Samsung Galaxy A53 5G vs Samsung Galaxy S21: Which phone to buy?

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G vs Samsung Galaxy S21: Which phone to buy?

The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G offers a great value for money for anyone trying to spend less than $500 on a new phone in the US. It’s got a good design overall, an impressive display, reliable performance, and a decent set of cameras for the price. Samsung is also making some big promises on the software side, which is great. All of this really makes the Galaxy A53 5G one of the best Android values in the mid-range segment in the US. But how does it sack up against some of the older flagships? Let’s take a quick look at the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G vs Samsung Galaxy S21 to find out which phone is better in 2022.

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The Galaxy S21 may not be the latest phone in Samsung’s flagship lineup, but it’s still a great phone with a speedy Snapdragon 888/Exynos 2100 chipset and a couple of major Android OS updates left. It may not be readily available on the market like the Galaxy A53 5G, but you can still buy it from many reliable retailers and major carriers in the US, and you’ll even get a great deal on pre-owned units. But is it even worth considering in 2022? Or should you pick up a mid-ranger like the Galaxy A53 5G instead? Let’s find out.

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Samsung Galaxy A53 5G vs Samsung Galaxy S21: Specifications

Let’s take a quick look at the specifications to see what each of these devices brings to the table:

Specification Samsung Galaxy A53 5G Samsung Galaxy S21
Build
  • Plastic body
  • Gorilla Glass 5 front panel
  • IP67 water/dust resistance
  • Aluminum mid-frame
  • Plastic back
  • Gorilla Glass Victus front
  • IP68 water resistance
Dimensions & Weight
  • 159.6 x 74.8 x 8.1mm
  • 189 g
  • 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm
  • 171 grams
Display
  • 6.5-inch Super AMOLED
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • Infinity-O display
  • 6.2″ FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X flat display
  • 120Hz variable refresh rate
  • 48-120Hz
  • HDR10+
  • 1300nits peak brightness
  • Always-On display
  • Infinity-O display
SoC
  • Samsung Exynos 1280
  • International: Exynos 2100:
    • 1x ARM Cortex X1 @ 2.9GHz +
    • 3x ARM Cortex A78 Cores @ 2.8GHz +
    • 4x ARM Cortex A55 Cores @ 2.2GHz
  • USA: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888:
    • 1x Kryo 680 Prime Core @ 2.84GHz
    • 3x Kryo 680 Performance Cores @ 2.4GHz
    • 4x Kryo 680 Efficiency Cores @ 1.8GHz
RAM & Storage
  • 6GB/8GB RAM
  • 128GB/256GB internal storage
  • microSD card slot (up to 1TB)
  • 8GB LPDDR5 + 128GB
  • 8GB + 256GB
Battery & Charging
  • 5,000mAh battery
  • 25W Super Fast Charging
  •  No charger included
  • 4,000mAh
  • 25W USB Power Delivery 3.0 fast charging
  • 15W wireless charging
  • 4.5 reverse wireless charging
  • No charger in the box in most regions
Security Fingerprint sensor Ultrasonic In-Display Fingerprint Scanner
Rear Camera(s)
  • 64MP f/1.8 Main (with OIS)
  • 12MP f/2.2 Ultra-wide
  • 5MP f/2.4 Depth sensor
  • 5MP f/2.4 Macro
  • Primary: 12MP, wide-angle lens, f/1.8, 1/1.76″, 1.8µm, OIS, Dual Pixel AF
  • Secondary: 12MP, ultra-wide-angle lens, f/2.2, 120° FoV, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, Fixed Focus
  • Tertiary: 64MP, telephoto lens, f/2.0, 1/1.76″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS
Front Camera(s) 32MP f/2.2 10MP, f/2.2, 1.22µm, 80° FoV, Dual Pixel AF
Port(s)
  • USB Type-C
  • No headphone jack
  • USB 3.2 Type-C
Audio
  • Stereo speakers
  • Stereo speakers by AKG
  • Dolby Atmos
Connectivity
  • 5G
  • LTE
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4G+5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • NFC
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • 5G
Software One UI 4.1 (Android 12)  Samsung One UI 3.1 based on Android 11
Other Features
  • Four years of major OS upgrades
  • Five years of security updates
  • ANT+
  • Samsung DeX
  • Knox

Looking at the specifications table, it’s safe to say that the Galaxy A53 5G stacks up pretty well against the Galaxy S21 on paper. There are some noteworthy differences between the two that make one look better than the other, but it’s mostly the Galaxy A53 5G that seems to have an edge over the Galaxy S21 in many areas including the display, battery, camera, and more.

Design and build quality

Galaxy A53's all screen design.

