Samsung Galaxy A52 5G full review
Samsung has long dominated the Android flagship scene with its prestigious Galaxy S series. But it’s also been steadily stepping up its mid-range efforts, of which the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is the latest entry.
Rather than excelling in any one area, this £399/US$499 phone provides an all-round level of competence that should keep most casual users satisfied. With a fast and vibrant display, a decent main camera, and solid build quality, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G does most of the basics well.
But the competition is strong in this part of the market, and rival efforts from Chinese brands like Xiaomi and OnePlus risk making the Galaxy A52 5G look a tad overpriced.
Design and build
The Galaxy A52 5G doesn’t exactly wow with its design language, but you can still see Samsung’s mastery of the manufacturing process.
A Gorilla Glass 5 front meets with a shiny metal frame that sits in pleasing contrast to the matte finish of the rear panel, standing as a blessed relief from all the greasy glass-effect materials that are widely used across the budget market.
The phone feels solid in the hand with a comforting lack of flex to it, but at 189g, it's hardly what you'd call lightweight.
We’re pleased to see an IP67 rating here, as this is often one of the first things to be jettisoned in the name of cutting costs. It’s one of those little instances of going the extra mile that can really pay off when shopping for a mid-range phone, particularly when you don’t intend to replace it any time soon.
You can also count on a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom of the phone, right alongside the USB-C port and across from one of two slightly reedy stereo speakers.
The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G isn’t a phone that’s packed with stand-out components, but if you were to name one it would undoubtedly be its display.
This is the kind of vibrant 6.5-inch Super AMOLED panel that Samsung has built a formidable reputation on. Together with a Full HD+ resolution, a maximum brightness of 800nits, and a 120Hz refresh rate (which it defaults to, refreshingly), it competes with anything outside of the flagship class.
There are a couple of quirks, such as the lack of HDR streaming support. But despite this omission, video content looks great on such a vibrant canvas.
It’s a dead flat display, which shouldn’t be seen as a mid-range compromise. Samsung has gradually steered back in this direction with the Galaxy S21, and the lack of curves makes for a much more usable phone day-to-day.
With an 84.1% screen-to-body ratio, the Galaxy A52 5G’s bezels aren’t the slimmest you’ll find, even on a mid-range phone, but they are thin enough and sufficiently well proportioned to not prove distracting.
We’re not fans of the reflective ring around the hole-punch selfie camera, though. This is something we’ve seen in other cheaper phones, including the Poco F3, and it always proves annoyingly eye-catching.
Another display element we struggled with was the Galaxy A52 5G’s in-display fingerprint sensor. It’s slow to unlock and just a little too unreliable for our liking.
Specs and performance
Samsung has successfully walked the spec tightrope in creating its latest mid-range phone. But if it wobbles at any point, it’s when it comes to raw performance.
The phone’s Snapdragon 750G chip is an improvement over the Galaxy A51’s home-brewed Exynos 9611, but it still doesn’t impress. In fact, it falls behind a number of similarly priced alternatives.
For example, the OnePlus Nord runs on a Snapdragon 765G, which recorded 20 to 30% higher frame rates across our suite of GFXBench benchmark tests. Meanwhile, a more contemporary device like the Poco F3 runs on the even faster Snapdragon 870, and scored two to three times higher on those same tests.
Genshin Impact on the Galaxy A52 5G defaults to low settings straight off the bat. You can force those settings up to High and 60fps, but the result is extremely sluggish and stuttering. The Poco F3, by comparison, defaults to Medium and can be pushed up to High/60fps with perfectly playable results.
In terms of pure CPU performance, a Geekbench 5 multi-core score of 1886 pitches the Galaxy A52 5G just a little behind the OnePlus Nord (1963) and way behind the Poco F3 (3151).
Most people won’t be comparing the Galaxy A52 5G’s performance so directly, of course, and in general use, it runs just fine. Samsung’s 120Hz display felt nice and fluid here when scrolling through menus and between home screens, which isn’t always the case in cheaper 120Hz phones. You’ll get either 6 or 8GB of RAM, so switching between open apps isn’t a problem either.
