Which budget phone should you buy?

  • Samsung A54 5G product box picture

    Samsung Galaxy A54 5G

    $410 $446 Save $36

    The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G is a great mid-range phone. It offers a sleek design, a beautiful 120Hz display, plenty of power under the hood, and a triple camera setup on the back.


    • Beautiful OLED panel
    • Long-lasting battery

    • Slow charging speeds
    • Macro sensor is average at best

  • A render of the Google Pixel 6a in Charcoal black color.

    Google Pixel 6a

    $299 $449 Save $150

    The Pixel 6a isn’t the newest phone on the block, but it packs a powerful set of cameras and Google’s in-house Tensor chipset to go against the competition.


    • Great software experience
    • A good set of cameras

    • Google’s Tensor chip tends to run
    • Only a 60Hz display


Google’s Pixel 6a was one of the best phones to come out of 2022. It was an easy recommendation in its price range last year, and it continues to retain the hallmarks of a solid budget phone in 2023.

There wasn’t much in the name of competition for the Pixel 6a in the U.S. last year, except for maybe the Galaxy A53 5G that put up a great show in our Google Pixel 6a vs Galaxy A53 5G comparison. But Samsung has now followed up its popular Galaxy A53 with a refined Galaxy A54, which seems like it has what it takes to knock the Pixel 6a off its dominant position. Let’s stack the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G vs Google Pixel 6a to find out which budget phone is better to buy.

Samsung Galaxy A54 5G vs Google Pixel 6a: Pricing and availability

The Samsung Galaxy A54 made its debut in March and it’s now up for grabs for $450. You can only buy the 6GB + 128GB configuration of the phone in the U.S., and you can choose between Awesome Graphite and Awesome Violet colors. It’s still relatively new to the market, so you might be able to find some great offers for it.

Google’s Pixel 6a, on the other hand, has been out for a while now. That means it’s heavily discounted these days, and we’ve seen it for as low as $299. It comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage out of the box, and you get to choose between Sage, Charcoal, and Calk colors.

  • Samsung Galaxy A54 5G Google Pixel 6a
    Brand Samsung Google
    SoC Samsung Exynos 1380 Google Tensor
    Display 6.4″ FHD+ AMOLED @ 120Hz 6.1-inch FHD+ OLED, 60Hz
    RAM 6GB 6GB
    Storage 128GB + microSD up to 1TB 128GB
    Battery 5,000mAh 4410mAh
    Ports USB-C USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
    Operating System Android 13 with One UI 5.1 Android 13
    Camera (Rear, Front) 50MP main + 12MP ultra-wide + 5MP macro, 32MP selfie 12.2MP main + 12MP ultrawide, 8MP selfie
    Dimensions 158.2 x 76.7 x 8.2mm (6.22 x 3.01 x 0.32 inches) 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9mm (5.99 x 2.82 x 0.35 inches)
    Colors Awesome Graphite, Awesome Violet Chalk, Charcoal, Sage
    Weight 202g (7.12 ounces) 178g (6.27 ounces)
    Charging 25W wired charging Wired: 18W
    IP Rating IP67 IP67

Design and build quality: Samsung’s phone feels more premium

Samsung and Google have done a pretty good job when it comes to design, ensuring these phones look similar to their flagship siblings. The Galaxy A54, for example, got a new design this year that makes it look similar to the Galaxy S23 models. Samsung has ditched the camera island on the back in favor of a more minimalist look with three individual cutouts instead. You’ll have a hard time distinguishing between the Galaxy A54 and the similarly-sized Galaxy S23+ at first glance. The Pixel 6a also looks very similar to the modern Pixel flagships with a camera bar at the back.

Samsung Galaxy A54 18

As far as the dimensions are concerned, the Pixel 6a is a bit more compact and also weighs less than the Galaxy A54 5G. It is, however, worth noting that the Galaxy A54 features Gorilla Glass 5 panels on the front and back, whereas the Pixel 6a has a plastic back and Gorilla Glass 3 on the front. Not only does this make the Galaxy A54 more durable, but it also gives it an elegant feel. This isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, especially if you use your phone with a case, but keep in mind that the Galaxy A54 uses more premium build materials. Both devices carry an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, and they both have an aluminum frame running along the sides.