Visually, both the Galaxy A53 5G and the Galaxy S21 look like any other modern phone in 2022. The Galaxy S21 has metal rails that flow into the camera bump on the back, similar to the more expensive Galaxy S21 Ultra. It is, however, worth pointing out that the company has swapped out the usual rear glass panel with plastic for the S21. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker because it still looks and feels great. The Galaxy A53 5G, on the other hand, has a slightly different back design with the camera bump melting into the body of the phone. The A53 5G also uses plastic for both the back panel as well as the frame but is surprisingly still heavier than the Galaxy S21. It weighs 189 grams whereas the S21 weighs 171 grams.

Galaxy A53

The Galaxy S21 is also thinner and has a small form factor overall when compared with the A53 5G. The S21 measures 7.9 mm in thickness while the A53 5G measures 8.1 mm. The Galaxy S21 is also shorter as it features a smaller display on the front. Both phones have Gorilla Glass to protect the display but the Galaxy A53 5G is using Gorilla Glass 5 and the Galaxy S21 is using Gorilla Glass Victus. The Gorilla Glass Victus is said to be slightly better in terms of durability but we recommend picking up either a case or at least a screen protector for both phones. It’s glass, at the end of the day, which is bound to break or get scratched if/when it takes a significant hit. You can check out our collection of the best Galaxy S21 cases and the Galaxy A53 5G cases to find some good options.

The Galaxy S21 in purple

The Galaxy S21 is also slightly superior when it comes to overall durability as it has an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance. The A53 5G isn’t too far behind with its IP67 rating, so it’s safe to say that both phones can handle the occasional splashes of water and exposure to minor dust particles. One thing we really like about the Galaxy A53 5G is that it supports expandable storage via a microSD card. It features a hybrid slot that lets you either add a secondary SIM card or a microSD card. The Galaxy S21 lacks the support for expandable storage which means you’ll have to stick with the storage variant you buy. Both devices, however, lack a headphone jack, which is more disappointing in the A53 5G as people still miss having this feature in the budget space.

Display

As far as the display is concerned, the Galaxy A53 5G features a bigger panel compared to the S21. We’re looking at a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED for the Galaxy A53 5G versus a 6.2-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X for the Galaxy S21. It may be smaller but the Galaxy S21’s panel comes with support for variable refresh rates while the Galaxy A53 5G’s display doesn’t.  The Galaxy S21’s Dynamic AMOLED 2X display can go from 48Hz to 120Hz based on the content being displayed on the phone. That should help the S21 in the battery department, which we’ll discuss a bit later in this article.

Galaxy A53 display.

The display on both phones, as you can see, comes with a center-aligned punch hole camera on the front. The bezels are ever-so-slightly bigger on the Galaxy A53 5G, but that’s not going to bother you unless you compare them side-by-side. Both phones are rocking an AMOLED panel, so we doubt if you’ll notice any significant difference between the two in terms of quality too. Both panels also support a maximum screen resolution of 1080 x 2400 pixels, which means the pixels-per-inch (PPI) count is going to be higher in the case of the S21 due to the smaller physical size. That being said, they should be virtually indistinguishable when it comes to the overall sharpness. You also get an in-display fingerprint scanner on both devices, so no differences there either.

Internal hardware

On the inside, the Galaxy A53 5G is rocking Samsung’s in-house Exynos 1280 chipset. It’s an octa-core chip with performance-oriented Cortex-A78 cores clocked at 2.4GHz and power-efficient Cortex-A55 cores running at 2GHz. This chipset is the same for all models of the Galaxy A53 5G, regardless of the region you purchase it in. The Galaxy S21, on the other hand, is powered by the Snapdragon 888 in the US and the Exynos 2100 in other regions. Both the Snapdragon 888 and the Exynos 2100 are octa-core chips. The Snapdragon 888 packs an X1 core clocked at the traditional 2.84GHz along with three A78 performance cores running at 2.40GHz and four A55 energy-efficient cores running at 1.80GHz. The Exynos 2100, on the other hand, also comes with an X1 core clocked at 2.9GHz, three Cortex-A78 cores running at 2.8 GHz, and four A55 cores running at 2.2 GHz.

Are those chips better than the Exynos 1280 that’s inside the A53 5G? If you care about the benchmark numbers, then yes. The Exynos 1280 is probably not going to keep up with both the Snapdragon 888 and the Exynos 2100 on paper. That being said, the Exynos 1280 is perfectly viable for day-to-day usage. In fact, most modern phones, including mid-range devices are capable of pushing through basic day-to-day workloads with ease. So this comes down to a personal preference, and whether or not you’re willing to trade the flagship chipset for an affordable price tag. All these phones, however, support 5G, so no differences there whatsoever.

The base variant of the Galaxy A53 5G comes with 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage. The Galaxy S21’s base variant is slightly better as it offers 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM along with 128GB of storage. The A53 5G makes up for it with support for expandable storage. As we mentioned earlier, the mid-range phone in this comparison allows you to add up to 1TB of microSD card. Sadly, that’s not an option on the Galaxy S21 and you’re simply forced to spend more money for additional storage. Even then, you’re pretty much limited to just 256GB of storage, which may not be enough if you happen to take a lot of photos or record lots of 4K footage.

