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  • Front and back of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE in Mint Green
    Source: Samsung
    Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
    High performance, moderate price

    After skipping a year, Samsung's flagship-lite offering returns with the Galaxy S23 FE. It's got plenty of screen space, a powerful processor, and a surprising contingent of the high-end features that made the initial S23 lineup so fantastic.

    Pros
    • Excellent display quality
    • Powerful Snapdragon SoC
    • Quality cameras with 3X optical zoom
    Cons
    • Battery life could be better
    • Still priced well above the midrange
  • samsung galaxy a54 5g in amazing graphite
    Source: Samsung
    Samsung Galaxy A54 5G
    All-around midranger
    $400 $450 Save $50

    Substantial upgrades over its predecessor make the Samsung Galaxy A54 one of the best midrange phones you can buy today. While it makes some predictable sacrifices compared to the S23+ and even the S23 FE, it checks all the boxes for people who love great smartphones but aren't super picky.

    Pros
    • Much-improved performance over the A53
    • Characteristically great Samsung display
    • Has the mythical microSD card slot
    Cons
    • Exynos SoC tends to run hot
    • Middling camera performance

The newly released Samsung Galaxy S23 FE borrows the form factor of the fantastic Galaxy S23+, but omits a few of the high-end features to reach a much more palatable price. By contrast, the Galaxy A54 makes a few significant strides over its predecessor, the A53, to compete for the title of today's best midrange smartphone. While they each have their faults, one's almost certain to satisfy anybody who loves high-quality Samsung phones with premium display quality, a user-friendly interface, and the savings that come from avoiding the high-end flagship market.

Price, availability, and specs

Two years after the Galaxy S21 Fan Edition, the S23 FE showed up on October 5 of this year with a list price of $600 and an official release date of October 26. For $60 more, you can upgrade from 128 to 256 GB of storage. Although these are the only two hardware configurations available, there are some fun colors to choose from. Other than the somewhat underwhelming Cream and Graphite, you can opt for Mint or a standout Purple.

Image of the Gorilla Glass 5 back of the Galaxy A54

The latest release in Samsung's long-running midrange A series, the Galaxy A54, was initially listed at $450 but now ships for $400 directly from Samsung and various third-party retailers. And if you look around for deals, you can sometimes find it even cheaper. Bear in mind, though, that Samsung only released the 128 GB model in the US, so if you want 256 GB of storage, you'll have to import one from a third-party retailer like Amazon. And while it's only offered domestically in Graphite and the appropriately named Awesome Violet, you can get your hands on a neat Lime or White version if, once again, you're willing to go for an international model.


  • Samsung Galaxy S23 FESamsung Galaxy A54 5G
    SoCQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (US), Exynos 2200 (worldwide)Samsung Exynos 1380
    RAM8GB6GB, 8GB
    Storage128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB
    Battery4500mAh 5,000mAh
    PortsUSB-CUSB-C
    Operating SystemAndroid 13 and One UI 5.1Android 13 with One UI 5.1
    Front camera10MP f/2.432MP f/2.2
    Rear camera50MP f/1.8 OIS main, 12MP f/2.2 wide (123°), 8MP f/2.4 zoom (3x) 50MP f/1.8 (primary), 12MP f/2.2 (ultrawide), 5MP f/2.4 (macro)
    ConnectivityWi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3, LTE, 5G (sub-6GHz)
    ColorsMint, Purple, Cream, GraphiteLime, Graphite, Violet, White
    Weight209g202 g
    Charge speed25W wired, 15W wireless25W wired
    IP RatingIP68IP67

They're different, but don't look like it

samsung-galaxy-s23-fe-hands-on-03

The last few years have seen Samsung move steadily towards a stark, minimalist design not dissimilar from fashionable electronics leaders like Apple and its ubiquitous iPhone. From a visual standpoint, both the March 2023 Galaxy A54 and October 2023 S23 FE look practically identical. Even their dimensions and weights match almost perfectly.

They both use the durable (if not exactly cutting-edge) Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on both sides, but the S23 FE sports an aluminum frame compared to the A54's plastic. The only marginally notable physical design difference is that the S23 FE sports IP68 protection from dust and water, while the A54 is rated to just IP67 (although it's not recommended to test out either certification on a regular basis without a waterproof case). So, if you're concerned about which one looks better, don't be. They're both attractive devices with plenty of useable screen space and a convenient, reasonably sized form factor.

