Samsung Galaxy A52, A52 5G and A72 vs. Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra
Samsung is off to a flying start with its 2021 phones, having already unveiled both its flagships and its mid-rangers. But just how much of a difference is there between the two? New Atlas compares the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy A52, A52 5G and A72 versus the Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra.
At a glance, it seems like the gap is closing between mid- and high-end phones. Honestly there aren’t that many things that the flagship S series can do that the mid-range A series can’t, and considering the latter are about half the price they’re a pretty attractive choice. Is it really worth forking out an extra 300 bucks to film 8K video that you can’t actually watch on the phone itself? Weirder still, the A series has a few specs that are actually better than some of the S series phones!
The smallest phone of the bunch is the Galaxy S21, by a decent margin. The next phones up, the A52 and A52 5G, are 8 mm taller, 4 mm wider and half a mm thicker. The Galaxy S21+ is a touch bigger again, while the Galaxies A72 and S21 Ultra lead the pack in size.
Weight-wise, the phones follow the same pattern. The Galaxy S21 is the lightest, then the A52 and A52 5G are 20 grams heavier. The Galaxy S21+ and A72 are only separated by a few grams, then finally the S21 Ultra jumps ahead by another 20 g or so.
For reference, a US nickel weighs exactly 5 g, so the difference between S21 and A52, or A72 and S21 Ultra, is equivalent to four of those coins.
It doesn’t sound like a whole lot really, but when you consider the 60-g range between the lightest and heaviest phones, that’s a fair pocketful of change that you are (or aren’t) lugging around.
Oh, and the two different weights for the S series are because apparently the 5G models of each weighs 2 g more than the 4G versions.
Samsung loves to describe its colors with adjectives, and each of these sets has its own theme: The A series is apparently “Awesome,” while the S series colors are described as “Phantom.”
Descriptors aside, the Galaxy A series phones come in your choice of violet, blue, black or white. The S21 is available in violet, gray, white or pink; the S21+ in violet, black, silver, gold or red; and the S21 Ultra in black, silver, navy, brown or titanium.
One of the apparent cost-cutting measures on the A series is in build materials – the Galaxy A52, A52 5G and A72 all have plastic backings. The Galaxy S21 does, too, but it’s at least packing an aluminum frame to feel a touch more premium. The S21+ and Ultra, meanwhile, have aluminum around the edges as well as on the back.
The same pattern holds for screen sizes as the overall dimensions. The Galaxy S21 is the smallest with a still-not-to-be-scoffed-at 6.2-in display, followed by the two models of A52 with 6.5 in. The A72 and S21+ stretch out to 6.7 in, while the S21 Ultra has one of the largest displays of any phone at the moment, boasting a roomy 6.8 in.
All six of these phones make good use of space, with a “hole punch” camera design that doesn’t take up much real estate. Almost 85 percent of the front of the A52, A52 5G and A72 are dedicated to the screen, and it only goes up from there. The S21+ may have the same size screen as the A72, but it arguably looks neater since it’s a smaller device overall. The S21 Ultra is closing in on 90 percent.
Five of the six phones have the same resolution of 2400 x 1080, meaning they’re higher than Full HD and even above what passes for “2K” (although definitions are murky). But there are a couple of differences between them.
For one, they have different pixel densities – which makes sense, given they’re cramming the same number of pixels into various screen sizes. As such, the S21 boasts 421 pixels per inch (ppi), followed by the A52 and A52 5G, then the A72 and S21+.
But perhaps the most noticeable difference is the refresh rate – the S21, S21+, S21 Ultra and the A52 5G can all run at 120 Hz, allowing video playback at up to 120 frames per second (fps). The A52 and A72 make do with 90 Hz, which is still better than many other phones.
One feature that the A series is lacking on its displays is High Dynamic Range (HDR). The S series is running the advanced HDR10+ format.
Of this bunch, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has the best display, hands-down. It sports a resolution of 3200 x 1080, with a high pixel density of 515 ppi, HDR10+ capabilities and a refresh rate of 120 Hz.
All six phones are built with Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (AMOLED) displays. This technology provides brighter colors and deeper blacks than the competing tech, IPS LCD.
The S21 Ultra’s display is also compatible with Samsung’s S Pen stylus.
The S series is running Qualcomm’s latest flagship chipset, the Snapdragon 888, which has more powerful onboard AI and more grunt to handle advanced image processing, higher frame rates, and 5G connections.
The A series, predictably, uses Qualcomm’s mid-range chipsets – the A52 and A72 are built on the Snapdragon 720G, while the A52 5G uses the marginally more powerful 750G.
There are a few RAM options across the range here, starting from a modest (but plenty capable) 4 GB in the Galaxy A52. There are 6 GB options in the A52, A52 5G and A72, which is basically the current industry standard.
The A series tops out at 8 GB, which is also the only option in the S21 and S21+. And finally, the Galaxy S21 Ultra offers a choice of 12 GB or 16 GB – both of which are ridiculously overpowered to the point of being excessive.
Whether very high-resolution selfies are a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, but either way that’s what you’ll get with any of these six phones. Strangely enough, this is one area where the midrangers outperform some of the flagships – the A series models are all packing a 32-megapixel (MP) monster, surpassing the 10-MP cameras on the Galaxy S21 and S21+. In fact, that’s a far better selfie cam than you’ll find on any iPhone or Google Pixel.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra maintains its lead here, too, though, with its 40-MP front camera.
It’s a similar story round the back. The midrange phones cram four lenses in, one more than the S21 and S21+ and on par with the Ultra. They all have different arrangements though.
