The most exciting smartphones aren’t the $1,200 flagships, with their minute upgrades that only slightly improve the camera from the prior year. No, it’s the cheap phones that have had my eyes. It’s remarkable seeing what features are trickling down from the high end, and how rapidly these handsets are improving. This is nowhere more evident than with Samsung’s Galaxy A14 5G.
This $200 unlocked Android phone is, frankly, phenomenal. For two Benjamins, you can get a smartphone that can handle most day-to-day tasks without acting frustratingly slow, a surprisingly decent camera system, a lengthy software update cycle, plus more than two-day battery life. The crazier thing is that Samsung manages to improve on the flaws of the A14’s predecessor—the Galaxy A13 5G—while cutting the price by $50. Consider my mind boggled.
The A14 5G looks a little plain, but it has a textured back that gives it a little more character than most budget phones. It certainly doesn’t feel as cheap as it is. The plastic rear design means that’s one less glass surface area you have to worry about. The only hardware flaw? This phone doesn’t have an IP rating, so it’s not dust or water resistant. You’ll want to be careful with it in the rain, near a pool, and at the beach.
The 6.6-inch LCD display has a 1080-pixel resolution which is sharper than the prior model, and it looks perfectly fine. I haven’t had trouble reading it on sunny days (not that we’ve had many here in New York recently), and it’s plenty sharp for gaming, reading, and watching all the TikToks my partner sends my way.
Speaking of displays, some cheap phones have started introducing high refresh rates into their respective screens—a flagship feature making its way down. Most smartphones used to have a 60-Hz screen, but by increasing the number of times the screen refreshes per second from 60 to 90 or 120, you get a more fluid experience and it makes the phone feel more responsive. (You can read about it in more detail here.) Samsung has retained the 90-Hz panel from the A13, which is nice, but it honestly is hard to tell. It doesn’t feel as buttery smooth as more powerful devices that can more regularly ratchet up the frames when you’re moving through the interface.
Performance is certainly a standout. Compared to a $170 phone I just reviewed, the Galaxy A14 5G is a godsend. I can actually juggle through all my apps without my blood pressure rising. This is thanks to the MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G and 4 GB of RAM inside. In my Geekbench benchmark tests, there’s a solid bump in performance over the A13 5G, which is surprising given the A13 5G has the same chipset and RAM. I suspect there’s just better optimization here. That’s easily reflected throughout my experience. I can play games like Alto’s Odyssey, CarX Highway Racing, and Dead Cells without noticing annoying hiccups.
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