With its Galaxy A series, Samsung frequently pairs essential hardware features with consistent software functions across its entire lineup. The Galaxy A34 is a continuation of this philosophy as it gets the latest Samsung user interface and four Android updates, something that many Android brands still shy away from offering.
Samsung doesn’t back the Galaxy A34’s sweeping software features with fancy hardware. Instead, the manufacturer sticks to the basics like NFC for contactless payments, dust and water resistance, a large battery with modestly fast charging, and a pleasant display. It’s a phone that covers the essentials, but you may find it lacking if you’re an avid mobile gamer.
As one of the many options in the sub-$400 smartphone market, the Galaxy A34 might struggle to stand out or top our list of the best Samsung phones, but can Samsung’s compelling software features make it a worthy choice? Find out in our full review below.
- Impress visuals for the price
- IP67 dust and water resistance
- Optical image stabilization (OIS)
- Four years of promised Android updates
Price & Availability
The Samsung Galaxy A34 5G is not officially available in the US yet, but you can find unofficial listings on Amazon starting at around $250 for the 6GB RAM and 128GB storage variant. Likely being an imported model, this may not work with certain carriers in the US, so be sure to read the title and description thoroughly before buying.
In the UK, the Galaxy A34 starts at £349 for the 128GB storage version, while the 256GB variant sells for £399 on Samsung’s official online store. Prices at other retailers vary, depending on whether you want to purchase the phone outright or pick it up in a contract deal.
Despite an outline indistinguishable from other Samsung phones, the Galaxy A34 gets a rather distinct finish on the back panel. All color variants (except Black) have an iridescent gradient under the matte plastic back. The prismatic light shifting at different angles, especially on the Silver variant, makes the A34 more photogenic and appealing. An IP67 rating adds a sense of confidence surrounding waterproofing that you often don’t get with phones in this price bracket.
The underlying hardware is powerful enough to carry out everyday operations such as using social media, watching videos, and texting, all while utilizing the smooth 120Hz display. The chipset allows continuous 4K video recording at 30fps, which is impressive for the price point. But expecting it to be your workhorse for gaming does not lead to a gratifying experience.
Samsung’s strong suit lies in software, and its One UI borrows the best elements from Android and iOS, offering an experience that feels akin to what you find on a Goole Pixel device or an iPhone. Besides a slew of useful features, getting updates up to Android 16 can be enticing to those who don’t care for showy specifications.
Samsung equips the Galaxy A34 with three cameras on the back, including a 48MP primary camera. The primary camera offers optical stabilization, so its lenses move to correct physical jerks or dislocation, and captures images in 12MP by combining four pixels into one for better lighting. But it may feel lacking compared to other devices featuring 108MP or even 200MP cameras in this price range. In addition, there’s an 8MP ultrawide camera with a 123° wide field of view and a 5MP fixed-focus macro camera.
The primary camera focuses quickly and captures sharp images under bright lighting. In low light, images lack the same level of detail, but the Night Mode feature can salvage some parts of the photos, although not to a great extent.
Portraits look decent, but edge detection is hit-and-miss. It’s also worth pointing out that some images from the primary camera have a mild greenish tint, which becomes more apparent in Portrait and Night Mode.
Pictures taken with the ultrawide are comparatively less sharp, especially if there is only a small distance between the phone and the subject. This issue is especially irritating in situations where you want to take snaps of large groups of people. There’s also some warping in straight objects due to the lens’ fish-eye effect, while the images lack the same saturation as the primary camera.
Similarly, the 5MP macro camera feels insignificant and unnecessary, as it can only focus at a fixed length from the subject. Even when you manage to focus on a tiny object, the images usually lack sharpness, and you’re better off using the primary camera and then zooming into the image.
On the front, you get a 13MP camera for selfies, and pictures taken in bright light turn out to be sharp. However, without proper lighting, noise often creeps in. Samsung also integrates Snapchat’s AR filters within the Camera app, allowing you to take quirky pictures without downloading or signing up for Snapchat.
For videos, the Galaxy A34 can record at 4K resolution with up to 30fps of frame rate. If you wish to use optical image stabilization, the video quality caps out at 1080p due to the chipset’s processing capabilities.
Overall, the images and videos are acceptable in terms of quality for social media or personal journaling. However, you may need to correct the green tint in some photos until Samsung fixes this in a future update, and there are better smartphone camera options on the market for a similar price point.
The majority of Samsung’s smartphone lineup for 2023 maintains the same silhouette, and the Galaxy A34 doesn’t waver much from those designs. It features a flat back with a linear camera bay on the top left side. A plastic frame wraps around the edges and houses key buttons and ports, including a USB-C port at the bottom and a dual hybrid SIM tray at the top. The Galaxy A34 lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you need a Bluetooth or a USB-C headset for audio on the go.
The plastic on the back can make this phone feel less premium than the Galaxy A54, which has a glass back. But it also guarantees more reliable durability and better resistance to damage from nudges and drops.
Unlike some phones in its price range, the Galaxy A34 offers dust and water resistance with an IP67 rating. That means this handset functions when submerged under fresh water up to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes. The claim, notably, does not hold for water from the sea or chlorine-laden swimming pools, so you still have to be a little careful if you’re planning on using it while traveling.
Samsung offers a 6.6-inch AMOLED display on the Galaxy A34. It gets a Full HD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate, making viewing crisp and scrolling smooth. This AMOLED screen is very vibrant, while the deep blacks allow a pleasant experience while watching videos. The display also has a broad range of brightness steps, allowing for equally impressive legibility in outdoor lighting or dim environments.
