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Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Google Pixel 5a: What's the best Android phone under $500?

galaxy a53 and pixel 5a laying face down
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There’s a good reason for a Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a face-off. At identical prices of $449, both phones deliver excellent value. So it helps to know the ways in which they differ.

The Samsung Galaxy A53 is a stronger performer with its newer chipset and 120Hz display, but the Pixel 5a punches back hard with its cameras. As you’ll see, Samsung delivers a more-than-capable contender in other areas, with the Galaxy A53 even beating out the Pixel in terms of battery life.

In this Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a face-off, you’ll see which phone delivers more for your $449.

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a: Specs

Galaxy A53Pixel 5a
Price$449$449
Android version12, One UI 4.112
Display6.5-inch AMOLED (2400 x 1080)6.34-inch OLED (2400 x 1080)
Refresh rate120Hz60Hz
CPUExynos 1280Snapdragon 765G
RAM6GB6GB
Storage / Expandable128GB / Yes128GB / No
Rear cameras64MP main (f/1.8), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 5MP macro (f/2.4), 5MP depth (f/2.4)12.2MP (f/1.7), 16MP (f/2.2) ultrawide
Front camera32MP (f/2.2)8MP (f/2.0)
Battery5,000 mAh4,680 mAh
Battery life (Hrs:Mins)9:49 (120Hz), 10:38 (60Hz)9:45
Charging25W18W
Size6.3 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches
Weight6.7 ounces6.5 ounces
ColorsAwesome BlackMostly Black

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a: Price and availability

As noted, $449 gets you either the Galaxy A53 or Pixel 5a. The former enjoys a much wider availability, including the UK and EU. The Pixel 5a only came out in the US and Japan — we think the international chip shortage had something to do with this decision. 

Both phones come with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but the Galaxy A53 supports up to 1TB microSD cards. The A53 also sports a 120Hz display versus the Pixel 5a’s 60Hz. With all of these extra features, we think the Galaxy A53 is the better value. And it helps that you can buy Samsung’s phone in more places.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A53

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a: Design

Both the Galaxy A53 and Pixel 5a come in plastic bodies, though neither feels cheap. They each have soft-touch backs which attract fingerprint smudges very easily. I frequently had to use a tech-safe wet wipe to clean either phone.

Samsung Galaxy A53 camera

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The design of the Galaxy A53 looks like 2020’s Galaxy S20 series. The camera module rises on its own from the rear of the handset instead of seamlessly blending into the frame like you see on the Galaxy S22. Even so, the A53 looks nice enough, even with a glossy plastic frame.

The Pixel 5a is seemingly the last holdout for Google’s spartan smartphone design, if you believe rumors and leaks about the Pixel 6a. That said, you won’t find much interesting about the Pixel 5a’s appearance. The dual camera module sits in a square in the corner with the fingerprint sensor centered just a bit below that.

Google Pixel 5a review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy A53 has an IP67 rating, meaning that it can survive submersion in fresh water up to 3 feet (1 m) for 30 minutes. The same goes for the Pixel 5a. This water-resistance lends itself well to making both of these phones more durable.

However, there is one key difference. The Pixel 5a has a headphone jack while the Galaxy A53 does not. This is an important factor for a lot of people and I think it gives the Pixel 5a the edge.

Winner: Google Pixel 5a

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a: Display

With a 6.5-inch FHD+ AMOLED display, the Galaxy A53 impressed us with its excellent colors and brightness. This is the best display at this price, especially since the A53 screen comes with a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s not adaptive like on some flagship phones — you have to manually set the refresh rate in other words — but it’s very nice to see at $449.

Samsung Galaxy A53 display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Pixel 5a sports a 6.34-inch FHD+ OLED display, but it’s locked at 60Hz. It doesn’t quite have color reproduction as good as the Galaxy A53, nor does its max brightness of 501 nits match the A53’s excellent 693 nits. 

Google Pixel 5a review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Games like Genshin Impact and Call of Duty Mobile just look better on the Galaxy A53, as does a streaming version of Blade Runner 2049. You’d be hard pressed to find a better display on a phone that costs this much. It should go without saying that the Galaxy A53 wins this category.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A53

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a: Cameras

The Galaxy A53 comes equipped with a 64MP main camera joined by 12MP ultrawide, 5MP macro, and 5MP depth sensors. It snaps selfies with a 32MP front-facing camera. The Pixel 5a works with a 12MP main camera, plus 16MP ultrawide and 8MP front cameras. While the other areas are very important, the camera section is where we’re most excited to see a Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a comparison.

Starting with this outdoor shot of some flowers, the Galaxy A53 captured a brighter image with the trademark Samsung oversaturation effect, but the background looks overexposed in some areas. Because of the crushed shadows, the image overall looks quite flat The Pixel 5a’s shot accounts much better for the intense, direct sunlight. The colors are still vibrant, but there is far less overexposure in the background and the deep shadows add nice contrast. The Pixel wins.

The ultrawide comparison shot proved similar, as the Galaxy A53 went way too bright. The resulting image looks washed out. Even though the Pixel 5a’s photo is darker in comparison, it’s much more accurate with the shadows offering solid contrast to the bright colors. The Pixel properly controlled its exposure calibration with an image that doesn’t border on eye-searing. 

Both phones performed similarly inside with these books. The Galaxy A53 is definitely brighter than the Pixel 5a, but the A53 once again tries to blow out the colors. It’s not quite as bad as some of the outdoor shots, but it’s approaching that line. (Look at the pink spine of Six Crimson Cranes.) The Pixel keeps things calmer, though I wish it had brightened up the image just a tad.

