Samsung Galaxy A53 5G Review: Hardly an Upgrade | Engadget

Samsung’s Galaxy A52 5G was not the best mid-range phone you could buy in 2021, but it did have some eye-catching features, including a responsive screen and a versatile camera. It was easy to imagine the company repeating the A52 5G to make it the top of its class. Unfortunately, the Galaxy A53 5G is not dramatically different from its predecessor. Samsung has made a handful of tweaks by adding a more efficient processor and a larger battery. But at best, they want to spread the word. Worse, in some ways the phone feels like a step backwards.


A close-up of the Galaxy A53's front-facing camera.

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Let’s start with what has not changed. The A53 has a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2,400 times 1,080, 800 nits maximum brightness and a refresh rate of 120 Hz. That screen is the main reason to buy the A53 – it’s big, vibrant, fast and makes everything from scrolling through social media to watching videos enjoyable. It does not support HDR or offer a variable refresh rate like some of Samsung’s more expensive phones, but that’s not the big issue. Even with the screen set to 120Hz, I could get almost two full days of moderate use and easy play from the 5,000 mAh battery.

Galaxy A53 5G


  • A large and fast 120Hz screen
  • Two days battery life
  • $ 50 cheaper than Galaxy A52 5G


  • sluggish performance
  • No more headphone jacks
  • Does not come with a power adapter


Samsung's latest phone comes with a quad camera array.  The main camera of 64 megapixels is the standout of the package.

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

The A53 also comes with the same quad camera system as the A52 5G. What stands out here is the 64-megapixel main sensor with an f / 1.8 aperture lens and optical image stabilization. On a sunny day, the camera and Samsung’s image software consistently take pictures with saturated colors. It is also surprisingly good at preserving both shadow and highlight details in high-contrast scenes. The main camera struggles when there is not much light, producing images with a noticeable amount of noise, but this is something you see on many mid-range phones.

A supportive 5 MP depth sensor helps the A53’s main camera capture comfortable portraits. The A53 also includes one of the better macro modes I’ve used on a midrange device, thanks to an interface that makes it easy to make sure you’ve focused on your subject. With plenty of light, the 32 MP selfie camera is also capable of taking flattering pictures. By default, Samsung’s beauty filter uses a moderate amount of smoothing, which you can adjust by tapping the “magic wand” icon at the top.

Gallery: Samsung Galaxy A53 56 camera samples | 24 pictures

Then there’s the 12 MP ultra-wide camera that feels like an afterthought. It does a decent job of capturing scenes that are too large for the main lens, but there is a noticeable decrease in quality due to its lower resolution. One oddity I noticed across all of the A53’s cameras is that they are not good at adjusting for color temperature. Many of the photos I took showed a noticeable shade of green or purple. They were easy enough to fix with an editing app like Snapseed, but not everyone has the patience for it.

Overall, the A53 has a suitable camera system, but I think it’s a missed opportunity. With the A52 5G, Samsung was already behind. Sure, it offered versatility, but phones like the Pixel 5a could take consistently better pictures. The A53 does nothing to position Samsung better relative to competitors in the mid-range market, and it will likely feel even more outdated when the Pixel 6a comes out.

Unlike its predecessor, the Galaxy A53 does not have a headphone jack.

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

However, there are things that Samsung has changed, starting with the exterior of the phone. The company has shaved 0.3 millimeters of A53 to make it 8.1 mm thick. At the same time, it removed the headphone jack. From this review, Samsung is offering a free set of Galaxy Buds Live when you buy the A53 through its website, so at least the company is helping to ease the transition? Still, it’s a shame to see the headphone jack go off, because it made the A52 5G something unique.

What makes the external tweaks even more disappointing is that Samsung has not solved any of the issues we had with the A52 5G’s finish. The matte material on the back of the phone is still a magnet for fingerprints and stains. Also in the US, Samsung again only offers the phone in dull black.


A side view of the A53 5G.

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

I could overlook the fact that Samsung removed the headphone jack and left the camera as it is if the A53 was fast. Mediocre performance was one of the main reasons we did not recommend the A52 5G, and the one notable update that the A53 brings to the table is a new chipset. Samsung has equipped this year’s model with its own Exynos 1280 SoC, and that is by far the most disappointing thing about the phone.

In short, it’s not much of an upgrade over the A52 5G’s Snapdragon 750G. In my testing, the A53 often came to a standstill when I tried to switch between apps, and there was consistently the notch of regular use. It was also slow to start and operate the camera app, with a second delay between me pressing the shutter button and the camera triggering. It was even worse when I tried to play games.

Samsung claims that the Exynos 1280 offers up to 33 percent faster graphics than the Snapdragon 750G, but I saw regular frame rate drops in games like e.g. League of Legends: Wild Rift and Genshin Impact. I suspect that some of the A53’s performance issues stem from the fact that the phone only comes with 6GB of RAM. Unfortunately, Samsung does not offer an 8GB variant in the US.

The A53 comes with Android 12 and the latest version of One UI, along with promised four years of platform updates and five years of security fixes. It is among the best support you can find on a device at this price and Samsung should be commended for this. But I doubt you will hold on to this phone for that long. I can see myself getting tired of the slow processor within a year.


A widescreen image of the Galaxy A53.

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

For $ 450, the A53 costs $ 50 less than the A52 5G. This may seem like a bonus, but Samsung does not ship the phone with a wall charger anymore, and it has not added wireless charging. The company’s 25W power adapter costs $ 20 extra. In addition to the Galaxy Buds Live promotion, which I mentioned earlier, the company is currently offering up to $ 100 off the A53 if you replace your existing device.

The A53 is a good buy if you want the best display you can find for under $ 500, but there are better all-around options. For example, the Pixel 5a has a cleaner version of Android, faster updates as well as a headphone jack and more consistent camera.

A close-up of the Galaxy A53's main camera array.

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

If you are set on a Samsung phone and have $ 100 extra to spend, consider the Galaxy S21 FE. At $ 700, it was overpriced. But today, you can regularly find it for around $ 550. It offers a much faster processor with WiFi 6 support. These are things that will allow you to keep the S21 FE for longer than you would with the A53.

Had Samsung done more to secure the future of the A53, it would have been easier for me to recommend. But with a medium-sized chipset and a camera that feels stuck in the past, you’re better off spending your money on a phone that you’ll be happy with for years to come.

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