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Samsung Galaxy A53 5G hands-on review: Your long-term partner

Samsung has overhauled its great value midrange A-Series devices, launching the new Galaxy A33 5G and Galaxy A53 5G. At first glance, both look identical to each other, and arguably no different from the Galaxy A52 5G’s lovely design, but there’s a serious focus on longevity here with various changes to the spec that makes the new lower price even more tempting. I had the chance to try both phones out a few days before the launch.

Galaxy in your hand

The dimensions of the Galaxy A33 5G and Galaxy A53 5G are almost identical, and both are available in the same four colors, making the only immediately obvious way to tell the difference between them on their fronts. The Galaxy A33 5G has a teardrop selfie camera cutout, which Samsung calls Infinity-U, while the Galaxy A53 5G has a circular hole-punch selfie cam, called Infinity-O. There is a slight difference in weight, but as it’s only a few grams you won’t really notice.

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G and Galaxy A33 5G screens.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The textured rear panel provides plenty of in-hand grip and has a pleasing warmth to it. The camera module blends into it for a smooth, classy finish. There are four colors, a pair of ordinary black or white models, along with a pretty sky blue and an unusual peach finish. I liked the sky blue a lot and was pleased the peach-ish version didn’t stray too far into the overdone pink territory. They give the design a fun, modern twist.

This is quite a chunky phone at 8.1mm thick, and the near 75mm width of the A53 5G makes it feel substantial in your hand. It’s light at 189 grams (186 grams for the A33 5G) so it doesn’t feel ungainly, but it’s not all that easy to use with one hand if you have small hands. The chassis feels like it’s made of plastic so the phone should be moderately durable if you accidentally drop it, plus both models have an IP67 water resistance rating too.

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

Provided you choose one of the two brighter colors, the Galaxy A33 and Galaxy A53 are eye-catching and well-designed smartphones.

What’s on screen?

The Galaxy A33 5G has a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate and the Galaxy A53 5G has a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED with a 120Hz refresh rate. When you examine the two, the Galaxy A53 5G has smaller bezels, especially around the chin, which combined with the Infinity-O cutout give it a more modern look. I couldn’t see any differences between the screens when I used the two briefly, but this was only using the operating system and a few pre-installed apps. There’s plenty of brightness, and the responsiveness was good.

Samsung has installed its latest OneUI 4.1 user interface with Android 12, the same as you get on the Galaxy S22 series, plus the two phones are going to get four years of major Android update support and five years of security updates. This is a huge benefit on any phone, but it’s particularly refreshing to see such commitment on those that don’t cost $1,000. The experience was much like that of the Galaxy S22, which is a definite advantage as OneUI 4.1 is sensibly laid out, easy to learn, and suitably customizable too.

Both phones use a Samsung processor, the octa-core Exynos 1280, and come with 6GB of RAM. You can also allocate up to 6GB of the 128GB internal storage space to use as virtual RAM, providing greater multi-tasking potential. Samsung also made a big deal about the chip being built using a 5nm process, something reserved for its flagship S Series phones only a few years ago, which should mean performance and efficiency is good. It’s also the main upgrade for the A53 5G over the interim Galaxy A52S 5G, which did not receive a U.S. launch.

There’s a MicroSD card slot to further increase internal storage space, plus support for Samsung Pay, and an in-display fingerprint sensor. This wasn’t a high point of the Galaxy A52, but I was unable to test it on the new models during my short hands-on to see any improvements.

I did spend some time using the A53 5G’s operating system and trying out the camera app. It wasn’t the snappiest performer but didn’t feel bogged down or lethargic, just not quite as fast as I’d have preferred. It’s unfair to judge just yet due to these being test devices, and because the Exynos 1280 is brand new the software may not have been finalized. The camera app was quick to change modes and react to the shutter button though, and the photos I took inside looked bright and colorful.

The camera is also different on the two phones. What’s important is both have optical image stabilization on the main camera this time, which likely helped when I was taking photos in slightly subdued indoor lighting. You get a 48-megapixel main camera and an 8MP wide-angle camera on the A33 5G, and a 64MP main and 12MP wide-angle on the A53 5G. Both have depth and macro cameras too.

Price and availability

The Galaxy A53 5G will cost $450 and be released on April 1 through Samsung’s online store, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Pre-orders will start on March 17 and you’ll get a pair of Galaxy Buds Live with the phone if you order early. In the U.K. the Galaxy A53 5G costs 399 British pounds, while the Galaxy A33 5G costs 329 pounds. No U.S. price has been given for the Galaxy A33 5G, indicating it may not receive a North American release.

Trading on the Samsung name?

With the A53 5G, you’re getting a well-designed phone with a decent specification, plus the all-important Samsung Galaxy name on it. The name makes a difference. We’d be unlikely to accept many midrange phones without fast charging — it’s 25W wired charging on both here — from any other brand, and this desirable feature is a big selling point for many of the Galaxy A53 5G’s rivals such as the OnePlus Nord 2 and Nord CE 2, and various Realme and Xiaomi phones.

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G and Galaxy A33 5G color range.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I heartily recommended the Galaxy A52 5G, so it’s great to see Samsung improve the specification and lower the price for the sequel. However, it hasn’t dramatically improved the spec or really changed the design, and with OnePlus’s Nord range and the Google Pixel 5a available for a similar price, it does have plenty of competition. There’s also no reason for Galaxy A52 or A52S owners to think about upgrading.

What the Samsung name provides is peace of mind due to the excellent software already installed, and the promise to support it for many years to come. This level of software support along with 5G, water resistance, expandable memory, and a timeless, appealing design makes the Galaxy A53 5G and Galaxy A33 5G very strong propositions for someone who wants to keep their phone for several years, yet not spend much money upfront.

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