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Samsung Galaxy A13 review: Slow and steady loses the race

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
179
inc VAT

The Samsung Galaxy A13’s poor speeds, reduced battery life and lack of 5G tarnish an otherwise well-rounded budget handset

Pros 
Cheap
Decent screen
Solid cameras
Cons 
Performance is dreadful
Battery life downgrade (but still okay)
No 5G connectivity in the UK
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Budget smartphones are a dime a dozen these days, and while the market is flooded with cheap handsets from the likes of Motorola and Nokia, Samsung typically prefers to keep things nice and simple, usually offering only one or two sub-£200 phones at any one time.

READ NEXT: The best budget smartphones

The company has recently launched updates across its A-series lineup, with the brand-new Galaxy A13 continuing to be one of Samsung’s cheapest smartphones on shop shelves. If money’s a bit tight, this could be a good-value alternative to its mid-range counterparts.

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Samsung Galaxy A13 review: What you need to know

For very little money, you’re getting a large 6.6in IPS display, with an Exynos 850 chipset, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. And just like the newly announced A33 5G and A53 5G, this can also be expanded up to a further 1TB via microSD. A large 5,000mAh rounds things out on the inside, with supported charging speeds up to 15W.

On the back of the phone is a quadruple-camera array, which incorporates a main 50MP (f/1.8) unit, a 5MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 2MP depth and a 2MP macro sensor. An 8MP (f/2.2) selfie camera is situated on the front inside a V-shaped notch at the top of the screen.

Like the rest of the A-series, the A13 launches with Android 12 and Samsung’s One UI 4.1, although it lacks any official IP rating and doesn’t support 5G connections in the UK.

Samsung Galaxy A13 review: Price and competition

The Galaxy A13 released in the UK on 25 March for £179 and comes in a choice of three colours: Awesome Black, Awesome White and Awesome Blue. Awesome.

That’s a great price, I’m sure you’ll agree, but it’s worth mentioning that the sub-£200 bracket is jam-packed with decent handsets at the moment. Besides, Samsung is also cheekily asking for £10 more than what the Galaxy A12 initially went for.

Perhaps the biggest competition at this price comes in the form of the Moto G31, which is an excellent £170 handset with an OLED display and phenomenal battery life. There’s also the Nokia G21, which isn’t quite as good but gets you a 90Hz IPS screen and a rather nice design for just £150.

If you’re prepared to pay an extra £21 (£200), you’ll probably be better off picking up the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 instead. It’s a great example of how to make a phone on a budget, with top-notch cameras, superior performance and a colour-accurate 90Hz OLED display.

Samsung Galaxy A13 review: Design and key features

Kicking things off, the Galaxy A13’s design is rather pedestrian by modern standards. Where the Galaxy A12 was an intriguing mix of faux flagship looks with a unique two-tone design, the A13 is nothing of the sort and its appearance is rather tame by comparison.

Whether or not you prefer a pared-down design is entirely subjective, but I can’t shake the feeling that Samsung could have done more here to make the Galaxy A13 stand out.

READ NEXT: Best phone battery life

Once more, the back of the phone is an all-plastic affair (no surprises there), but sadly it lacks the more premium look and feel of the previous model, consisting of just a single colour without any distinctive textures. Unfortunately, this new design has an added drawback in that it’s a bit of a fingerprint magnet – it’s almost impossible to keep things smudge-free.

Still, at least Samsung did a good job when placing the cameras on the back. The 50MP main camera, 5MP ultrawide and depth-sensing unit are vertically placed in the top-left corner, with the phone’s macro camera and LED flash sitting just to the right. It’s quite a nice little setup since they’re all individually placed, with no obtrusive camera block in sight.

The front of the phone is completely dominated by a large, 6.6in display, with a slightly thick chin bezel. The A13’s single 8MP selfie camera is located inside a small notchlette at the top of the screen, although it doesn’t really get in the way while you’re watching YouTube or scrolling social media feeds.

Measuring 165 x 76 x 8.8mm (WHD), the Galaxy A13 isn’t the most pocketable of handsets, although this is offset slightly by the phone’s plastic build, which has limited the overall weight to just 195g. The screen is protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 5, but the Galaxy A13 lacks any official IP rating for protection against the elements.

The side-mounted fingerprint reader returns, and in testing it recognised my digits without any hiccups. Another bonus is the 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom, which is usually something missing from modern flagships, and the phone charges via USB-C, although it doesn’t come with a charging brick in the box.

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Samsung Galaxy A13 review: Display

The Galaxy A13 is one of the few Samsung phones without an OLED display. A simple IPS number, the A13’s 6.6in screen has a resolution of 2,408 x 1,080 and a pixel density of 400ppi. It isn’t a scratch on Samsung’s AMOLED tech, but you’re getting a screen that looks rather good for the money.

With an sRGB colour gamut coverage of 99.1%, a total volume of 129.3% and an average Delta E (colour variance) of 2.09, the A13’s display isn’t too shabby, and I’ve seen worse on recent phones at this price – here’s looking at you, Nokia G21.

