Samsung Galaxy A53 5G review: Not Samsung’s best
Quick verdict: The Samsung Galaxy A53 is an entirely adequate phone, but it doesn’t compare well against other phones in its price class – or even cheaper options like the Galaxy A33 5G.
- 4 years of updates
- 120Hz Super AMOLED display is lovely
- Water resistance
- Same essential spec as the cheaper Galaxy A33
- Hey, where’s the battery charger?
- Lacks wireless charging
Power, storage and battery
|Launch price (RRP)||$0|
The Galaxy A53 5G is one among many, many Samsung Galaxy A series phones available to Australian consumers. It's a bit befuddling, really. Outside price points it can be genuinely hard to work out where the differences and value lie.
I've tested the Galaxy A53 5G extensively over the last week alongside the smaller and slightly cheaper Galaxy A33 5G, and I won't lie – sometimes I've picked up the A53 when I meant to grab the A33, and vice versa. They're very similar phones on the surface, but the extra money you pay for the A53 does buy you a few additional niceties.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G review: 2 colours, plain but effective design
Like the Galaxy A33 5G, if you want to buy the Galaxy A53 5G in Australia, you're stuck with just 2 colour choices. You can grab "Awesome Black" or "Awesome Blue", because Samsung's marketing department never met a superlative it couldn't abuse in some way.
The Awesome Blue finish is what I've tested with and is a pale blue that's generally pleasing to the eye. I did appreciate the fact that it's a matte finish, so the quantity of fingerprints it collects on a daily basis is minimal.
The Galaxy A53 5G differentiates itself from the A33 5G at the front with a slightly larger display, measuring in at 6.5 inches with an FHD+ Super AMOLED panel capable of up to 120Hz refresh rates. It also features a hole punch style camera, a feature it shares with the slightly more expensive Galaxy A73 5G. Remember when I said there was quite an array of phones to pick from?
Unlike the fancier Galaxy S series phones, the Galaxy A53 5G relies on a fixed transition of either 60Hz or 120Hz rather than a more battery-friendly stepped refresh rates approach, but that's the price you pay for a less pricey handset.
Still, Samsung's A series phones have stood out in the mid-range space for some years now thanks to the use of the company's Super AMOLED panels. They deliver a rich and vibrant display for photos, videos and apps across the board. While 120Hz isn't unique to Samsung at this price point, it's still a very welcome addition.
The Galaxy A53 5G omits any kind of headphone jack, so if you want wired headphones you'll have to spring extra for a USB C adaptor to do so. The right-hand side houses power and volume buttons, while unlocking is handled by a capable (but not particularly quick) fingerprint reader.
In the mid-range and budget range I all too often find in-display readers to be plagued with false negatives while unlocking, but this was rare during my review time with the Galaxy A53 5G.
The Galaxy A53 5G is also water resistant, with an IP67 rating that should see it survive inadvertent drops into liquids. As always that's measured against clean lab water so I wouldn't suggest dunking it into your coffee for fun. Still, it's a feature that you don't always see on mid-range phones at all. I never drowned the A53 5G (and you shouldn't do so deliberately either) but it certainly survived a few impromptu rain showers without issue.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G review: Quad cameras offer lots of shot choices
I tested the Galaxy A53 5G alongside the Galaxy A33 5G, and it's not hard to see the A53 model as the premium camera choice. It features a rear 4 lens array, comprised of a primary 64MP wide sensor, 12MP ultrawide sensor, 5MP macro and 5MP depth sensor. At the front, the hole punch houses a 32MP selfie camera.
It's a nice group of cameras that delivers decent quality shots with a good range of shot choices open to you. The notably absent lens is of course telephoto, with only digital zoom at up to 10x offered. That primary 64MP sensor can only do so much in this capacity.
It's not quite a pro grade camera, of course, but if you're more of a novice who needs guidance, Samsung does a little more than most to make your shots stand out. This includes a range of Snapchat lenses under the "Fun" tab of the Samsung camera app, as well as more established Samsung tricks like "Single Take", which captures a range of shots and videos in one big burst while applying its AI-led choice of filters and frames.
The end result is one of generally pleasing photos, with only a few issues. I did hit a few instances where the A53's focus wasn't quite as quick as I might have liked, and predictably night modes aren't quite up there with the best.
