Samsung Galaxy A54 Review: Slippery but good

Samsung’s Galaxy A54 handset offers good value for $699 with solid battery performance, decent processor performance and a workable — if slightly colour-oversaturated — camera setup.

Good battery life
Pleasant 120Hz AMOLED display
IP-rated water resistance

Really slippery in the hand
Camera tends to oversaturate image colour
Sits in a weird price space relative to other A-series phones

Score: 3.5/5

Samsung’s Galaxy A-series phones sit below its flagship Galaxy S lines in price and feature terms, but this year Samsung’s made some… interesting decisions about which A series handsets we’ll see in Australia. There’s the Galaxy A14 ($329), Galaxy A14 5G ($379) and Galaxy A34 5G ($599) sitting in the mid-range, and then there’s the Galaxy A54 5G.

At $699 it’s not a pricey phone the way the Galaxy S series handsets are, but it is the odd duck in the flock in pricing terms, sitting not too far from the price you might (for example) be able to snaffle up one of last year’s Galaxy S series phones if you shop around.

That means that the Galaxy A54 has to work extra hard to justify that price bump up from the more mid-range priced Galaxy A handsets. There’s areas where the Galaxy A54 is a seriously impressive device, and then there’s areas where you can clearly see Samsung building to a price with less than stellar results.

Samsung Galaxy A54: Design

Samsung Galaxy A54. Godzilla not included in box.
Samsung Galaxy A54. Godzilla not included in box.

As it so often does, Samsung makes the Galaxy A54 in a wide array of colours – but we won’t see all of those down under.

Officially here we get “Awesome Violet” or “Awesome Graphite”, which ordinary people would just call “purple” or “black”. It’s the latter model that Samsung loaned me for review.

Measuring in at 158.2×76.7×8.2mm with a 6.4 inch Super AMOLED display capable of up to 120Hz refresh rates, the Galaxy A54 feels solid in the hand… when it stays in the hand. It’s a peril for glossy backed phones the world over, but for some reason I really struggled to keep a firm grip on the Galaxy A54 during my review period.

Putting it down on anything but an absolutely flat surface is an invitation to watching it crash to the ground, or slide under a car seat. I managed both without damaging the phone, which is pleasing for the most part, but still less than desirable.

At its $699 asking price, the Galaxy A54 does bring with it some inclusions you might not expect from a design viewpoint. Motorola’s already comprehensively broken the value arrangement for faster refresh rate screens across many of its phones, so the 120Hz display, while welcome is sort of expected.

What’s far less common is water resistance, with the Galaxy A54 providing IP67 water resistance, meaning that immersion in plain water shouldn’t kill it. As always, check the warranty carefully – Samsung does note that it is “not advised for beach or pool use”.

(Fun side fact: That’s because Samsung Australia got prosecuted by the ACCC around various ads it ran showing people jumping into pools with Galaxy phones. Don’t do this unless you hate your Galaxy Phone.)

Slippery hand feel aside, the Galaxy A54 is a pleasant phone to use, with simple power and volume controls along the right hand side. Fans of lower priced phones still featuring headphone jacks are out of luck here, though; you’ll have to rely on Bluetooth options or a USB-to-3.5mm adaptor for your audio needs.

Biometrics are handled via an in-display fingerprint reader. I had few issues with that during my review time with the Galaxy A54, though this was with no screen protector in place. Given its slippery nature, I’d certainly suggest that might be a wise inclusion, though it may affect the fingerprint sensor if you do.

Samsung Galaxy A54: Camera

Samsung Galaxy A54: Triple lens cameras at the rear... but don't get too excited.
Triple lens cameras at the rear… but don’t get too excited.

The rear of the Galaxy A54 looks pretty close to that of the more premium Galaxy S23 handsets, with a trio of circular lenses at the upper left, complimented with a simple holepunch style selfie camera at the front.

At a specifications level, that trio of rear lenses comprises a wide 50MP f/1.8 sensor, ultra-wide 12MP f/2.2 and 5MP f/2.4 macro lens. At the front, you’ll be taking all your vanity shots with a 32MP f/2.2 sensor.

From a pure numbers standpoint that’s fair but not exceptional, and my hopes were not high for that macro lens, because most phones that put macro lenses in are delivering far more in the expectations category than the results one.

The reality for mid-range phones in 2023 is that they absolutely should be capable of taking everyday photos without breaking a sweat, and there I can’t entirely fault the Galaxy A54. You also get the fun stuff that Samsung’s had for a while, like its “Single Take” system that manages a bunch of still and video captures for you if you just want the phone to do all the work for you.

I would have happily swapped out the 5MP macro lens for any level of telephoto – it wouldn’t have to be Space Zoom, Samsung, work with me here – but for actual capture beyond the slippery nature of the handset I had few issues.

There is of course digital zoom, but it quickly degrades. Here, I’ll show you.

A pleasant scene of a seagull convention, taken with the standard ultra-wide lens:

Ultrawide lens, all is good.
Ultrawide lens, all is good. In the distance, you can make out the mass of seagulls that caught my eye.

Wide lens is OK too, though I would like to get some seagull expressions in there.

Getting closer with the wide lens... but I would like to get even closer.
Getting closer with the wide lens… but I would like to get even closer.

I know – I’ll zoom in a little closer.

At 4x digital zoom, it’s already starting to struggle:

4x zoom is just about bearable (if your standards aren't high.)
Those are definitely birds.

And at 10x digital, I may as well be drawing these seagulls on a Commodore 64:

I for one welcome our new blobby whatever-the-heck-these-are-overlords, etc.
I for one welcome our new blobby whatever-the-heck-these-are-overlords, etc.

Telephoto woes aside, the other issue I had with the Galaxy A54 came with how Samsung handles post-processing. Every single smartphone does some level of this, typically to improve consumer photos.

