Samsung dominates the Android market with its diverse portfolio of smartphones. Whether you want a cheap phone or a flagship device like the Galaxy S23 series that sold like crazy in India, Samsung has you covered. But what if you want something in between? That’s where the Galaxy A54 5G fits in-a mid-range phone that has many strengths but also one fatal weakness. In this review, we’ll see how the Galaxy A54 5G stacks up and if it’s a good buy.
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G: Tech Specs
The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G features a 6.4-inch, 120Hz Super AMOLED display with HDR10+ support. It is powered by a 5nm Exynos 1380 processor and can be configured with up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage (our unit is an 8/256GB SKU). A micro SD card slot is also provided for additional storage.
- Bright, beautiful, and crisp Super AMOLED display
- Clean design with exciting and vibrant color choices
- Great speakers with Dolby Atmos support
- Samsung’s commitment to five years of updates is stupendous
- Versatile camera system
- IP67 dust and water resistance rating
- Gorilla Glass 5 on both sides
- Performance is stuttery and the phone doesn’t feel optimized
- The phone gets hot easily
- Samsung’s price creep is worrying
- Video stabilization can be improved
- Painfully slow charging speed
It has a triple-camera setup in terms of optics: a 50MP f/1.8 primary camera with PDAF and OIS, a 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide camera, and a 5MP f/2.4 macro camera.
A 5,000mAh battery powers the device, and it supports 25W wired charging. The device comes in four eye-catching colours: Lime, Graphite, Violet, and White.
Design: The S23’s DNA Runs Here
The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G looks stunning, especially in the Violet colorway we received for review. Looking at the phone from the back, you’d think it was the Galaxy S23, as the A54 has the same design aesthetic as its premium colleagues, with individual camera cutouts jutting from the back of the phone rather than having the cameras on an island like the Galaxy A53. It’s also more curved on the sides, but make no mistake: these are plastic sides.
What isn’t plastic is the phone’s back, which has been replaced with a much more premium Gorilla Glass 5 panel that also protects the phone’s front. Though I love the premium feel that glass-backed phones provide, I was always worried about holding the phone because it’s so slippery.
There were times when the phone slipped from my grasp, so investing in a high-quality case is essential if you want to protect your brand-new Galaxy. If you happen to drop the phone in the toilet, don’t worry because it’s dust and water resistant (IP67 rating).
In terms of buttons and ports, Samsung placed the volume rockers and power button on the phone’s right side, leaving the left side completely empty. The bottom section houses the USB Type-C port as well as a speaker placed on the right side of the port, which is a great design decision because the speaker isn’t covered by the hand when held in landscape mode, and it’s a stereo speaker with Dolby Atmos support.
What’s not so great is the lack of a headphone jack, which I’ll have to accept because even mid-range devices rarely feature this ancient port. Also, I’m not a fan of the bezels because they’re rather thick, with the bottom chin being a bit taller, detracting from the phone’s overall style and reminding us that it’s a mid-range device.
Display: It’s Bright, Crisp, and Punchy
I’ve always been a fan of Samsung’s displays, and the Galaxy A54’s display is nothing short of flawless. It’s a Super AMOLED panel, so you’ll get all the benefits of an AMOLED panel, such as deep blacks, vibrant colours, and excellent viewing angles.
Samsung upped the ante by bringing the Vision Booster feature from the Galaxy S22 series here, which effectively increases the phone’s peak brightness to 1000 nits, making the display perfectly viewable in bright sunlight.
There’s also a 120Hz refresh rate to improve the experience, which I would’ve loved to see if the Exynos 1380 didn’t struggle to keep up with the refresh rate and smooth animations (more on this in the Performance section below).
A stereo speaker setup complements the viewing experience, with the earpiece acting as one stereo channel. The audio quality is crisp and well-balanced, though at maximum volume it sounds a little coarse. The audio is also quite loud.
Finally, the optical fingerprint scanner on the screen is both quick and accurate. In addition to the fingerprint scanner, there is face unlock, which works well even at night, as well as the standard PIN, password, and pattern options.
