Starting price: $499/£400
Display: 6.5-inch FHD AMOLED (1080 x 2400)
Refresh rate: 60Hz/120Hz
Chipset: Snapdragon 750G
Expandable storage: microSD up to 1Tb
Rear cameras: 64MP main (f/1.8), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 5MP macro (f/2.2), 5MP depth sensor (f/2.2)
Front camera: 32MP (f/2.2)
Operating system: Android 11 with One UI 3.0
Battery: 4,500 mAh
Battery life (Hrs: Mins): 12:19 (60Hz), 10:19 (120Hz)
Charging: up to 25W wired
Size: 6.3 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches (159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4mm)
Weight: 6.7 ounces (189 grams)
Water/dust resistance: IP67
The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G offers just enough premium features for little enough money to make users think twice about buying a flagship phone. Priced at $499/£400, it’s designed for the average user who cares mainly about photography, streaming, gaming and battery life. With this phone, you get a 120Hz display, four rear cameras and 5G connectivity in a colorful design — all for less than $500.
The Galaxy A52 5G delivers enough flagship-level features that may tempt you to buy this phone rather than the more expensive Samsung Galaxy S21 or Galaxy S20 FE. But as we found during testing for our Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review, this handset isn't as strong as other midrange phones in its price range.
Editor's note (Jan. 2022): The A52's successor, the Samsung Galaxy A53, could be on its way in the next few months.
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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: Price and release date
The Galaxy A52 5G began shipping in the U.S. back in April after previously going on sale in the UK. The Galaxy A52 5G costs $499/€429, and comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. This is the same price as the Google Pixel 4a 5G, $100 more than the basic iPhone SE (which lacks 5G connectivity), and $200 more than the OnePlus Nord N10 5G.
The latest rival for the A52 5G is the Google Pixel 5a. At $449 it costs a little less than the Samsung, and while it misses out on some features like the 120Hz refresh rate or multiple rear cameras, the Pixel 5a offers stellar photography and a bright colorful display that may turn your head.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: Design
Samsung has given its new batch of mid-range Galaxy A phones — which include the A32, A52, A52 5G and A72 — another colorful, playful design. I don't think it looks quite as stylish as the Galaxy S21 series, but there is still a lot I like about it.
I particularly love the color options, especially my demo model's Awesome Blue (yep, that's its actual name), though the Awesome Purple, White and Black all have their charms. The single-piece back, which near-seamlessly flows up into the camera module looks great, and gives the Galaxy A52 5G its own fully formed identity, rather than it being a knock-off Galaxy S or Galaxy Note device.
The Galaxy A52 5G features a plastic back, but at least it doesn't feel cheap, thanks to a nice semi-matte texture that keeps the fingerprints at bay. From the front, the A52 5G looks like all modern Samsung phones, with its central punch-hole camera. The top and bottom bezels are a little thicker than the average phone, but otherwise the Galaxy A52 5G looks just as smart as a Galaxy S21.
The metal edges share the same color as the back. Samsung has again placed the volume and power buttons on the right side of the phone, leaving the left totally blank.
In terms of durability, the Galaxy A52 5G has a IP67 water/dust resistance rating, which means it can survive 30 minutes under about three feet (1 meter) of water, and won't let in any dust.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: Display
The Galaxy A52 5G’s display is one of its strongest features. You get a bright and colorful 6.5-inch screen with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate — a rare feature in a phone that doesn't carry a flagship's lofty price.
The downside with the Galaxy A52's display is that the refresh rate is static, with options for 120Hz or 60Hz only. A dynamic system, like what you get with the S21 family, means a phone can save battery life while offering its max refresh rate when it's needed. In contrast, the A52 52's approach requires you to pick between a high refresh rate and a lower battery life or vice versa. At least the refresh rate is faster than the Pixel 4a 5G, which maxes out at 90Hz.
While watching the trailer for Rick and Morty's fifth season, it was immediately obvious that the A52 is an excellent phone for streaming fans. The large panel rendered the anarchic animation clearly, with the show's bright and varied colors showing up vividly on the bright AMOLED panel.
How bright? We measured the Galaxy A52 5G at 708 nits with adaptive brightness turned on. That's brighter than both the Pixel 4a 5G (638 nites) and iPhone SE (625 nits).
