(Pocket-lint) - With every new year comes a new generation of Samsung smartphones - and that isn't just true of the most expensive range.
While it's the flagship Galaxy S Series phones that always garner the most attention, the mid-range A Series is typically just as impressive in its own right.
In fact, if were you to compare the two ranges in terms of sales numbers, it's highly likely the cheaper models would prove more popular.
For 2022, Samsung has sent out the Galaxy A53 5G to do battle in the highly competitive mid-range smartphone market.
And following on from last year's excellent Galaxy A52 5G, the successor comes in with big expectations.
So, how does it follow on - and, perhaps more importantly, how does it compare to the rest of the field?
We've been testing it out over the last few weeks to see how its design and performance hold up, and, generally, whether this provides a compelling option for those foregoing the flagship phone options.
The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G does a sterling job of following on from the Galaxy A52 - a phone that was a great seller for Samsung, and one we also rated highly.
In truth, there's no significant improvement here, much like we found with the latest Galaxy S range. However, the A53 is a strong mid-range phone regardless.
The display on the front is vibrant and bright with (mostly) smooth animation, and the battery life is very good, as is the overall speed and performance.
At its price point, however, it's got a lot of competition. You'll find similar performing phones from the likes of Redmi, Realme and OnePlus that cost less, as well as similarly priced phones that perform better in some areas.
That means there are a couple of ways to look at this, for those debating picking an A53 up for themselves.
If you want a modern Samsung experience without the price tag required to get an S22 Series phone, the A53 is a no-brainer. It'll get you exactly that, and it does well in all the key areas.
Samsung's approach to software and security updates is also admirable, with its devices often getting updates and security patches even quicker than Google does.
If you value a speedy and responsive experience, though, you can get this elsewhere - as long as you're happy to look outside the Samsung brand.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
- Solid design
- Impressive display
- MicroSD card slot
- IP67 water and dust resistance
- Much better value than the Galaxy S22
- No 3.5mm headphone socket
- The UI can stutter
- The ultrawide camera isn't as good as the primary
Design and build
- 159.9 x 74.7 x 8.1mm
- Gorilla Glass 5 and hole-punch camera
- IP67 protection
At first glance, there isn't a great deal of difference between the Samsung Galaxy A53 and the Galaxy A52 (or A52s) from 2021.
That's not necessarily a mark against it, however - this is a good looking phone. Especially in the pure matte white version of our test unit, it looks great from the back.
While it doesn't offer premium materials you'll find on Samsung's higher-placed devices - it's plastic, as many Samsung phones now are - there's a great feel to the matte rear. We like that moulding around the cameras, particularly, which is something that's also present on the slightly lower-placed Galaxy A33 5G that launched alongside.
When you hear a phone is built from plastic, there's perhaps a niggling fear that it might feel cheap and shoddy, but the A53 definitely does not. There's no real give in the rear surface, and the phone's frame feels quite sturdy. Generally speaking, there's a reassuring heft to the phone.
This feeling is backed up by some strong durability specifications, too. Namely, the phone features IP67 water and dust resistance, which is only a small step below the top IP68 rating you’ll find in the premium models.
The only thing that goes against it is the shape. Like the new S22 models, the front and back of the phone are completely flat. That means there are no curves to help it sit a bit more comfortably in the hand.
It's not entirely uncomfortable (the slight rounding on the edges helps), but it's not as palm-friendly as some of the older models with curved backs.
While much of this phone is the same as the 2021 model, you might have noticed that there's now no 3.5mm headphone socket.
That wouldn't raise any eyebrows at the top end of the market, but with the mid-range market often providing as many practicalities as possible, it's perhaps a strange omission. Although, you'll undoubtedly be happy to know it does have a microSD card slot in the SIM tray.
Apart from materials, the other main difference between the A53 and more expensive models is the feedback from the vibration motor when typing and interacting with the phone.
It’s a lot more buzzy and less subtle than the haptic motors you find in top-level smartphones. That’s not a big deal for most people, but some might find they'd prefer the experience from something like the OnePlus Nord 2 in this area.
- 6.5-inch, 2400 x 1080 pixels, 120Hz
- AMOLED panel
- Infinity-O display
There's a 6.5-inch display on the front of the Galaxy A53, and this is an AMOLED panel. As you'd expect, then, it appears to have plenty of vibrancy in those colours and deep blacks.
It's one of those features that makes it a really appealing phone in this price range. Having a bright, colourful screen with relatively skinny bezels means you get a display experience with few compromises. Even compared to the much more expensive Galaxy S22+, there’s not a huge deal of difference in the way it displays colours and detail.
Look closely, of course, and you will see that there's a subtle refinement when it comes to colours. The S22 appears to better show the subtle differences in shades of the same colour, so you get that wider colour spectrum and dynamic range. Looking at it every day at arm's length, though, you'd be hard pushed to see that difference at a glance. So, for a mid-level device, the A53 has a great panel.
The resolution sticks to FHD+ - 2400 x 1080 pixels, 404ppi - which is typical for a device in this position. It also offers a 120Hz refresh rate, so it will be able to smooth out fast-moving content and give you a better experience. Like we found with the Galaxy S22+, however, the smooth experience isn't always consistent. It seems to take a couple of seconds to kick in.
For instance, when you scroll up and down the settings list or swipe across through the pages of apps in the app drawer, it's lovely and smooth. But, when we were transitioning between the Home Screen and other layers, such as dragging down the notifications shade or swiping out from an app, we saw some noticeable stutter kicking in. Enhancements are needed here to make the overall experience more consistently smooth.
