OnePlus Nord CE 5G vs Samsung Galaxy A52

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OnePlus Nord CE 5G vs Samsung Galaxy A52
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G aims to take the core elements of a great phone to an even lower price than the original Nord. However, in 2021, we have one big new contender that OnePlus has to tackle if it wants customers' attention: Samsung and its Galaxy A52.

Yes, the Nord CE is the cheaper phone of the two, so it does make a few more compromises, but being a OnePlus, it also has a few advantages like a clean UI with zippy performance and super fast charging. How does that compare to the Galaxy?

Well here is a quick rundown:

The Snapdragon 750G chip inside both of them is equally fast but Samsung's UI is slowing it down. Both of them also have AMOLED screens with vibrant colors and fast refresh rates, nearly identical. On the camera front, it is the Galaxy that usually captured better looking colors while photos on the OnePlus have slightly more muted colors. And on the battery front, again we have a fight that is too close to call.

OnePlus Nord CE 5G

€329
Buy at OnePlus

Samsung Galaxy A52

$274 99
Buy at Samsung

Design, Display and Biometrics

We like the lighter and more compact design of the Nord better


Both the Nord CE and the Galaxy feature a similarly sized screen, but the actual physical size of the two is noticeably different. The Nord is a lot narrower, thinner and a lot lighter too, so it is much more comfortable to hold and carry in a pocket, while the Galaxy with its bigger bezels around the screen and slightly chunky design is well... not giant, but definitely not as comfortable either.

The difference in screen size is tiny: you have a 6.4" display on the Nord and a 6.5" one on the Galaxy. Both have just a tiny punch-hole cutout for the front camera and no other interruptions, and we should say that both screens look great. Colors are vibrant, contrast is excellent, blacks are deep and viewing angles are great. Add to that the fact that both phones support a fast refresh rate (90Hz on OnePlus vs 120Hz on the Galaxy), and you have two of the best screens on budget phones these days.

Both also keep the headphone jack, a welcome convenience.

When it comes to biometrics, the fingerprint scanner on the Nord definitely felt faster in daily use, while the Galaxy also has an in-screen fingerprint reader but it feels a bit sluggish and sometimes requires a second try, something that rarely happens on the Nord. That is a bit strange considering that both use the same optical fingerprint read core technology, but yet you have these differences. If you are constantly checking your phone like most of us, the OnePlus definitely feels faster to unlock.

Performance and Gaming

The software on the Galaxy is slowing it down


When it comes to performance, you cannot expect quite top speeds out of these budget phones, but they do come with an upper echelon Snapdragon 750G processor. Both also have the same 6GB of RAM in the base model (the OnePlus is also available in an 8GB/128GB storage version, and an even more powerful, 12GB/256GB version).

We found this to be a great combination with enough power to provide a smooth daily usage, only starting to show its weaknesses when pushed with gaming and other more intense tasks.

But it's not just about the processor, it's also about optimizations and OnePlus excels in that. The OxygenOS feels better optimized than the Samsung Experience UI. Gesture navigation also works faster and more reliably, and you have less stutter. The Galaxy A52 doesn't feel slow by any means, but if you want pure speed... go for the Nord.

Camera Quality

Has OnePlus finally built a great budget camera phone?


The big question always comes up with OnePlus phones is... "okay, it is fast, but what about the camera?" Well, you have a triple camera system on the Nord CE and a quad-camera one the A52, but those counts might be a bit misleading. The cameras that you will be using the most on these two phones are the wide and ultra-wide, and both of them have these. The Nord has an additional monochrome one that is nothing more than you could get from any black-and-white filter in your favorite photo app, while the Galaxy has a macro camera and a depth camera, which are just a bit more useful than that.

But what about the actual photos?


In the above picture, the greenery is a lot more saturated and the whole image seems to come to life on the Galaxy compared to the much bleaker and gloomier colors on the OnePlus. Yes, this definitely wasn't the brightest day and the Galaxy might be a bit less realistic, but it is the picture that looks better and the one you would want to share with your friends.


And the same goes for the next photo where the sand has a desaturated pinkish look while the Galaxy paints it in these much more cheerful tonalities that just make the image more lively and vibrant.

Portrait



When it comes to the portrait mode, it was particularly hard to get it to work on the OnePlus. It would take a few attempts for the effect to kick in, while the Galaxy was a lot more effortless.

Both phones can only use their main camera when capturing portraits and that's really a bummer, a cropped-in view or a 2X zoom would have been perfect here, since it is really impossible to get a good looking close-up portrait with a wide lens. Again, colors on the Galaxy appeared more pleasing while the OnePlus looks a bit desaturated and is not quite as good.

Low-light


In low light, both these phones show their non-flagship nature and images often appear a bit blurry and not quite as impressive as on more expensive phones. Here are a few examples:



Interestingly, when using the Nightscape mode on the OnePlus, the image crops in a bit so you get a slightly different perspective, but also the colors on the Galaxy stand out as a bit more pleasing and catchy. The Nord lacks a bit in detail too, not quite great.

