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Hands-on review: Samsung Galaxy A52

Thu, 6th May 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The era of the mid-range smartphone is well and truly here, and Samsung knows it.

For years, if you wanted a smartphone with a smartphone's features, you needed to pay a lot of money for it. The ability to have a full-fledged computer in your pocket was the justification — but recently, that justification has lost ground, and affordable smartphones abound.

The Samsung A52 is one such device. It's not a phone you'd buy in a pharmacy, and it's not a specced-out, state-of-the-art, multiple paycheck-costing phone — it's right in the middle.

At NZ$599, the A52 is a very accessible phone, and it possesses many of the features you'd find in a phone twice its price. But it's not all rosy.

One of its best features is its display. At 6.5”, it's as big as it needs to be, and its 120Hz refresh rate is a pleasant surprise at this price point. Its vibrant colours make and smooth refresh rate make scrolling through Instagram easy and satisfying. Its Super AMOLED screen and 1080x2400 display add up to a product that is not hard on the eyes at all. Watching videos was a highlight, and the refresh rate made it look like fps rates were higher than they probably were.

This translated when it came to actually navigating the phone — milling about the home screen and switching between apps, both of which felt fast and fluid. One area where the speed and fluidity sputtered, though, was downloaded apps on the Google Play Store. For some apps, it took minutes to download — something I'm not usually accustomed to.

While the obverse looked good, the reverse wasn't quite as pleasing. I received the Awesome Blue model, and in my personal opinion, the colour made it look a bit cheap — and this may have been (definitely was) bolstered by the fact that the back is plastic. While this presumably gives the phone a bit more protection when it faces an inevitable drop, when it's sitting in your hands, the plasticky feel reminds you how much money you saved from declining to buy a top-tier phone.

The camera was good, but nothing to write home about. There's a noticeable difference compared to the S21 — I found the saturation to be a bit high, and it was sometimes hard to focus. I did, however, find the low-light night mode impressive. As always, the camera app is top-notch, with more features than I would use as an amateur photographer. Still, it's nice to have the option to switch to ‘food' mode, and the super slo-mo and hyperlapse modes still measure up.

One of the A52's standouts was its battery life. I had Always On screen turned on the whole time, and I still found the phone's battery could extend past one day. Officially, Samsung says the phone can withstand up to 18 hours of battery life while on WiFi, and up to 21 hours on video playback — and this holds up from my experience. I'm a reasonably heavy user — screen time is probably around 5-6 hours a day. As always, Samsung's fast-charging didn't disappoint either — it never took more than 90 minutes to fully charge from almost flat.

All in all, this phone isn't perfect, but no one expects it to be at this price point. In fact, I was generally impressed with the way I was almost able to pretend that this was a high-end phone — the performance was good except for a few hiccups, the display and refresh rate impressed, and the battery life was superb.

If you're on a budget but don't want to sacrifice all the features present in a top-tier phone, the Samsung A52 is a good investment.

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