Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: Scrappy mid-range fighter


The Galaxy A52 5G is a mid-range offering from Samsung that aims to compete with select phones from Google, Motorola, Apple, and other popular mid-tier phones. It is a little pricer than the standard A52, but the extra cash nets you 5G access depending on where you live. Yet this isn’t the only feature the A52 5G has over the standard A52. Find out what else separates them in the Android Authority Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review.

About this Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: I tested the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G over a period of six days. It was running Android 11 on the March 2021 security patch. Samsung provided the review unit to Android Authority for this review.


What you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

Samsung Galaxy A 52 5G on table with things

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • Samsung Galaxy A52 5G 6GB/128GB: $499/£399/€399

The Galaxy A52 5G is the follow-up to the Galaxy super-popular Galaxy A51 and Galaxy A51 5G from 2020. As such, it should be a mega-seller for Samsung. Centered in the middle of the company’s lineup, it hits the sweet spot in price, features, and design. The new Galaxy A42 and A32 are closer to entry-level fare, while the A72 and Galaxy S2o FE are at the high end of the middle of the market. That gives the A52 5G (and its lower-cost brother, the A52) wide latitude to cannibalize sales from above and below.

Worth the upgrade? Samsung Galaxy A52 vs Galaxy A51

The A52 5G also goes head-to-head with Apple and Google. Some might consider the iPhone SE an option, as well as the Google Pixel 4a 5G. Samsung is offering up to $150 off the phone if you have something to trade-in. That helps the value equation quite a bit.

Samsung sells two versions of the phone, with different memory/storage combinations, and it comes in four colors: Awesome Black, Awesome Blue, Awesome Violet, and Awesome White. At the moment, only the black version appears to be available from Samsung’s US store. There’s no word on the availability of the other colors nor the other storage configurations.


Design: All in the family

Samsung Galaxy A 52 5G rear on table with things

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • Gorilla Glass front, polycarbonate sides/rear
  • 159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4mm
  • 189g
  • In-display fingerprint reader
  • Stereo speakers
  • IP67
  • Awesome Black, Awesome White, Awesome Blue, Awesome Violet

The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is a tale of two phones: the outer and inner. Samsung wholly redesigned the A52 5G’s skin compared to the outgoing A51, but it carried over many of the specs from the previous generation. This leads us to wonder if it’s worth the upgrade or not.

There’s nothing subtle about the Galaxy A52 5G. It has fully adopted the design language seen on the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Note 20 series’ to complete the family picture. That means it has a straightforward look with a super-chunky camera module on the rear. The resemblance to its flagship siblings is obvious when you compare the family members to one another. Moreover, everything about the phone is bigger than its predecessor. It’s taller, thicker, and heavier. Not by much, mind you, but by enough to notice.

One thing separates the A52 5G from its more expensive Galaxy S brethren: materials. Where the pricier models are metal and glass, the A52 5G’s rear is made of polycarbonate. Both the mid-frame and the rear panel are made from plastics and the front panel is covered in Gorilla Glass 3. The latter is several generations behind at this point which is a shame.

Samsung upgraded the A52 5G with official dust and water protection thanks to the IP67 rating. That’s a huge bonus over last year’s phone.

It’s worth pointing out that the rear plastics are more durable than glass and you might be able to get away with using the phone without a case. Further, Samsung upgraded the Galaxy A52 5G with dust and water protection thanks to the IP67 rating. That’s a huge bonus over last year’s phone. Despite the plastics, the matte materials are appealing and could be mistaken for glass from a distance. The overall feel of the phone is quite good. I’d give it an edge over the cheaper-feeling Google Pixel 4a 5G.

Samsung Galaxy A 52 5G angled on table

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The remaining design elements are function over form, but that’s not a bad thing. The power button and volume toggle are high on the right edge of the phone. While the buttons are easy to find and use, feedback borders on cheap. The combo SIM card/memory card tray is tucked into the top edge. It supports microSD cards up to 1TB. Samsung kept the phone’s left edge entirely free of design elements, but the bottom contains the USB-C port, headphone jack, and downward-firing speaker.

