Samsung Galaxy A52 in 4G and 5G versions (review)

Samsung Galaxy A52
8.7

The Samsung Galaxy A52 comes in two versions – the 5G (256GB) at $749 and the 4G at $599 (128GB). Apart from the Qualcomm SD750G 5G processor versus the Qualcomm SD720G, both are essentially the same.

The Samsung Galaxy A-series has been the saviour for Samsung. Starting in late 2018, we saw a filtering down of high-end specs into well-made, mid-range phones. Since then, the Galaxy A-series have gone from average to awesome. The 2021 A-series accounts for the bulk of Samsung’s global sales. And with good reason – a South Korean company assembling in Vietnam and already a trusted household word here

Now for the reality. The Samsung Galaxy A52 4G and 5G are excellent – no doubts. But they are smack in the middle of a bloody 5G red ocean.

For starters there are excellent sub $500 5G phones from – OPPO A54 ($349) and A74 ($399) 9.8/10, realme 7 ($399), Motorola G ($499) and the OPPO Find X2 Lite (was $749 – $499 runout).

In the $599 range, OPPO has its excellent 5G Find X3 Lite 9/10  (review here), OPPO Reno 4 Z 8.8 /10 (runout), Nokia 5G X20, Samsung has an A42 5G competing against the 4G A52.

In the $699-799 5G range, you have the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 9.7/10 (was $999 now $799), Motorola Edge ($699), OPPO Reno 4 9/10 ($799), Nokia 8.3 ($799), LG Velvet (beats them all $799).

So, this is a phone for Samsung loyalists, and if you prefer the brand over price, the Samsung Galaxy A52 in 4G and 5G versions are for you. We will note any substantive differences between the 4G review unit and the 5G.

Samsung Galaxy A52 Model SM-A525F/DS

Website4G
5G Model SM-A526B/DS
Price4G 128GB $599
5G 256GB $749
FromSamsung and approved resellers (*read the warning on the grey market)
In the boxPhone
Charger 5V/3A/15W
USB-C to USB-C cable
WarrantyTwo years
Manualhere
ManufactureVietnam
AboutSamsung is a South Korean multinational conglomerate headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul. It is the world’s largest smartphone maker.
MoreYou can read a breakdown of the 2021 models tech specs here

* We have named and shamed the major grey market and parallel importers here. Do not buy from them as you will not get a Samsung Australia warranty; Australian over-the-air OS, and firmware updates; and you cannot make a 000 call without a sim. 4G models generally do not support LTE Band 28. 5G IMEI numbers are registered with Australian Telcos and must be activated here first. Be warned.

First impression – that obviously plastic back

Samsung has gone for a matte plastic backplate in trendy Gen Z colours – Awesome Black/Blue and Violet. It is a supposedly ‘playful’ design, but many say it looks cheap. But it is a fact of life that all lower-cost phones have plastic backs and frames.

The back is a greasy paws magnet. There is a flowing bump over the quad-camera; all controls are on the right side, and down below is USB-C and 3.5mm combo audio.

Screen – Excellent AMOLED

4G has a 6.5” 2400 x 1080 x 90Hz, 20:9 Super AMOLED covered in Gorilla Glass 5. 5G is 120Hz, but neither support adaptive – it is 60/90 or 60/120Hz. There is a .4mm o-hole selfie top centre.

Both boast 800nits, but that is highly theoretical – the reality is about 350nits with peak bursts up to about 750nits. Being AMOLED contrast is infinite and supports downscaling of up to HDR10+ content. It is Widevine L1/HDCP 2.3 and can stream up to 1080p. Netflix supports FHD with the premium account, and high-quality streaming enabled.

Both have about 99% sRGB in Natural mode with a Delta E of 2 (<4 is good) and 96% DCI-P3 in Vivid mode. Being AMOLED, they support ‘Always on Display’ and Edge screen. The screen is quite reflective but fine for outdoor use.

Processor

4G uses the Qualcomm 720G 1.8/2.3Ghz with Adreno 618 (750MHz) GPU X15 LTE modem, and the 5G uses the Qualcomm 750G 5G 1.8/2.2Ghz with Adreno 619 (950Mhz) GPU the X52 5G modem. Both are eight-core, 8nm, Wi-Fi 5 AC, BT 5.

