on one consolidated calendar interface. Internet provides a better overall browsing experience than Google Chrome. The Samsung Gallery lets you quickly and easily create a custom collage while Google Photos puts the photos where Google wants to position them.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNet

The camera software is the most significant app from Samsung on the A53. There are a ton 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, hyper-lapse, and macro. This is the first time I've seen the fun mode on a Samsung phone, and it looks to bring in effects from Snapchat Lenses. If there are modes that you use often, then tap and hold on the mode and drag it into the quick access menu so that you don't have to first tap on the More option to view all of the modes.

Also: Galaxy S22 Ultra review: Any more perfect, and it'd be an iPhone 13 Pro Max

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

Daily experiences and conclusions

When I saw the announcement for the Galaxy A53, I did not get that excited since I did not expect a sub-$450 Samsung phone was worth considering. After a few weeks of using the phone, I now question why I'm spending twice the price, and more, for the latest flagships. Granted, photo quality is better with the high-end flagships, but I'm just capturing and sharing photos with family and friends as an amateur. I have limited photo skills and am not going to win any photo contests, so I don't really care about having the ultimate shooter in my hand.

While the display's high refresh rate is fantastic, I do see a bit of lag in content appearing on the display and when switching apps from time to time. It really only bothers me if I jump over to a flagship and can see the differences, but for the low $450 price, it is clearly an acceptable compromise and one that the majority of owners are unlikely to notice.

One function that bothers me on my iPhone 13 Pro Max is that I have to stand 20 feet away from someone to get a good portrait shot outside. The depth sensor on the Galaxy A53 supports staying close to the subject to capture decent portrait shots. In addition, there are several shooting modes to help you get creative with photography, even if you are not a professional.

If you are looking to save some money on a smartphone and want an option that will help you get work done and have fun, then the Samsung A53 5G is worth your consideration. The comfort in knowing you can count on years of software updates is a major benefit and something that sets Samsung apart in the mid-range market. Capable specifications, expandable storage, and high-quality construction make this a phone that should perform well for years.

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