Set the Galaxy A52 5G to vivid mode, and you'll get a lot of saturated colors — 201.35% of the sRGB color spectrum to be exact. Colors are much more accurate when set to Natural mode, which recreates 128.1% of the sRGB spectrum. To put that number in context, the iPhone SE hits 111.2% while the Pixel 4a 5G gives you 140.6%. In natural mode, the Galaxy A52 5G's screen is more accurate than the Pixel 4a 5G's — Samsung's phone has a Delta-E rating of 0.22 compared to 0.30 for the Pixel — but the iPhone SE (a 0.20 rating) is more accurate than both. (Numbers closer to zero are more accurate.)
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: Durability
Unfortunately, the Galaxy A52 5G’s display picked up some scratches during my testing. The phone didn't come from Samsung with the scuffs, and I only laid it down on a mousepad and duvet when not testing it, in addition to wiping it down periodically with a micro-fiber cloth. I didn’t even put the phone in my pocket before noticing the scratches.
When we reviewed the Samsung Galaxy A20 last year, that phone also picked up scratches without any obvious cause, although on its plastic back rather than the screen. The A52 5G uses sturdy Gorilla Glass 5 on its display, so we're baffled as to why this problem has struck again except on the other side of the phone.
We've reached out to Samsung for comment, but for now we advise you use a screen protector if you buy this phone.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: Audio
Samsung has included a headphone jack on the A52 5G, which is great for anyone still clutching onto their wired headphones. That also helps emphasize the stereo speaker system on the A52 5G, which is quite good.
Listening to black midi's "John L," the strings, guitar and vocals of the self-described "infernal din" came across clearly, even in the song's quieter moments. Even as the discordant melody rose in intensity (and I increased the volume), the mix remained well-balanced. Considering the price of the phone, the Galaxy A52 5G has some impressive lungs.
Stereo speakers are sometimes found on phones in this price range; the Pixel 4a 5G has them, for example. In comparison, the quality of sound broadcast from both phones' speakers is about the same, but the mix is different. The Pixel is much more treble-forward, which is great if you're listening to spoken word content or the average piece of music. However, listeners with a love for thumping bass or a flatter tone will like the A52's system more.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: Cameras
You get a generous four sensors on the back of the Galaxy A52 5G, but some are more useful than others. The main camera is 64MP, but by default it takes pictures at 12MP to keep the images file sizes smaller. The other main sensors are a 12MP ultrawide shooter and a 5MP macro camera, with the last sensor being a 5MP depth camera for adding depth-of-field effects to portrait mode shots.
I tested the Galaxy A52 5G’s cameras against the Pixel 4a 5G's dual rear cameras, which feature a 12MP main sensor and a 16MP ultrawide sensor.
For the main camera test, I chose this view of Highgate No 1 Pond at Hampstead Heath in London. While I appreciate the more honest coloring of the Pixel 4a 5G's photo, the brighter colors from the A52 5G, aided by its much larger sensor, make for a far more attractive image.
I took the same photo with the A52's camera set to its full 64MP resolution, and other than lighting changes caused by clouds passing overhead, there's not much difference beyond the fact you can zoom in much further. Without a dedicated telephoto camera on the A52 5G, being able to take large images like this will let you take acceptable zoomed-in shots, although they won't hold up next to a proper optical zoom lens.
I tried out these sensors in night mode also, with a portrait-oriented shot of Tufnell Park's Boston Arms pub. Google's Night Sight mode is one of the best low-light photo modes in the business, so it's no wonder I prefer it more here. The A52's image is brighter, which could sometimes be of use, but it's far less saturated than the Pixel's shot.
Now we come to the ultrawide camera, which I tested by shooting down the north side of Parliament Hill, back at Hampstead Heath. This is probably the worst comparison of all for the A52. Its small sensor produced a dim shot compared to the Pixel 4a 5G.
I also tested the Galaxy A52 5G’s macro camera, a feature the Pixel 4a 5G doesn’t have. This close-up of the dialing pad in a London telephone box, is better than I thought it would be, particularly with reproducing the many different colors in the weathered metal. Where this photo falls down is its limited focal range, causing the "5" button to look blurry.
I don’t particularly like the portrait mode photos taken by either phone here, as both shots appear oversaturated. However, the depth sensor-assisted A52 5G delivers a more natural-looking blur than the software-only Pixel 4a 5G.
Here we see a portrait image taken with the two phones' front-facing cameras. Neither phone was able to accurately capture all my hair flying about in the wind, but generally both phones provided good quality software bokehs. The Pixel 4a 5G is my favorite here, as its tendency toward more saturated images makes my skin and the sky in the background look much nicer.