As for portraits, the Galaxy A53 didn’t capture one that’s worth mentioning. While the zoomed-out look is up for personal interpretation, the A53’s bokeh effect is weak in my opinion. Meanwhile, the Pixel 5a did a much better job all around. Not only are my skin and eyes much clearer, but you can more easily see the individual hairs of my beard. The A53 doesn’t have this level of detail. 

I came away impressed with the Galaxy A53’s night mode performance, which seems to have benefited from all the effort Samsung put into improving nighttime photography on the Galaxy S22 lineup. The books are pretty clear and you can even read some of the spines. The Pixel’s photo is blurrier, but I don’t have the steadiest hands. The 5a’s image is slightly brighter, but the Galaxy A53 seems to have had stronger stabilization. So while I give the Pixel the nod for image clarity and brightness, I also have to credit the A53 for a less blurry photo. So I have to call this one a draw.

Wrapping up with selfies, the differences I noted earlier between the Galaxy A53 and Pixel 5a pop up again. The A53’s image is brighter than the Pixel’s, but the latter offers much more natural colors, especially with my skin. The A53 applied a bit too much face smoothing for my liking, but I do like the greener vegetation in the background. The Pixel’s selfie looks more subdued and I think it would be the better image overall following some edits, but out of the box, I think the Galaxy A53 did a better job.

The Pixel 5a wins since it consistently provides accurate colors, better exposure control, and more realistic skin tones.

Winner: Google Pixel 5a

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a: Performance

Equipped with an Exynos 1280 chipset, the Galaxy A53 is far from a powerhouse. It can perform many tasks just fine, but don’t expect to play most games at 120 fps. However, the A53 is more powerful than the Pixel 5a with its Snapdragon 765G system-on-chip, which is nearly 2 years old. 

Samsung Galaxy A53 display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In Geekbench 5, the Galaxy A53 scored 745 in single-core and 1,888 in multicore. The Pixel 5a managed 581 and 1,345, respectively. However, both phones performed our Adobe Premiere Rush test — where a phone transcodes a 4K video to 1080p — in just about the same time with the A53 coming in at 1 minute and 58 seconds and the 5a at 1 minute and 59 seconds.

Google Pixel 5a review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy A53 fared better in gaming benchmarks, though, netting an average of 14 frames per second in the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited test. Compare that to the Pixel 5a’s 10 fps average. Again, neither phone will ever match the best gaming phones, so you’ll want to dial back your expectations.

The Galaxy A53 wins the performance round by a hair. The Pixel 5a actually put up quite a good fight even with its much older chipset.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A53

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a: 5G

Both the Galaxy A53 and Pixel 5a can use 5G, but the latter lacks support for mmWave and C-band networks. Google’s budget phone is locked to sub-6GHz networks only. To be fair, to get mmWave, you need to buy the Galaxy A53 through Verizon and pay $50 more than the usual $449 asking price. But if you buy the phone elsewhere, you still get sub-6 and C-band.

The Galaxy A53 simply works across a wider variety of 5G networks, so it has the win here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A53

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a: Battery life and charging

Battery life is one area where the Galaxy A53 disappointed us, and to be fair, so did the Pixel 5a. The A53 comes with a 5,000 mAh battery, which is very large. The Pixel has a 4,680 mAh power pack.

Samsung Galaxy A53 sitting against wall

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In the Tom’s Guide battery life test, where a phone continually surfs the web over 5G, the Galaxy A53 lasted for 9 hours and 55 minutes in its 120Hz mode. Lock the display to 60Hz and it went for 10 hours and 38 minutes. The Pixel 5a, with its 60Hz display, lasted for 9 hours and 45 minutes.

Google Pixel 5a review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

So even with a 120Hz screen, the Galaxy A53 won out. It also has faster 25W charging, but at least the Pixel 5a comes with its 18W charger while the Galaxy A53 requires you to buy one separately.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A53

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a: Software

As for software, both the Galaxy A53 and Pixel 5a are pretty neck and neck. Both run Android 12, with the A53 using Samsung’s latest One UI 4.1 skin. Either phone has access to new theming customization options, enhanced privacy features, and some other added bonuses.

Samsung Galaxy A53 apps

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you want more features, then the Galaxy A53 wins out. Samsung packs in a lot of interesting toys like Smart Widgets, dual emojis, and more. The Pixel 5a is pretty minimal when it comes to software goodies, but it has a lot of core strengths. The Pixel is also first in line for new Android updates, even though Samsung has really stepped up the pace recently.

Google Pixel 5a review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Where the Galaxy A53 earns the advantage is with its update policy. Samsung has committed to four years of Android updates and five years of security patches, meaning that you can hold onto your A53 for even longer. The Pixel 5a is stuck at three years of platform upgrades and four years of security updates. It’s honestly surprising to see Samsung win out over Google’s own phone in this regard.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A53

Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a: Overall winner

galaxy a53 and pixel 5a in hand against brick background

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Galaxy A53Pixel 5a
Price (10)109
Design (10)89
Display (15)1311
Cameras (20)1418
Performance (15)109
5G (5)54
Battery life (15)109
Software (10)109
Total (100)8078

Samsung comes out on top in this Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a face-off. The A53 wins with its better display, stronger performance, and longer battery life. While the Pixel 5a still ranks among the best camera phones, it lags behind in other areas.

The Galaxy A53 is an absolute win in our book, and the sub-$500 phone we'd recommend above all others at this point — at least until the Pixel 6a comes out and we've had a chance to see how Google's next phone compares. If you need the best budget Android phone right now, though, Samsung’s latest midrange device is the one to get.

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.

  • ferdnyc
    One thing I didn't see covered: Where is the A53 fingerprint sensor? The 5a has it on the back, that was mentioned, but I don't THINK I saw one on the A53. Has it moved back to the front, like in Samsung's new flagship models?
    Reply