Friday, May 28, 2021

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review

Two-minute review

The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is the company’s latest entry in the cheaper phone market, and the company has made steps to make this handset its best yet for an affordable price. The A52 5G isn’t the lowest price smartphone you’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly much cheaper than the company’s flagship offerings like the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Ultra.

That means the Galaxy A52 5G won’t be able to compete with the absolute best phones, but it also isn’t trying to do that. What Samsung is trying to do is make a conscious effort to bring features such as a high-refresh rate screen and improved rear camera to its cheaper A series.

Samsung’s playful design with bright color options makes a return on the Galaxy A52 5G, and we’ve found this to be a solidly built smartphone that will feel durable in the hand and offer some impressive specs inside.

The display is improved from previous Galaxy A50 models with the upgrade to a 120Hz refresh rate - that means you’ll find it has a smooth experience when scrolling through menus or playing mobile games. It’s a 6.5-inch screen with good brightness levels and enough detail for most people as well.

The camera has had some improvements too, but the highlight is the 64MP main shooter that can perform well in its automatic mode. There is little to get excited about here though, with a limited feature set on the rear shooter.

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

When it comes to performance, we found the Galaxy A52 5G didn’t perform as well as some of its competitors, but it never caused us any headaches during our testing period. If you want top power, this won’t offer it, but it’s built to be able to run any apps or games you want to from the Google Play Store.

The Galaxy A52 5G also comes with 5G connectivity, so if you want to be able to make the most of next-gen internet you won’t have to opt for a flagship phone to be able to do so.

Samsung hasn't changed the mid-range smartphone market with this latest iteration of the Galaxy A series staple, but it has offered a good choice for many people’s next smartphone. That’s especially true if you enjoy Samsung’s look and feel when it comes to Android phones, but you don’t want to spend lots on it.

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G release date and price

Samsung’s Galaxy A52 5G is on sale now in the US, UK and Australia after being revealed in March 2021, and it went on sale during April of the same year.

You can buy it from $499 / £399 or AU$799 SIM free, with a variety of deals available on contract. This is substantially cheaper than Samsung Galaxy S21 series, which starts at $799 / £769 / AU$1,249, so it may prove a viable option for you.

The standard Galaxy A52 won’t be on sale in the US or UK, and the Galaxy A52 5G differs quite a bit from that handset. This obviously features 5G connectivity, which the A52 doesn’t, and it also has a higher refresh rate on the screen. That non-5G version is on sale in Australia for AU$599.

Design

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Galaxy A52 5G is designed to have a solid build without the bells and whistles you’ll find on flagship smartphones. For that reason, you may feel the build of the handset is a touch cheap with its plastic rear and aluminum frame.

It doesn’t feel as premium as Samsung’s top-end phones, but it feels durable enough in the hand that we didn’t dislike the smartphone’s build. This isn’t a small device either given its 6.5-inch display.

With dimensions of 159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4mm it’s fairly large despite being a cheaper handset. It weighs 189 grams, which is neither heavy nor light for a smartphone of this type. 

The phone comes in four colors, and two of them are particularly bold and bright. Your options are black, white, blue or violet (we’ve pictured the violet version throughout this review). The handset is also IP67-certified dust and water resistant.

Little else is exciting about the design of the Galaxy A52 5G, but some will be ecstatic to see Samsung has kept the 3.5mm headphone jack on this smartphone, which you’ll find on the bottom edge of the device.

That sits alongside the USB-C port, and you’ll find a volume rocker alongside the power button on the right hand edge of the phone. There’s also a punch-hole camera in the screen, so there isn’t a big bezel at the top to house this tech.

Display

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

That display uses Super AMOLED and has a Full HD+ resolution, and we found the 800 nits of brightness to look fantastic when we turned the screen all the way up to its maximum brightness setting. If you’re looking for a smartphone to watch video on you’re unlikely to be disappointed in this display.

The exact resolution is 1080 x 2400 - which equals a pixel density of 407 pixels per inch - so you will likely find this satisfactory, but it won’t compare to QHD smartphone screens like older Galaxy S series models.

There’s a punch-hole at the center of the top edge, and the bezels around the screen are thicker than some may like. That said, it still looks great when you’re watching a video or scrolling through social media feeds.

A punch-hole camera isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but Samsung has clearly made a strong effort to try and hide this away here, and it’s a suitable alternative to a notch at the top of the screen.

One of the big upgrades from previous Galaxy A phones is the introduction of a 120Hz display, which is a feature usually reserved for flagship handsets. This essentially means the image on your screen refreshes faster than on most other smartphones, which gives a smoother experience when scrolling through social media or playing mobile games.

This is a notable difference, and once you’ve used this you’ll likely find it difficult to go back. That said, 120Hz isn’t a specific reason to opt for this phone. But we found it to perform well without having a noticeable difference on battery life.

You’ll particularly notice the difference when playing mobile games, and we noticed it when scrolling through social media feeds as well. If you don’t like this feature, it can also be turned off in the settings, but we’d heartily recommend trying it out first to see what you think.

There’s also an in-screen fingerprint scanner, which we found to generally work well. It could sometimes take a touch longer than we’d hope for to be able to read our digits, but it is usable and it’s likely you’ll opt to use this to unlock the phone.

Specs and performance

If you want super-fast 5G connectivity, you’ll want to opt for this member of the new Galaxy A series of smartphones. It allows you to make use of next-gen internet connectivity, but most will find it’s just good future proofing right now for when the technology becomes more prolific.

If you think you’ll one day make use of 5G connectivity, we’d recommend choosing a phone with the next-gen option rather than one without, as it means you won’t have to upgrade your phone to get the faster internet when it’s a more readily available option.