Galaxy A53 5G sample photos:
Performance: Samsung makes some odd processor choices sometimes
At a software level, the Galaxy A53 5G is an Android 12 phone with Samsung's own OneUI launcher on top. I personally prefer a cleaner Android look, but amongst the third-party launchers Samsung's generally introduces the least lag and confusion in my own experience.
One added bonus here is that the Galaxy A53 5G will see at least 4 Android updates through its life, alongside regular security updates. You're not likely to see them faster than you would on a Pixel phone of course, but then Google hasn't released a budget Pixel A series phone in Australia since the Pixel 4a 5G.
At a hardware level, Samsung made a distinct choice when building the Galaxy A53 5G. Where the fancier A73 5G gets a Snapdragon 778G processor, the lower cost Galaxy A53 5G runs on Samsung's own Exynos 1280 silicon with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage.
Where this gets really interesting is that this is the exact same make-up of the even cheaper Galaxy A33 5G, which puts the supposedly "value pick" of the Galaxy A53 5G into question.
The $699 price point of the Galaxy A53 5G is also a tricky one. It's not "cheap" in a real sense, but it's within striking distance of some of the very best mid-range phones right now.
If you're not wed to Android, it's a small distance between the A53 5G and Apple's superlative iPhone SE 2022, for example. Even within the Android space, you could score a solid handset like the Motorola Moto Edge 20 at the same price point.
So how do all these handsets compare? Here's how the Exynos 1280 stacks up against those phones, as well as the comparable Galaxy A33 5G:
On the graphics front, the Mali-G68 GPU in the Galaxy A53 is likewise good, but not best in class. Here's how it compares using 3DMark's GPU tests:
It's not a great look for the value comparison of the Galaxy A53 5G, though it is worth putting it into a more real world context.
The Galaxy A53 5G is an entirely capable handset across every app I've put to it. Like most mid-range phones with just 6GB of onboard RAM it is possible to overload it, leading to some lag. For most users that's not likely to be a big problem.
Ultimately what you're getting is a solid handset, but the problem is that you can get the same solid performance from a Samsung phone that costs $100 less, or get considerably better performance for the same price, or only a little more.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G battery: Hey, what happened to the charger?
Underneath the display, the Galaxy A53 5G features a 5,000mAh battery. That's very much par for the course for mid-range Android phones right now.
Samsung's own estimates for the Galaxy A53 5G is that it's capable of 2 days of battery life.
To put that to the test, I first put the Galaxy A53 5G through Finder's battery test. Typically phones that can manage above 90% in that test can easily make it through a day's usage. Here's how it compares:
It's pleasing to note that 93% figure despite the 120Hz capability of the Galaxy A53 5G, because it's so often a battery sapper.
However, will the Galaxy A53 5G really last 2 days? Based on my more anecdotal tests, it very much more depends on how you might define those 2 days. Could I get the Galaxy A53 5G into a second day of usage without charging? Yeah, that's totally feasible.
Lasting 48 hours is a different matter. If you're using the Galaxy A53 5G at a moderate level or more, or using it consistently on a 5G connection, you're much less likely to see that second day.
You're also limited when it comes to recharging the phone. There's no wireless charging on board, for a start. Samsung only sent me the handset itself to test, but in retail packaging it ships with a USB C cable but no supplied charger at all.
Should you buy it?
- Buy it if you want a slightly larger Galaxy A33 5G.
- Don't buy it if you want best value for money at this price point.
Samsung's Galaxy A series phones have always been about value, delivering the key features of its flagship Galaxy S phones at a more affordable price point.
I've got no issue with saying that the Galaxy A33 5G is a good value phone at its price point.
At the $699 price point of the Galaxy A53 5G, though, that's a harder call to make. It's by no means a bad handset, and you won't struggle with it in any real way.
However, it can't be denied that other competing handsets at the same price point outpace it in performance and battery life. The cheaper Galaxy A33 runs near identically in a performance sense. It's also right smack bang in the price space where last year's flagship Galaxy S21 phones can now be purchased with just a little digging around.
All of this adds up to a phone that's never poor – except that it's comparatively poor value.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G review: Pricing and availability
The Samsung Galaxy A53 retails in Australia for $699 outright. It's also available on contract through Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Woolworths Mobile.
Power, storage and battery
How we tested
The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G was tested over a 1-week period alongside the Galaxy A33 5G.