“The excellent Samsung Galaxy A52 5G pulls off a clever trick -- it looks great, does everything you need, takes good photos, and has two-day battery life, but keeps a reasonable price tag.”
- Colorful, 120Hz screen
- Two-day battery life
- Camera takes shareable photos
- IP67 water resistance
- Useless fingerprint sensor
Samsung has made the best Android phone of 2021, the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but at more than $1,000 it’s a serious investment. The Galaxy A52 5G costs less than half of the amount needed to secure an S21 Ultra, but does that mean it’s not worth considering? Samsung has made huge strides forward with the desirability and overall ability of its mid-range A-series hardware, and while the A52 5G obviously isn’t the S21 Ultra’s equal, it has a great deal going for it.
While we expect smartphones to have decent cameras and good software, Samsung has thought about what features will enhance the A52 5G in a meaningful way and added them. It turns a good phone into a great one. I’ve been living with the Galaxy A52 5G, and this is what it’s like.
Don’t spend too long thinking about what the Galaxy A52 5G is made of, think more about how it looks and feels. The matte finish back panel has a soft, glass-like finish that’s warm to the touch while still providing a sensible degree of grip, and the chassis has a shiny chrome finish. It’s not metal and the back panel isn’t glass, but you’d never know from a distance. The camera module appears to be part of the back, furthering the illusion of it being made from a considerably more expensive material than it really is.
The white color of my review sample looks excellent and doesn’t attract unpleasant marks or fingerprints, although the chrome finish on the sides has managed to pick up a few small scratches during my time with the phone. You have to look hard to find them though. Despite being 189 grams (6.6 ounces), it’s weighted perfectly and disguises this higher-than-expected mass very well.
Another welcome surprise is the phone still finds room for a 3.5mm headphone jack, alongside a USB-C charging port on the bottom of the phone, plus the SIM tray has space for a MicroSD card too. The phone is 8.4mm thick and the overall shape is quite “squared-off,” which leads to the one slight downside of the A52 5G in that it feels quite big, especially when trying to use it with one hand. It’s not impossible, but compared to a sleeker, more curved phone like the OnePlus 9 Pro — which is almost the same width as the A52 5G — the range of thumb movement is noticeably less.
However, this is not something unique to the Galaxy A52 5G, and slight chunkiness aside, it’s otherwise a great looking, well-balanced, premium-feeling smartphone without a high price.
Yes, the screen does have a noticeable bezel, but no it doesn’t really matter. The chin is the largest expanse, and even then the A52 5G still looks like a modern phone. The 6.5-inch Super AMOLED has a 2400 x 1080 pixel resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate, canceling out any concerns about the bezels. When I started using the Galaxy A52 5G, I had come straight from the cheaper $250 Nokia 5.4, which has one of the dimmest smartphone screens I’ve used. The A52 5G has double the brightness and is legible in most outdoor situations, plus the viewing angles are excellent.
It’s glorious to look at. We always sang the praises of the screen on the Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S20 FE, and even the Galaxy S10 before it. You really get the same visual experience as these phones with the Galaxy A52 5G, but for much less money. Watching Carfection’s review of the Nomad R, the colors and vibrance of the surroundings leap off the screen. Moving to Evo’s comparison test of the car, and the A52 5G’s willingness to show plenty of detail, and its excellent contrast levels, are all on display.
A great-looking, well-balanced, premium-feeling smartphone without a high price.
Add the 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling throughout the operating system — it’s adjustable to 60Hz if you want to prioritize battery life — and the small selfie camera in a top-center hole-punch and the Galaxy A52 5G’s screen is equal to some far more expensive phones. A real high point of the phone, up until you get to the security.
The Galaxy A52 5G has an in-display fingerprint sensor, but sadly it’s not the upgraded versions used in the Galaxy S21 range, but the older much less reliable version that frustrated us about the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra. Its unreliability, where it frequently refuses to recognize any input, means I turned it off out of frustration, and that makes it a serious security issue. There’s face unlock to fall back on, but even this isn’t the fastest or most accurate system. I’ve relied on a PIN to secure the A52 5G due to shortcomings caused by the phone’s hardware, and that’s not good enough.
The neat five-camera module on the back of the Galaxy A52 5G has a 64-megapixel main camera with optical image stabilization, Phase Detection Autofocus, and an f/1.8 aperture. There is a 12MP wide-angle camera and a pair of 5MP cameras for macro and depth. It can shoot video at 4K and 30 frames-per-second (fps), plus there’s a Night mode and Samsung’s Single Take mode too.
Photos are generally good. On bright days it doesn’t over-saturate and shows a pleasing palette with enough pop to make the pictures eye-catching. However, there are times where the camera highlights green colors too much, resulting in a slightly unnatural look, but this is mostly when using the wide-angle camera. There is also very little consistency between the main and wide-angle camera, and some may also find the HDR effect is too heavy-handed.
