Editor's note, March 16, 2023: Samsung just announced a new version of this phone, called the Galaxy A54 5G, which we look forward to testing soon.
Samsung's new Galaxy A53 5G has a lot to offer for the price, just like last year's Galaxy A52 5G. With a spacious 6.5-inch display, a camera with lenses for wide, ultrawide and macro shots and long battery life, it's easy to forget this phone costs just $450 (£399, AU$699). That also makes it $50 cheaper than its predecessor, and Galaxy A53 5G is guaranteed to get at least four generations of Android updates. It supports all three flavors of 5G: sub-6GHz, C-band and millimeter-wave.
There's certainly a lot to like about this phone, but its low price means there are some compromises to be made. You may experience some occasional lag since it runs on a less powerful processor. The camera isn't as good as the one you'd get on a pricier phone such as the $800 Galaxy S22 or the Galaxy S21 FE, which launched at $700 but now sells for $550 and has a more refined design.
- Big screen
- Long battery life
- Versatile camera for the price
- Four years of Android updates
- Expandable storage
- Some performance lag
- Screen can be hard to see in bright sunlight
That said, the Galaxy A53 5G delivers more than enough for the price -- especially considering the similarly priced iPhone SE has a significantly smaller screen and just one rear camera. If you're looking for a solid Android phone that costs less than $500, you won't be disappointed with the Galaxy A53 5G.
A familiar Samsung design with a big screen
The Galaxy A53 5G follows what has seemingly become a design formula for Samsung. It has a nearly borderless screen with a hole punch cutout for the selfie camera, while the back of the device has a matte finish with a cutout for its multilens camera.
I call this a "formula" because we've seen similar designs from Samsung in the past. The Galaxy A53 looks almost identical to the Galaxy S21 FE as well as last year's Galaxy A52 5G. There's nothing new or interesting here in terms of aesthetics, but I wouldn't expect anything too flashy from a phone of this price. Just be sure to use it with a case since it collects fingerprint smudges easily.
The Galaxy A53 5G has a 6.5-inch AMOLED screen with a 2,400x1,080-pixel resolution. That makes it a lot larger than the 6.1-inch Galaxy S22 and the 4.7-inch iPhone SE. It's also a hair larger than the 6.4-inch Galaxy S21 FE and slightly smaller than the 6.6-inch Galaxy S22 Plus. If you prefer phones with larger screens but want to spend less than $500, the Galaxy A53 5G strikes that balance.
My one complaint is that the display can be difficult to see in sunlight. On more than one occasion, I had to crank the screen's brightness all the way up when using it outdoors.
Long battery life and OK performance
The Galaxy A53 5G has a 5,000-mAh battery, which matches the $1,200 Galaxy S22 Ultra's capacity. That goes a long way in a phone like the Galaxy A53, which isn't as large or powerful as Samsung's top-of-the-line Ultra. I was easily able to get more than a day's worth of battery life even with the display's refresh rate set to high. After a full day's worth of use, I still had more than 50% of the battery left the next morning.
Battery life will vary, however, depending on usage. To give you some context, I used the A53 for a 13-minute phone call, spent half an hour taking photos, played the racing game Asphalt 9 for 10 minutes and had the screen set to full brightness for 15 minutes while outdoors. That's in addition to using the phone to check notifications, email, social media and other apps throughout the day. I also used the phone with its refresh rate set to high. We'll update this review with results from CNET's official battery test at a later date, but I'm happy with what I've experienced so far.
Since the Galaxy A53 5G is a less expensive phone, it also runs on a less powerful processor. The Galaxy A53 relies on Samsung's midrange Exynos 1280 chip, while the pricier Galaxy S22 lineup is powered by either Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Samsung's Exynos 2200. Most of the time, you might not even notice that the A53 runs on a different processor than the Galaxy S22. Games like Asphalt 9 and Shadowgun Legends run smoothly, and scrolling through the interface feels fluid most of the time. The fact that the A53 5G can boost its refresh rate up to 120Hz certainly helps with that.
