Despite the price increase, the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G is an impressive mid-range phone and an affordable alternative to the Galaxy S23
- Beautiful 120Hz AMOLED screen
- Eye-catching colour options
- Solid performance and battery life
- Rivals offer slightly better value
- Display isn’t HDR-compliant
Samsung’s Galaxy A54 5G has some big shoes to fill. It comes into the lineup as a replacement for the Galaxy A53 5G, a phone to which we awarded five stars and a coveted Best Buy award in 2022.
The challenge of living up to its much-lauded predecessor steepens when you consider that this year’s model is more expensive than the previous iteration. The most important question to ask, then, is whether the new phone can justify the price hike.
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Samsung Galaxy A54 5G review: What you need to know
The price of the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G has been inflated a little but it still finds itself in familiar mid-range territory, with some great new additions to the specifications this year.
The first upgrade is the switch to Samsung’s Exynos 1380 processor. This replaces the Exynos 1280 chipset of the previous model, with Samsung promising up to 20% faster CPU speeds and GPU gains of up to 26%. You also get a 5,000mAh battery and Android 13 and, while the 120Hz Super AMOLED display is slightly smaller in size (6.4in vs 6.5in), the resolution remains the same at FHD+. It’s rated a lot brighter as well, at 1,000 nits.
The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G incorporates three cameras on the rear. The primary camera is a 50MP f/1.8 unit and this is accompanied by a 12MP, f/2.2 123-degree ultrawide and a simple 5MP macro sensor. A 32MP, f/2.2 selfie camera is located on the front.
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G review: Price and competition
That places the A54 5G directly in the sights of some seriously strong rivals. The Nothing Phone (1) is perhaps the main challenger here and a bit of a statement piece with its Glyph Interface lighting. This costs slightly less than the A54 5G, at £399. There’s also the Google Pixel 6a to consider, which likewise costs £399 and provides the best camera system at this price point.
The Apple iPhone SE (2022) costs the same as Samsung’s mid-ranger, too, but it isn’t really in the same ballpark in terms of features. It’s a smaller phone, with a 4.7in display, and it only has a single 12MP camera. The sole draw is Apple’s A15 Bionic chipset, which is night-and-day faster than the Exynos 1380 found inside the Samsung Galaxy A54.
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G review: Design and key features
Given that the A53 5G was such a success, it makes sense that the overall design of the A54 5G isn’t all that different, although some small tweaks have been applied here and there.
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The display is slightly smaller, measuring 6.4in across the diagonal compared to the A53’s 6.5in, although that’s barely noticeable, and the raised rear camera bump has been dropped in favour of a “floating” camera design. The Galaxy A54 5G is available in four “Awesome” colours: Awesome Graphite, Awesome White, Awesome Lime and Awesome Violet (pictured here).
The display is coated in a protective layer of Gorilla Glass 5, as is the rear panel, to prevent scuffs and scratches and, on the weather-proofing front, the Galaxy A54 5G is rated to IP67, certifying it as dustproof and able to withstand being dunked in 1m of water for up to 30 minutes. The A34 5G announced alongside the A54 5G is similar in build but has a matte rear panel, which looks a little more attractive in my eyes, despite being the cheaper phone.
As the name suggests, 5G support is carried over from the previous model and it’s joined here by compatibility with Wi-Fi 6. Finally, unlike the S23 series, there’s space for a microSD card, or you can add a second nano-SIM in the same slot if you prefer.
Samsung Galaxy A34 5G review: Display
Despite shrinking slightly, the A54’s 6.4in Super AMOLED display still has plenty going for it, with a sharp 2,400 x 1,080 resolution and 120Hz refresh rate making it suitably slick in general use. A fingerprint sensor sits beneath the screen on the front, and the 32MP selfie camera is located in a small hole-punch notch, which looks cleaner than the teardrop cutout used on the A34 5G.
The overall quality of the screen is rather good, too. In the phone’s “Natural” mode, the display covered 96.2% of the sRGB gamut, with a total volume of 100% and an average Delta E (colour variance) score of 2.04. I did find a few discrepancies with some red and dark green tones, but everything else was faultless. Brightness is massively improved this year, too, with a total peak luminance of 947cd/m² in auto-brightness mode up from 706cd/m² on the A53.
Really, my only major complaint is that this panel still isn’t HDR-certified, with rivals such as the Nothing Phone (1) fully supporting HDR10+ playback.
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G review: Performance and battery life
While the A53 5G only came in one configuration, the Galaxy A54 5G gives you the choice of 128GB or 256GB of onboard storage, both of which can be expanded with a microSD card up to 1TB in size. Rounding out the internals is 8GB of RAM and a Samsung Exynos 1380 chipset, which replaces the Exynos 1280 of the previous model.
This delivers a solid performance improvement. Single-core speed is mostly unchanged but, in the Geekbench 5 multicore test, the A54 5G proved to be 43% faster than the previous generation. That’s about the same as the Nothing Phone (1), but the iPhone SE’s A15 Bonic continues to outperform everything else at this price.
Gaming performance is on the up as well, although the improvement here isn’t quite as dramatic. In the onscreen portion of the GFXBench Manhattan 3 benchmark, this year’s model achieved an average frame rate of 70fps, compared to just 57fps last year.
Perhaps the biggest improvement is to stamina. The A54 has a 5,000mAh battery, which is the same as last year, and 25W fast charging that fills it to full in around 80 minutes. It lasted a lot longer in our tests this year, however, reaching 26hrs 49mins of video playback before needing to be recharged. That’s an astonishing generation-on-generation improvement of almost five hours.
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G review: Cameras
On paper, the same cannot be said for the A54’s main camera. However, while the resolution has been reduced from 64MP to 50MP, it’s clear that the rest of the hardware is much better.
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The sensor is physically larger than the one used on the A53 5G; now measuring 1/1.56in, the pixels are bigger – up from 0.8µm to 1.0µm. And optical image stabilisation (OIS) has been improved, too.
Overall quality is spectacular for the money. I no longer have the previous A53 for comparison but I was impressed with the amount of detail the main camera was capable of capturing, and the richness of the colours, especially with outdoor scenes captured in daylight.
The camera’s new Auto Night feature is quite handy, too, measuring the amount of light and automatically switching to night mode to improve low-light shots. The results are rather good, too, and while there’s a slight loss in detail, darker areas are boosted nicely and highlights are expertly softened.
The rest of the camera suite is carried over from the A53 5G, with a 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide module sitting above the main camera and a 5MP macro shooter below it.
The ultrawide camera proved useful in some instances but I found its detail capture, especially in low light, wasn’t great. The macro camera can grab decent close-up shots in a pinch but, again, it does require a lot of natural light to produce passable images.
Video is, likewise, middling, with the A54 capable of capturing stabilised 4K clips at 30fps. In this mode, footage looked crisp and detailed at the expense of choppy panning. You get judder-free video if you knock the resolution down to 1080p and boost the frame rate to 60fps, and this is the mode I’d recommend you use.
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G review: Verdict
The A54 5G had its work cut out to fully justify the price increase but I think it just about succeeds. The newer chipset not only delivers a serious boost in performance but stamina is greatly improved as well. The display is also brighter and the main camera is excellent.
So why doesn’t it get a Best Buy award? The problem here is that the Nothing Phone (1) manages to do a few things better for less money. Its display is HDR10+ compliant, where the Samsung’s is not, and it looks cooler, too. If it wasn’t for Nothing, the A54 5G would rocket straight to first place but, as it stands, it’s going to have to settle for a silver medal.