In the past year, Samsung has posed quite a challenge for anyone with $450 to $800 to spend on a new smartphone. A steady flow of phone releases has given shopers an abundance of choices as they try to decide between the Samsung Galaxy S23, the Galaxy S23 FE and the Galaxy A54.
For some, that's going to be an easy choice. If you're the sort of person who only considers flagship phones, the Galaxy S23 is the handset to get. On the opposite end of the spectrum, phone users on tight budgets may decide that the Galaxy A54 is all they can swing. Likewise, people who balk at high smartphone prices may decide that the midrange A54 provides enough of the features they're looking for.
It's the recent arrival of the Galaxy S23 FE that complicates things. Situated right between the standard S23 and the low-cost A54 in Samsung's product lineup, the Galaxy S23 FE offers a midway point for those looking to balance flagship features with an affordable price tag. Now, instead of trying to decide between a midrange model and a more premium phone, you've got a third option to consider as well.
I can help you make that choice. I've personally tested all three Samsung phones for Tom's Guide reviews, and I can outline each model's strengths and weaknesses. The Galaxy S23, Galaxy S23 FE and Galaxy A54 are all good handsets, but some will prove to be better than others depending on what it is you want out of a smartphone. Here's a closer look at how this year's best Samsung phones stack up and which one is the right choice for different types of smartphone shopper.
Samsung Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S23 FE vs. Galaxy A54: How they compare
The Galaxy S23 is Samsung's lowest-cost flagship and while it lacks some of the premium capabilities found in more expensive models like the Galaxy S23 Ultra — there's no 10x zoom capability to be found here — you will get more features with the S23 than with other phones mentioned in this roundup.
Two things help the Galaxy S23 standout from the smartphone crowd: It's one of the rare phones under $800 to feature a telephoto lens and its 6.1-inch screen makes it pretty compact for this day and age. It also has the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset found in other S23 models, providing both boosts to both performance and power efficiency.
Who it's for: Anyone who wants a flagship phone without the bells and whistles of the Plus and Ultra models
Who should avoid it: People who balk at paying $800 or more for a smartphone (though the best Galaxy S23 deals can help you get the phone for less)
Samsung clearly wants people to think of the Galaxy S23 FE as the Goldilocks phones — as in, it's just right if neither the standard S23 nor the Galaxy A54 fit your needs. And it comes pretty close to delivering on that goal.
Like the Galaxy S23 itself, the S23 FE is one of the few lower-cost phones to offer a dedicated telephoto lens (evn if its resolution isn't as sharp as what the S23 delivers). You get a bigger screen with a high refresh rate, too, and the total package costs $200 less than the S23's asking price. The trade-off is making do with the older Qualcomm silicon that powers the Galaxy S23 FE.
Who it's for: Bargain hunters who don't want to give up a telephoto lens in the name of a lower-cost phone
Who should avoid it: Anyone who wants a more current chipset and a more premium-feeling phone
One of the best cheap phones under $500, the Galaxy A54 may tempt people who might otherwise overlook midrange phones. True, it lacks a telephoto lens, but the shots it can produce compare favorably with output from the Pixel 7a, the best camera phone under $500.
The Galaxy A54 is one of the increasingly rare Samsung phones with a microSD slot, allowing you to expand storage up to 1TB. And though it's clearly made from cheaper materials, it manages to adopt the look of the Galaxy S23 — you may be carrying around a budget phone, but it sure won't look like it.
Who it's for: Smartphone shoppers on a budget, or just anyone who wants the biggest bang for their buck
Who should avoid it: People who demand high-performance from their phone or need a dedicated telephoto lens
Which Galaxy phone should you get?
That rundown of the Galaxy S23, Galaxy S23 FE and Galaxy A54 should give you a pretty good idea of what each phone can and can't provide. But what about specific use cases for these phones? Here's what I'd recommend in each of the following scenarios.
You want the biggest screen
Personally, I'm a fan of smaller, more compact phones, so the Galaxy S23 is exactly my jam. But I'm fighting a losing battle against popular opinion, which favors vast acres of screen real estate.