Related: The best Samsung Galaxy A52 cases

Together with the earpiece, the phone produces stereo sound. For a $500 phone, I was hoping for slightly better. Music comes across as a bit thin, with high-frequency sounds prevailing over bass tones. It’s fine if you’re not overly discerning, but there are phones out there that sound better. Still, the A51 5G didn’t have stereo speakers at all, so that’s something.

For those who prefer biometrics over passwords and PINs, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G includes an in-display fingerprint reader. It wasn’t quite as fast as I’d like a fingerprint reader to be, but accuracy was solid. This tech has come a long way since it was first introduced several years ago, with even budget phones now offering viable iterations.

Samsung Galaxy A 52 5G rear with books

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

In sum, Samsung put together some nice upgrades for the Galaxy A52 5G compared to the Galaxy A51 pair. The new design is more appealing and the IP rating is a welcome improvement.


Display: Fast for the price

Samsung Galaxy A 52 5G in hand color

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • 6.5-in Super AMOLED with punch-hole
  • 2,400 x 1,080 resolution
  • 407ppi
  • 20:9 aspect ratio, 120Hz refresh rate

Samsung has carried over the screen size and resolution from last year’s phone but boosted the display thanks to a much faster refresh rate.

Samsung has been all about speed this past year and equipped many of its phones with faster screens. The Galaxy A52 features a 90Hz display, but the best is reserved for the Galaxy A52 5G, which boasts a 120Hz display. Combine this with improved brightness and you have a definite improvement year-over-year as the Galaxy A51 and Galaxy A52 5G were stuck with 60Hz refresh rates.

More reading: Refresh rates explained: 60Hz, 90Hz, 120Hz

Elsewhere, the Galaxy A52 5G’s screen is a bright and accurate AMOLED panel that impresses given the price tag. In addition to the peak 800 nits brightness, the display is colorful and pixel-dense. Everything I viewed on the Galaxy A52 5G, from websites to photos and YouTube videos, looked crisp and colorful.

The phone is set to 120Hz out of the box. If you want the battery-saving 60Hz experience you’ll need to turn it on yourself. The 120Hz experience is quite nice, particularly when navigating YouTube and other apps that necessitate lots of scrolling. It’s an either-or situation, however. Either the screen is running at 120Hz or 60Hz — there’s no adaptive tech here.

Samsung Galaxy A 52 5G in the sun

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The display offers all the amenities you expect from a modern phone. That means dark mode is on board, as are controls for eye comfort, screen mode, edge panels, accidental touch protection, high sensitivity for gloved use, and control over the navigation bar.

My only minor criticism would be reserved for the punch-hole camera, centered at the top, which has the faintest silver circle around it. Some may find this annoying as it breaks up the otherwise pure black of the screen.

That aside, this is an excellent screen for a $500 phone. I’d call it the device’s defining feature.


Performance: Mid-range muscle?

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G
  • Adreno 619
  • 6/8GB RAM
  • 128/256GB storage

Does the Galaxy A52 5G deliver mid-range muscle? Not quite.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G is an update to the aging 730G. It’s a definite improvement over the Exynos chip that was in the prior-generation Galaxy A51, but it can’t quite compete with the big boys. Granted, Samsung had to keep the cost down somewhere, and sticking to a middle-of-the-pack Snapdragon 700 series chip is the way to do that.

Running benchmarks highlighted the limitations of the Snapdragon 750G. It put up mediocre scores across a number of test apps, such as 3DMark and Geekbench. While the Galaxy A52 5G narrowly bests the Snapdragon 765G chip of the Pixel 4a 5G, it falls well behind the A13 Bionic found in the iPhone SE. The phone delivered a modest performance in our homegrown Speed Test G benchmark, putting up a time of two minutes 38 seconds. The best phones can run the test in just over one minute, while phones in the mid-range category tend to finish in under two and a half minutes. That puts the Galaxy A52 5G in touching distance of modern mid-range devices in benchmarking terms, but no higher.

