OS: Android 11 / One UI 3.1
Display: 6.5-inch LCD (1600 x 720)
Refresh rate: 90Hz
CPU: MediaTek Dimensity 720
Storage / Expandable: 64GB / Yes
Rear cameras: 48MP (f/1.8) main, 8MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 5MP (f/2.4) macro, 2MP (f/2.34) depth
Front camera: 13MP (f/2.2)
Video: Up to 4K at 30 fps
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:39 (adaptive), 12:22 (60hz)
Colors: Awesome Black, Awesome White, Awesome Blue, Awesome Violet
Size: 6.46 x 3.00 x 0.36 inches
Weight: 7.23 ounces
5G has become more prevalent recently, so it’s no surprise to see 5G support appearing in less expensive phones. Samsung’s midrange A models now include 5G, and the cheapest of the lot — the Galaxy A32 5G — lets you enjoy faster networking speeds for $280. That’s a major bargain, even with some serious shortcomings.
As you’d expect for $280, there’s nothing high-end about the Galaxy A32. The 720p display isn’t good, the performance is mediocre at the best of times, and it’s a rather large device that might be hard to manage for some people. However, the Galaxy A32 5G packs incredibly impressive battery numbers, a 90Hz refresh rate on the TFT LCD panel, and Samsung’s promise of three years of platform updates and four years of security patches.
US shoppers will see similarities between the Galaxy A32 and the OnePlus Nord N200 5G, which I called the best cheap 5G phone when I reviewed it a month ago. At $40 less than the A32, the Nord N200 does a lot of things right, sporting a notably better display and similar performance. However, Samsung wins out in the camera department, as you’ll see below. And with much longer support, the A32 is a safer bet long-term, making it one of the best cheap phones you can buy.
Our Galaxy A32 5G review will walk you through exactly what this phone does well and where it’s lacking. If you want 5G under $300, this is a phone you must consider.
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review: Price and availability
The Galaxy A32 5G has the benefit of being available basically anywhere. It has the full weight of Samsung behind it, and you can buy it through a variety of wireless carriers, as well as Samsung itself and Best Buy. It’ll run you $279.99 outright for 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM, though you can probably find a good deal around with a trade-in and/or same-day activation.
The A32 doesn’t support mmWave 5G, but it does come with C-Band support (which is important for some of AT&T’s and Verizon’s future 5G expansion plans). The lack of mmWave on the Galaxy A32 5G isn’t surprising — it’s a premium feature that’s often seen as a luxury these days.
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review: Design
At first glance, the Galaxy A32 5G looks very nice. The three vertical camera lenses, coupled with the macro camera and flash, make for a subtle camera module on the back of the phone. With a glossy plastic body, the A32 really attracts fingerprints, which requires frequent cleaning to keep it looking sharp.
The display takes up most of the Galaxy A32’s front. The chunky bottom and top bezels, however, muddle any illusion that this is an edge-to-edge screen. The front camera is housed in a teardrop notch up top, not the hole-punch cutout we see on other phones, like the Nord N200 5G.
The A32’s power button also houses the fingerprint sensor, which worked well enough in my testing. I did have trouble with proper placement with my left index finger sometimes, but the phone recognized my right thumb pretty much every time.
At $280, it should surprise no one that the Galaxy A32 5G feels cheap. The buttons ring hollow and loud. You do get a headphone jack, something you don’t find on the much more expensive flagships.
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review: Display
We don’t see a lot of phones with TFT LCDs anymore, but Samsung went with this option to keep the Galaxy A32 5G’s cost down. It’s definitely a far cry from the company’s Super AMOLED panels and at 720p, the screen’s sharpness won’t knock your socks off. It’s a middling 6.5-inch display that struggles with crushed blacks, so-so brightness, and washed out colors.
Watching videos on the Galaxy A32 isn’t the best experience, whereas the OnePlus Nord N200 5G had a decent display that did a much better job with colors, viewing angles, and deeper blacks. Holding both phones next to each other shows the visible differences between TFT and IPS LCD panels. (The latest Nord features the latter.)
