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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G Review: The Affordable Smartphone That's Actually As Good As They Say

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This is the one if you want the flagship experience without spending flagship money

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
$499.99
Rating
star star star star star
Pros
  • 6.7-inch HD+ screen
  • 120Hz display panel
  • Flagship-like Samsung OneUI experience with the latest Android
  • Built-in speakers are well above average quality, loud
  • Screen, internal components, and performance are nearly flagship snappy
  • Great cameras under most lighting without fiddling with extra features
  • Durable, IP-rated build
  • Snappy in-display fingerprint reader
Cons
  • Plastic build
  • Carrier versions are summarily bloated
  • Camera saturation and light-handling could use some work

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is, summarily, a phone that’s intended to offer a flagship experience on a budget and it mostly did under review. In fact, this is easily going to be one of the most recommendable handsets currently on the market. Especially for fans of the brand.

That isn’t to say this phone is perfect but it does fit neatly into the rest of the new A-series lineup.

Samsung may have built the Galaxy A52 5G on the same underlying software and features as the Galaxy S-series. But it costs less than half as much to pick up. So there are plenty of areas where this budget mid-ranger is going to be playing catch-up. At least compared to that other set of smartphones.

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Let’s take a closer look at exactly where the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G fell below my expectations. And where it succeeded in setting new standards for its respective price bracket.

Mid-range or flagship? The hardware here says “both”

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G hardware bears a lot of resemblance to the flagship S-series

Getting the sole caveat of the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G out of the way right from the start, this phone is very clearly built from plastics. That serves, of course, as a positive and negative aspect for this smartphone but those looking for premium materials will notice the difference.

To begin with, plastics do scratch more easily than glass does. It doesn’t crack as readily tough and should be more durable against everyday wear-and-tear than flagship smartphones. And the material also allows the company to obtain a bit more fingerprint- and smudge-resistance too. Which kept the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G looking fresh throughout my review with very little maintenance.

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Aesthetically, Samsung also stepped the design forward. The camera housing bump, rigidly square and appearing separated on the flagship series, is melded with the frame here. So, in hand, the device just feels a lot nicer while managing to look more unified as well. All of the hardware keys, conversely, are a low-rise design. And the ports are all polished smooth, matching the more metallic look of the frame.

On the other hand, while the bezel here is somewhat bulkier than the flagship Galaxy S-series, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G still looks incredible thanks to the punch-hole style front-camera housing. The top-edge-mounted earpiece speaker and bottom-mounted speaker grille aid with that significantly.

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In terms of in-hand feel aside from the camera bump, Samsung did an excellent job with this particular handset. The casing, as noted above, is less smudgy than many other handsets. But it’s also got a smooth, but somewhat abrupt curve around all corners. And that means that it sat neatly in my hand without feeling like I might drop it. That’s despite that this handset is also somewhat more slippery than many others I’ve used.

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You’ll still almost certainly want a case for this phone. If for no other reason than to protect the screen, for reasons we’ll cover in the next segment. But there’s very little, aside from the materials used, that makes this feel like a mid-range smartphone.

The ports and buttons, following in line with that, are clicky and snugly fitted. There’s no jostle in any of the buttons or plugs, to speak of and the phone’s casing feels rock-solid.

Prepare to be amazed by one of the best mid-range displays ever

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This could be the best display you’ll see this year on a mid-range phone

Just as the standard for mid-range smartphone displays appeared to lock in at 90Hz, Samsung sent out the Galaxy A52 5G for review — with a display that’s set at 120Hz.

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Of course, the company includes a way to tune that back a bit for the sake of battery — I didn’t for this write-up. And it includes customizations for color adjustments, font styles, and all the rest — as well as a comfort mode. Features such as the edge display bar and always-on display are present too. But the real kicker here is that 120Hz refresh rate.

Not only does the refresh make this phone feel buttery smooth. The screen is incredibly responsive, to begin with, but the visual side is too. All thanks to that refresh rate. Samsung Galaxy A52 5G looks good in every kind of media. Whether that’s games, movies, or day-to-day use such as messaging or web browsing.

Under review, the display on the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G was a joy to use and didn’t feel at all like a mid-range phone.

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Looking beyond display refresh rate and color accuracy, this screen is also immensely bright. Especially compared to some other phones in its price range.  I was able to use the Galaxy A52 5G outdoors under bright sunlight, and even get some pictures of the screen, without any issue at all.

Indoors, adaptive brightness ensures that brightness doesn’t overwhelm. Keeping everything as natural as possible where needed. And keeping things more vibrant than might be expected, without being overbearing.