Overall, the Galaxy A52 5G’s cameras make it more versatile than the Pixel 4a 5G, but Samsung's camera phone is a step behind in terms of overall photo quality. The Pixel 4a 5G remains one of the best camera phones available for less than $500.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: Performance
With a mid-range Snapdragon 750G chipset and 6GB RAM, the Galaxy A52 5G should offer the power you need to accomplish everyday tasks.
On the Geekbench 5 benchmark, the Galaxy A52 5G got an average score of 637 in the single-core test, and 1,866 in the multi-core one. That beats the Pixel 4a 5G's scores of 598 and 1,614. This is to be expected since the 750G and 765G chips both debuted in 2020, but Samsung has released its phone much later, giving the company more time to optimize the chipset. The A52 5G still gets crushed by the iPhone SE, though, which managed scores of 1,337 and 3,226 with the help of Apple's still-mighty A13 Bionic chipset.
On the 3DMark Sling Shot Unlimited test, which measures graphical power, the A52 5G managed 2,875 points, which is lower than the Pixel 4a 5G's 2,959 points. This can possibly be explained by the Google phone using a slightly better Adreno 620 GPU than the Samsung's Adreno 619.
Trying out Call of Duty Mobile and Brawl Stars revealed the A52 5G does a decent job of playing mobile games. Both titles had a few jagged edges, likely a result of the below-average GPU performance and the screen's FHD resolution, but I still had a blast with both titles, thanks to smooth overall performance from the 750G chip and the 120Hz refresh rate display.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: Battery life and charging
You have 4,500 mAh of battery capacity in the A52 5G, a generous amount of room for a phone of this price. In testing how much YouTube I could watch, I found that 5 hours of video streaming over Wi-Fi (my standard Sunday afternoon) drained the battery from 100% to 68%. Safe to say, the A52 should last as long as you'd expect from a battery of this size.
Our battery test backs that up. We set phones to surf the web continuously over cellular and the Galaxy A52 5G held out for 12 hours and 19 minutes, placing it high on the best phone battery life list. That result came when the phone's refresh rate was set to 60Hz, though; turn on the 120Hz refresh rate, and the endurance drops to 10 hours and 19 minutes. Still, even that time is better than the average smartphone's.
Samsung offers support for 25W fast wired charging on the A52, and throws in a charger in the A52's box too, an accessory you no longer get with its flagship phones. The catch is that the included charger is only a 15W model; you'll have to buy a separate 25W brick if you want max speeds.
With the bundled charger, the A52 5G filled from empty to 31% in 30 minutes when we tested charging in our lab. It took around 90 minutes to charge the phone to full. This puts it firmly in the middle of the pack when comparing it to rivals. The Pixel 4a 5G has a maximum charge speed of 18W, but since an 18W charger comes with the phone, it charges faster than the basic A52 5G package does, up to 46% full in 30 minutes.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: Software
Samsung is one of the most notorious manufacturers for stuffing its phones with pre-installed apps. These are great if you're already well integrated into the Samsung ecosystem, but otherwise they just take up storage space along with slots in your app drawer and home screens that could otherwise be left clean. At least you can delete them if they bother you too much.
The look of Samsung's One UI 3.0 built on top of Android 11 doesn't appeal to me much. As a fan of simplistic Android skins like OnePlus' OxygenOS or the stock Android of the Google Pixel phones, the sheer quantity of colorful custom icons strikes me as a patchwork eyesore. The silver lining I suppose is that One UI looks distinct. You won't ever mistake this Samsung for another brand of phone.
The one Samsung-unique feature I do like is the phone's Edge Panels. These let you place various apps and tools within a set of menus that slide from the side of the display. It's a cross between the normal Android quick settings menu (which you can still access as normal from the notification shade) and an iPhone-style Control Center with its mix of practical and personalized options. Edge Panels are something that a power user would love to spend time with tweaking to their exact needs.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review: Verdict
There are also some things I really like about the Galaxy A52 5G, including its playful design, the 120Hz refresh rate and its versatile main 64MP camera. And the performance and battery life are very solid for the price. However, a couple of things frustrated me about this phone, including the easily scratched display. And while Samsung offers more cameras than the Pixel 4a 5G, Google’s phone tends to take better pics overall. While we've not put it head to head with the Pixel 5a yet, we'd imagine this statement holds true there too.
The Google Pixel 4a 5G remains the better choice for the money, assuming you want 5G in your Android handset. Stepping down to the Nord N10 5G is probably only worth it if you're on a very tight budget. If you're very interested in the A52 5G's high refresh rate or its main camera, though, those are good enough reasons to go for this over the more well-rounded competition.