The display is topped with Gorilla Glass 5 to keep scratches at bay, while it has a central hole-punch camera, giving it a more premium look than the lower-placed Galaxy A33. There are also slightly narrower bezels on this model compared to the A33, so we think it's a better-looking device overall.
There's an under-display fingerprint scanner, too. And, for the most part, it works reliably. It’s not quite as speedy or responsive as the S22+, but that's to be expected. The important thing is that it didn't let us down, and we didn't have an instance of it failing to read our fingerprint - perhaps due to the thoroughness with which Samsung initially scans your fingerprint.
Hardware and performance
- Exynos 1280, 6GB RAM
- 128GB storage + microSD
- 5000mAh battery, 25W charging
The Galaxy A53 5G makes a bit of a departure in 2022, now landing with updated Exynos hardware. Samsung's headline here is that this is the first time that 5nm architecture has been used in the Galaxy A series, an indicator that it's not being held back. It should be more efficient, and able to deliver its performance with lower power consumption.
In 2021, the Galaxy A52 hopped and skipped through the Snapdragon 720G, 750G and 778G (Galaxy A52, Galaxy A52 5G, Galaxy A52s respectively). The Galaxy A51 in 2020 had used Exynos hardware before this, so there's been a lot of back and forth around this class of device.
Samsung claims that this new Exynos 1280 gives a boost over the previous hardware used, so the phone should be a better performer, while also continuing to offer 5G connectivity. It's paired with 6GB of RAM, although there's the option to allocate some of the storage as virtual RAM - up to an additional 6GB.
There's 128GB of storage, and there continues to be support for microSD up to 1TB, which is a big advantage of choosing a mid-range phone.
While it isn't lightning quick, it does offer the kind of performance and speed you need to get things done. It doesn't really struggle with much at all, and, while not as responsive as a top tier phone, it's not slow, and so doesn't hinder you in any significant way.
What's more, it'll load up pretty much any game or app you throw at it without much complaint. You don't always get the sharpest of resolutions when loading up some of the more intense games, but it sacrifices detail in favour of responsive/smooth gameplay, which we feel is the right way to prioritise things.
There's also a 5000mAh battery, with support for 25W charging. That's a generous capacity and increase over the previous version of this phone. As we suspected, this led to some seriously good performance from the battery. On lighter days, with 2-3 hours of basic use and mostly social media and web browsing, we could finish a day with more than 50 per cent left over.
The phone launches on Android 12 with Samsung's One UI over the top, with the promise of four years of OS updates and five years of security updates.
- Quad-camera system
- Main: 64MP, f/1.8, OIS
- Ultra-wide: 12MP, f/2.2
- Macro: 5MP, f/2.4
- Depth: 5MP, f/2.4
- Front: 32MP, f/2.2
There's a quad-camera system on the rear of the Galaxy A53 5G, but keep your excitement in check while we explain what you're looking at here. As is common in mid-range devices, you have two cameras that are worth exploring and two that are kind of thrown in to make up the numbers.
The main camera has a 64-megapixel sensor and offers optical image stabilisation (OIS) on its lens, and that should help keep images cleaner over longer exposures. There's also night mode on this phone - something that some budget phones miss out on, like the iPhone SE.
It's a decent enough camera, too, offering pictures with good sharpness and depth. It can produce good-looking images that you'd be more than happy to share on social media.
It does tend to over-egg the colours quite a lot, though - even more so than even Samsung is usually known for. We had a number of different daytime shots where colours were just extremely saturated, giving a hyper-real look to the image.
There's no optical zoom on this phone, with Samsung instead suggesting you might shoot in full resolution (at 64-megapixels) and crop in. Otherwise, you're looking at digital zooming, which is okay up to a point. At 2x, you get a passable image, but the quality drops off significantly after that.
The ultra-wide camera has a 12-megapixel sensor and we've always been fond of ultra-wide, ever since LG started pushing this on phones about five years ago. It's perhaps sad, then, that this ultrawide doesn't deliver results that match the main camera.
While it would perform fine on some occasions, it would also get exposure and highlights completely wrong, leaving us with a very washed out image. As we've seen from some other ultrawide lenses in the past, the distortion around the edges can be really heavy. That means results look noticeably different to the results from the main lens.
Now, about those other two lenses. We've said this many times before, but these lenses are just thrown in to make the phone look better. The depth sensor is of questionable value, as plenty of flagship phones produce outstanding bokeh photos without such lenses (it's mostly done by software these days), while the macro lens - similar on other phones - is also a bit underwhelming.
With the macro camera (examples above), you can get within a few centimetres of an object and get an in-focus shot, but the results aren't amazing. As well as suffering from over-saturated colours, it also creates an unnatural, nauseating depth of field/background blur and pushes the contrast up high.
And, when you combine that with a sensor that's nowhere near as sharp as the primary and ultrawide lenses, that means a generally quite poor image. It's more usable than the old 2-megapixel macro sensors, but it's still not amazing.
So, the A53 follows the trend of the mid-range phones offering more lenses than is probably necessary. If a manufacturer is insistent on providing macro functionality, we'd much it be put in a better ultrawide lens which also had macro capabilities, then ditch the other two lenses. Quality over quantity.
The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G hits all the important spec points, with a great design and display. There's no shortage of mid-range phones that provide a similar experience for less - and this is no big jump from the A52 - but there are still some very good reasons to choose the A53.