The $450 Galaxy A54 could be the smartest smartphone buy of 2023

-Samsung’s Galaxy A series has long been a great choice for people who want the style of the Galaxy S series without the price of the S series. The Galaxy A54 and Galaxy A34 are the latest, and Samsung isn’t shy about giving these phones the latest flagship look.

Even better news is that the A54 continues to offer a great display, long battery life, a decent camera, and solid everyday features you’ll love — all at a value-based price. Could the new Galaxy A54 phone be the smartest smartphone purchase of 2023? I tried it for a while to find out.

Get the awesome colors right

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I’ll focus my hands-on review on the Galaxy A54, but I’ll explain more about the Galaxy A34 later. The Galaxy A54 has a very similar look to the Galaxy S23, with three cameras on the back, each individually mounted on a Gorilla Glass 5 rear panel and surrounded by a decorative metal ring. The frame is made of metal and plastic, which means Samsung could remove the antenna bands for a cleaner look, and the display is covered with Gorilla Glass 5.

It’s thin and compact at 8.2mm thick, despite the large 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen, and feels solid and expensive in your hand. The Galaxy A54 pulls off this neat trick of making it feel much more expensive than it is. The weight of 202 grams sounds high, but it doesn’t feel heavy or bulky, so don’t let that put you off.

The back of the black and white Galaxy A54.
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There are four color options, and they’re all awesome. Not my reason, but Samsung’s marketing department’s reason. So, on the awesomeness scale, how awesome are they? Well, the basic white and glossy black colors aren’t awesome at all, but the very cool Awesome Violet and the bright and really desirable Awesome Lime Green both rate 10 out of 10. I especially like the green version. It really pops in the right light, and it immediately caught my eye over the usual white or black models.

The camera modules on the back of the Galaxy A54.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The display has a 120Hz refresh rate and a small, circular cutout for the 32-megapixel selfie camera in the top center, while maximum brightness has been bumped up to 1,000 nits. This is great news, as the Galaxy A53’s display could struggle in harsh sunlight. It worked smoothly in my short time with the phone, and as with many of Samsung’s displays, colors and contrast levels are spot on.

Quality materials, a high-refresh-rate screen that’s brighter than before, durability, and some great colors to choose from — I love how the Galaxy A54 uses so many of the basics without resorting to gimmicks or pointless features to attract people.

A new Exynos chip for power and performance

The main screen of the Galaxy A54.
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The camera setup has been upgraded from the one used on the Galaxy A53, with a new 50MP main camera with optical image stabilization (OIS), a 12MP wide-angle camera and a 5MP macro camera. The increase in pixel size means photos should be more vibrant, and the A54 should perform better in low light as well. I only spent a little time with the Galaxy A54 and took a few photos in isolation – I couldn’t compare them to another phone, and it was indoors under pretty bad light – but they came out well. More specifically, the camera app was snappy with no lags or lags, and switching between modes was instantaneous.

You might think this would be a given, but the Galaxy A54 has Samsung’s latest Exynos 1380 processor inside, and this is the first time I’ve used a device with it. The Exynos wasn’t always the best performer, and while snapping a few photos and browsing the OS didn’t really put the phone through its paces, it was enough to put early concerns to rest.

However, only by living with the phone will I know for sure what it’s like and how effective it is. The Galaxy A54 has a 5,000mAh battery inside and Samsung promises two days of life from it. That doesn’t seem like too much of a claim, given that batteries of the same capacity deliver this in other phones, so it’s reasonable to believe it’ll hit the mark. There is a choice of 128GB or 256GB of storage, as well as space for a MicroSD card, with a maximum capacity of 1TB.

This is a 5G phone with 6GB or 8GB of RAM, as well as Wi-Fi 6 connectivity and the ability to use an eSIM over a standard SIM. There’s an in-display fingerprint sensor, which had decent speed when I tested it, an IP67 water resistance rating, and a 25-watt fast charging system for the battery.

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy A54 will be released in the US on April 6 and will start at $450. You’ll be able to buy one through Samsung’s online store and carriers including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and US Cellular. Pre-orders start on March 30th.

In the UK, the Galaxy A54 will cost £499 for the top 256GB model or £449 for the 128GB version. If you buy the phone from Samsung between now and April 26, you’ll also get a free pair of Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 with the phone, which makes it even better.

What about the Galaxy A34?

The different selfie camera designs on the Galaxy A54 and Galaxy A34.
Galaxy A34 (left) and Galaxy A54 Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Visually, there isn’t much difference between the Galaxy A54 and the Galaxy A34, and the easiest way to tell them apart is to look at the selfie camera notch on the display. It’s a simple dot on the Galaxy A54 and a drop notch on the Galaxy A34.

The 8.2mm-thick, 199-gram phone has Gorilla Glass 5 over the display, but the back is made of a plastic material that Samsung calls “Glasstic” because of its glass-like texture. The display has the same resolution and 120Hz refresh rate as the A54, but is slightly larger at 6.6 inches.

The black versions of the Galaxy A54 and Galaxy A34.
The glossy black model of the Galaxy A54 (left) with the matte black finish of the Galaxy A34. Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Galaxy A54’s Exynos 1380 has been replaced by a MediaTek Dimensity 1080. While there are still three cameras on the back, the array contains a 48MP main camera with OIS, an 8MP wide-angle camera, and a 5MP macro camera. Like the Galaxy A54, it has a 5,000mAh battery, 25W charging, IP67 rating, a MicroSD card slot to boost the internal storage to 128GB or 256GB, either 6GB or 8GB of RAM, and an in-display fingerprint sensor.

Other features include a 13MP selfie camera, stereo speakers, the ability to make mobile payments using NFC and 5G connectivity. The Galaxy A34 hasn’t been announced for the US, but in the UK, the base 128GB phone costs £349, while the larger 256GB model is £399.

The Galaxy S23 is looking for less money

The camera modules of the green and purple Galaxy A54.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Even after some time with the Galaxy A54, it’s clear that the phone has a lot going for it. The design is great, I love the two really awesome colors and the camera has potential. Mostly, the software is the same as the Galaxy S23, so it’s attractive, logical and full of useful features without being overwhelming. Plus, it’s covered by the same four-year major release and five-year security update promise.

It’s not a big upgrade over the Galaxy A53, at least technically, but small changes like the brighter screen and larger camera pixel size can make a big difference in day-to-day use. The ultimate success of the phone will come down to the performance of the Exynos 1380, and whether the battery can last two days even with fairly heavy usage, and whether the new 50MP camera avoids the pitfalls of some Samsung cameras, such as oversaturation.

A person holding the Galaxy A43 phone and taking a picture.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

From what I’ve seen so far, the Galaxy A54 has all the makings of a sensible money-saving buy for those put off by the Galaxy S23’s higher price tag. There’s pretty much everything you need from a phone here, with that high level of Samsung polish and at a price that matches the Google Pixel 6a and the Nothing Phone 1. I can’t wait to use it more.

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