Two great displays, but one's a little better

Display photo of the Galaxy A54

Widely regarded as the best OLED display manufacturer, Samsung knocked it out of the park with the S23 FE and A54. The S23 FE uses a more refined Dynamic AMOLED technology with essentially perfect motion handling and an adaptive refresh rate of 60 to 120 hertz. Plus, its 1,450-nit peak brightness makes it easy to see, even in direct sunlight.

The A54 doesn't quite reach the same heights, as its display operates at either 60 or 120 hertz with no in-between. It's also not quite as bright, but its 1,000-nit rating's still nothing to sneeze at. Compared to the A53 (which the A54 improves upon by nearly every measure), it boasts more saturated colors and better HDR performance.

You'd probably notice a moderate difference if you had both phones side by side, but it's a safe bet that midrange smartphone fans will love either one, even if the A54's display doesn't quite pop like the S23 FE's.

Technically, the same software

samsung-galaxy-s23-fe-hands-on-04

What's there to say about Samsung's OneUI Android implementation that hasn't already been said? It's as intuitive as any operating system in years, plus power users and everyday consumers love its customization options and powerful built-in tools. It does come with a sizable selection of pre-installed apps that not everybody needs, but you can minimize bloatware installation during the initial setup, and it's easy to remove apps you don't want.

The A54 and S23 FE offer identical interfaces since they run on identical software. Also, assuming the continued yearly Android update pattern, they'll both get four years of OS updates, ending with Android 17 (or whatever it ends up being called by that point). While their software and interface are technically the same, they don't quite deliver the same user experience due to the hardware inside, which is the most glaring difference between the two.

A vast difference in performance

samsung-galaxy-s23-fe-hands-on-02

The gulf in performance between the S23 FE and A54 comes as no surprise. Despite its flaws, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in the S23 FE is one heck of an SoC. In fact, it topped the benchmark charts almost across the board upon release. Sadly, however, the FE doesn't get the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 featured in the full-fledged S23 family, but you'd be hard-pressed to push the Gen 1 all the way to its limits.

At this point in the SoC discussion, it's worth mentioning Samsung's market segmentation regarding smartphone processors. The company has been pushing its own Exynos chipset for years and has even used it in actual flagship smartphones in recent years. It's a reasonable talking point because, frankly, even the high-end Exynos 2200 can't match up with the leading Snapdragon chipsets when it comes to performance, efficiency, and thermal perspectives. In this case, the Exynos 2200 is only relevant if you're purchasing an S23 FE from outside the United States. You can definitely expect peak performance with no stuttering or slowdowns from a US S23 FE.

Pokemon Go running on the Galaxy A54

With all that in mind, it's no shocker that the Exynos 1380 inside the Galaxy A54 can't hold a candle in terms of pure performance. This is most noticeable when installing and loading software, playing games, and navigating various windows and apps while multitasking.

Unlike the Exynos 2200, the 1380 doesn't claim to be a flagship processor and isn't priced like one, either. And then there's the other caveat: If you're not already spoiled by using a cutting-edge flagship device with the best internals and snappiest interface, you might not even notice the A54's comparatively sluggish performance.

That's in direct contrast to the Exynos 1280 behind 2022's Galaxy A53, which led to a downright frustrating experience at times. The 1380 isn't exactly worlds faster, but it does offer 20% and 40% jumps in single- and multi-threaded benchmark testing. Our hands-on experience with the A54 wasn't nearly as smooth as navigating the S23 FE, but it wasn't a chore, and resource-intensive operations like taking pictures were generally responsive enough to keep us happy. Still, there's no denying that raw performance sets these two phones apart more than anything else.

Good battery life, but not perfect

Unboxing contents of the Samsung Galaxy A54

After all that Exynos slander, we have to give credit where credit's due. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 might be awfully fast, but it's not exactly stellar when it comes to thermal or power efficiency. It doesn't run as hot as the international S23 FE's Exynos 2200, but it does devour a considerable amount of electricity.

