Oppo A54 5G review: Cheap 5G, but not much else
Quick verdict: The Oppo A54 5G brings 5G access down to its lowest price to date, but there are just too many other performance compromises to deal with to make it a worthwhile handset.
- Affordable 5G
- NFC onboard
- Screen protector and case supplied
- Mediocre battery life
- Sluggish performance
Power, storage and battery
|Launch price (RRP)||$399|
5G networks globally are rolling out at an increasing pace, but there's not much point in having a 5G network if the only folks who can afford devices are looking in the premium space. We've recently seen a whole host of mid-range 5G handsets through Finder's labs, but the Oppo A54 5G can claim to be the first 5G handset to land with us that sits at a truly budget price point.
Sadly, outside that 5G compatibility, there's just not that much worth getting excited about with the Oppo A54 5G, a phone that's outclassed not only by its premium A74 5G sibling, but also by most other phones within its price bracket.
- 6.5-inch FHD display
- Two colour choices
- Simple plastic body
- Side fingerprint sensor doesn't always work
In Australia, Oppo sells the Oppo A54 5G in two colour choices: either "Fluid Black" or "Fantastic Purple". While those are rather flowery marketing names, they're fairly appealing colours on the surface, although like most shiny plastic phones they pick up fingerprints at an alarming rate once you start using them.
The front-facing 6.5-inch display has a resolution of 2400x1080, so it's more technically FHD+, and quite welcome at this price point where we do still sometimes see lower resolution screens creep in. There's a left-hand-side "holepunch" style notch for the front-facing camera, made slightly more distinct by the fact that Oppo ships the Oppo A54 5G with a screen protector already applied.
The Oppo A54 5G places its volume controls on the left, while the right houses a combination power button and fingerprint reader, a feature that's very much a trend for 2021 mid-priced handsets.
As a power button it's perfectly fine, but I did struggle with it properly recognising my enrolled digits during the review period. A long, slender fingerprint reader is always going to have a slightly smaller strike zone relative to a rear-mounted circular or rectangular reader, even if it does save some design space on the rear of the phone.
- Multiple cameras on offer
- Macro is ordinary
The Oppo A54 5G's rear camera array is certainly an imposing creature, rather reminiscent of the camera bumps found on some of Samsung's premium Galaxy phones. However, the reality of its budget price point does mean that you're not getting an absolute bargain here in camera terms.
The primary sensor clocks in at 48MP f/1.7, joined by an 8MP f/2.2 ultrawide 119-degree sensor and 2MP macro camera. You also get a 2MP monochrome sensor, but keep your dreams of black and white arty photographs at a distance, because it's used purely to add contrast to other photos.
Like every other 2MP macro I've tested in the past year or so, the Oppo A54 5G's macro lens is nothing special at all. Lots of patience and luck will be needed if you want to get that nicely composed insect closeup shot, and you'll more often miss than you'll succeed by a wide margin.
The ultrawide lens is somewhat similar; it's capable enough if a little soft in shooting, and the difference in quality between it and the primary lens is remarkable. That will leave you most of the time shooting with the primary 48MP lens, which can manage digital zoom of up to 6x. Like most digital zooms, the effort isn't always worth it.
The issue here is that while Oppo once trailblazed into the affordable camera space with approaches that were innovative and worked well for their time, this is just another camera phone in the mid-range space, and not a particularly stunning one. It'll handle your everyday shots fairly well, but Oppo's own reputation for camera quality works against it here.
- Snapdragon 480 fails to stand out
- 4GB of RAM is low for a phone at this price point
- NFC ready
The 5G phones we've seen to date in the lower cost spectrum have tended to gravitate towards Mediatek's Dimensity platform to keep costs down, but Oppo has instead used Qualcomm's Snapdragon 480, paired up with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage, expandable via microSD card. The Snapdragon 480, like other Snapdragon 400-series processors of the past, isn't a high-end product, so I was keen to see how the Oppo A54 5G compared to other phones in its price range, putting 5G aside. Here's how it compares using Geekbench 5's CPU test against phones in the same price bracket
Here's how its Adreno 619 GPU fares comparatively using 3DMark's graphics benchmark:
The Oppo A54 5G benchmarks at a fairly similar rate to that of the slightly more expensive Oppo A74 5G, but when you do start to use it, you can quickly pick the real-world difference in performance. Both are Android 11 based phones running Oppo's own ColorOS launcher on the top, but the A74 5G benefits from a RAM boost up to 6GB that makes a big difference when you're actually using apps on an ongoing basis. It's not unusual to see a little stuttering in true budget phones these days, but it's a little unusual to see it in a phone that costs a dollar short of $400. That's essentially the price you pay for 5G compatibility, because you can pretty clearly get a slicker-performing phone for the same kind of money.
One nice inclusion that Oppo hasn't always dropped into its phones that's present in the Oppo A54 5G is NFC support, so the phone can act as a payment gateway for services such as Google Pay.
- 5,000mAh battery performs under expectations
- 10W charging is slow by Oppo's usual standards
The Oppo A54 5G runs on a sealed 5,000mAh battery pack. We're seeing a lot of phones jump up to 5,000mAh with varying results when it comes to real-world battery usage. Simply taking the battery number at face value won't tell you everything you need to know about actual battery endurance.
Here the story for the Oppo A54 5G is a decidedly mixed one. In our standard battery rundown test, where we loop a YouTube streaming video on a phone with a full battery at maximum brightness and moderate volume for an hour, the Oppo A54 5G only just skirts the 90% battery mark that typically denotes a phone that will struggle to stay alive for a full working day. Here's how it compared using that test:
In day-to-day use the Oppo A54 5G fared a little better, showing that it should manage a day or maybe a day and a half on moderate usage patterns. However, that was all within 4G zones, and a clear reason to buy the Oppo A54 5G would be that 5G network support. 5G is a notorious battery hog, so if you're going for that theoretically faster data, you'll pay for it in battery life terms.
The Oppo A54 5G once again also compares poorly to its slightly more expensive sibling when it comes to charging the battery up. The Oppo A74 5G supports wired charging at up to 18W, but the Oppo A54 5G tops out at just 10W charging, meaning it'll take considerably longer to top up its battery when it goes flat.
Should you buy the Oppo A54 5G?
- Buy it if you need 5G and you're on a tight budget.
- Don't buy it if you want good battery life or performance.
Oppo has a long history of providing some pretty excellent value handsets to the market. However, the Oppo A54 5G just isn't one of them. It compares poorly against the Oppo A74 5G, a very similar phone that only costs a little more but outperforms it in the key areas of performance and battery life, and otherwise doesn't stack up well at this price point against other 4G-capable handsets.
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Power, storage and battery
Images: Alex Kidman