Geekbench 5 single/multi-core puts them at 562/1713 vs 652/1983. In all, they do much the same thing. Using PUGB as a guide, the 720G supports 43fps and the 750G 58fps, but these are not really gaming phones.

Ram is 8GB and 4G comes with 128GB (100GB free) and 5G with 256GB (200GB free). Both have a hybrid Dual Sim or microSD (to 1TB) and sim slot.

Sequential read/write 515/267MBps. We were unable to test external devices as these did not show in the test software. As they use USB- 2.0, the maximum is about 30MBps read/write, which is not suitable for 4K video recording. The 5G version is almost twice as fast on internal data transfer but suffers from the same slow external transfer.

Throttling test 15 minutes 100% load SSD720G tested: Maximum 170,714GIPS, Average 168,324GIPS – no throttling.

Comms – 4G version tested

  • Wi-Fi 5 AC VHT 80 measuring -33dBm/433Mbps at 2 metres from our Netgear RAX200 AX1000 router. Speed is as expected for the price.
  • Wi-Fi Direct screen share
  • BT 5.0 with SBC, AAC, aptX, LDAC. In tests, we were unable to change from SBC nor alter the kHz sample rates
  • USB 2.0 480Mbps, no ALT DP video out (the SoC supports USB-C 3.1, but the phone does not!)
  • NFC – yes
  • GPS – single band 3m accuracy
  • Combo Accelerometer/Gyro, Fingerprint, e-Compass, Hall, Light, Virtual Proximity Sensing

LTE as tested

  • Dual sim hybrid with micro-SD
  • Single ring tone
  • Supports VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling dependent on the carrier
  • Bands A52 4G 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12,17, 20, 26, 28, 32, 38, 40, 41, 66
  • Bands A52 5G n1, 3, 5, 7, 8,20, 28, 38, 40, 41, 66, 78 (only n78 for Australia enabled)
  • Carrier aggregation – 4G and 5G
  • 4G test (Boost Mobile Telstra 3-bar service). -102dBm/50.1fW. Only found the closest local tower so it is a  city and suburban phone.
  • Mobile data DL/UL/ping 5.6/11.3Mbps and 48ms ping are slower than expected, but it is clear that the mobile antenna strength is not for regional use.

Battery – 2-day

  • Both have a 4500mAh battery
  • It comes with a 5V/3A or 9V/1.67A 15W travel charger that takes approx. 3 hours 0-100%
  • Optional $34.97 25W USB-C PD 3.0 charger PDO: 9V/2.77A/25W, PS: 3.3-5.9V/3.0A/18W or 3.3-11.0V/2.25A/25W. Claimed 50% in 30 minutes

The 15W charger is slow – three hours. We also charged with a Belkin 60W PD3.0 but even when the device was at 0%, it only charged at 9V/2A/18W – not 25W. The total charge time was about 1.75 hours.

We also tested with the genuine Samsung 25W charger, and sure enough, it uses 11V/2.25A/25W, which is outside the PD 3.0 standard. It got the time down to 1.5 hours.

While that may be acceptable, others in this class have a 30W fast charge for under 60 minutes full charge.

Test (on 4G version 60Hz)

  • GFX Bench Manhattan 3.1 battery test – 568.5 minutes (9.48 hours) 1402 frames
  • GFX Bench T-Rex Battery test – 337.2 minutes (5.62 hours) 3672 frames]
  • PC Mark Work 3.0 battery life – 13 hours 54 minutes
  • General office, Wi-Fi and web – 14 hours
  • 100% load battery drain – 4 hours
  • Video Playback Wi-Fi Netflix FHD – 14 hours
  • Audio MP3, BT, Wi-Fi – 24+hrs

Samsung calls this a two day-battery with prudent use. We could not test the 5G version, but we expect it will be similar due to a more efficient SoC.

Sound – stereo

The stereo speakers are limited to 80dB, but you can remove that in Developer Options and get a few more.

  • Ringtone: 76dB
  • Media: 71dB
  • Notifications: 71dB
  • Alarm: 78dB

Dolby Atmos (Auto, movie, music, voice) and its Normal, Pop, Classic, Jazz, Rock, and Custom pre-sets do little to alter the speaker (all tests in normal) but do alter BT headphones. The sound stage is relatively narrow, with the music favouring the centre of the screen rather than out to each side. Note it has an age-specific sound boost for hearing impairment.

