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Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G

The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G is possibly the best mid-range phone you’ll see all year. Featuring a luscious 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, it looks stunning. Its performance isn’t to be sniffed at either, with its five-nanometer Exynos 1280 chip, 6GB of RAM, quadruple-lens rear camera setup, and 5,000mAh battery.

Of course, in a world where overachieving mid-range phones are now becoming the norm, its bid for supremacy isn’t unchallenged. If you’re an Android fan, one of its biggest rivals is the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G. This is another device that punches above its weight in performance, helped by an alluring 6.43-inch AMOLED display, a triple-lens camera, and 65W fast-charging. However, with the strengths of each phone residing in different areas, it’s difficult to decide which is the better device for you.

That’s where this head-to-head comes in. By looking at each device, we should help you decide which is the mid-range Android smartphone for you.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G
Size  159.6 x 74.8 x 8.1mm (6.28 x 2.94 x 0.32 inches) 160.6 x 73.2 x 7.8 mm (6.32 x 2.88 x 0.31 inches)
Weight 189 grams (6.67 ounces) 173 grams (6.10 ounces)
Screen size 6.5-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED Infinity-O Display 6.43-inch AMOLED Display
Screen resolution 2400 x 1080 pixels (407 pixels per inch) 2400 x 1080 pixels (409 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 12, OneUI 4.1 Android 11, OxygenOS 11
Storage space 128GB, 256GB 128GB
MicroSD card slot Yes Yes
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay, Samsung Pay Google Pay
Processor Samsung Exynos 1280 (5nm) MediaTek MT6877 Dimensity 900 5G (6 nm)
RAM 6GB, 8GB 6GB, 8GB
Camera 64-megapixel wide, 12MP ultrawide, 5MP depth, 5MP macro rear. 32MP front. 64MP main, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro rear. 16MP front.
Video Up to 4K at 30 frames-per-second Up to 4K at 30 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.1 Bluetooth 5.2
Ports USB-C USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display Yes, in-display
Water resistance IP67 No official IP rating
Battery  

5,000 mAh

25W fast charging

 

4,500 mAh

65W fast-charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Black, White, Blue, Orange Gray Mirror, Bahama Blue
Price $450 $405
Review score Hands-on review 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

The Samsung Galaxy A53 is much like last year’s A52, sporting a cool edge-to-edge display with narrow bezels, and a punch-hole camera at the top of the screen. The rear camera bump, which was a highlight with the A52, has been further refined with the A53. It now blends even more seamlessly into the phone’s rear, looking tidier and more natural than the modules on most other modern phones. Arguably, this includes the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G, although the latter has a pleasingly well-designed camera bump. The two main lenses (the wide and ultrawide) on the OnePlus seem to stick out a bit more, making it a touch less discreet and subtle.

Looking at each display, the A53 features a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED Full HD+ display, with a 120Hz refresh rate, as well as a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels. This happens to be the same number of pixels you’ll find on the Nord CE 2, which combined with a 6.43-inch display makes for a very similar level of detail and clarity. One difference, however, is the A53’s 120Hz refresh rate, which allows for some impressively fluid visuals. This is just enough to give it an edge over the OnePlus, which can support a refresh rate of one 90Hz.

Another edge for Samsung’s device is an official IP67 rating, indicating it can survive immersion in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes. The Nord CE 2 carries no such rating, so combined with the arguably more attractive camera module (and noticeably smoother display), this round goes to the Galaxy.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

Performance, battery life, and charging

OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G charging port.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Galaxy A53 runs on an in-house Samsung processor, the octa-core Exynos 1280. This uses 5nm transistors, meaning it packs more transistors into the same area, making it faster than the 7nm and 8nm-based chips we were seeing a couple of years ago. It also makes it faster than the OnePlus Nord CE 2’s chip, the MediaTek MT6877 Dimensity 900 5G, which harnesses 6nm transistors and probably isn’t quite as nimble as the Exynos 1280. Both phones do have 6GB of RAM as standard, so there won’t be a massive in practice between the two, but the slightly more advanced chip in the Samsung should make it just a touch more capable in terms of multitasking and playing more demanding games.

