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This Samsung phone is the one most people should buy (and it's not a flagship)

It's not Ultra-premium (or even a Plus size), but the Galaxy A54 delivers where it matters most.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G on a tabletop.
June Wan/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • At $449, the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G is one of the best mid-range phones you can buy this year.
  • Its best features include the 6.4-inch, 120Hz AMOLED display, a 5,000mAh battery, and the triple camera setup at the rear.
  • The competitive price does come at a cost, with Samsung dropping wireless charging support and some other camera features found on more expensive models.

Samsung makes a lot of phones. Some of them have 200-megapixel cameras. Some of them flip and fold. But every year when analysts break down the sales figures of all models, it's the less-flashy Galaxy A-series that sits at the top.

Also: The best Android phones that we tested this year

Case in point, I'm expecting a similar tale with the new Galaxy A54 5G, a $450 phone that absolutely nails the essentials -- things like a large display that feels as smooth as it looks, battery life that lasts, and software stability that similarly-priced phones simply can't match. It's a well-balanced package, and it's the phone that I recommend to most people right now.

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I won't make this a "go out and buy it now" campaign for the Galaxy A54, because it certainly has its quirks. In fact, I'll start by listing the primary reasons why this phone may not be for you:

  1. It doesn't have "pro" camera features like 100X zoom, 8K video recording, and AI enhancements to nightography.
  2. There's no wireless charging support.
  3. It's not as small as the 6.4-inch dimension makes it out to be.

If you can handle those drawbacks, then the Galaxy A54 5G delivers a smartphone experience much like any other that costs hundreds of dollars more. 

Also: The best cheap 5G phones you can buy

I've been alternating between the $799 Galaxy S23 model and the A54 and the difference in performance between the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor powering the former and the Exynos 1380 in the latter is most noticeable in gaming and day-to-day animations. The A54 can take a good minute or two longer to boot up, and loading apps for the first time can take an extra second, but the rest of my daily experiences have been on par with the Galaxy S23.

The Samsung Galaxy A54 in Lilac and the Galaxy S23 in cream.

Appearance-wise, the Galaxy A54 looks more like an S-series device than ever

June Wan/ZDNET

Samsung made some design changes to all of its A-series handsets this year -- and for the better. Stack the Galaxy A54 against the Galaxy S23 and you'd have a tough time discerning which model is which. That is unless you look at the thicker front bezels on the cheaper phone or know what colors are exclusive to each.

Also: Change this one Android setting to instantly make your phone feel twice as fast

With the Galaxy A54, you get the options of Awesome Graphite and Awesome Violet, at least within the U.S. Other regions have more playful colors like green and white, but personalization shouldn't be a problem when phone cases exist.

Holding the Samsung Galaxy A54

Awesome Violet has pastel shades of purple and blue.

June Wan/ZDNET

No matter what color you choose, the point is clear that Samsung wants to give budget-conscious customers devices that are just as fashionable as the ones that cost more. Sure, you'll notice a difference between the Galaxy A54's plastic railing and the aluminum material found in pricier options, but the glass backing -- which was previously all-plastic on the A-series -- more than makes up for it.

Also: How to clear the cache on your Android device (and why you should)

For photos and videos, there are three rear cameras on the Galaxy A54: a 50MP wide, a 12MP ultra-wide, and a 5MP macro. In most situations, whether that's capturing portrait photos, food shots, or slow-panning videos, the main 50MP shooter is your best option, rendering the least amount of blurriness and exposure problems out of the three. 

Seafood stew, captured by the Samsung Galaxy A54.

The Galaxy A54 nails the sharpness of subjects, but the saturation can be dialed down a notch.

June Wan/ZDNET

Samsung also provides optical image stabilization (OIS) on the main lens, a feature that's less prevalent the further you shop downmarket, giving the A54 much-needed stability when taking photos at night, and an advantage point compared to its closest competitors. 

Also: The best Samsung phones you can buy

Lastly, the unsung hero of the Galaxy A54 is its never-dying battery life. The handset has a 5,000mAh capacity, which is in line with every other big Android phone on the market this year, but trust me when I say that it's been a struggle pushing this below 20%. For reference, I have had the phone set to 120Hz refresh rate, near maxed out for brightness (capped at 1,000 nits), and with location services and Bluetooth always on. 

ZDNET's buying advice

The endurance numbers alone make the Galaxy A54 an easy phone to recommend. But, to Samsung's credit, the A54 is just a well-rounded handset that flexes between flagship features and thoughtful compromises, and its $450 price tag is the icing on the cake.

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