Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
The value leader
At $450 or less, it's hard to argue with the Galaxy A53 5G's value. It may not be as fast or have the camera prowess of the Galaxy S21 FE, but what it lacks in brute strength is made up for in battery life. Plus, the Exynos 1280 inside is still plenty fast for gaming and most people's daily needs.
- Excellent price
- Much faster than the A52
- 120Hz AMOLED display
- Double the battery life
- IP67 water and dust resistance
- No Wi-Fi 6
- Not for intense gaming
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Late to the party
The Galaxy S21 FE is the best version of the Galaxy S21 line because of its value proposition. It's got the same great display and processor from Samsung's more expensive Galaxy S21 line, just in a slightly different package with worse haptics. Its biggest fault is that the Galaxy S22 came out just after it, and it's only $100 more.
- Processor is twice as powerful
- Even better 120Hz AMOLED display
- Higher-quality cameras
- IP68 water and dust resistance
- Worse battery life
- Relatively expensive
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
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 toward 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 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
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|
|Software||Android 12 with One UI 4.1||Android 12 with One UI 4.1|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888||Samsung Exynos 1280|
|Display||6.4-inch AMOLED | 2340x1080 (491ppi) | 60Hz refresh rate||6.5-inch AMOLED | 2400x1080 (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|
|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% larger 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-up.
Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. S21 FE: Cameras and video
Here's an area where the spec sheet doesn't give the full picture. On paper, the Galaxy A53 5G likely 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 don't 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 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?
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.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
Samsung's A-series has gotten better and better over the years, and this year's Galaxy A53 5G is the best one yet. With a great processor from Samsung that's both battery-efficient and powerful enough to run the 120Hz AMOLED display on the phone, you'll marvel at the Galaxy A53 5G every time you remember you only spent $350 on it.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
The Galaxy S21 FE is the sequel to one of Samsung's best value phones in years, but it's not much less expensive than the considerably more powerful Galaxy S22.
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