Google Pixel 6a in hand with blurred background.

One thing to note about the Galaxy A54 5G is that it comes with a hybrid SIM slot that lets you add a microSD card for storage expansion. Being able to add more storage to your phone is a huge advantage, and it definitely earns some brownie points for the Galaxy A54 in the budget space. Overall, it is safe to say that the Galaxy A54 5G feels a bit more premium, and it’s also more durable thanks to better build materials.

Display: The Galaxy A54’s brighter 120Hz OLED wins

An image showing the front of the Galaxy A54 5G over a yellow-colored leather mat.

Moving over to the front, you get a 6.1-inch and a 6.4-inch display on the Pixel 6a and the Galaxy A54 5G, respectively. They’re both OLED panels with FHD+ resolutions, but the Pixel 6a’s display isn’t in the same league as the Galaxy A54.

The Galaxy A54’s display has a maximum 120Hz refresh rate, whereas the Pixel 6a’s panel tops out at 60Hz. The Galaxy A54’s display is also brighter at its peak compared to the one on the Pixel 6a, so it’s easier to use under direct sunlight. The Pixel 6a’s display is slightly smaller meaning it has a slight pixel density advantage going against the Galaxy A54’s 6.4-inch display, but you’re not going to notice a huge size difference in day-to-day usage.

The Pixel 6a’s display isn’t in the same league as the Galaxy A54.

The Galaxy A54’s display, as we mentioned in our review, is beautiful to look at, and it’s a joy to use for media consumption. Watching videos and playing games on a high-refresh-rate panel feels great.

Meanwhile, both phones have sizable bezels around the display, and you also get things like an on-screen fingerprint scanner and a punch-hole cutout towards the top of the display for selfies.

Internal hardware and performance: Exynos vs Tensor competition heats up

Pixel 6a in hand
The Pixel 6a’s display is clearly inferior to the Pixel 6 or Pixel 7’s screens. 

The Galaxy A54 5G is using Samsung’s in-house Exynos 1380 chip, which performs better than the Exynos 1280 chipset in last year’s phone. It also comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. It’s not the most powerful phone on the market right now, but it managed to hold up pretty well during our testing.

Meanwhile, the Pixel 6a is powered by Google’s flagship Tensor chip, which is the same one as the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. It’s still a decent chip, especially for Google’s machine learning tasks, but it’s been usurped by the Tensor G2 introduced in the Pixel 7 series. The Pixel 6a also comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but the Galaxy A54 has an advantage in the storage department with a microSD card slot.

Is the Tensor chip significantly better than the Exynos 1380? Not really because the Samsung chip did a commendable job handling even the most demanding tasks without breaking a sweat. Yes, we did experience occasional lags and stutters while using the phone, but it wasn’t a common occurrence, and it didn’t affect the overall experience.

As you can see in the Geekbench scores, the phones perform similarly. However, the Galaxy A54 5G also feels a lot smoother thanks to the higher refresh rate panel. It remains to be seen how the Exynos 1380 holds up over time, but it does a pretty good job of competing with its competition for now.


Geekbench 6 single-core score

Geekbench 6 multi-core score

Samsung Galaxy A54 5G



Google Pixel 6a



Samsung’s mid-ranger also has a bigger battery — a 5,000mAh unit inside the Galaxy A54 5G versus a 4,410mAh unit inside the Pixel 6a. It’s not a significant difference, but it’s enough to give you a few more hours of screen time. Both phones in this comparison will comfortably get you through a day with enough battery to spare for the next morning. However, the Galaxy A54 supports 25W wired charging while the Pixel 6a tops out at 18W, so you’ll be able to top up the Galaxy A54 faster. You don’t get support for wireless or reverse wireless charging with either of these phones, so you’ll have to rely on wired charging. Neither of them is bundled with a charger, so you’ll have to purchase one separately regardless of the phone you pick.