The displays on both phones can go up to 90Hz, though, which is really nice to see for devices that cost less than $300. That higher frame rate means that scrolling will be smoother. Games that support high refresh rates will also theoretically look better, too, if the Galaxy A32 could muster the power it would need for such a task.
I watched my favorite scene in the later parts of Blade Runner 2049 with its extreme orange color palette. On most phones, this scene looks rich and draws you in with the strangeness and mystery of it. On the Galaxy A32 5G, it looked washed out and bland.
Looking at the display lab results shows off more differences between the A32 and Nord N200. The A32 produced 96.1% of the sRGB and just 68.1% of the DCI-P3 gamuts. The Nord N200 managed 160.7% of the sRGB spectrum and 113.8% of the DCI-P3. The A32’s Delta-E score, where 0 is perfect, is pretty high at 0.35, too. Compare that to the Nord N200, with its 0.25 Delta-E score.
As for brightness, the Galaxy A32 hit a max of 485 nits in our testing (with the Nord N200 seeing a lower 415 nits). Seeing such a mediocre display from Samsung is quite surprising, especially since OnePlus offers a superior screen on a phone that’s $40 cheaper.
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review: Cameras
The Galaxy A32 5G employs four cameras: the 48MP main camera, an 8MP ultrawide shooter, a 5MP macro lens, and a 2MP depth sensor. As you might expect only the main and ultrawide cameras are worthwhile — the latter two don’t seem to add anything.
Overall, the A32 does an admirable job for a phone that’s less than $300. It certainly fares better than the OnePlus Nord N200 5G, which I used for the following camera comparisons. Samsung likes to oversaturate on its more expensive phones, but that tendency is not as readily apparent on the A32’s photos. This could be because the processor doesn’t have the horsepower to do all the post-processing that higher-end Galaxy phones do.
Starting off outdoors, the Galaxy A32 5G shot a well-balanced picture of these flowers. The colors are rich, the exposure is good considering how sunny the scene was, and the image altogether feels more alive. This is especially true when you look at the Nord N200’s image, which is flat, bland, dull, and generally lifeless. It’s an awful picture.
For this second outdoor shot, the Galaxy A32 didn’t do as well as before, but still fared better than the Nord N200. This scene involved direct sunlight, and both phones struggled. Even so, the A32 did a better job with toning down the exposure and still showing off some of the flower colors. The Nord N200 couldn’t account for the sun or flowers, producing a blown out image that I wouldn’t dare post anywhere but here.
Inside, the Galaxy A32 once again beats the Nord N200. The photo of Merida is vibrant with her red hair, blue dress, and the little details therein. The Nord N200’s image is flat and dull, with washed out colors and poor detail capture. Both phones struggled with soft focus, making the final images look blurry in some spots. I wouldn’t call either shot good, but the A32 clearly wins this one.
Where the Galaxy A32 5G had trouble was with portraits. It struggled not only with the light coming in off to the right of the image, but also with color accuracy. The blur radius, however, is quite artistic, so I’m left to wonder if the issue here was just with the A32’s inability to handle poorer lighting conditions. Compare the image to the Nord N200’s portrait shot which, while more zoomed in with a weaker bokeh effect, looks more color accurate with a stronger focus on me.
Samsung includes a night mode on the Galaxy A32 5G, and it’s not bad. Unfortunately, it’s not good, either, far from the likes of Google’s Night Sight on the Pixel 4a. However, it’s not as bad as the Nord N200’s night shot. Compared to the OnePlus phone, the Galaxy A32 produced a much brighter image of the smoker. Details remain scarce, but at least you can see the darn thing. The Nord N200 just shows a void of blackness.
Finally, the Galaxy A32 5G has a 13MP front-facing camera. It’s not amazing, but it did produce a much better selfie than the Nord N200 did. The A32’s image is crisper with richer details, showing the ruddiness in my face and beard and the blue of eyes much better. The Nord N200 applied too much face smoothing and it’s not a selfie I’d ultimately be willing to post anywhere.
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review: Video
The Galaxy A32 5G can record video up to 4K at 30 frames per second. That’s a lot of pixels for a phone under $300, though I’d wager most people will want to go with 1080p at 60 fps for a smoother video.