Battery life from Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is exceptionally good

Fast charging and long battery are hallmarks for the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

When it comes to battery life, that’s impacted by screen brightness, volume levels, media use, connection status and strength, and any number of other circumstances. Setting aside how differently different apps drain a battery. So it’s important to bear in mind that’s going to be subjective. Whether for Samsung Galaxy A52 5G or any other device, my review experience will be different from yours.

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With that said, I kept brightness held at around 85-percent by turning off automatic adaptive brightness. And I also kept volume effectively maxed out for my battery test and power-saving measures turned off. Regardless, the results were beyond just promising.

For my review, I listening to music and streamed media for approximately six hours. Three of those were with the screen on. I also gamed for around an hour with moderately intensive titles. And used intensive apps for around three hours, in addition to just using the gadget like a smartphone for around an hour-and-a-half.

That totaled out at around nine-and-a-half hours of screen-on time. Making matters better still, around a quarter of that was via a battery-draining 5G connection.

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Overall, I also left the phone on standby for around 17-hours during my battery test. Equating to around 26.5-hours of total phone-on time during my review of Samsung Galaxy A52 5G.

Charging, unfortunately, was somewhat less impressive. Although, compared to other devices in its price bracket, the Galaxy A52 5G still performed admirably. It took 47-minutes to fill the battery to half full and just under 1.75-hours to completely full.

All of which is to say that the power-drain and delivery from Galaxy A52 5G are far above average. Even when compared to devices that cost twice as much. That’s impressive on its own, even without considering how great this phone is in other ways.

Performance from Samsung Galaxy A52 5G didn’t leave me wanting

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On performance, Galaxy A52 5G proves why Samsung is so popular with buyers

When it comes to performance, there are a number of aspects to consider. From gaming to deeply intensive work tasks, photo-snapping or editing, and video-shooting or editing, we all expect smartphones to do a lot of different tasks of differing intensities. This, of course, is another area where Samsung Galaxy A52 5G showed that it wasn’t a flagship under review. But it’s also an area where it shines compared to many other smartphones.

Thanks in part to the display technology in use here, and in part to the upper-midrange internals, this phone is going to be a great option for those looking to game. Whether playing the latest update to Call of Duty Mobile update or testing out any number of other games across a wide assortment of genres. Summarily, Galaxy A52 5G is going to stand right alongside most smartphones on the market in most regards.

And I’d say the same about taking photos or videos, or most work tasks.

Where things begin to slow down is only in the most intensive tasks. For example, video and photo edits, particularly on the loading or processing side of things, take a bit longer to complete. Now that’s not as long as with some mid-range handsets, thanks in part to Samsung’s optimizations on the hardware front. But it is noticeable when compared to flagships.

The discrepancy, of course, is the combined result of less RAM, lesser storage, and a slower process. At least compared to top-of-the-line Android handsets. But that’s not going to be a deal-breaker for users who are already using budget or mid-range handsets. In fact, this phone seemed to perform just about every task better than almost every phone I’ve used at a similar price point.

Audio from Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is far better than expected

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G doesn’t hold back on the audio front

On the audio front, there are several considerations worth looking at. Particularly when it comes to on-device speakers. Since my smartphone speakers are generally awful, that was my expectation here too. But, aside from being incredibly loud, the audio quality found in the speakers on Samsung Galaxy A52 5G was actually really good.

That’s not to say it’s perfect, obviously. And I’d never call this audio “great,” but in context, the audio here is actually pretty great. Just for starters, although slightly tinny, bass tones are definitely present with this smartphone.

The fact that they aren’t as well represented as might be hoped, in terms of punch, depth, and power, is almost irrelevant. From many smartphones, bass tones simply cease to exist in the lower registers. But that’s not how things played out with this Samsung. Highs and mids, conversely, are represented in clarity and with plenty of punch. And, of course, that’s something that can be rectified by linking up a Bluetooth headset or using the 3.5mm audio combo jack built into the bottom frame.

Setting that aside, there are plenty of Samsung-specific audio features to talk about from OneUI. For instance, Samsung includes both Smart View and Music Share. Those are found in the media app and used to share music with other Samsung user’s devices. Or with other accessories. Samsung includes Dolby Atmos too, as well as a personalized sound feature called Adapt sound and a robust equalizer.

For headphones, UHQ upscaling is also available in Settings. As is the ability to separate sound out to different audio devices on a per-app basis.

So users are getting the full, premium Samsung Galaxy experience here when it comes to audio. All of which works exactly as advertised. With high-quality audio and an enjoyable experience all around.