Selfies



Photos taken with the front camera just look better on the Galaxy. In the above selfie, it's glaringly obvious how colors just pop a lot more and look more pleasing on the Galaxy, plus it is the one that captures more detail in this shot. On the image from the OnePlus, there seems to be no contrast and saturation, and this makes the photo appear ghostly and just not great. Add to that this colder tonality, and it's really not a great shot.

Video Quality


While both phones record 4K video, there are significant differences in the quality and some strange limitations that we noticed on the Nord. The major one has got to be that you cannot use the ultra-wide camera to record 4K video, you can only use it for 1080p videos, which is a bit of a disappointment.

Also, just recording from your hand means that videos will turn out quite jittery as both phones lack a proper video stabilization. The Galaxy is actually noticeably shakier (see the video below), unless you turn on the Super Steady mode that helps with that, but then it uses the ultra-wide camera and the quality is not as good as with the main one. The OnePlus, on the other hand, has no special stabilization modes: it is a bit shaky in 4K, but quite stable in 1080p.

Here is a video comparison between the two:


The Galaxy undoubtedly filters out the wind noise a lot better, while the microphones on the OnePlus pick up that wind whistle that is really distracting.

The bigger problem the OnePlus has, however, is definitely a lack in the dynamic range and colors, while the Galaxy has a much richer picture, with more saturated and pleasing colors, so it is definitely the better phone for recording videos.

Audio Quality


Both the Nord and the A52 have a 3.5mm headphone jack, which will be great news for people who still use their wired headphones, but there is a vital difference in the quality of the sound that comes from the loudspeakers.

Or we should say loudspeaker in the case of the Nord, since it only has one bottom-facing loudspeaker, which gets plenty loud, but definitely not very clear or impressive in any way, even with our lowered expectations for a budget phone. The A52 is miles ahead here: it has two loudspeakers, one at the bottom and another one built in the earpiece, and it has a much richer sound profile with cleaner, less distorted output and also some bass to it. If that's important to you, you will notice the difference.

Battery Life



Both these budget warriors come with respectable battery sizes and battery life that flagships can learn from.

You have a 4,500mAh battery capacity on the Nord CE 5G and... the same size battery on the Galaxy. Not just that, but the Galaxy also comes with a promise of a "2-day battery life" from Samsung itself.

So yes, these are some bold claims and we have used both and we can say that these phones will indeed last you a lot longer than the average smartphone. Are they 2-day phones? Not quite in our experience, but with average use you can definitely get around 36 hours or a day and a half before the battery drops below 20%. So you could probably risk it and go until the afternoon, but we feel that at that point in time, it's safer to give the phones a quick charge.

hours Higher is better
OnePlus Nord CE 5G
9h 50 min
Samsung Galaxy A52
8h 30 min

In our YouTube battery test for example, the OnePlus had a bit of an advantage with a great score of 9 hours and 50 minutes compared to 8 hours and a half on the Galaxy. However, on our other tests, the Galaxy A52 had the noticeably longer battery life.

Web Browsing battery test

hours Higher is better
OnePlus Nord CE 5G
12h 26 min
OnePlus Nord
11h 36 min
Samsung Galaxy A52
16h 48 min
Google Pixel 4a
9h 27 min


And for gaming, the Nord CE lasted a very respectable 8 hours and 47 minutes, which is one of the better scores we have seen from 2021 phones, but again it falls a bit shorter of the incredible battery life on the Galaxy A52.

3D Gaming battery test @60Hz

hours Higher is better
OnePlus Nord CE 5G
8h 47 min
Samsung Galaxy A52
9h 42 min
Google Pixel 4a
4h 51 min



Charging

As for charging, you don't get fancy extras like wireless charging, but you do get wired charging at decent speeds.

The OnePlus is the one that gives you the faster charge: it goes from 0 to 70% in just half an hour, while the Galaxy would take more like an hour for that. That is possible thanks to a 30W charger bundled in the box with the OnePlus, while the Galaxy comes with a 15W charger. Interestingly, the Galaxy does support faster charging speeds, but you'd need to buy the 25W Samsung charger in order to benefit from those.

0 to 100% charging time

minutes Lower is better
OnePlus Nord CE 5G
60
OnePlus Nord
69
Samsung Galaxy A52
99
Google Pixel 4a
95

Conclusion


So which one should you choose at the end of the day? This really mostly comes down to your budget: at $400, the A52 5G is more expensive and has a better camera to go with that higher price, but interestingly it does feel more sluggish and the fingerprint scanner is also not quite as fast. At 330 euro, the Nord CE makes some considerably compromises with the camera quality, so it's hard to recommend it for people who value great photos and videos, but for all else, it's great. Starting with screen quality, but mostly if you want a fast phone with a clean interface and fast charging, and are willing to overlook a camera is not quite the very best, the Nord CE is a safe bet at an excellent price.


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