Performance: Exynos Just Doesn’t Cut It
Now comes the exciting part. The Galaxy A54 is equipped with a newer Exynos 1380 chipset, which is a 5nm chip, which is fine, but as I was sceptical about Exynos and its reputation for poor optimisation and being a solid heater for palms, the same is true here unfortunately.
I’m not sure why Samsung can’t get the synergy between its homegrown chips and smartphones right, given that it has all the technology and smarts to do so. When I switch apps or scroll through the user interface, the Galaxy A54 stutters and lags.
Swiping right from the home screen to open Google Feed results in a noticeable stutter that doesn’t scream premium when you’re paying a good price for the phone. The animations are also tardy, and while everything runs smoothly after a while, the question is why these stutters occur in the first place.
The 120Hz display, which felt slower to me, was the main issue I noticed here. To ensure that I wasn’t imagining things, I compared the A54’s display to that of the Nothing Phone, and the comparison proved that I wasn’t. Apart from the A54’s brighter and better display, the Nothing Phone’s 120Hz display was much, much faster as I scrolled through a slew of Instagram posts with a single flick of my finger, whereas the A54 required multiple scrolls to achieve the same speed.
I also installed an FPS meter, and sure enough, the A54 was running things at 120Hz, but the experience feels a little slower than the Nothing Phone’s 120Hz experience.
The benchmark tests listed below show that the Exynos 1380 performs admirably, but as the old adage goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. Real-world performance is more important than mere numbers, which reveal nothing more than a device’s ability to handle synthetic workloads.
In terms of gaming, I spent some time playing COD mobile, and the game delivered a smooth 60fps gameplay, though it cannot be played at High Graphics and Very High FPS at the same time.
After that, I switched to Real Racing 3, which made the phone quite toasty, but performance wasn’t affected because I could still play for 15-20 minutes before having to put the phone down because it became too hot to hold. The Exynos 1380’s gaming performance is excellent, though the phone does get quite hot after a while.
Samsung is already considering dropping the Exynos chips from its flagship phones, and it’s reportedly developing a newer chip with a custom GPU, so I believe the best course of action for Samsung will be to go back to the drawing board to figure out where it’s going wrong, and in the meantime release phones with chips from other brands such as MediaTek and Qualcomm.
Camera: A Capable, Versatile Shooter
Samsung’s cameras are known for producing vibrant photos that are ready to post on Instagram, and the Galaxy A54 is no exception. The primary 50MP lens shoots photos at a binned 12MP resolution, producing crisp images with vibrant colours and good detail. To get those extra details, you can take photos in the full 50MP mode, but the default 12MP mode is ideal.
I prefer natural-looking shots, so Samsung’s tendency to boost the colours of the photos annoys me, but I must admit that the shots look lively, and people in general prefer photos with some degree of oversaturation.
There is a very useful Best Shot suggestion feature that uses machine learning to assist in getting symmetrical shots and determining how to adjust the angle while taking photos. To enable this, go to Camera Settings and enable the Shot suggestions toggle.
If there is enough light, the 12MP ultrawide camera produces excellent results. You can rely on it during the day, but once night falls, all details are lost and photos look like a water painting with muddy details, making them unusable sometimes.
The 5MP macro camera is the family’s black sheep because it only works well in daylight and, like the ultrawide camera, produces some good shots now and then, but the shots lose detail and look faded with excessive light bleeding in pictures that feature LED sign boards.
While using the ultrawide and macro cameras, I found the Night Mode to be spotty, as it usually turned on in an instant when I was taking photos at night with the primary lens.
Portrait Mode, on the other hand, is fantastic, with excellent subject separation and a beautiful bokeh effect that you can adjust to get the perfect shot. There are also various background effects available if you want to jazz up your photos for Instagram stories.
The Galaxy A54 has an impressive 32MP camera for selfies, and this lens is the best of the bunch. Photos are sharp and colourful, with plenty of detail and a wide dynamic range. During video calls, the quality remained consistent, so those looking for an amazing selfie camera will not be disappointed.