The A52 5G is fine for everyday use, but not for heavy lifting.

More importantly, the phone never felt truly fast. Flitting about the home screen was fine, and opening/closing or switching between most apps was not a problem at all. Browsing the web and YouTube felt fluid. But activities such as downloading and installing apps from the Google Play Store were an exercise in patience. It took over an hour for a handful of apps to update from the Play Store. It was slow going. I’d say there’s a hair of lag system-wide, though it can be alleviated to some degree if you drop down to a 60Hz refresh rate.

Gaming was hit or miss. The phone handled some simple parlor games with no trouble, but games with lots of polygons to push were too much for the Galaxy A52 5G. For example, Asphalt 9 — a fairly demanding 3D game — was stuttery and slow on the Galaxy A52 5G, making gameplay frustrating, to say the least.

Bottom line, the Galaxy A52 5G is fine for everyday use but not for heavy lifting. Pick another phone if raw power or gaming is important to you.

On the 5G front, you’ve got built-in support for the sub-6GHz 5G networks of T-Mobile and Verizon. We tested the device on T-Mobile’s network in and around New York City and came away impressed. Speeds were quick and overall wireless data performance was snappy. If you’re a Verizon customer, you’ll have to buy the unlocked version and get the proper 5G SIM from Verizon to get 5G working properly. There’s no mmWave across the board, but for a mid-range phone sub-6GHz 5G is an acceptable compromise.


Battery: Long lasting

  • 4,500mAh
  • 25W wired charging

The battery life of the Galaxy A52 5G was impressive during my testing. I was very pleased with the longevity of the phone’s power source, which easily pushed into a second day. I carried the phone on a day trip into New York City and came home with more than 50% in the tank despite lots of time on email, Twitter, and with the camera. Screen-on time ranged from 6.5-7 hours on any given day, which goes toe-to-toe with the best of them. This was with the phone set to 120Hz. You can score even more battery life if you drop the refresh rate down to 60Hz and employ the battery-saving tools. In other words, the phone gets the job done.

Related: The best phone charging accessories

On the charging front, you’ve got support for 25W wired charging, but the device ships with an 18W charger. That’s a bit of a bummer. We wish Samsung had been generous enough to supply the 25W charger in the box. Even with the 18W charger, however, the phone still topped up at a reasonably quick rate. It didn’t power up to full in 30 minutes as we’ve seen with some of the latest flagships, but it was less than 90 minutes for a full recharge. That’s not bad for a 4,500mAh battery at 18W. I tested the phone with a faster 25W charger and it put up slightly better numbers, recharging in closer to 70 minutes.

There’s no wireless charging, and we wouldn’t necessarily expect to see such a feature on a phone at this price point.


Camera: One out of three ain’t bad

Samsung Galaxy A 52 5G camera module closeup

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • Main: 64MP, OIS, PDAF (f/1.8, 0.8µm)
  • Ultra-wide: 12MP (f/2.2, 1.12µm)
  • Macro: 5MP (f/2.4)
  • Depth: 5MP (f/2.4)
  • Front: 32MP (f/2.2, 0.8µm)
  • Video: 4K at 30fps

The Galaxy A52 5G has a fairly standard setup for the middle of the market, even if it’s not necessarily the main-wide-zoom trifecta combination we prefer to see. It’s got a pixel-rich main camera, as well as ultra-wide, macro, and depth cameras. There’s no dedicated optical telephoto.

See also: Best camera phones you can get

Samples taken from the main sensor were quite good. They are binned down by a factor of four to 16MP. I was pleased with color, definition, detail, white balance, exposure, and sharpness. Most importantly, the majority of photos were accurate to the scene at hand. What you see here is what I saw in person in the real world. Since this is the lens people will use the most, it’s good that it gets the job done. The detail in the subway mural is good, particularly considering it was taken in low light.

For long-distance shots, the phone relies wholly on digital zoom. That means it’s using the main lens and cropping in. These images are a bit softer and the color wasn’t always as rich as shooting at the standard focal length. If you zoom in, you’ll see jagged edges in some places. The shot with the cars is totally washed out. Something about zooming in messes with exposure somewhat.