Those who have used any more capable phones, however, will be able to notice the difference. It’s there in the odd half-pause when opening up an app, or the aforementioned delay in unlocking the phone.
For most people, and in most scenarios, this won’t be particularly problematic. We’re not shopping in flagship territory, after all. But the Poco F3 gets noticeably better performance from an enhanced version of last year’s leading chip, and it does so for £70 less than the Galaxy A52 5G.
You can fudge the issue with most smartphone components, but there’s no mistaking a mid-range range phone with a flagship phone when you compare camera results. Unless you’re a Pixel phone, that is.
While the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G camera doesn’t match the point and shoot poise of the Google Pixel 4a, though, it does give a decent account of itself.
In particular, its 64Mp main sensor takes bright, reasonably detailed shots with Samsung’s trademark exaggerated colour science. You either take to Samsung’s punched up colours or you don’t, but the Galaxy A52 represents them well.
Compared to something like the Poco F3, which we happened to be using side-by-side during our test shooting, the Galaxy A52 5G’s shots are much brighter and generally better with fine detail. Samsung often manages to rescue more detail in HDR situations too, though the trade off can be the odd hyperreal or overexposed scene.
In certain scenarios, the Galaxy A52 5G’s camera goes too far with punchy processing. For example, when shooting a pizza that was being consumed under a lockdown-friendly gazebo, the Samsung made the whole scene look weirdly and unappetisingly yellow, whereas the Poco F3 captured it in all its meat-and-cheesy glory.
We’ve mentioned already that the Galaxy A52 5G nails a few small but significant details, and one of those is the inclusion of OIS. This shot-steadying technology still isn’t a given in mid-range phones - neither the Poco F3 nor the more expensive OnePlus 9 have it, for example, though the OnePlus Nord does. Props to Samsung for including it, at any rate.
Thanks partially to this OIS, the Galaxy A52 5G produces relatively bright and clear Night shots. They’re certainly brighter than the Poco F3’s, with more detail pulled out of the murk, though you’ll pay the price with more obvious levels of grain.
Similarly, you won’t mistake the Galaxy A52 5G’s 12Mp ultra-wide sensor with a flagship equivalent, but the shots it produces are decent for the money. To compare it to the Poco F3 again, the Galaxy A52 5G’s ultra-wide shots came out much better, with superior detail and exposure, far less softness towards the edges, and a considerably wider 123-degree perspective.
The Galaxy A52 5G captures portrait shots well, with a sharply delineated subject and creamy bokeh. Samsung still needs to work a little on its skin tones though, as they don’t look quite as natural as with some of their rivals.
Selfies using the phone’s 32Mp front camera look OK too, though the results are more washed out than the main camera. Being able to take wider selfies is nice in theory too, but the difference in perspective isn’t all that pronounced.
It’s a shame that Samsung gave into current stat-buffing trends and fitted its phone out with a pair of superfluous 5MP sensors - one for depth assistance, another for macro shots. We would much rather have seen it pour all of its effort and considerable resources into those two main cameras instead, but that seems to be the way of things right now.
There’s no telephoto sensor with the Galaxy A52 5G, sadly, but the pixel-dense 64Mp main sensor does at least enable acceptable 2x shots through cropping. We wouldn’t recommend pushing it any further, though.
Add in serviceable 4K/30fps or 1080p/60fps video shooting, and you have a solidly capable but unspectacular camera. Again, Samsung appears to have gone for consistency over stand-out quality, and it seems to have been a smart choice for the most part.
We can't really complain about Samsung’s provision of a 4500mAh battery here. That’s the kind of component that you’ll find in a modern flagship phone like the OnePlus 9 Pro, which of course has a far more demanding display to run.
And while the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G isn’t the two-day phone that you might be hoping for, it will last you comfortably through a full day with change.
In our own practical tests, we managed to get through to 15:30 on a second day of use, which is roughly a day and a half, with four hours of screen on time before the 15% low power state was triggered. This was with the always-on display and 120Hz active, too.