When it came to videos, I was initially excited that the A54 retained the OIS that the A53 had, but the results were a little disappointing, as the videos I took while holding the phone with both hands and walking very slowly resulted in shaky videos, making me wonder if the OIS even worked.
I tried the Super Steady feature, hoping for more stable videos, but it reduces video quality to 1080 30fps, which I wasn’t expecting. The Super Steady video appeared more stable, but it was darker than usual, with some details lost in the mix.
The phone caps at 4K 30fps and the footage looks good with great detail in daylight, but you lose out on stability, and the results get worse at night.
Software: OneUI is Packed
The software is the Galaxy A54’s strong suit, and Samsung continues to impress by providing four major OS upgrades and five years of security updates. Even some flagships don’t provide this level of update commitment, so Samsung deserves credit for showing love to its midrangers.
Talking about the software, the Galaxy A54 comes pre-installed with Android 13 and OneUI 5.1 on top. Personally, I’m a stock Android purist, and hence you’ll find me with a Nothing Phone 1 or a Google Pixel phone in my pocket, but after trying out OneUI, I was quite impressed with the feature set and the extensive ways to customise your device, something that barebones skins or Stock Android cannot do.
To clarify, I’m referring to Samsung’s Good Lock feature, which consists of various system modules that I can modify to change the overall behaviour of the system, such as changing the clock style on the lock screen.
This article won’t be finished if I mentioned every OneUI feature, so I’ll just say that if you want a ton of features and customizability, Samsung phones are among the best available.
While the OneUI on the Galaxy A54 lacks some premium features such as Samsung DeX, it still contains a plethora of amazing features that the target user will appreciate.
Battery: It Won’t Die on You
The Galaxy A54 comes with a 5,000mAh battery, which is common in many mid-range and even budget smartphones these days. The large battery pays off because the phone easily lasts a day…and then some.
The Galaxy A54 was my camera companion on my vacation. It handled my sister’s photo craze, 4K videos, Super Slo-Mo shots, and some 8K clips without breaking a sweat. It had enough battery to last the whole day and let me see the many photos I took at night.
The feeling turns sour whenever I plug the phone to charge as the paltry 25W charging speed just doesn’t cut it out in 2023. Samsung advertises its 25W speed as “fast,” but it takes more than an hour to charge the phone.
In my battery charge test, the Galaxy A54 went from 0 to 100 in under 2 hours, which is unusual for premium mid-range smartphones. I hope Samsung improves here by at least bringing a 45W charging speed, a feature it only reserves for its Ultra flagships, unfortunately.
The Samsung Galaxy A54 starts at ₹38,999 on Samsung’s website and other online retailers such as Amazon for the 6/128GB SKU. The asking price could get reduced further as a result of the various exchange offers and bank discounts thrown into the mix.
Even so, the A54’s performance is not acceptable, as lags and stutters are not to be expected from a premium midrange smartphone. I hope Samsung resolves these issues, and I am confident that the performance kinks will be ironed out, but the whole ordeal should not have existed in the first place.
Talking about the competition, the OnePlus 11R is also a sub-40k smartphone, and it offers the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, a chipset much more powerful and capable than the Exynos 1380 present in the Galaxy A54.
Also, Samsung’s own Galaxy S21 FE is currently retailing for under ₹35,000 on Flipkart, and at that price, it’s a much better deal than the A54, as the S21 FE is virtually better in every way than the A54, except you’ll miss out on expandable storage and receive one less OS upgrade.
On the bright side, the phone’s cameras are versatile and click some good pictures, and I can’t forget the excellent display coupled with booming stereo speakers that make the A54 a solid choice for content consumption. But for now, I can’t recommend this smartphone until Samsung irons out the performance issues.
If you still make the plunge for this smartphone, your user experience will be decent, but at this price, you’re better off getting the S21 FE if you’re a Samsung enthusiast or the OnePlus 11R if you want the best performance at non-flagship prices.
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published: Saturday, April 22, 2023, 17:54 [IST]