Both the Galaxy S23 FE and Galaxy A54 offer 6.4-inch panels, and the similarities don't end with screen size. They have the same resolution, and each phone can offer a 120Hz refresh rate when on-screen content demands smoother scrolling and immersive graphics. They even turn to the same level of screen protection with Gorilla Glass 5.
When two phones are that identical on a specific feature, I say the tie goes to the less expensive model. Get the Galaxy A54.
You want the brightest screen
We're still doing lab tests on some aspects of the Galaxy S23 FE, so we can't say for certain how bright its display is, though Samsung lists a peak of 1,450 nits. The standard S23 can get up to 1,750 nits, and hit a peak of 1,340 nits when we tested a portion of its display with HDR settings enabled. (Measuring the whole screen, our light meter registed a reading of 1,158 nits.) It's possible the Galaxy S23 FE could outshine its sibling, but we'd be very surprised if it did.
The Galaxy A54 peaked at 854 nits. It's not really part of this conversation. Get the Galaxy S23.
You want the best performance
This is another one of those categories where reading the spec sheet will steer you in the right direction. The Galaxy S23 uses a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the very best silicon Qualcomm has to offer, at least until the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 starts showing up in phones. What's more, the chipset's been optimized for performance. It's a safe bet that's going to outmuscle the older Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 inside the Galaxy S23 FE, not to mention the Galaxy A54's Exynos 1380 chip.
|Samsung Galaxy S23||Samsung Galaxy S23 FE||Samsung Galaxy A54|
|Chipset||Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy||Snapdragon 8 Gen 1||Exynos 1380|
|Geekbench 6 (single core/multicore)||1181 / 4972||1714 / 4068||950 / 2731|
|3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (fps)||87.3||60.2||16.9|
|Adobe Premiere Rush video transcoding (Mins:Secs)||0:39||0:49||1:11|
But don't take our word for it. Above, you'll find the benchmark results from when we tested each device, and you can see how far ahead the Galaxy S23 is, compared to its fellow Samsung phones. Get the Galaxy S23.
You want the longest-lasting phone
This is another category awaiting final figures from our Galaxy S23 FE testing. Given that phone's battery size (4,500 mAh), it should do all right in the testing, though other phones running on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset have had problems lasting a long time on a charge in our experience. We'll update this as soon as battery testing on the S23 FE wraps up.
That leaves the Galaxy A54 and the Galaxy S23, which produced striking similar results on our battery test. We set up both phones to surf the web continuously over cellular until they ran out of power — the A54 lasted 10 hours and 20 minutes, while the S23 held out for 7 minutes longer.
Those numbers came with the phones' refresh rates turned on, though. Disabling that feature allowed the Galaxy A54 to last 11 hours and 46 minutes, or 26 minutes longer than the S23. Get the Galaxy A54.
You want the most flexible camera
To me, a flexible camera setup allows you to take as many different kinds of shots as possible. That rules out the Galaxy A54 — as dependable as that phone's cameras are, the A54 lacks a telephoto lens. That's not a sacrifice you need to make with either the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 FE.
Having shot pictures with both of those phones, I think the Galaxy S23 produces better pictures. But the images that the S23 FE captures are at least in the same ballpark, which is not a bad trade-off for a phone that costs $200 less. Get the Galaxy S23 if photos are the most important part of your smartphone usage, but get the Galaxy S23 FE if you can get by with a camera that's good enough for most shooting situations.
You want the best value
All three Samsung phones deliver pretty strong value at their respective prices. But it's hard to ignore just how much you get with the Galaxy A54 for how little you have to pay.
The Exynos 1380 offers enough processing power to handle the apps and games most people are going to use — for more intensive apps, turn to the S23 and its better silicon. The A54's screen is big and colorful, and the phone lasts a long time on a charge. Even the cameras, while not a strong point, deliver decent photos, especially in low light.
Add it all together and that translates to a lot of value for just $449. Get the Galaxy A54.