There's bad cheap, and then there's good cheap. And after spending some time with the new Samsung Galaxy A54, which launches on April 6 for $449, I'd say it's looking good cheap.
In fact, this could be one of the best cheap phones under $500 of the year, depending on how well the upcoming Google Pixel 7a performs when it's launched this spring or summer.
I went hands-on with the Galaxy A54 at the Samsung 837 flagship store in New York City ahead of its release date, and I came away impressed with its design, display and cameras. But we still have a lot of testing ahead of us. Here's what I like (and don't like) about the Galaxy A54 so far.
Update: We've added a hands-on Galaxy A54 video so you can see the phone in action.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Galaxy A54|
|Display||6.4-inch FHD AMOLED|
|Refresh rate||120Hz (static)|
|Expandable?||Yes, up to 1TB via microSD|
|Rear cameras||50MP main (f/1.8), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 5MP macro (f/2.4)|
|Front camera||32MP (f/2.2)|
|Size||6.2 x 3.0 x 0.32 inches (158.2 x 76.7 x 8.2mm)|
|Weight||7.1 ounces (202 grams)|
|Colors||Awesome Graphite, Awesome White, Awesome Lime, Awesome Violet|
What I like about the Galaxy A54
Big and responsive 120Hz OLED display
The Galaxy A54 features a fairly big 6.4-inch OLED display with full HD+ resolution, and it looked really good when I played the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 trailer on this panel. The colors really popped, especially Nebula's blue skin.
Another plus is that this display supports a 120Hz refresh rate, which means you can enjoy smoother scrolling when surfing the web and more fluid graphics in supported games. The Google Pixel 6a maxes out at just 60Hz, but the Pixel 7a is rumored to offer a 90Hz panel.
Very capable cameras
I'm happy to report that the photos I took with the main 50MP camera on the Galaxy A54 delivered plenty of detail and looked bright and colorful. Yes, the resolution is lower on the A54 vs. the 64MP Galaxy A53 camera from last year. But the new Samsung A54 has a larger sensor and faster aperture, so it should perform better in lower light.
While I thought it would be gimmicky at first, the 5MP macro camera on the Galaxy A54 captured a sharp close-up of a flower. I could make out fine details in the petals. You also get a 12MP ultra-wide camera and a 32MP front camera that snapped some good-looking selfies. This could be one of the best camera phones for the money.
Sleek design that doesn't scream budget
Normally this is the part where I'd tell you that the Galaxy A54 doesn't feel premium. But it does. With the exception of the fairly large bezels, you would be hard pressed to tell that this was a budget phone.
The Galaxy A54 feels solid with its aluminum frame, and I like the way that it's rounded, which makes the phone comfortable to hold. I also like that the front and back are protected with Gorilla Glass 5, even though it's not the latest Gorilla Glass Victus 2.
The two available colors in the U.S. are fairly attractive, too in Awesome Violet and Awesome Graphite. I prefer the former because it stands out more. Plus, unlike the Galaxy S23, you can expand the onboard storage with the microSD slot.
We're going to have to back this up with our own smartphone testing, but Samsung claims that the Galaxy A54's Exynos 1380 chip offers 20% faster CPU performance and 26% better GPU performance than the Galaxy A53's Exynos 1280 chip.
In my hands-on time with the phone, the Galaxy A54 proved fairly swift when launching apps and switching between them. The only time I noticed a bit of lag was when switching between the different digital zoom levels. We look forward to benchmarking this phone to see how it truly performs.
What I don't like about the Galaxy A54
A bit thick and heavy
I noticed immediately that the Galaxy A54 is a bit thick and heavy, though that's compared to pricier flagships. For example, the Galaxy A54 measures 6.23 x 3.02 x 0.32 inches and weighs 7.13 ounces, compared to 6.21 x 3 x 0.30 inches and 6.9 ounces for the Galaxy S23 Plus.
Note that the Galaxy A54 has a 6.4-inch display and the Galaxy S23 Plus has a 6.7-inch panel, so the pricier Plus is thiner and lighter despite having a larger screen. I don't think this is a dealbreaker by any stretch, though.
No telephoto zoom
This isn't a huge deal for the price, but it's worth noting that the Galaxy A54 doesn't offer a telephoto zoom lens. You'll see a 2x button when operating the camera, but that's digital zoom. Also note that the digital zoom goes up to only 10x, so you'll want a pricier flagship if you want a true optical zoom.
When shooting a plant from across the room, I'd say the result was passable but on the fuzzy side. So best to keep your expectations in check with the digital zoom, at least indoors.
No wireless charging
This is a caveat I can live with, but you should know that the Galaxy A54 doesn't offer wireless charging. So you're going to have to stick with a 25W wired charger to juice up the 5,000 mAh battery. This is the same speed that the Galaxy S23 offers.
As for the battery life, we'll have to see if the new Exynos 1380 chip is more efficient. The previous Galaxy A53 latest under 10 hours, and a handset needs to last 11.5 hours or more to make our best phone battery life list. So we'll have to test the endurance for sure.
Galaxy A54 outlook
Overall, I think Samsung could have a real winner on its hands with the Galaxy A54. You get pretty much everything you need from a modern phone — including a 50MP camera, 120Hz OLED display and beefy 5,000 mAh battery — all for less than $500.
Yes, the bezels are on the thick side and you need to give up some features versus the very best Android phones, but those flagships cost hundreds more. Stay tuned for our final rating, and in the meantime check out our Galaxy A54 hands-on review.