I did experience some occasional lag. There were a few instances in which the keyboard didn't pop up as quickly as it should, or when I had to press the home button multiple times to quit an app. I also noticed some sluggishness when using the search bar to retrieve apps. It didn't happen often enough to feel disruptive to the overall experience, but it was frequent enough to notice. This was most apparent just after restarting the phone.
Benchmark tests told a similar story, considering the Galaxy A53 5G scored significantly lower than the Galaxy S21 FE and iPhone SE.
A versatile camera for the price that's good but not great
The Galaxy A53 5G's camera stands out for its versatility more than its image quality. The phone comes with a 64-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, 5-megapixel macro camera and 5-megapixel depth camera. But it's really the main and ultra-wide cameras that I found myself using the most often.
The fact that you get ultra-wide camera and night mode as well as editing tools like Samsung's object eraser on a phone of this price feels like a win. The Galaxy A53 5G isn't the only phone in that price range with those features; Google's $449 Pixel 5A with 5G also has an ultrawide lens and Google's Night Sight. But it's still a great value for the price. The iPhone SE, on the other hand, only has a single-lens 12-megapixel main camera without night mode.
Image quality on the Galaxy A53 is good but not great. Photos were clear and colorful, but I often felt like the iPhone SE and more expensive Galaxy S21 FE did a better job with color and lighting. Some of the Galaxy A53's photos that I took in bright sunlight looked washed out by comparison. It might be hard to tell in this review, but I noticed this when looking at the full-sized files on my monitor.
That said, if you're not picky and just want an affordable phone that can take decent photos, the Galaxy A53 5G will do the trick. And most people will likely be viewing photos directly on their phones rather than on a 27-inch monitor.
Galaxy A53 5G
Galaxy S21 FE
There's no telephoto lens on the Galaxy A53 5G, so don't count on taking great photos from far away. Here's a photo I took with the A53 5G's digital zoom up to 10x compared with the same photo taken on the Galaxy S21 FE, which has an 8-megapixel telephoto lens. Let's be honest: Neither of these photos look great. But the sculpture's detail is clearer in the S21 FE's photo.
Galaxy A53 5G
Galaxy S21 FE
The Galaxy A53 took better photos in the dark compared to the iPhone SE, which lacks night mode. The Galaxy A53 and S21 FE's photos are similar, but I can see Buddy's stripes more easily in the S21 FE's image.
Galaxy A53 5G
Galaxy S21 FE
Portrait mode photos taken on the Galaxy A53 looked detailed and colorful, although not as bright as those taken on the iPhone SE and S21 FE.
Galaxy A53 5G
Galaxy S21 FE
I didn't find myself using the A53's macro and depth cameras too often. It almost feels like Samsung added these lenses just so it could say the Galaxy A53 has four cameras. But the 5-megapixel macro lens was fun to use when I could get it to focus properly.
Galaxy A53 5G
A photo taken with the Galaxy A53 5G's selfie camera looks crisp enough, but the Galaxy S21 FE's has more detail and color. Both phones have a 32-megapixel front-facing camera, which is a step above the iPhone SE's 7-megapixel front camera.
Galaxy A53 5G
Galaxy S21 FE
The newest software from Samsung and Google
The Galaxy A53 5G runs on Android 12 and One UI 4.1, the newest software from Google and Samsung, which ships with the Galaxy S22. This includes Samsung's system-wide refinements like more polished widgets, additional customization options for themes and color palettes, a more intuitive camera interface and more privacy features.
The Galaxy A53 5G is also eligible for four generations of Android operating system updates and five years of security updates, similar to Samsung's pricier phones. The Pixel 5A with 5G, on the other hand, only gets three years of Android version and security updates from its release.
The Galaxy A53 5G comes with some other extras that are worth noting. It supports up to 1TB of expandable storage -- which is a rare find on today's phones -- in addition to its 128GB of onboard space. You also get 25-watt fast charging just like the Galaxy S22 and S21 FE, although you must buy the power adapter separately. But unlike the Google Pixel 5A with 5G, there's no headphone jack on Samsung's $450 phone.
The bottom line
Samsung is doing its best to make this midrange phone feel like a premium device. It succeeds for the most part by giving the Galaxy A53 5G a large screen with a high refresh rate, multiple cameras, night mode photography and long battery life. But every once in a while, you'll get a reminder that this is indeed a midtier phone. An app might not close right away when you press the home button, or you may find yourself cranking up the screen's brightness when outdoors.