Both devices also offer 128GB of internal storage as standard, while they can each be had with 256GB of storage for more money. They also both offer a microSD card slot, so you shouldn’t have trouble storing your photos and apps with either.

Things are also similar in the battery department. The A53 has a 5,000mAh cell, while the Nord CE 2 has a 4,500mAh counterpart. In theory, this should make the A53 more long-lasting, yet our review of the Nord CE 2 found that it can go for two days without needing a recharge. We can’t say the same thing about the A53 with complete assurance, since we haven’t given it a full review yet. And while the bigger battery size should result in equal (or superior) running time, the A53’s 120 refresh rate could mean it depletes faster. Because of this, we’re calling this round a tie, for now.

Winner: Tie

Camera

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G camera housing.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy A53 comes with a quad-lens camera setup: a 64-megapixel main lens with optical image stabilization, a 12MP ultrawide lens, a 5MP depth lens, and a 5MP macro lens. Meanwhile, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 features a triple-lens setup, comprising a 64MP wide camera, an 8MP ultrawide, and a 2MP macro.

While their hardware is very similar, there’s a tangible difference in photograph quality. The A53 enables users to take well-balanced and lively pictures in most conditions, with the use of A.I.-powered ‘intelligent algorithms’ enhancing scenes and generally ensuring good dynamics. By contrast, the Nord CE 2 isn’t quite as impressive, because while its photos are mostly usable, they can lack the vividness and color of the Samsung’s.

Both phones are also capable of capturing 4K video at 30 frames per second, but with the A53 being more consistent and a little more vibrant, it takes another win.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A53

Software and updates

OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G Quick Settings mode.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Galaxy A53 operates using Samsung’s latest OneUI 4.1 user interface, which is one of the best skins you can currently find for Android 12. It’s highly customizable, is quick and easy to navigate, and is attractively designed. Of course, much the same goes for OxygenOS, which is what the Nord CE 2 uses. This also has a reputation for being one of the best Android skins around, given that it’s also quick, intuitive, and well-designed.

However, the A53 takes the lead insofar as it includes four years of major Android update support and five years of security updates. This is quite rare for an Android phone, and it’s something the OnePlus can’t quite match, given that it promises only two years of core Android updates.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

Special features

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G facing front in hand.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There’s not much to separate either phone in terms of special features. They both support 5G networks, which is obviously great for such inexpensive devices. Other than that, however, there isn’t much to write home about. They both offer slots for microSD cards, they both have in-screen fingerprint sensors, and they (not always great) macro lenses to help you take close-ups.

Having said that, the OnePlus boasts a couple of nice touches that arguably puts it ahead of the Samsung. Firstly, it features a humble 3.5mm headphone jack, something which the A53 lacks. It also offers fast charging at an impressive 65W, so you won’t have to hang around for long between charges. These two features are enough to give it a narrow win.

Winner: OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G

Price and availability

The Galaxy A53 5G costs $450 and will be released on April 1 through Samsung’s online store, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Pre-orders start March 17 and you’ll get a pair of Galaxy Buds Live with the phone if you order early.

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 begins at around $405, although it isn’t officially on sale in the United States right now (and may never be directly sold in the U.S.). You can however find it online from various third-party retailers, and it looks like it’s compatible with the  U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless networks in the U.S.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G and Galaxy A33 5G blue and peach colors.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

They are broadly comparable, but the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G beats the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G in just enough areas to secure the overall win. It has a slightly more inviting design, a more impressive display, faster processor, better all-around camera, and longer software support. It might be the best mid-range phone you can buy right now. That’s not to say that the Nord CE 2 is a bad phone, far from it, but the A53 is almost as good as phones at nearly double its price.

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