Maximum brightness is also pretty good, peaking at 483cd/m² in our tests, and the phone’s contrast is a respectable 1,082:1. The only downside is that this is a bog-standard 60Hz affair, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for silky smooth scrolling. The US version of the A13 gets a 90Hz display, but the resolution is only 720p.

Samsung Galaxy A13 review: Performance and battery life

A budget handset will never be the last word in horsepower, but sadly this is where the Galaxy A13 really falls apart. Like the S22 series, the UK and US models differ in terms of chipset componentry, with the slightly older 5G-enabled US model (SM-A136U) getting the MediaTek Dimensity 700, while UK buyers are left with the 4G-only Samsung Exynos 850 (SM-A135F).

Usually this isn’t much of a problem – architecturally speaking, the flagship Exynos 2200 is quite similar to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 – except in this case, the 2GHz Exynos 850 is wholly inferior to the 2.2GHz Dimensity 700. The phones don’t differ much in terms of price, either: the US model costs $250, or around £191.

In short, what this means is that not only are UK consumers not able to buy the 5G model, but they’re also getting shafted when it comes to speeds. In the Geekbench 5 test, I recorded a single-core processing result of just 156, with an equally poor 587 in multicore. At first, I thought something must have gone wrong with the test, but multiple runs reached the same conclusion – as you can see from the graph below, this is a substantial decrease on the Galaxy A12’s scores.

The 5G model, on the other hand, is miles faster and is much more in line with its rivals. Publicly available Geekbench scores list a single-core result of around 467 and a multicore score of 1,100. That’s twice as fast as the UK version. Ouch.

Real-world performance is a bit better than these figures suggest, but with slow boot times, juddery app transitions and some poor gaming frame rates, you’re still going to want to stay away from the Galaxy A13 if well-rounded speeds are what you’re after.

At least battery life isn’t too bad, although yet again this has taken a big hit on the previous model. The Galaxy A13 reached just over 19 hours in our video playback test, which is more than good enough to last a day and a bit on a single charge, but considering last year’s Galaxy A12 survived an extra seven hours under the same conditions, you’re getting a raw deal here, too.

Samsung Galaxy A13 review Software

As for software, the Galaxy A13 launches with the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android 12. This isn’t an entirely stock experience, however, since Samsung has applied its own One UI 4.1 skin on top.

If you’ve used a Samsung smartphone before, you’ll feel right at home. Samsung doesn’t usually tweak things too much, but this latest version comes with new personalised widget recommendations as well as a revamped privacy dashboard. A green status indicator now displays in the top-right corner if an app is using your microphone or camera, which is a nice touch.

Annoyingly, it does come with a handful of preinstalled apps, such as TikTok, Facebook and Netflix, but thankfully these can be disabled without any fuss. You’re also bombarded with app recommendations during the setup process, so be on your guard when switching on the phone for the first time – a good number of these simply look like cheap game knockoffs.

Samsung Galaxy A13 review: Cameras

The Samsung Galaxy A13 has four cameras on the back: a 50MP (f/1.8) main camera, supported by a 5MP (f/2.2) ultrawide and a pair of 2MP macro and depth-sensing units. Complicating matters further, the 5G model in the US lacks the ultrawide, while the UK’s 8MP front-facing camera has been swapped out for a 5MP unit. Weird.

Clawing things back from complete negativity, the Galaxy A13’s cameras are pretty good. Again, you’re not always going to be snapping Insta-worthy pictures whenever you press the shutter, but I’ve been quite pleased with some of the images I’ve taken over the last week or so.

READ NEXT: Best phone camera

Landscape photos such as the one below have a good amount of detail, with a great use of HDR and reasonably muted colours. The Nokia G21 in comparison looked overly warm in some instances, and while there was still a lot to like in the standard 1x mode, the 2x digital zoom is far superior on the A13.

On the other hand, the Samsung’s wide-angle lens is a bit of a mixed bag. You lose a lot of detail in this mode, and while it’s good to have the option to squeeze more stuff in the frame, I’d stick with the main 50MP camera for the most part.

Meanwhile, portrait images taken on the two phones couldn’t look more different. For some reason, the A13 has dialled up the contrast to a considerable degree, and you lose a lot of detail in darker areas as a result – just take a look at the hair resting on the shoulders in the bottom picture and you’ll see what I mean.

Video is captured at a maximum 1080p resolution at 30fps, with an option for 720p if you’re being conservative with file sizes. No matter the resolution, however, there’s absolutely no form of stabilisation to speak of, so while footage looks detailed for the most part, it’s going to be quite juddery.

Samsung Galaxy A13 review: Verdict

The previous Galaxy A12 has been kicking around for a while now, and it’s certainly a bit outdated by modern standards. It didn’t initially receive a recommendation in our review, but with 2022 updates to the cameras, design and software, the Galaxy A13 was perfectly positioned to finally make an appearance on our best budget smartphones list.

Buy now from Currys

Except Samsung really missed the mark with this one. Its decision to opt for one of the weakest mobile chipsets we’ve tested in quite some time is a baffling one, and the lack of 5G connectivity is a glaring omission as well. Neither the extra ultrawide camera nor the 1080p screen are enough of an incentive to mask the fact that we’re getting the short end of the stick.

It might be dirt cheap, but don’t let Samsung fool you – you can do better for the price.

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