The Galaxy S21 FE is an incremental step forward for those who want a moderately improved camera and smoother performance. But I'd only recommend choosing it over the Galaxy A53 5G if you can find it for significantly less than its $700 launch price. (Right now, Amazon is selling it for $550 unlocked.)
The said, Samsung is also facing stiff competition from Apple and Google. The 2022 iPhone SE, for example, is missing a lot of the Galaxy A53's bells and whistles. But it has the same speedy chip as the iPhone 13, meaning there's a slim chance you'll experience any lag. And its single-lens 12-megapixel camera takes good photos with plenty of color.
The $449 Pixel 5A with 5G also gives Samsung a healthy run for its money. That phone has a nearly borderless screen, an ultrawide camera, night mode photography, a headphone jack and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor with solid performance. Plus, Google typically brings exclusive features to its own Pixel devices before launching them for other Android phones. But it's missing some other perks you'd get with the Galaxy A53 5G, like an in-screen fingerprint scanner (the Pixel's sensor is on the back), a 120Hz refresh rate for its display, expandable storage and an extra year of Android OS upgrades.
Overall, the Galaxy A53 5G has a lot to offer for the price, with the right balance of features for most people. If you just want a phone for basic tasks like reading the news, taking casual photos of your pets for Instagram and video chatting over Zoom, the Galaxy A53 5G will do just fine.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G specs vs. Google Pixel 5A with 5G, Apple iPhone SE (2022), Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
||Samsung Galaxy A53 5G||Google Pixel 5A with 5G||Apple iPhone SE (2022)||Samsung Galaxy S21 FE|
|Display size, resolution||6.5-inch AMOLED (2,400x1,080 pixels); 120 Hz||6.34-inch OLED; (2,400x1,080 pixels); 60 Hz||4.7-inch LCD; (1,334x750 pixels); 60 Hz||6.4-inch AMOLED; FHD Plus (2,400x1,080); 120 Hz|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.28 x 2.94 x 0.32 in||6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 in||5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 in||6.13 x 2.93 x 0.31 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||159.6 x 74.8 x 8.1 mm||156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8 mm||138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm||155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6.67 oz; 189g||6.45 oz; 183g||5.09 oz; 144g||6.24 oz; 177g|
|Mobile software||Android 12||Android 11||iOS 15||Android 11|
|Camera||64-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 5-megapixel (macro), 5-megapixel (depth)||12-megapixel (wide), 16-megapixel (ultrawide)||12-megapixel (wide)||12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 8-megapixel (telephoto)|
|Processor||Exynos 1280||Snapdragon 765G||Apple A15 Bionic||Snapdragon 888 (in the US)|
|Storage||128GB||128GB||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||128GB; 128GB; 256GB|
|Expandable storage||Up to 1TB||None||None||None|
|Battery||5,000 mAh (charger not included)||4,680 mAh||Undisclosed (charger not included)||4,500 mAh (charger not included)|
|Fingerprint sensor||In-display||Back||Home button||In-display|
|Special features||5G-enabled; IP67 rating; supports 25W wired fast charging, lacks wireless charging; Samsung Pay||5G-enabled, Titan M chipset (security chip), Dual-pixel main camera' IP67 water rating, Dual Sim, Stereo speakers; 18W fast charging||5G-enabled; Water resistant (IP67); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging||5G (Sub-6GHz and mmWave), 120 Hz display, IP68 rating, 25W wired charging, 15W wireless charging|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$450||$449||$429 (64GB), $479 (128GB), $579 (256GB)||$700 (6GB/128GB); $770 (8GB/256GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£399||Converts to roughly £350||£419 (64GB), £469 (128GB), £569 (256GB)||£699 (6GB/128GB); £749 (8GB/256GB)|
|Price (AUD)||AU$699||Converts to roughly AU$600||AU$749 (64GB), AU$829 (128GB), AU$999 (256GB)||AU$899 (6GB/128GB); AU$999 (8GB/256GB)|