The A34 also supports Samsung’s Eye Comfort Shield filter, similar to Apple’s True Tone, making it warmer or cooler based on the surroundings to soothe your eyes. You can also use the Extra Dim feature that reduces the display’s brightness to assist with viewing at night. On the subject of visibility-enhancing features, the Galaxy A34’s display lacks support for HDR. Still, the quality is high enough to enjoy most forms of content viewable on your smartphone.
The only caveat I really struggle with in terms of the display is the notch. Since most of Samsung’s contemporaries have moved to hole-punch cutouts for selfie cameras, the U-shaped notch feels dated. The feeling intensifies when you consider Samsung’s proposed life cycle for the phone.
The display also utilizes an in-display fingerprint scanner, which might feel like a premium feature but is noticeably slower than the physical fingerprint scanner on the more affordable Galaxy A14 5G. This in-display scanner feels accurate and reliable, but it can be frustrating if you’re in a hurry.
The Galaxy A34 runs on a 5,000mAh battery, which offers enough juice for a day’s usage. You can expect the battery to last over 30 hours with moderate use if you spend most of the day indoors and connected to a Wi-Fi network. Venture out, and the battery drains much faster due to 5G, a problem endemic with most other 5G phones. Likewise, if you use two 5G SIM cards simultaneously, you can expect the battery to deplete even faster.
When it comes to charging, the Galaxy A34 supports fast wired charging at 25W with support for the USB Power Delivery (USB-PD) open charging standard. This means you can use any USB-PD-compliant charging brick, which should juice the Galaxy A34 fully in about 90 minutes if you’re not using the phone. However, you need to buy a charger separately since Samsung does not bundle one in the box.
Lastly, there is no wireless charging on the Galaxy A34, but it shouldn’t concern most users. There are few devices on the market for this price point with wireless charging capabilities. So, if that’s a must, you may have to up your budget.
The Galaxy A34 draws its power from its MediaTek Dimensity 1080 chipset and 6GB of RAM. The Dimensity 1080 is a mid-range chipset with sufficient chops to drive essential functions on the phone without any lag or stuttering. Samsung’s own Exynos line of chipsets, especially the Exynos 1280 on last year’s Galaxy A33, delivers more power but can also produce more heat, which justifies the choice of MediaTek silicon.
The 6GB RAM is enough to keep at least ten applications running in the background, although I wish Samsung also sold 8GB variants of the Galaxy A34 in the UK and Europe as it does in parts of Asia.
The Galaxy A34 does not offer a competitive edge if you want to game because of the hardware’s limitations. It can just about run Genshin Impact with low graphics settings at a bearable frame rate but with frequent frame drops or Asphalt 9 at medium settings with 30fps rendering. While playing FPS titles such as Call of Duty Mobile, the phone supports max frame rate settings (60fps gameplay) with low graphics quality. Samsung caps the frame rate at 40fps for medium or high quality settings on this device, making it non-ideal for serious mobile gamers.
The Galaxy A34 runs Samsung’s One UI 5.1 Android skin based on Android 13. This exclusive UI adds plenty of features that do not exist on other Android skins, such as stackable widgets, extensive automated routines, and different modes for scenarios, including work, sleep, exercise, driving, and more.
At the same time, you might find a boatload of pre-installed apps from Samsung, Microsoft, and other third-party developers such as Netflix and Meta. Even worse is that Samsung promotes its own services, including the Galaxy Store for apps, over the Google Play Store and serves frequent prompts to install apps sneakily as a potential means to earn commissions from developers. Thankfully, if you’re careful, you can ignore those prompts and uninstall unwanted apps, but the initial experience may be overwhelming for some.
To our relief, Samsung diligently offers software updates irrespective of the device’s price point. With this approach, the Galaxy A34 gets four years of Android platform upgrades and five years of security patches.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy A34?
The Samsung Galaxy A34 is well-equipped for fundamental phone functions and easily satisfies those who don’t game extensively on their devices. The 120Hz refresh rate makes the user experience smooth and fulfilling, while the 5,000mAh battery offers sufficient reliability for sustained daily usage. On top of that, an IP67 certification ensures your phone’s internals are safe against accidental flirting with water and dust.
Besides a convincing set of hardware features, Samsung’s One UI and its commitment to timely updates provide surety about the longevity of the Galaxy A34. However, you may need to be cautious about Samsung’s stealthy ways of installing third-party apps on the device.
There are some compromises, though, especially with how the camera processes colors. The Galaxy A34’s primary camera can be impressive in specific scenarios, but the occasional green hues on pictures can hamper the experience. The camera can also be underwhelming in low light, which you might have to live with if Samsung continues to not acknowledge or fix the issue.
If the Galaxy A34 hasn’t won you over, check out some of the alternative options you can consider below.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus
The Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus is Xiaomi’s mid-range headliner. It’s fitted with unbelievable specs and offers a glamorous glass sandwich design, a 200MP camera, Dolby Vision support on its 120Hz AMOLED, and superfast 120W fast charging. However, Xiaomi skimps on Android updates with older devices, which can erode the phone’s value more quickly.
The Honor 90 brings a premium glass and metal design, 256GB as the standard storage, a bright and vibrant curved AMOLED display, a 200MP camera, and a much more powerful processor. Honor also claims the 90’s display has built-in safeguards to reduce eye strain significantly, especially in low light. While the features justify its pricing of around $400, only two years of promised Android updates might disappoint you.
Samsung’s incredible track record with software updates backs up the Galaxy A34, while you also get a brilliant 120Hz AMOLED and a large battery for the price. However, the middling internal hardware might not live up to the promise of four Android updates and may disappoint in time.