Technology

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. S21 FE: Which value phone is the real value?

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If you’re looking for a great Samsung phone that doesn’t cost as much as a flagship device like a Galaxy S22 + (opens in new tab), the Galaxy A53 5G and Galaxy S21 FE are great choices. But is the Galaxy S21 FE really worth double the cost of the Galaxy A53 5G? We compare these two budget-friendly phones (opens in new tab) to see which is better worth your hard-earned dollars.

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. S21 FE: Design and display

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G vs Galaxy S21 FE

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Both the Galaxy A53 5G (opens in new tab) and Galaxy S21 FE (opens in new tab) are unmistakably modern Samsung devices on the outside. The large camera hump on the back is brought about gradually by curved sides, and the vertical orientation of the camera sensors is extremely similar between the two devices. However, the Galaxy S21 FE follows more closely to the style of the Galaxy S21 or S22, aligning it better with those premium phones.

Both phones sport a polycarbonate back with a powdery matte finish. Modern polycarbonate phones don’t feel anything like the old shiny, greasy plastic that so many phone manufacturers – Samsung included – had used. The Galaxy S21 Fe’s sides are a matte finish metal, while the Galaxy A53 5G sticks with a shiny trim, instead. Both Harish and myself tend to gravitate towards the matte edges as we both pointed out in our respective reviews of these phones.

Where we differ in our opinion is with the flat sides of the Galaxy A53 5G. Personally, I prefer the stockier, flatter sides of the Galaxy A53 5G, while the Galaxy S21 FE is a bit more rounded out.

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G vs S21 FE sides

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung outfitted the Galaxy A53 5G with a slightly larger display – that’s 6.5-inches versus the 6.4-inch display on the Galaxy S21 FE – but both phones sport a 120Hz refresh rate. They also both use Samsung’s AMOLED display technology, so you can expect gorgeous colors, perfect black levels, and some of the best picture quality you’ll find on any phone.

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. S21 FE: Performance and battery life

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

This category is where the real differences lie. For twice the price – that’s $ 700 for the Galaxy S21 FE versus $ 350 for the Galaxy A53 5G at the time of writing – you’ll be getting twice the performance if you choose the Galaxy S21 FE. The S21 FE features the exact same Snapdragon 888 chipset as the more expensive Galaxy S21, while the Galaxy A53 5G packs in Samsung’s own Exynos 1280, a chip that was built for efficiency above all else.

Category Galaxy S21 FE Galaxy A53 5G
Stories $ 700 $ 450
Software Android 12 with One UI 4.1 Android 12 with One UI 4.1
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Samsung Exynos 1280
FRAME 6 / 8GB 6 / 8GB
Storage 128 / 256GB 128 / 256GB
Display 6.4-inch AMOLED | 2340×1080 (491ppi) | 60Hz refresh rate 6.5-inch AMOLED | 2400×1080 (473ppi) | 60Hz refresh rate
Protection IP68 water / dust resistance | Gorilla Glass Victus IP67 water / dust resistance | Gorilla Glass 5
MicroSD card slot
Security In-display fingerprint sensor In-display fingerprint sensor
Rear Camera 1 12MP, ƒ / 1.8 Main 64MP ƒ / 1.8
Rear Camera 2 12MP, ƒ / 2.2 Ultrawide 12MP, ƒ / 2.2 Ultrawide
Rear Camera 3 8MP, ƒ / 2.4, 3x optical zoom Telephoto 5MP ƒ / 2.4 Macro
Rear Camera 4 5MP ƒ / 2.4 Portrait
Front Camera 32MP, ƒ / 2.2 32MP f / 2.2
Battery 4,500mAh 5,000mAh
Charging 25W wired fast charging, 15W wireless charging, 4.5W reverse wireless charging 25W wired charging
Connectivity 5G (sub-6, mmWave), Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6 5G (sub-6), Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 5 (ac)
Colors White, Graphite, Olive, Lavender Black, White, Blue
Dimensions 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm, 177g 159.6 x 74.8 x 8.1mm, 189g
Audio Stereo sound Stereo sound

That massive gulf in performance is going to make the biggest difference for power users and mobile gamers, who are going to be the most pleased with the faster phone – the Galaxy S21 FE. It also means that, thanks to the extra horsepower, the Galaxy S21 FE is sure to achieve steady 120Hz at all times, while the lower-powered chipset in the Galaxy A53 5G will likely drop down to 60Hz for games with intense graphics or when a lot is happening on the screen.

But all that extra horsepower might not be the thing for you, especially if you value battery life above all else. The Exynos 1280 inside the Galaxy A53 5G is a more energy-efficient chipset than the Snapdragon 888 because it doesn’t run as fast. On top of that, the Galaxy A53 5G has a battery that’s almost 10% bigger than the Galaxy S21 FE.

At the end of a single day, you’re absolutely going to need to charge the Galaxy S21 FE in order to use the phone again the next day. Power users might even need to top it up a bit before then on a particularly busy day. Meanwhile, the Galaxy A53 5G will have no problem getting through a full day no matter what you do, and many users will even find that they can get through a second day – or at least partly through that second day – before needing a top- ref.

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. S21 FE: Cameras and video

Taking a photo with the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Here’s an area where the spec sheet doesn’t give the full picture. On paper, the Galaxy A53 5G probably looks more impressive. It’s 64MP main camera sensor is quite a bit higher resolution than the 12MP one found on the Galaxy S21 FE, and it’s even got a fourth dedicated macro camera that might be attractive for certain kinds of close-up photos and videos.

However, in the case of cameras especially, numbers do not mean very much. While the Galaxy A53 5G takes some of the absolute best pictures in its price range, the Galaxy S21 FE will handily beat its quality in every single situation. Part of this is due to the sensors themselves. While the Galaxy S21 FE’s camera is lower resolution, it makes up for the difference by having physically larger pixels. This allows more light to enter the sensor – think big windows versus small windows in a house – resulting in less noisy, more detailed photos in every kind of light.

The Galaxy S21 FE also has a much more powerful processor – double the speed, roughly, of the Galaxy A53 5G’s processor – which is used for computational photography and smoothing out video during recording. When taking a photo, you will find that the Galaxy S21 FE can produce images with a wider dynamic range and is more often able to capture moving objects with greater clarity.

The Galaxy S21 FE also has a 3X telephoto lens which helps keep things clear when zooming in. It’s the same level of zoom detail you’ll find on all Galaxy S models – the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy S22 Ultra are the exceptions here – which helps add value to the phone any time you find yourself needing to digitally zoom into the frame.

Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. S21 FE: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Both the Samsung Galaxy A53 and Galaxy S21 FE offer the “value phone” proposition, but only one actually comes across feeling like a truly amazing value. At $ 350, the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G is the value phone to beat. It packs a powerful enough processor and a huge battery into an attractive shell, all without costing an arm and a leg.

Technically, the Galaxy S21 FE is the better phone by nearly all measurements, but the considerably higher price makes it harder to recommend – especially when the Galaxy S22 is just $ 100 more and can often be found for less from Samsung or a carrier like Verizon. T-Mobile, or AT&T. Even if you’re looking for a more powerful phone, there are better options than the Galaxy S21 FE at its retail price.

That’s why we love the Galaxy A53 5G. It’s a great price, looks and feels great to use, and will easily get you through a full day’s use (or two) without a second thought.

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