The ultra-wide camera does a fairly decent job snagging large field-of-view scenes. Even shooting directly into the sun netted solid detail in the shadows, as you can see in the wider version of the scene with the stacked cars.

Portrait shooting works well with the main camera. You can see in the statue sample below that the main subject is cut out perfectly and the rest of the photo is gently blurred out. The selfie camera is far more aggressive. In the selfie portrait below, I know that I’m standing in Times Square, but a casual observer may not — it could be any cityscape. At least I’m all there and no missing chunks of hair or an ear, so the subject detection is doing its job. There’s far more detail in the standard selfie and it’s clear that Time Square serves as the backdrop for the photo. I like the exposure for all three of these photos, which was accurate to the real world. The selfie camera also bins photos down by a factor of four to 8MP.

Video captured with the Galaxy A52 5G was good, but not great. The 4K resolution is fine, though I wish the camera supported 60fps rather than just 30fps, especially when the iPhone SE and Pixel 4a 5G offer the shooting mode. Even so, the video clips I took were clean, relatively colorful, and rich in detail without too much loss of detail or noise, particularly in low light.

The Galaxy A52 5G’s main camera gets the job done.

The app is more or less the same one that you’ll find on Samsung’s higher-end phones. It has a standard configuration of shutter controls on one side and settings adjustments such as flash, timer, and aspect ratio on the other. I’m a little confused by the shooting mode carousel, however. It includes photo, video, Single Take (Samsung’s capture-it-all-at-once tool), and Fun. The Fun shooting mode steals filters from Snapchat and is something you’d expect on a phone for teens. My guess is not every Galaxy A52 5G owner will be a kid, but Samsung hopes they’ll all be kids at heart. All the other shooting modes, including the useful portrait mode, are buried in the More tab. Personally, I’d like to have seen the portrait mode switch places with Fun.

All in all, it’s a solid shooter. The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G’s camera isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it does a fine job for camera phones in this price range.

You can check out the full-resolution camera samples in this Google Drive folder.


Software: One UI to rule them all

  • Android 11
  • One UI 3.1
  • Three years of promised software updates

Samsung has stepped up its software game. To start, the phone ships with Android 11 and Samsung’s One UI 3.1. This is the most up-to-date software available to any Samsung device on the market right now. There was a time when Samsung would ship its mid-range phones with older versions of software. That’s no longer the case. More importantly, Samsung has committed to longer support curves for its phones. It’s now offering three years of updates. This means the phone will stay current and protected for longer, and on par with Google’s Pixel series.

Samsung Android 11 update: When will your phone get One UI 3?

One UI 3.1 itself is a solid user interface skin. I’m not the biggest fan of its fonts and some icons, but with Android you can get around minor stuff like that pretty easily. All the usual and expected bits are in place. For example, there’s an app drawer and, mercifully, access to the Google Discover feed on the left home screen panel. On older phones, Samsung forced you to use Bixby or its Samsung Free feeds. Having access to the Discover feed makes me much happier, though you can switch back to Samsung Free if you so desire.

With these basics handled, Samsung is leading the way with software. That’s a good thing for Galaxy fans and the Galaxy A52 5G specifically.


Samsung Galaxy A52 5G specs

  Samsung Galaxy A52 Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
Display 6.5-inch Super AMOLED
FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080)
Infinity-O (display cutout)
407ppi
90Hz refresh rate
6.5-inch Super AMOLED
FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080)
Infinity-O (display cutout)
407ppi
120Hz refresh rate
Processor Unnamed octa-core CPU Unnamed octa-core CPU
RAM 4, 6, or 8GB 6 or 8GB
Storage 128 or 256GB
microSD support (up to 1TB)
128 or 256GB
microSD support (up to 1TB)
Power 4,500mAh battery
25W fast wired charging
No wireless charging
4,500mAh battery
25W fast wired charging
No wireless charging
Cameras Rear:
1) 64MP main
Optical image stabilization (OIS)
Auto-focus (AF)
0.8µm, ƒ1.8