We're still running tests and crunching numbers to determine real-world S23 FE battery life, but the Galaxy S22+ gives accurate insight into what to expect. Its identical combination of a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC and 4,500mAh cell resulted in the S22+'s relatively disappointing battery life.

samsung-galaxy-s23-fe-hands-on-08

With care, you'll probably be able to eke an entire day out of the S23 FE, but heavy use and resource-intensive apps might make it more likely you'll need to give it a battery top-up at some point before bedtime. Fortunately, we have also seen battery life improvements on our long-term S22 test devices as Samsung continues refining its Android implementation, so we're cautiously optimistic that the S23 FE won't be marred by a short battery life.

While the A54's Exynos 1380 won't beat the S23 FE in a sprint, it will catch up in a marathon. Not only does it draw less power (since it's just not as fast), but it's paired with a larger 5,000mAh battery that's hard to empty over the course of a single day. That's one definite plus for budget-minded smartphone users who don't want to bother staying on top of the latest high-end fast charging technology. And since it won't need as many periodic battery top-ups, you probably won't mind its lack of wireless charging support.

Merely passable cameras, or advanced optical zoom?

samsung-galaxy-s23-fe-hands-on-05

Samsung's imaging software has historically delivered some less-than-perfect experiences, but we're pleased to report that it's made a ton of progress over the last couple of years. It's not quite on the level of, say, Google's imaging abilities, but Samsung's shortcomings are barely noticeable outside of side-by-side comparisons with heavy-hitting camera phones like the beloved Google Pixel 8.

You'll only notice minor differences in daytime photos and videos when it comes to the S23 FE and A54. Both phones use nearly identical 50MP primary sensors with pixel binning for crisp images with good saturation and consistent white balance. In both cases, the 12MP ultrawide lens is useful for high-FOV shots but produces noticeably less detailed results. To get the most out of the primary and ultrawide lenses, power users will be happy to know that the Pro Mode allows you to manually adjust a host of settings, such as ISO and shutter speed.

Night image taken with the Galaxy A54
Night image taken with the Galaxy A54

The biggest camera differences are in the third lens. The S23 FE's telephoto lens may only capture 8 MP, but it also offers 3X optical zoom. By comparison, the A54's 5MP "macro" lens might as well not be there. Despite our best efforts, we never really got satisfying results.

Finally, in an interesting turn of events, the selfie camera comparison offers a good reminder that specs don't always tell the whole story. The uncommonly high-resolution 32MP selfie camera on the A54 produces great-looking selfies, but in reality, they're not much better than what the S23 FE's 10MP selfie camera captures. While neither is absolutely top-of-the-line, they're both perfectly fine for taking snapshots of yourself, your friends, and your surroundings.

Which is right for you?

Objectively speaking, the S23 FE is a better phone than the Galaxy A54. Understandably, the near-flagship model clearly outperforms the midrange option (battery life excluded), but the A54's no slouch, and its biggest drawback (the raw performance) isn't a dealbreaker for everybody.

The real kicker is that you can get your hands on the A54 for just $400 or even less if you can find a nice discount. On the other hand, the S23 FE costs $600 and won't see any big price cuts for quite some time. As long as you're not dead set on wireless charging, optical zoom, or an ultra-snappy interface, the more economical Galaxy A54 is the better choice. It's even got a microSD card slot!

samsung galaxy a54 5g in amazing graphite
Source: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G
A midrange winner

Great software, good pictures, and a low price

$400 $450 Save $50

With the same mid-size form factor as the S23+ and S23 FE, the Galaxy A54 is an immensely useful phone held back only by middling processor performance. Despite its midrange SoC, it delivers a great Android experience if you're not too demanding, and its battery life is a big plus.

That said, you may find the S23 FE's superior camera setup, better processing power, and moderately better display well worth the extra $200. Keep in mind that if you like this form factor but want something really high-end, the next step up is the $1,000 S23+.

Since the S23 FE delivers a similar experience to the true flagship Galaxy phones, its $600 price tag is rightfully appealing. In the end, you'll almost certainly be happy with the S23 FE. Plus, its vastly better performance over the A54 means it'll continue to operate smoothly even as it reaches and even passes the end of its four-year Android update lifespan.

Front and back of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE in Mint Green
Source: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Practically a flagship

Its performance, features, and longevity are hard to beat

Stripped of just a handful of top-shelf features, Samsung's Galaxy S23 FE delivers a near-flagship experience for hundreds of dollars less than the S23+. It's essentially modeled after the S23+, but if you want high-end performance without spending a fortune, you can't go wrong with the new Fan Edition release.