Samsung’s default post-processing really punches up the colour intensity to a level that just feels unrealistic, whether you’re talking flower photos, selfies or landscape shots.

Sure, I get that there’s a market out there that likes that whole HDR-until-it-hurts type approach, but even in this space you can get phones that take cleaner shots by default. Of course, you can post-process yourself after the fact, and I’d advise it for some of the shots that the Galaxy A54 provides.

Samsung Galaxy A54 sample photos:

Sure, the flower is red. But it's not THIS RED, SAMSUNG.
Sure, the flower is red. But it’s not THIS RED, SAMSUNG.
Low light shots are one area where the oversaturation of colour can work in your favour.
Low light shots are one area where the over-saturation of colour can work in your favour.
Remember books? They aged poorly in some cases.
Remember books? They aged poorly in some cases.
Not quite blue suede shoes, but again the A54 is oversaturating the colour away from the actual, natural tone. Or in this case, synthetic dye tone, but you know what I mean.
Not quite blue suede shoes, but again the A54 is over-saturating the colour away from the actual, natural tone. Or in this case, synthetic dye tone, but you know what I mean.
Samsung knows who its enemy is.
Samsung knows who its enemy is.

Samsung Galaxy A54: Performance

Samsung Galaxy A54. It clearly has great taste in podcasts.
Samsung Galaxy A54. It clearly has great taste in podcasts.

The Galaxy A54 is the top of Samsung’s A-series family in Australia, but that doesn’t mean that it punches up towards the Qualcomm processors of its S-series siblings. Instead, it relies on a Samsung Exynos 1380 SoC, paired up with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. MicroSD card expansion was supported up to 1TB.

Exynos processors have long lagged behind the best of Qualcomm in performance terms, but here the Galaxy A54 slightly punched above its weight.

You won’t be troubling your Galaxy S toting friends in a direct line benchmark comparison race, but with Geekbench 6 scores of 1003/2808 (Single/Multi-Core) and 3DMark Wild Life Extreme score of 812, it sits in the pleasing category for performance. Most Android games should run well, and Samsung’s one “OneUI” is one of the few manufacturer Android launchers I don’t dislike.

Samsung’s also improved its game when it comes to updates for its phones; during my review period in April 2023, the Galaxy A54 did indeed update itself to the latest Android security update patches. That’s especially important given the issues around Exynos systems and Android right now – though hopefully the A54’s Exynos 1380 isn’t hit by that particular issue.

Samsung Galaxy A54: Battery

Samsung Galaxy A54
The Galaxy A54 runs with a 5,000mAh sealed battery. There was a time where that might have seemed like a big number, but in the Android world it’s quickly become the expected normal for everything but the cheapest phones, or the weirdest ones.

The issue here for Samsung is that in the recent past, its phones haven’t been spectacular battery life devices compared to their competition. Outside their foldables – where the Galaxy Flip phones have really struggled, albeit with smaller batteries in their case – they’ve been fair but nowhere near as great as Samsung’s hype might have you believe.

So how did the Samsung Galaxy A54 fare during my review period?

Predictably, it fared well, maybe even a tad better than you might find in other Samsung devices, but still a touch below the best in the market.

To illustrate this, I ran the Samsung Galaxy A54 for an hour using a 1080p streamed YouTube video at maximum brightness from a full battery. This is a test I’ve used for years, looking for at least 90% battery capacity left at the end of the test. Any less than 90%, and you’re looking at a phone that may struggle to get through a day’s normal use.

Here’s how the Galaxy A54 compared against a range of Samsung phones in that test:

Phone Battery Percentage Remaining Battery Capacity
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G 95% 5000
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra 95% 5000
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G 93% 5000
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 93% 3700

The good news here is that the Galaxy A54 did outperform its predecessor in that test, albeit only lightly. The difference that single percentage point makes can add up over time though, and that did show through in more anecdotal testing.

The Galaxy A54 can certainly make it through a day’s regular usage with few issues (as long as you don’t drop it), but Samsung is still lagging behind the likes of Google, Motorola and Apple in this regard – although not at this price point in Apple’s case.

The model loaned to me for review was just the phone itself, no box and no accessories, but it would appear that, like many premium phones, the Galaxy A54 ships with a possible USB cable but no included charger.

Charging is supported via cable only – if you want wireless you’ll have to bump up to a Galaxy S phone – and while Samsung Australia doesn’t make it terribly apparent, based on overseas models it would appear to top out at 25W with a compliant charger.

Samsung Galaxy A54: Alex’s Verdict

Samsung Galaxy A54: It's worth biting into (mostly).
Samsung Galaxy A54: It’s worth biting into (mostly).

Samsung is one of Australia’s best selling phone brands with plenty of loyal customers. As always, I can’t see the sense in upgrading to the Galaxy A54 if you’re already rocking the Galaxy A53, but if you’re coming from an older Samsung phone, you do get a good selection of features for a fair price here.

Samsung would do well to dial down the colour enhancement on that camera, though.

Samsung Galaxy A54: Pricing and availability

The Samsung Galaxy A54 retails in Australia for $699 outright. You can buy one through Amazon Australia through this link.

Samsung Galaxy A54: Alternatives

The $699 price point is a highly competitive one, and if you were after alternatives in the Android space, you’re spoiled for choice.

Consider phones like the Motorola Edge 30 5G or Google Pixel 7 as viable competitors, or you may be able to grab an older Samsung Galaxy S phone – the Galaxy S21 or Galaxy S22 especially – at this kind of price from some retailers.

You could also opt for the Google Pixel 6a, though it’s likely to be superceded by the Pixel 7a very soon now.

On the Apple side of the fence, you could consider an older model like the Apple iPhone 12 or Apple iPhone SE 3rd Generation.

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