Design, Handling, Display, Features, Camera
Note: This review was first published on 5 July 2023.
Samsung steps forward
Singapore sees no shortage of midrange phone options, with some notable ones including the Google Pixel 7a, Poco F5 Pro and Redmi Note 12 Pro+ 5G. Joining the parade is the Samsung Galaxy A54, which is Samsung’s newest offering in the Galaxy A series.
With a 6.4-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display that supports 120Hz refresh rate, a 50MP primary camera, IP67-rated protection and a large 5,000mAh battery, this phone has several flagship-worthy features included with a starting price of just S$588.
More than that, the phone offers features like Samsung’s Nightography (its once flagship-exclusive night mode), firmware support for OS and security updates longer than most midrange phones, 5G compatibility and even expandable storage up to 1TB.
TL;DR:We think Samsung feared having the Galaxy A54 5Gannihilateits competition, so it used an entry-level Exynos chipset to even the playing field.
However, does the Galaxy A54 do enough to stand out against the myriad of other options in the midrange category? Are there phone-breaking flaws to a S$588 version of Samsung’s best handsets? Let’s take a look.
|Samsung Galaxy A54 5G
|Up to 5G NSA/SA
|One UI 5.1 (Android 13)
|Samsung Exynos 1380
|6GB or 8GB RAM
|6.4-inch, Edge, Super AMOLED, 2,340 x 1,080 pixels (501ppi), 120Hz max refresh rate
|Rear:50MP, f/1.8, wide-angle, pixel-binning, AutoFocus, OIS12MP, f/2.2, ultra-wide5MP, f/2.4, macroFront:32MP, f/2.2, portrait, no OIS
|Up to 4K30FPS
|Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth5.3, NFC
|256GBMicroSD card slot (shared with second SIM slot)
|5,000mAh25W Fast Charging
|76.7 x 158.2 x 8.2mm
Finally looking like a Samsung flagship
With Samsung standardising the appearance of their phones across the different Galaxy series, there are only mild differences between how the Galaxy A54 looks when compared to the Galaxy S23 or S23+, such as choice of glass on the rear and the frame material.
The most notable difference would be that the back of the Galaxy A54’s glossy Gorilla Glass 5, while the S23 series use frosted Gorilla Glass Victus 2. That gives the flagship series a more premium look and feel in the hand. This is also an upgrade from its predecessor, the Galaxy A53, which had a plastic back.
Additionally, the Galaxy A54 uses a plastic frame while the Galaxy S23 and S23+ use aluminium. It also comes in a couple of fun colours like Awesome Lime (which we have here) and Awesome Violet, in addition to the standard black and white options.
The phone is slightly heavier than both the Galaxy A53 and the Galaxy S23+ at 202g (compared to 189g and 196g respectively). Personally, I think it’s a good idea to keep midrange smartphones at around 200g or so to prevent the phones from feeling too light and insubstantial in the hand. A study has shown that heavier, denser objects tend to feel more important or premium, which can be an issue when most of the phones in this category come with a lightweight plastic or polycarbonate frame. By keeping the A54 slightly heavier, Samsung has managed to avoid this perception problem.
The SIM card tray on top is another excellent selling point of the Galaxy A54. Not only do you get dual SIM capabilities, the second SIM slot actually doubles up as a microSD card slot and supports expandable storage of up to 1TB. These days, expandable storage on phones are uncommon, even with midrange ones.
With an IP67 rating for dust and water protection, the Galaxy A54 is one of the few midrange phones around to offer such a high protection rating, alongside the Google Pixel 7a.
Bright, punchy display that’s great for media consumption
Even though the display size has shrunk slightly from 6.5-inch on the A53, the 6.4-inch Full HD+ (2,340 x 1,080 pixels resolution) display on the A54 supports HDR10+ and can get up to 1,000 nits of brightness.
The standard Vivid colour profile offers punchy, contrasty colours that tend to skew on the slightly cooler side for the colour temperature. Fortunately, there’s a slider that allows for colour temperature adjustment.
On the Natural colour profile, colour accuracy is improved and images appear more, well, natural.
There’s also an adaptive refresh rate default setting which allows for the phone to automatically switch between 60Hz and 120Hz depending on the type of content being shown, and there’s also the option to lock the refresh rate to 60Hz if you need longer battery life.
HDR videos are crisp with beautiful colours, and watching shows and movies on the Galaxy A54 is a pleasurable experience. I would rather have higher doses of display brightness while out and about under bright sunlight, but it’s still usable with legible content and it feels plenty for indoor use.
Playing games like Honkai: Star Rail and Call of Duty: Mobile are great as well, even if the phone heats up slightly under load.
Almost the same user experience as the S23 series
We’ve gone through the Samsung One UI 5.1 features in our Samsung S23 Ultra review, and we’ve also taken a look at the newly released Galaxy Enhance X app in our Samsung S23/S23+ review. There isn’t much left to speak about on the software side of things, but the A54 is running on the same One UI 5.1 skin of Android 13.
There are still the same pre-loaded apps that we recommend you uninstall after set-up. Since the phone only comes in two configurations (128GB and 256GB of storage), freeing up space for more apps and media is necessary.
A point to note is that Samsung did promise to bring the Galaxy Enhance X app to the A series phones. The company has just officially announced support for the Galaxy S22, S21, S20 and Note 20 series, alongside the Z Fold and Z Flip devices after almost 2 months since the app’s release for the S23 series, so we’re expecting the app to come to the A series phones next.
With a triple camera array, the Galaxy A54 looks quite similar to the S23 and S23+ from the rear. Even the cameras used are somewhat similar.
The main 50MP camera has a 23mm focal length and f/1.8 aperture, while there’s a 12MP ultra-wide camera (f/2.2 aperture, 1.12µm, 123˚ FOV) and a 5MP macro camera (f/2.4 aperture, 1.12µm).
The images out of the main camera are pixel-binned (the process of combining data from multiple pixels, four in this case, into one) to 12.5MP, and they look very good if lighting conditions are ideal. Of course, you get the punchy, contrasty images that Samsung is known for, but it doesn’t get too overly processed.
There is a 2x digital crop zoom that takes the centre group of pixels from a regular unzoomed photo. Detail does get lost, so if you need to regularly use the 2x zoom option, it might be worth considering turning off pixel binning and cropping in from a 50MP photo instead for better detail retention.
The ultra-wide camera does a good job of minimising fisheye distortion, although details and textures do tend to get a little smudged. If you’re not zooming into your photos, this won’t be a big deal.
As for the macro camera, colour me surprised. I was honestly not expecting much here, as I’ve been let down quite a number of times by macro cameras on phones. There was a good amount of detail retained, with the phone managing to capture the lines on the movement of my watch. Aside from that, the colours were accurate and the photos were actually usable, although you do get noise.
Nightography also makes its way to this midrange phone, and it works just as well as ever. The same caveat as always applies though, this mode works best for shots without moving subjects and there’s still a bit of noise introduced into the image. While the Nightography results won’t have the same clean and bright results as that from the flagship S23 Ultra, it’s an excellent offering at this phone’s price point.
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