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Samsung Galaxy A54 5G
Bold and brash display
The Galaxy A54 manages to reclaim some of the reputation the A53 lost. It still uses an Exynos processor, but unlike the previous phone, the A54 is able to do most things without falling over itself, and the vibrant 120Hz display is as gorgeous as always.
- Better updates
- Brighter, faster display
- Better cameras
- No headphone jack
- Similar performance for a higher price
- Slower charging
$450 at Samsung
OnePlus Nord N20
The pretty face
The Nord N20 looks far better than it has any right to, and until you hold it and realize it's made of plastic, it looks like something that should cost considerably more than it does. Thankfully, those looks are backed up by a solid experience.
- Faster charging
- Headphone jack
- Lower price
- No IP rating
- Lackluster udpate speed
- Two useless cameras
$209 at Amazon
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The Samsung Galaxy A53 was a letdown compared to the A52 5G that it replaced, offering worse performance and value across the board. Thankfully, the Samsung Galaxy A54 has done a lot to reclaim what was lost and looks like a phone that provides compelling value for your money.
But Samsung phones don't exist in a vacuum. Apart from its predecessor, the A54 has intense competition from the OnePlus Nord N20 5G. Nevertheless, both phones are good enough to warrant a place on our list of best budget phones, so which one deserves your attention?
Price, availability, and specs
The Galaxy A54 is available for $450 and can be found unlocked or from almost any carrier. The Nord N20 5G has a more attractive price of just $290, but it'll be harder to find. Although you can get it unlocked, carrier options are limited to AT&T (4G only), Google Fi, and T-Mobile. If you're with Verizon, you can stop comparing the phones now and buy the one that actually works with your phone's carrier.
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G OnePlus Nord N20 SoC Samsung Exynos 1380 Snapdragon 695 5G Display 6.4-inch Super AMOLED, 120Hz 6.43-inch FHD+ OLED, 60Hz RAM 6GB, 8GB 6GB Storage 128GB, 256GB 128GB Battery 5,000mAh 4500mAh Operating System Android 13 with One UI 5.1 Android 12 with Oxygen OS 12.1 Front camera 32MP f/2.2 16 MP, f/2.4 Rear cameras 50MP f/1.8 (primary), 12MP f/2.2 (ultrawide), 5MP f/2.4 (macro) 64 MP wide (f/1.8), 2MP macro (f/2.4), 2MP depth (f/2.4) Dimensions 158.2 x 76.7 x 8.2 mm 159.9 x 73.2 x 7.5mm Weight 202 g 173g Charging 25W wired 33W wired IP Rating IP67 None Price Starting at $450 $290
The Galaxy A54 gets a fresh new design this year, heavily inspired by the more expensive Galaxy S23 series, losing the camera bump for individual stove-top lenses. While some have complained that this cheapens the design of the S23, I disagree. Instead, I believe the design works well and lifts the Galaxy A54 to a new level, especially when you pair it with the beautiful Awesome Violet, a color I wish the S23 series came in.
The A54 has also dropped the plastic back to use Gorilla Glass 5 on both sides, but sadly that doesn't mean wireless charging is included. While I never minded the plastic Samsung used on older A series phones, the glass adds a sense of heft and quality that is hard to ignore. As good as the A54 looks, the Nord N20 is stunning and easily the best-looking of the two devices. The back might be plastic, but it looks and feels good, especially as it shimmers when the light hits it just right.
The Nord N20 suffers from its lower price point around the front. While neither of these phones has perfect bezels, those found on the A54 are at least consistent, while the Nord N20 has wildly imbalanced top and bottom bezels and a selfie cutout that, while small, doesn't align with the top and bottom edge correctly.
Above all else, the biggest win for the Nord N20's design is the inclusion of a headphone jack. Sure, Samsung often runs a promotion that packs a pair of Buds 2 in with the A54 — but in the mid-range, I'd prefer to see an old-school jack.
Displays and cameras
Samsung phones have had the best displays in the industry for a while now, and that's the case with the A54. This 6.4-inch, 1080p AMOLED display keeps the 120Hz we've come to expect but boosts the brightness all the way up to 1,000 nits. The Nord N20 has an almost identically sized 6.43-inch 1080op OLED screen, but it's limited to just 60hz and about 460 nits. The refresh rate is almost excusable, considering Google's 6a and Apple's iPhone SE are also 60Hz, but the brightness is a real letdown. Unlike the Nord, the A54 also supports HDR10+, making this an exemplary screen for binging Star Trek Picard in maximum quality while commuting.
The camera experience for both phones is about the same — acceptable. Give them enough light, and you'll get some decent photos, but the quality dives as soon as you lose light or switch lenses. The Nord N20 might as well only have one rear camera, given that the other two are just 2MP macro and depth sensors that are entirely worthless.
The A54 fairs a little better with a 12MP ultrawide that at least serves a purpose, but the quality is so different from the primary sensor you probably won't use it much. Finally, the third rear camera is a 5MP macro lens that, while better than the one on the Nord, is still something most people will never use.
Performance and software
The Nord N20 uses a Snapdragon 695 5G, announced at the end of 2021. The Galaxy A54 has the Exynos 1380 that was unveiled earlier this year, and both phones pair these chips with 6GB of RAM. They're fine chips and can easily keep up with the majority of tasks the average user will throw at them. For example, emails, messaging, social media, navigation, and light gaming are something that both phones will manage easily. However, you'll notice the A54's Exynos' tendency to get warm. Still, in our experience, it tends to keep temperatures at a reasonable level compared to previous Exynos chips, so this isn't a concern. The biggest difference is in the software, which doesn't go well for the OnePlus.
The Nord came with Android 11 well after Android 12 had been released, and it was only promised one Android update with two years of security patches. It's received Android 12 based on Oxygen OS 12.1 now, so it's used up that one major update and won't get any more.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy A54 ships with One UI 5.1 atop One UI 5.1 and will receive four Android upgrades to Android 17, with a fifth and final year of security patches to follow. Some people strongly dislike One UI, but there's no arguing with this point — the A54 will get more updates than the Nord N20 ever will, which adds a lot of value to the device.
People want to use their phones for as long as possible, which you're likelier to do when you have a high-quality display and longer software updates. The A54 lasts longer in every way, even in battery life, thanks to the 5000mAh battery, which is quite a bit bigger than the 4500mAh cell found in the N20 5G.
Should you settle?
Putting these phones side by side, the Samsung Galaxy A54 is an easy recommendation, even though it's more expensive. Aside from design, the Samsung phone is better than the OnePlus in enough areas to make it worth the extra cash. And while the Nord might charge faster at 33W (versus 25W on the Galaxy A54), that's not enough to win us over.
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G
Our top choice
Bold and brash display
$375 $450 Save $75
The Galaxy A54 manages to reclaim some of the reputation the A53 lost. It still uses an Exynos processor, but unlike the previous phone, the A54 can do most things without falling over itself, and the vibrant 120Hz display is as gorgeous as always.
$450 at Samsung $375 at Amazon $375 at Best Buy
That doesn't mean you should ignore the OnePlus Nord N20, though. If you need a phone and the A54 is just a bit too expensive, the Nord will still serve you well and do most of the things you ask of it with ease. However, keep in mind that although it's cheaper now, you may end up replacing it faster than you would if you got the A54.
OnePlus Nord N20
The Nord N20 looks far better than it has any right to, and until you hold it and realize it's made of plastic, it looks like something that should cost considerably more than it does. You'll be happy to know those looks are backed up by a solid experience.
$209 at Amazon