 Galaxy A52 5G packs cameras that compete with the best in the game

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The cameras built into Samsung Galaxy A52 5G are sure to impress, given this phone’s price bracket

On the camera front, I noted many positive takeaways from my review of the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G. In fact, there are enough good things to be said, that it may be better to start with the negative points. The biggest complaint I could find with this phone’s camera system — a three-sensor setup led by a 64-megapixel snapper — is in low-light. Namely, once the light has dimmed even moderately — think around dusk — edges stop being crisp.

But that wasn’t the only complaint either. In fact, even the dedicated night mode on this camera doesn’t perform well if the lights are down too low. In some cases creating an orange or bright blue tint around objects and the edges.

It is, it should go without saying, still a better night mode than seen on some phones. And it definitely brightens things up, as shown in our sample gallery from this review of Samsung Galaxy A52 5G over at Flickr. But it just isn’t as good as the same mode on some similarly priced competitors.

Similarly, in bright or direct sunlight, oversaturation from this phone’s cameras can become a problem.

Now, I fully expected issues to arise with the cameras since this wasn’t a flagship.  So, skipping past those, Samsung did a great job with the cameras on Samsung Galaxy A52 5G.

And that’s not just because the underlying software is feature-rich and the sensors otherwise brilliant. Referring again to our sample gallery, linked above, details capture is high and the colors, while a bit intense, look amazing. Zoom doesn’t look awful either, despite only going to 10-times zoom. The bokeh effects here are smooth too. With the camera software cleanly finding edges where appropriate.

Moreover, the camera software doesn’t lag or hang, even on autofocus. Coupled with the dozen or so features such as Single Take — which takes a multitude of shot and clip types in a single snap, this phone does deliver a flagship experience. Even if it is still somewhat imperfect.

Software, features, and connections are decidedly flagship-like from Galaxy A52 5G

Software, features, and connectivity are all going to be strong points for this smartphone, barring a few minor caveats

Now, we’ve already covered some of the software elements for the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G in this review. Whether on audio, camera, performance, or connectivity, those are going to make the experience one akin to a flagship for most users. And that’s going to carry over to pre-installed apps too. At least so far as that applies to Samsung’s pre-installed apps.

But, as it stands, the review unit I had for this phone was an AT&T branded unit. And linked up to AT&T 5G. And that had some benefits and caveats all its own.

Just to begin with, AT&T installed a lot of apps on initial sign-in. During setup, the phone asked permission to install dozens of apps as part of the process. And then it proceeded to download a dozen more on its own after I ignored those requests in setup. Looking past the AT&T-branded apps such as HBO Max, DIRECTV, and a “recommended” Games app, there were a lot of things here that I just didn’t need. Or want, for that matter, and most users won’t necessarily either.

All of those apps, of course, are in addition to AT&T’s carrier apps, which fill up a folder all their own. And, in combination with Google’s stock apps and Samsung’s stock apps, the whole thing ended up feeling bloated.

It bears mention that, overall, it’s great that Samsung has adapted OneUI and its apps to work across the board. In effect, the company’s OS overlay ensures that Galaxy A-series users get a Galaxy S-series experience. And that works well. The extra apps also don’t impact the performance of the software at all. This is an incredibly snappy phone. But the additional apps from AT&T did not make for a great experience.

AT&T’s service, conversely, was great. In equal measures, I was able to use this phone on both AT&T’s 5G and AT&T’s 5Ge service. And Samsung’s phone performed brilliantly on both, offering enough speed and bandwidth that I was able to simply use the phone without worrying about it.

Is it even a question, whether or not to buy this phone?

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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

All things considered, Samsung did an amazing job with its new Galaxy A52 5G. The design and build are top-notch, fitting more readily — aside from materials — into the flagship category than the mid-range. Similarly, the display in use here is incredibly good. Not only is it as crisp and clear as any HD+ panel, with a 120Hz refresh rate it’s far superior to others in its class.

Setting aside issues with oversaturation in the camera and low-light shots — outside of night mode — those placed on this phone are well above par as well. As is the audio from the onboard speakers.

Summarily, what you get with this smartphone at under $500 is more than most phones deliver at over $600. And certainly more than most of the competition. What Samsung Galaxy A52 5G delivers, in addition to next-gen networking, is a true flagship experience.

Of course, that’s with the caveat of dealing with carrier bloatware. But that’s common on any carrier-sold device.

To the question of whether or not the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is worth its asking price, the answer is “absolutely.” It’s hard to imagine this phone coming across as a disappointment to any but the most intensive users.