There was a time when Samsung's mid-range or budget phones were simply not worth considering. In no time at all they would slow to a crawl and behave in a clunky over-loaded fashion. Displays were lacklustre, battery life bad, heating was an issue and signals were poorly handled. Samsung climbed out of that rut, however, and now has quite a healthy mid-range smartphone collection to choose from. One of these makes a great second phone or even a decent gift.

The recently launched F54 5G is a mid-ranger at ₹29,999 but you wouldn't know it until you try to really push it into performance realms it wasn't designed for. As an everyday phone, the F54 is value for money.

Slippery customer

As has become typical for Samsung these days, the phone arrives in an impossibly slim box. Quite obviously there's nothing in there but the phone and the cable and a few odds and ends. There's no charger, so the customer has to get the right one (25W) when buying the device. This is definitely more than a little annoying.

When you open the little box, a rather large phone emerges. It isn't that it's particularly heavy, but it's broad, which makes its 6.7-inch screen seem larger than it is. Actually, most smartphones have settled at the screen size for now, but if you have small hands, you may want to rethink. The phone is also a bit slippery because of its glossy back and for this and the fact that it shows finger smudges you may want to opt for a case. This will give a better grip, but may just make the phone feel larger. The phone has slightly curved edges - meant for a better hold - but these too will be hidden when using a case. The back and frame, incidentally, are plastic, so a case will help protect it from unseemly scratches.

Crisp display

Having acquired a charger, case and tempered glass, you can set up the F54 for use. The first thing you'll notice is the phone's bright full HD+ (1080×2400p) Super AMOLED Plus display - after all, Samsung is the king of displays. It's easy on the eye and crisp enough to read with comfort. Most of all this is a screen that has sliming bezels but the bottom bezel is thicker - generally a signature of mid-range phones - but there is an expanse of space for watching movies and so on. There are no stereo speakers. The screen has a 120Hz refresh rate, a specification that does its bit towards making the phone feel fast to use. The display is Gorilla Glass-protected.

This device could have been much heavier, considering it has a 6000mAh battery inside. Samsung phones don't follow the same charging technique as some of the Chinese phones do so don't expect 30-minute charging. It's more like an hour and a half. But because the battery is so huge it can last two days of light to average use.

For extras, the F54 has a hybrid SIM card, so you can store some data on a memory card. The fingerprint sensor is on the power button, a convenient spot for it to be. There's no 3.5mm jack, and nor can one expect one any longer.

Updated software

The F54 runs on Samsung's OneUI 5.1 on top of Android 13. Samsung's interface is actually easily one of the best at the moment and others have borrowed heavily from it. The one big problem is a major load of unwanted apps that have come along for the ride. These go a long way to making the phone feel cheaper than it is. Some can be off-loaded, but try as you might, you can't always get rid of that dynamic Lock Screen and some of the apps. It's a lot like those clothing brands that insist on putting their labels on the outside where they're the most visible, making you advertise for them without paying you for it. With apps from Samsung, Google, Microsoft as usual, you also have uninvited ones like DailyHunt, Snapchat, etc crowding the arena.

One of the more reassuring aspects of the software is that Samsung is giving four years of OS updates and five years of security updates. That means you'll go on into Android 17 and regular safety top-ups.

This phone runs on the new Exynos 1380 system-on-chip - Samsung's own processor. With 8GB LPDDR5X RAM the device sails smoothly through everyday tasks. Only occasionally are there some stutters, mostly on picking up the phone after a gap. It isn't meant to be a gaming phone and although it will take on some heavy gaming, it will respond by heating up somewhat. You can give it a performance boost by calling the additional 8GB virtual RAM into play. Storage is ample with 256GB of UFS 2.2 ROM and that optional memory card.

Gram-worthy images

The F54 has three cameras on the rear. Two of these don't matter particularly. The primary camera is a 108-megapixel shooter which takes very nice signature Samsung images. That means great dynamic range, good colours and detail. The camera app is very feature rich and if you have the time and inclination, gives you a lot to customise and play with. Of course, if photography is your primary interest and you indulge in it a lot, it's best to think of the flagship S23 series, specifically the S23 Ultra. But when it comes to everyday casual photos, the F54's camera does well, populating your Instagram nicely enough. You have a 32MP front camera in case you like the occasional selfie or light vlogging which you can actually do at 4K. There are great options for night photography.

Overall, despite being one-fourth the price of Samsung's top-tier flagships, the F54 is value for money and a good option for those who don't want to carry the most expensive phone around at all times.

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