As far as the batteries are concerned, the Galaxy A53 5G packs a 5,000 mAh battery with support f0r 25W fast charging. The S21 falls a bit short in the battery department with a 4,000 mAh battery. It also supports 25W fast-charging, but the smaller battery is bound to run out of juice faster. It’s worth pointing out that the Dynamic AMOLED 2X with its variable refresh rate support might alleviate some of the battery pain but we doubt if it’ll do much to win over the A53 5G here. But for what it’s worth, the Galaxy S21 supports both wireless as well as reverse wireless charging, which is entirely missing on the Galaxy A53 5G. Speaking of charging, we’d like to make it clear that neither of the two is bundled with a charger inside the box, let alone the one capable of fast charging.

Camera

The camera is another area in which you’ll find some major differences between the Galaxy A53 5G and the Galaxy S21. For the A53 5G, we’re looking at a quad-camera setup that includes a 64MP main camera, 12MP ultra-wide, and a pair of 5MP sensors for macro and depth. The Galaxy S21 enters the fray with a triple-camera setup that includes a 12MP f/1.8 primary camera, a 12MP ultra-wide camera with f/2.2, and a 64MP f/2.0 telephoto lens. Only the primary 12MP and the tertiary telephoto lens feature OIS, though. The Galaxy A53 5G essentially trades the telephoto lens in favor of two 5MP sensors, each for macro and depth. As for the selfies, the Galaxy A53 5G sports a 32MP selfie shooter while the S21 sports a 10MP camera.

On paper, both phones offer a versatile camera system although the telephoto lens on the S21 is arguably more usable. That’s not to say the 5MP macro and depth sensors are pointless on the Galaxy A53 5G, though. They’re also capable of capturing some good photos that you’d otherwise miss out on, but we think the telephoto lens makes more sense practically in real-world usage. Unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance to take both of these phones for a photo walk together, so we don’t have side-by-side comparison shots. That being said, we’ll leave some camera samples captured on both phones below, so be sure to check them out while you’re here. On the video front, the Galaxy S21 beats the A53 5G with its support for up to 4K recording at 60fps. The Galaxy A53 5G tops out at 4K @30fps using the main camera, so keep that in mind.

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G camera samples

Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G vs Samsung Galaxy S21: Which one should you buy?

We think both devices have a lot of good things going for them. The Samsung Galaxy S21 has a smaller display but it supports variable refresh rates and has higher peak brightness, unlike the Galaxy A53 5G. It’s also powered by flagship chipsets, albeit a year old. You also get more memory with the base variant of the S21 compared to the A53 5G. It may not have the biggest battery out of the two but it comes with support for fast charging as well as wireless charging. We also think the camera setup on the Galaxy S21 is more practical to use as the telephoto lens is something you’ll probably use a lot more than the macro and the depth sensors.

However, the Galaxy A53 5G is also well-equipped in all the aforementioned areas. You still get a decently powerful and reliable Exynos 1280 chipset to handle your everyday workloads. It also makes up for having less memory on the base variant with support for expandable storage of up to 1TB, something which is entirely missing on the S21. The Galaxy A53 5G also packs a massive 5,000 mAh battery with support for fast charging. And as far as the cameras are concerned, we think the Galaxy A53 5G also captures some good images overall from all its camera sensors.

Contrary to what the specifications table suggests, we think both the Galaxy A53 5G and the Galaxy S21 hold their own across different areas of comparison. But if we were to pick one, then we’d go with the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G mainly because of the software support and pricing. The Galaxy S21, being a year old already, only has a couple of major Android OS updates remaining meaning the Galaxy A53 5G has longer software support. Samsung says it’ll support the mid-ranger with four years of major OS upgrades and five years of security updates. So not only are you getting a decent hardware package that stands tall against a flagship like S21, but you also get superior software support. Not to mention, it’s also readily available to purchase in the US and in many parts of the world, that too for a relatively cheaper price.

We think the Galaxy A53 5G for $450 is worth picking up over the Galaxy S21 in 2022. This is also because the Galaxy S21 isn’t readily available on the market right now. Samsung is only selling a certified refurbished version of the phone for $675 in the US at the time of writing this article. You can check out our Galaxy S21 deals page to catch some discounts right now, but it’s probably not going to drop below $600. In comparison, the $450 is an amazing price for the Galaxy A53 5G considering everything that it brings to the table. You can even visit our Galaxy A53 5G deals page to see if you can snag the phone for even less. But if you are hellbent on buying a Galaxy S flagship phone, then consider checking out either the Galaxy S21 FE or stretching your wings a little to grab a Galaxy S22 instead.

    Last year's Galaxy S21 is still a great phone, with a speedy Snapdragon 888/Exynos 2100 chipset and two major Android OS updates left.
    The Galaxy A53 offers a modern design, large screen and battery at an affordable price

About author

Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer

Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.

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