There’s an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor doing the heavy lifting here. You won’t get a top-end experience with this chipset, but it’s powerful enough for most tasks and you’re unlikely to be frustrated when it is a touch slower.

If you’ll be playing a lot of mobile games you may want to look elsewhere, but this is still a capable phone, its chipset just means you may have to wait a touch longer for apps and games to load rather than it being unable to undertake basic tasks.

We found on Geekbench 5 the phone was capable of an average multi-core score of 1,623. That’s notably lower than Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S21, which scored 2,699, but that’s also a far more expensive phone.

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The scores are similar to handsets like the Moto G 5G Plus, which is a touch cheaper than Samsung’s option but scored 1,822. Don’t expect game-changing performance from the Galaxy A52 5G, but it’s powerful enough for most people

Samsung sells this phone with either 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage or 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. We couldn’t find the phone in that latter model in either the US, UK or Australia, so it seems you’ll be limited to that first option. If you need extra space, there’s microSD support up to 1TB.

That’s a notable difference to Samsung’s flagship phones, which recently dropped microSD support. That means you can have more storage on this handset than you can on any variant of the Galaxy S21.

The Galaxy A52 5G comes running Samsung’s own One UI 3.1 software that is based on Android 11. That means you get all the latest from Android, and we’d expect Samsung to keep this up to date for at least a few years after launch.

In fact, Samsung has said it will get three years of upgrades as well as regular security patches as well.

We found the software on the phone worked well during our review period, and if you’ve previously used an Android phone you should settle into using this handset without any significant issues.

Camera

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The camera on the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G sounds good on paper, and we’ve found the results to be similarly impressive in real life. The A52 5G can even hold its own against the Google Pixel 4a, which is a top smartphone camera in this price bracket.

This won’t give you a flagship camera experience, but we found the main shooter worked well in automatic mode and we were capable of getting a lot of shots with ease.

There are few truly exciting features on this camera, but for most people that won’t be a problem. 

There is a powerful 64MP main sensor with optical image stabilization and an aperture of f/1.8. That’s only one of four elements on the rear shooter too. There’s also a 12MP ultra-wide camera, a 5MP depth scanner and a 5MP macro camera. 

The most impressive part of the camera is its main shooter, which we found delivered images with lots of detail, and lighting wasn’t often an issue when shooting with the main rear camera either. Images were quite saturated, but this is typical of Samsung’s smartphone cameras.

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G camera samples

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G camera samples

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G camera samples

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)

There’s no telephoto camera here, so zoom quality degrades quite quickly. That said, this is unlikely to be an issue for most people.

We found quality with the ultra-wide lens and the macro camera to be acceptable enough, but it’s not of a comparable quality to the main camera that you’ll mostly be using on this smartphone.

On the front there’s a 32MP selfie camera inside that punch-hole in the top center of the screen. We found selfie shots to be satisfactory, and it was useful for video calls as well. We’d be surprised if you have any issues with the camera quality on the front of the phone.

Camera samples

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G camera samples

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G camera samples

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G camera samples

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Battery life

The Galaxy A52 5G comes with a 4,500mAh cell and the company claims the smartphone will offer a two-day battery life. In practice, we found it lasted much closer to a single day of full usage, but if you’re not using the phone a lot each day you may find it’ll last you two days.

That met our expectations of the battery life on the Galaxy A52 5G though, and it was capable of lasting a full day in most of our testing, with us often coming to charge it at night with between 30% and 10% leftover before a recharge.

On one particularly heavy usage day we found the phone dropped out at around 10PM, but if you’re not intending to use the phone solidly you’ll likely be happy with the battery life on offer here.

If you do use the phone a lot, there is 25W fast charging here that can charge the phone up to half full in just 30 minutes. We tested out this feature using the charger in the box and found that it didn't pan out, as there’s only a 15W charger in the box.

So Samsung has a charger here (which it doesn’t with the Galaxy S21 range), but if you want the top fast charging features you’ll have to opt for a separate charger. We haven’t yet been able to test out the company’s top charging tech on this phone for that reason.

There’s also no wireless charging on the Galaxy A52 5G, so you’ll be using a wired charger when you run out of power.

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G?

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Buy it if…

You want to have 5G connectivity

5G connectivity is still a rarity in cheaper smartphones, so if you’re desperate to get started with super speedy internet you’ll want to consider the Galaxy A52 5G as your next smartphone. Just be warned that 5G isn’t available everywhere around the world yet, so it hasn’t fully come into its own.

You want a bold display

The 6.5-inch screen on the Galaxy A52 5G is built to look great when you’re watching video or playing games, and we’ve found that to be the case when using this smartphone. The resolution is good - so that means there’s notably good detail - and 120Hz makes it feel comparable to flagship alternatives.

You want solid battery life

The battery life on the Galaxy A52 5G is built to last a full day, and if you’re looking for a phone that is capable of that you’ll find it right here. We don’t think you’ll get much more than that with medium to high usage, but it’s better than some of the other phones around this price.

Don’t buy it if… 

You need top power

There are more powerful options out there in this price bracket. That doesn’t make the Galaxy A52 5G a slow smartphone, but it does mean you won’t get the absolute best performance for your money.

You need a game-changing camera

The camera on the rear of this smartphone is good, but it isn’t an exciting addition to the Galaxy A series. If you want something super special, you probably won’t be finding it with the Galaxy A52 5G.

You need the absolute cheapest phone

The Galaxy A52 5G isn’t the cheapest phone on the market, so you’ve got other options in the Galaxy A series such as the Galaxy A42 or alternatives from companies like Xiaomi or Motorola that may be better suited to some people’s budget.

First reviewed: May 2021 

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