When you do plug in, this isn’t the fastest charging phone in the world. Samsung’s provision of a 15W brick falls way behind the 30W-and-above provisions of Xiaomi, Oppo and co. We were able to charge the A52 5G from 0 to 31% in 30 minutes of charging, which is really nothing special in 2021.
You don’t get wireless charging either. This isn’t a common feature in the £400 category, of course, though it’s worth mentioning that the iPhone SE provides just that.
The A52 5G comes with Samsung’s own One UI 3.1 layered over Android 11.
Samsung’s software has come on considerably since the bad old days of TouchWiz, which occasionally resembled some kind of ‘my first smartphone’ app you might use to distract a toddler. The company now shows a considerably lighter touch with its customisation efforts, even when compared to previous versions of One UI.
Samsung Daily has been swapped out of its position to the left of the main home screen in favour of Google Feed, which is a change for the better.
Make no mistake, though, One UI still presents a busy front. The pointless Bixby assistant is still buried in there, ready to be discovered with an extended power button press.
We found ourselves constantly being presented with an unswipeable notification trying to get us to link our Samsung and Microsoft accounts, which was annoying. Notifications proved to be a bit flaky on the A52 5G too, as we found that that the phone wouldn’t always jump into the related apps direct from our taps.
Meanwhile, you get a number of preinstalled apps that you may or may not want out of the gate, even apart from the extensive list of optional installations. That includes the Samsung Free news app, TikTok, Netflix, and Microsoft OneDrive. It’s far less egregious on this front than the likes of Xiaomi, however.
Even with its divisive software provision, Samsung manages to go the extra mile. Four years of security updates is a promise not to be sniffed at, especially at this end of the market.
All in all, One UI is a fast, fluid and usable interface, and one that offers ample potential for customisation.
Price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G went on sale in the US and the UK on 19 March 2021. Prices start from £399 in the UK and $499.99 in the US.
This places it in the lower-middle of the market, at double the price of the Poco X3 NFC and half the price of the OnePlus 9 Pro. The phone’s contemporaries include the OnePlus Nord at £379, the Poco F3 at £329, the Google Pixel 4a at £349, and the iPhone SE at £399.
In terms of what you get for your money, the latter two phones don’t come with the Galaxy A52 5G’s 5G connectivity. Meanwhile, only the Poco F3 matches the Samsung’s 120Hz AMOLED display. But all of those phones bar the Pixel 4a will give you superior performance, and Google’s phone gives you a better camera.
All in all, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is just about worth the money on balance, though it is possible to get similar or better value elsewhere, depending on what your needs are.
The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G provides a balanced, well-considered mid-range smartphone package for around £399/$499. Its standout component is an excellent 120Hz Super AMOLED display, but the overriding impression is of a phone that covers all the bases and pays attention to the smaller details.
Elements such as an IP67 rating, OIS for the camera, a 3.5mm headphones jack, and four years of security updates might not be as sexy as a glass and metal body or a fast processor, but they combine to create a surprisingly complete package.
It’s not perfect, though. Performance could and perhaps should be better for the money, the fingerprint sensor is curiously sub-par, and this isn’t an all-time classic Samsung design.
But people place their trust in Samsung for a reason. And if you have less than £400 to spend on your next phone, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G won’t let you down.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G: Specs
- Android 11 w/ One UI 3.1
- 6.5in, FHD+, Super AMOLED, 120Hz, flat display
- In-display fingerprint sensor
- Gorilla Glass 5 (front)
- Plastic frame
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G
- 6/8GB LPDDR4 RAM
- 128/256GB storage, microSDXC slot
- 64Mp, f/1.8, 1/1.7X" main camera with OIS
- 12Mp, f/2.2 ultrawide camera
- 5Mp, f/2.4 macro camera
- 5Mp, f/2.4 depth camera
- Up to 4K @ 30fps rear video
- 32Mp, f/2.2 front-facing camera
- Up to 4K @ 30fps front video
- Stereo speakers
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 4500mAh battery
- 25W fast charging
- 159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4mm
- Launch colours: Awesome Black, Awesome White, Awesome Violet, Awesome Blue