Video recording on the A32 wasn’t amazing. Samsung’s phone ran into noticeable trouble correcting for the bounce and sway in my steps. It also struggled with background noise, with the final video being very loud with wildlife and cars providing a lot of distraction. The mic quality wasn’t the best, either, with my voice sounding hollow and far away.
For a $280 phone, the Galaxy A32 5G can record decent video, but don’t expect too much out of it. If you’re just trying to catch a cute moment with your pets or a particular event with your children, it’ll get the job done.
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review: Performance
MediaTek-powered phones aren’t that common in the US, so seeing one from Samsung of all places was a bit of a shock. The Galaxy A32 5G uses the Dimensity 720 system-on-chip paired with 4GB of RAM. It’s not a powerhouse, but this chip lines up well with some of Qualcomm’s lower-tier offerings like the Snapdragon 480 5G found in the OnePlus Nord N200 5G. In day-to-day use, the Dimensity 720 does well enough, but anything more intensive than browsing social media and checking your messages is where you’ll notice slowdown.
Gaming can be a chore sometimes on the A32, especially if you need to drop graphics settings to get any sort of reasonable performance. Lighter games will be fine, but anything that requires heavy lifting like Genshin Impact will make the phone noticeably struggle. That’s not surprising.
In Geekbench 5, the Galaxy A32 5G scored 1,642 in multicore. The OnePlus Nord N200 5G managed 1,602 in the same test, so the phones are pretty close to one another. In the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited graphics benchmark, the A32 managed an average of 7.3 frames per second. The Nord N200 scored a lower 5.8 FPS.
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review: Battery life and charging
One of the Galaxy A32 5G’s greatest strengths is its battery life. With a 5,000mAh battery, the phone lasts an impressively long time considering its 90Hz refresh rate. I like to see phones last longer than 10 hours, which we would consider about average for smartphones nowadays. But the A32’s numbers might just earn it a spot on our list of the best phone battery life.
To test batteries, we task phones to endlessly reload pages on a cellular connection at 150 nits of brightness until they die. In the adaptive mode, where the display clocks up and down depending on the content you’re consuming, the A32 went for 11 hours and 39 minutes. And in the 60Hz mode, the phone lasted for a longer 12 hours and 22 minutes.
The OnePlus Nord N200 5G didn’t fare as well, seeing 10 hours and 28 minutes in its 90Hz mode and 10 hours and 36 minutes in its 60Hz mode. So the A32 lasted considerably longer, despite having the same size battery as the Nord N200.
We also tested the recharge times for the Galaxy A32 5G, with the phone recharging from 0% to 14% in 15 minutes and to 27% in 30 minutes. That’s pretty inline with the Nord N200, which recharged to 32% after half-an-hour.
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review: Software
Another plus for the Galaxy A32 5G, the software on this phone is practically the same as you’ll find on the Galaxy S21. And to go along with that, Samsung has promised three years of Android updates and four years of security patches. That destroys anything else in this product category, certainly the OnePlus Nord N200 5G with its paltry 1-year/2-year promise.
Samsung’s One UI 3.1 looks very different from Google’s vision, but you might find it to your liking. Samsung even gives you the option of choosing which bloatware you want to install during setup, which is a great thing to see. You pick and choose what you want, or deselect them all.
The software on the A32 doesn’t have much else going on, which is fine. Samsung has done a good job with making One UI very easy to use with slick animations, pretty transitions, and plenty of things tucked away in the settings.
Buying the Galaxy A32 5G is a better decision long-term over the Nord N200, since Samsung will support the phone for much longer than OnePlus will update the Nord N200.
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review: Verdict
The Galaxy A32 5G is a great phone for the price. It has notable drawbacks, like the display and performance, but it impressed me with its battery life. The cameras are pretty good for $280, but for $70 more, you can get the excellent Pixel 4a and its incredible camera. Granted, you lose 5G, but you also get a noticeably better display, too.
And with Samsung’s great software update policy, the Galaxy A32 will last you for a few years before it hits end-of-life. There’s a lot to be said for that, and it helps make the A32 an easy recommendation for 5G on the cheap.
The Galaxy A32 5G is good enough at most things and it packs a punch. That’s all you can ask for sometimes.