Portrait mode is decent and finds its subject well, although edge-recognition doesn’t challenge more expensive Galaxy models. The Galaxy A52 5G’s camera isn’t as accomplished as the Google Pixel 4a’s, and really just suffers from the same issues as older Samsung cameras — inconsistency and some over-saturation — but I never chose not to take a photo with it, and in everyday situations it took photos I found to be perfectly acceptable.
Software and performance
It’s Android 11 with OneUI 3.1 installed on my review Galaxy A52, which is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor and 6GB of RAM. The software is almost the same as that installed on the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, and Galaxy S21 Ultra, so take a look at those reviews for greater detail. Crucially, I don’t have any concerns about the speed, smoothness, or functionality of the software on the A52 5G.
Samsung’s OneUI 3.1 is easy to use with clear menus and settings. The notifications are reliable and most can be interacted with, plus I like the always-on screen with its helpful icons and large time display. Samsung has removed (or hidden) its Samsung Daily screen and replaced it with Google News when you swipe to the right on the home screen, which I personally find more useful. I’ve used OneUI a lot this year, and haven’t found it frustrating (except for the power key) or a poor performer, and that trend continues on the A52 5G.
Rather than use one of its own Exynos processors, Samsung has equipped the Galaxy A52 5G with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G octa-core chip, regardless of whether you’re in the U.S. or the U.K. It’s great for games, with both Asphalt 9: Legends and Genshin Impact playing very well, without generating much heat. It doesn’t have the instant response you get with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but I’ve been using it every day for normal tasks and it hasn’t missed a beat. Top-specs are always nice, but the Snapdragon 750G does everything you need.
Battery life from the 4,500mAh cell has been very good, with two days easily achievable with normal use. If you go mad on games this will change, but with general use, some photos and video, and the 120Hz screen active, I’ve finished most days with more than 50% remaining. Charging is wired only at Samsung’s fastest 25W speeds, meaning about 80 minutes to full. Wireless charging would have been a welcome addition, but it’s rare at this price.
Price and availability
The 6GB/128GB Galaxy A52 5G costs $499 in the U.S. and 399 British pounds in the U.K. It’s available through Samsung’s own online store and retailers including Amazon. You can buy it in the white color seen here, or in black, blue, or violet.
What a great phone the Galaxy A52 5G is. It’s not overpriced, it looks really good, is built very well, takes highly shareable photos, and is powerful enough to do everything you need on a daily basis. The battery even lasts two days on a single charge. We really expect that from any phone these days, and where the A52 5G really wins is all the extras Samsung has packed in.
The Galaxy A52 5G has a series of useful additional features — water resistance, a MicroSD card slot, and a 3.5mm headphone jack — you don’t always see on more expensive phones, plus 5G for the future if you want it. These aren’t gimmicks, they are features you will actually benefit from, and that’s really welcome. It’s also what elevates the phone from being simply good, to being great.
While there are still many reasons to buy a flagship Galaxy S series phone, if you’re not that interested in top-level photography or hardcore gaming, the A52 5G will satisfy almost every other requirement for half the price or less. That’s good value, and while we’re inundated with great flagship phones, the choice gets far slimmer the less you want to spend, so it’s great to be able to make a strong recommendation here.
Is there a better alternative?
The Galaxy A52 5G’s biggest competitor is the Google Pixel 4a 5G, which also costs $499. If the camera is the most important part of your new phone then it may be a better purchase, but the design and materials can’t match the A52 5G. Since Samsung has strong software support for the future, it manages to claw back some appeal in this area.
The battery even lasts two days on a single charge.
It also takes on the OnePlus 8 in the U.S., which can be found for $500, but it’s considerably older than the brand new A52 5G. Some may also look at the $399 Apple iPhone SE, which is quite a different proposition. It’s sleek and beautifully made, but much smaller and with a less versatile camera.
In the U.K. the A52 5G’s price is even more competitive, undercutting the Pixel 4a 5G and coming closer to the Pixel 4a, meaning it’s excellent value. There’s plenty of competition though, from the 280 British pound/$385 Realme 8 Pro and the 469 pound/$645 Xiaomi Mi 10T 5G to the 380 pound/$520 Oppo X3 Lite.
How long will it last?
There’s some good news here. The phone has IP67 water- and dust-resistance rating (yes, even with the 3.5mm headphone jack) and Samsung says the phone will receive three Android version updates and security updates for the next four years. The 5G connection will mean it’s ready to connect to the fastest network should it be available where you live too.
In addition, the MicroSD card slot expands the standard 128GB internal memory, plus there’s NFC (on my U.K. version) for Google Pay, giving it everything you need from a smartphone. The Galaxy A52 5G should happily last for two to three years provided you aren’t a hardcore gamer.
Should you buy one?
Yes, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G’s ability, style, and performance exceed expectations.
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