The S21 and S21+ sport 12-MP wide and ultra-wide cameras, and a 64-MP telephoto lens. On the A series, it’s the wide-angle lens with the higher 64-MP count, while the A72 drops its telephoto to 8 MP.
The A52 and A52 5G may not have a telephoto lens, but they make a trade off for two other lenses that the flagship models lack – macro, for shooting high-detail close-ups of tiny objects, and a depth sensor that should enable better augmented reality (AR) and bokeh effects.
The S21 Ultra, of course, continues its streak of showing off. Its wide-angle lens packs an astounding 108 MP, and it adds a second telephoto lens to boost its zoom capabilities.
All being from Samsung, these six phones unsurprisingly share many of the same photo and video modes.
They can all shoot images with High Dynamic Range (HDR), capturing both bright and dark areas of an image together without losing detail. Portrait mode allows for bokeh effects – artful blurring of the background to make the subjects pop – and they can all stitch shots together into panoramas.
Night mode takes longer-exposure shots to help capture more detail in low-light settings. Selfie mode provides a few different settings to fiddle with to help you put your best face forward.
Single Take mode helps capture action shots, by filming a short video then pulling out the best stills. Scene Optimizer recognizes your subject – such as faces, food, people, animals, and sunsets – and automatically adjusts settings like exposure and contrast to best suit what you’re pointing at.
Augmented reality (AR) overlays virtual characters and objects on the real world. The new “Fun” mode builds on this, using Snapchat filters in the base camera app to morph your face into weird shapes, or put on funny hats and glasses and stuff. This one’s only available on the A series.
Maybe the biggest difference is in the zoom capabilities. The A52 and A52 5G only have digital zoom, up to 10-times. The A72, S21 and S21+ bump that up to 30-times, aided by a three-times optical zoom. And the S21 Ultra goes even further, with a dual optical zoom of 3-times and 10-times, and a powerful digital zoom up to 100-times.
All six Galaxies can shoot video in the basic formats of 4K and Full HD (1080p) – although the S series can do so at 60 frames per second (fps), while the A series tops out at 30 fps. The flagships can also shoot at an eye-watering 8K resolution – but honestly, that’s a bit redundant at this stage. These phones can’t play that back, so unless you’re one of the few people who’ve forked out thousands of dollars for an 8K TV already, you won’t be able to appreciate it.
All six phones can shoot in slow motion, but the A series can only get down to 120 fps. The S series stretches time further, down to 240 fps, and even boasts a super slo-mo mode at 960 fps.
The S series can also go the other way, speeding time up with time lapse videos in 4K resolution at 30 fps.
To smooth out your videos, all models have both optical and electronic image stabilization (OIS/EIS). And they can all capture in HDR, with the S series going for the higher standard of HDR10+, which supports dynamic metadata.
All six of these Galaxies can be unlocked with a scan of either your face or fingerprint.
All of these phones have some degree of water resistance to them. The A series all have an ingress rating of IP67, which means they’re dustproof and waterproof down to a depth of 1 m (3.3 ft) for up to 30 minutes. The S series, meanwhile, is rated IP68, which technically extends that down to 1.5 m (4.9 ft). Of course, we don’t recommend testing that out, but it’s at least reassuring to know that a quick dunk won’t spell the end for your device.
All six of these Galaxies provide a baseline 128 GB of built-in storage, and offer an upgrade to a generous 256 GB. The S21 Ultra expands things up to a crazy 512 GB, if you’re a particularly heavy user.
It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that storage increases will cost you extra, usually around 50 bucks for each step up.
Strangely, this is one feature the budget phones provide that the flagships don’t. If you need extra storage, the A series can be expanded by up to 1 TB with a MicroSD card. For the S series, what you start with is all you get, so choose carefully.
You’re looking at a beefy batch of batteries here, starting with the Galaxy S21 at 4,000 mAh. The A52 and A52 5G pack 4,500 mAh, the S21+ bumps it up to 4,800 mAh, and the A72 and S21 Ultra top out at an industry-leading 5,000 mAh. Samsung brags that you’ll get more than 24 hours’ use out of most of them, and even goes as far as to call those in the A72 and S21 Ultra “two-day batteries.”
Fast charging is an option on all six of these Galaxies. If that’s not enough, there’s also the optional extra of a 25-W Superfast charger, which apparently gives you hours more use after topping up for just a few minutes.
Wireless charging is restricted to the flagships, but you’ll need a separate wireless charger – some of these chargers can also enable Fast Wireless Charging. You can even use your Galaxy S series phone as a wireless charger itself, with the PowerShare function allowing devices like earbuds, watches or other phones to be topped up.
As this new, faster cellular network rolls out more widely around the world, it’s starting to crop up in more and more phones. The S series has the option of models that can tap into it natively, as can the aptly named A52 5G.
USB-C is the order of the day here, used to charge each of these Galaxies.
All six of these phones come with Android 11 pre-installed.
Samsung’s proprietary voice assistant, Bixby, is present and accounted for across the board.
The S series was released in January 2021, with the A series following in April.
With all the features the A series is packing, they’re quite the bargain. The most advanced mid-range phone comes in more than US$200 cheaper than the cheapest of the S series, and you can end up paying twice as much (and beyond) for the flagships. In the end, it all comes down to whether you think the price is justified, but the mid-range phones are making that question harder and harder to answer.
Which of these Galaxy phones has caught your eye the most? If you still need help figuring it all out, check out our other phone comparisons.