BT 5.0 allows dual audio connections (two recent Samsung earphones using the Samsung scalable Codec)). BT connections were clear, and with a Qualcomm SoC, you get aptX (and variants).

3.5mm jack acts as an antenna for FM radio

Handsfree was adequate. The two mics provide a modicum of noise reduction, but the overall volume is not as high as we would like. Still, callers said we were loud and clear.

How does it sound?

There is no mid-or-high bass – it is just not there. All of a sudden, lower-mid appears and builds from 200Hz to 1200Hz (high-mid), where it flattens to10khz and then drops off. Sorry, this is unsatisfying – you need some bass and higher treble to fill out the sound. It is a Bright Vocal signature (bass recessed, mid/treble boosted – read more here) that makes voice and instrumentals harsh.

Not being rude Samsung but this is all wrong for music! Oh well you could use earphones if you supplied them!

Build

The plastic back is a turn-off for some, and no amount of ‘Awesome’ colours make up for that. Yes, it is durable, yes, it is a compromise to meet a price, but it is ‘plain Jane’ compared to the other brands with luminous vacuum-deposited paint colours.

At 159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4mm x 189 its about average weight for a 6.5” phone.

But perhaps the most impressive thing is that it brings IP67 water and dust resistance (1M for 30 minutes) to the mid-range (LG Velvet has this also).

The under-screen fingerprint reader is accurate if a tad delayed.

Android 11 with One U1 3.1

Samsung now offers three generations of major OS updates –  if it comes with 11, it will get 12 and 13. In addition, it should get two years of regular (quarterly) security patches with a further two years of as needed CVE updates.

Security patch Feb 2021

Samsung Galaxy A52 camera

  • 64MP primary (bins to 16MP/1.6um), f/1.8, PDAF, OIS and gyro EIS, likely Samsung SK5GW1 or Sony IMX682
  • 12MP Ultra wide f/2.2, 123°, 1.12um, differ in colours, FF, Samsung S5K3L6
  • 5MP Macro f/2.4, 1.12um, FF likely Samsung SK5EP
  • 5MP Depth f/2.4, 1.0um, FF likely Samsung SK5F1
  • 32MP Selfie (bins to 8MP/1.6um), f/2.2, FF Likely Samsung S5KGD1 or Sony IMX616

We found that on the whole, images were excellent, but in low light, AI photo processing is too aggressive. Where we have said ‘likely’ for the sensor models both are functionally equivalent and Sony sensors are hard to obtain just now.

Video: Gyro EIS and OIS on the 64MP sensor make for excellent, stable [email protected] or [email protected]

GadgetGuy’s take

The Samsung Galaxy A52 4G or 5G are serious contenders in the highly competitive mid-range 4G and 5G market. They should be on your shopping list. But the problem for Samsung is that other companies are the class leaders in some areas of that space. But, if you want AMOLED and IP67, then these are for you.

4G or 5G? The 5G uses a slightly more powerful SoC and has more storage – both have a microSD hybrid slot to 1TB. But that is about where it ends. If you only need 4G, save $150.

Rating

It meets or exceeds all paradigms and tests so we start at 8/10 – the pass mark. Add Samsung’s OS upgrades, its excellent local support, 2-year warranty, 32.5mm jack, microSD, decent camera and that adds quite a few points. But then it loses some with the lousy inclusion of a very slow 15W charger, no earphones, weak antenna signal strength, and unsatisfactory frequency response.

Samsung Galaxy A52
The Samsung Galaxy A52 4G and 5G are excellent mid-range phones but they are competing with some class leaders. Definitely should be on your shopping list.
Features
9
Value for money
8.5
Performance
8.5
Ease of use
9
Design
8.5
Positives
Decent 2-day battery life
Good day and office light camera
Samsung OS upgrade and security patch policy
Negatives
15W charger supplied
Not the fastest implementationm of this SoC
Poor colour matching between 12MP Ultra Wide and Main 64MP sensor
Gaming is too variable – go for an SD8XX series SoC
Sound signature is tinny
8.7