Both smartphones are running on the latest version of Android. The Galaxy A54 ships with One UI 5.1 based on Android 13, and the Pixel 6a has also been updated to the latest version of Android. The Galaxy A54, however, is promised to receive more platform updates. Samsung is promising four major OS updates and up to five years of security updates, while the Pixel 6a will only receive two more platform updates and four more years of security updates.

Camera: A decent set of optics on both phones

Punch hole camera of the Google Pixel 6a

The Galaxy A54’s camera system may look like a downgrade on paper compared to Galaxy A53, but that’s not the case. Samsung’s new mid-ranger comes with a 50MP f/1.8 main sensor along with a 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide and a 5MP f/2.4 macro camera. In comparison, the Pixel 6a sports a dual-camera setup that includes a 12.2MP f/1.7 main sensor and a 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide camera. If you are rating the cameras by the number of sensors, then the Galaxy A54 is better. But a macro camera isn’t as useful as, say, a telephoto lens, so you’re probably not going to use it as often as you think.

Both phones can capture good-looking photos during the day or in scenes where there’s plenty of light. The 50MP main camera on the Galaxy A54 does a pretty good job of capturing a lot of details for you to zoom into. The same can be said about the 12.2MP main camera on the Pixel 6a. Even though it has a low-resolution sensor, Google’s top-notch image processing helps it take great shots. There’s no dedicated telephoto lens on either of these phones, but you can digitally zoom into your scene to capture close-ups.

If you are rating the cameras by the number of sensors, then the Galaxy A54 is better, but the Pixel 6a has Google’s top-notch image processing.

Both phones will struggle a bit in low light, but you can get away with some good photos using the dedicated night modes. The ultrawide camera on both phones also captures some good photos during the day, but it starts to fall flat in low light. The Pixel 6a has a slight advantage here as it allows you to use night mode while using the ultrawide.

The selfies are handled by an 8MP and a 32MP camera on the Pixel 6a and the Galaxy A54, respectively. We haven’t been able to capture the same set of photos using both phones, but we’ll leave some camera samples from each below for you to get a better understanding of what to expect from them.

Samsung Galaxy A54 camera samples:

Google Pixel 6a camera samples:

Both phones will let you capture videos at up to 4K resolution, but the Galaxy A54 tops out at 30 FPS while the Pixel 6a can record at up to 60 FPS. But the selfie camera on the Pixel 6a tops out at 1080p resolution whereas the Galaxy A54 can record at 4K resolution.

Which phone is better to buy in 2023?

The Samsung Galaxy A54 vs Google Pixel 6a is a tough matchup because you are looking at two solid mid-range phones at appealing price tags, but the Galaxy A54 5G offers a more well-rounded package overall. The fact that you can get a beautiful-looking phone with premium build materials and a 120Hz Super AMOLED display makes it an easy recommendation at $450. But what really seals the deal in favor of Galaxy A54 is software support. The Galaxy A54 may not be the first in line to receive the new software updates, but it’ll get two more platform updates and an additional year of security updates compared to the Pixel 6a.

Samsung A54 5G product box picture

Samsung Galaxy A54 5G

Best overall

$410 $446 Save $36

The Samsung Galaxy A54 is an easy recommendation for us as it does a lot of things better than last year’s Pixel 6a. It offers a sleek design, a beautiful 120Hz display, plenty of power under the hood, and a triple camera setup on the back.

The Pixel 6a is also a solid phone, but it leaves a lot to be desired while going against the newer mid-ranger on the block. It lacks a high refresh rate display, doesn’t support expandable storage, and also has a slightly smaller battery that charges only at 18W. It’s a good alternative for $300, but we recommend picking up the newer Galaxy A54 5G unless you are really trying to save some money by going with the cheaper option.

A render of the Google Pixel 6a in Charcoal black color.

Google Pixel 6a

A good alternative

$299 $449 Save $150

The Pixel 6a is a good alternative to consider in the mid-range space, and there’s a lot to like about it for $300.

We’ve also started hearing some rumors about the Pixel 7a, so you might want to wait for that unless you are in dire need of an upgrade to your current phone. Google’s next mid-ranger is expected to have some solid improvements, but it won’t be here for a while.

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