2) 12MP ultra-wide
Fixed focus (FF)
1.12µm, ƒ2.2

3) 5MP macro
1.12µm, ƒ2.4, FF

3) 5MP depth sensor
1.12µm, ƒ2.4, FF

Front:
1) 32MP main
0.8µm, ƒ2.2, FF

Rear:
1) 64MP main
Optical image stabilization (OIS)
Auto-focus (AF)
0.8µm, ƒ1.8

2) 12MP ultra-wide
Fixed focus (FF)
1.12µm, ƒ2.2

3) 5MP macro
1.12µm, ƒ2.4, FF

3) 5MP depth sensor
1.12µm, ƒ2.4, FF

Front:
1) 32MP main
0.8µm, ƒ2.2, FF

Audio Bluetooth 5.0
Stereo speakers
3.5mm headphone jack
Bluetooth 5.0
Stereo speakers
3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity LTE only (no 5G support)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC support
5G Sub6 (FDD & TDD)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC support
Security In-display fingerprint sensor
IP67-rated against water/dust
Face unlock (insecure)
In-display fingerprint sensor
IP67-rated against water/dust
Face unlock (insecure)
Software Android 11
One UI 3.0
Android 11
One UI 3.0
Dimensions and weight 159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4mm
189g
159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4mm
189g
Colors Awesome Violet, Awesome Blue, Awesome White, Awesome Black Awesome Violet, Awesome Blue, Awesome White, Awesome Black

Value and competition

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G offers a lot of bang for the buck. It packs a 6.5-inch, 120Hz display, a large 4,500mAh battery that lasts all day, and a 64MP main camera. With 5G on board, it could be a mid-range smash.

The $500 space is a crowded field and standing out can be difficult. The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is Samsung’s mid-market play, and it has its work cut out for it. The phone is fairly priced at $499, considering it has 5G. The standard Galaxy A52 loses 5G, drops the screen to 90Hz, dials back the processor a bit, and drops $100 from the price tag. If you don’t have access to 5G or don’t care about the screen speed, it might be better to stick with the non-5G model to save some cash. If you do have 5G, we recommend the 5G model (particularly since it did so well on T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G network.) You’re getting a fair value here, considering the solid screen quality, excellent battery life, and solid main camera, which are the most important things.

Related: The best budget phones you can currently buy

Let’s start with the most obvious competitor: the Google Pixel 4a 5G. Google’s $499 Pixel phone is an all-around winner with a stellar main camera, good build quality, excellent battery life, and a solid screen. This is a good head-to-head and it’s a hard call which is the better buy. The Galaxy A52 5G has a higher refresh rate screen and an IP rating, though the Pixel 4a 5G packs a better camera and some Pixel-exclusive software perks. For more, check out our review here.

Other phones in this price range to consider include the Motorola One Ace 5G, the OnePlus Nord, and the Apple iPhone SE, though the latter two don’t support 5G and the Nord is not available in the US.


Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: The verdict

Samsung Galaxy A 52 5G on plate

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is a solid mid-ranger with a few predictable shortcomings. It competes well in a market that’s saturated with alternatives and could be a winner for Samsung.

Samsung adopted its typical design language for the phone, which is a love it or hate it type thing. The Galaxy A52 5G packs a whopping 6.5-inch 120Hz panel that looks really good. All-day battery is available from the 4,500mAh power supply, and the 64MP main camera does a reasonably good job for this price range.

No $500 phone is without compromises, but none of the A52 5G’s shortcomings feel like total deal-breakers.

The secondary cameras could do a better job, particularly the ultra-wide camera, which generates soft results. And, if there’s anything to really ding the phone for, it’s performance. It’s perfectly fine for daily tasks, but if you’re into gaming, the Galaxy A52 5G’s Snapdragon 750G processor just doesn’t have the necessary chops.

On the whole, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is a scrappy mid-ranger that offers a lot of value — far more than its predecessor. No $500 phone is without compromises, but none of the A52 5G’s shortcomings feel like total deal-breakers.

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