The mid-range value smartphone markets have never really been good in the U.S. As much as some of us would love to import a cheap phone from Europe, that isn’t really an option. Thankfully, it seems like we’re starting to get some of the value that most of the rest of the world has been seeing. For $200-$300, U.S. customers can now choose between several budget phones that arguably offer better value than anything else in that price range — the OnePlus Nord N200 5G and the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G being two such examples. If you’re a T-Mobile customer, you even had the opportunity to get both of these for free by trading in any working smartphone.
Unfortunately, the OnePlus Nord N200 5G and Galaxy A32 5G are no longer free on T-Mobile, and if you use another carrier or buy unlocked, you’re going to need to pay. But which one is better? On the surface, these are two phones with very similar specs for very similar prices. Well, I’m insane and have three of each. That means I can give a comparison, and I’m going to go over everything from specs to software.
Let’s start with the display, probably one of the most important parts of a smartphone. Specs-wise, this is probably where you’ll see the biggest difference between the two phones. The OnePlus Nord N200 5G comes with a 1080p IPS display at 6.49″, while the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G has a 720p IPS display at 6.5″. Both support a refresh rate of up to 90Hz.
Having a 720p resolution on such a large display is definitely noticeable. Samsung’s software mostly does a good job at hiding it, but there are times where text or icons will look pixelated. The Nord’s 1080p display is much nicer to use, and not only for its higher resolution.
On top of having a better pixel density, the Nord N200 5G also has better color reproduction, a higher quality (more even) backlight, and looks brighter. Overall, the Nord N200 really just has the better display. The Galaxy A32 5G loses this battle outright.
Before I get into this, I want to make it clear that neither the Nord N200 5G nor the Galaxy A32 5G has a good camera system. Both produce passable photos and video in bright areas. Neither does well when zooming or working in lower light.
With that said, the Galaxy A32 5G produces at least slightly better photos and videos. There’s slightly more detail, and color and exposure look better. The Galaxy A32 5G also has a more useful camera system, with a wide-angle sensor along with the main camera. The Nord N200 5G only has a single useful rear-facing camera, with the others being macro and depth sensors.
The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G wins the camera shoot-out, but neither is good enough for it to matter too much.
Storage & RAM
If you get either the OnePlus Nord N200 5G or the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G in the U.S., you’re limited to one option here, and it’s the same for both — 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. The difference comes with the expandable storage options. Both devices support extra storage through using a microSD card, but the Nord N200 5G only (officially) supports up to 256GB cards, while Samsung advertises support for 1TB.
Does having 1TB in a sub-$300 phone really matter? Probably not, but Samsung technically wins here, unless the Nord N200 5G’s specs are wrong. Unfortunately, I don’t have even a 256GB microSD to test this with, so I can’t confirm if OnePlus’ specs are correct.
Common to the mid-range and cheaper segments, both the OnePlus Nord N200 5G and the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G have 3.5mm headphone jacks. Neither has a particularly amazing built-in DAC, but it’s there and definitely nice to have.
When it comes to Bluetooth, though, it’s a different story. The Nord N200 supports more Bluetooth audio codecs than the Galaxy A32, such as Qualcomm aptX HD. If Bluetooth audio is important to you, the OnePlus is a better option.
Battery & Charging
Here’s yet another category where the OnePlus Nord N200 5G and the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G are very similar. Both phones have a 5,000mAh battery. The Nord N200 supports 18W (9V/2A) charging, while the Galaxy A32 is limited to 15W (9V/1.67A). If that 20% increase is important, the Nord N200 is better.
In terms of battery life, you might think it would be similar, but it’s actually a little weird, and maybe the reverse of what you’d expect. Both last quite long, but the Nord N200 has slightly worse standby consumption than the Galaxy A32. However, it more than makes up for that with significantly better screen-on-time (both indoors and outdoors), even with the higher resolution and brighter display.
As far as I can tell, the difference in battery life is because of the CameraLightSensor service always running on the Galaxy A32 5G. In a nutshell, this service takes a picture with the selfie camera every few seconds and infers the environmental brightness from that image.
So I decompiled the CameraLightSensor app on the Samsung Galaxy A32 (it’s also on the A60, M40, and probably any other IPS device with no room for one in the bezel).
It literally just takes a picture with the FFC every 3-5 seconds and infers brightness from that.
— Zachary Wander (@Wander1236) July 19, 2021
In general, I’d say the OnePlus Nord N200 5G has a better battery situation than the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G.
Cellular & Modem
Another important part of a smartphone is the “phone” part of that name. Making calls, browsing the Internet over cellular, etc.
In specs, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G should actually beat the OnePlus Nord N200 5G. The Galaxy A32’s MediaTek Dimensity 720 supports LTE Cat16, while the Nord N200’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 “only” supports Cat15. Those are specs, though.
In practice, you’re probably never going to see anywhere near the theoretically-supported speeds. And in practice, the OnePlus Nord N200 provides a much better wireless experience than the Galaxy A32.
For starters, the OnePlus Nord N200 has better antennas. I’ve seen it where there’s a 4dBm signal strength difference on LTE band 41 in its favor between it and the Galaxy A32 5G. With WiFi and Bluetooth, the story is similar.
In the time I’ve used the Galaxy A32 5G, I’ve experienced near-constant modem crashes. Cellular will randomly disconnect and reconnect, WiFi is weaker than it should be and will randomly stop working while connected, and my Galaxy Watch Active2 would disconnect from Bluetooth up to 30 times in a single hour sometimes.
The OnePlus Nord N200, on the other hand, has rock-solid cellular performance, much stronger and more reliable WiFi connections, and more stable Bluetooth. The only issue I’ve had is it’s hesitant to connect to LTE bands 25 and 71, even when they’d be better than the alternatives in the same spot.
In the end, while the Galaxy A32 5G may have better hardware, the OnePlus Nord N200 offers a much better experience with all things wireless.
Here are some more comparison points that don’t really warrant entire sections.
- The OnePlus Nord N200 5G has much better haptics. They’re not flagship-level, but they’re certainly better than the OnePlus 6T’s.
- The OnePlus Nord N200 5G is lighter, thinner, and slightly smaller.
- Subjectively, the OnePlus Nord N200 5G has a nicer backplate — a more interesting color and feels nicer.
- At least with the T-Mobile variants, the OnePlus Nord N200 5G has more supported LTE and 5G bands.
- The OnePlus Nord N200 5G hides its bezels better (and they might be slightly smaller).
- The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G has a much less intrusive selfie camera, with a smaller display cutout and shorter status bar.
Now that we’ve got the hardware out of the way, let’s talk software. For many, this is the make-or-break part of a phone. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of OnePlus’ OxygenOS, and I generally enjoy using Samsung’s One UI, so (spoilers) the conclusion of this comparison surprised even me.
Unsurprisingly, both the OnePlus Nord N200 5G and the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G come with their respective manufacturers’ Android skin. The Nord N200 ships with OxygenOS 220.127.116.11 out of the box, while the Galaxy A32 5G has One UI 3.1.
I won’t bore you with too many details about each skin — there are plenty of reviews out there talking in-depth about each — but here’s a quick rundown.
OxygenOS 11 is a big departure from the look of AOSP, but it keeps some parts of stock Android, like the general notification appearance and system icons. Other parts, like the Settings app, have OnePlus-specific customizations. And of course, there are the OnePlus system apps, like Calculator and Clock. I use the Google versions of these, so for me they’re just bloat.
One UI 3.1 changes even more about Android than OxygenOS 11. The style is completely different, with blur added everywhere possible, a completely redesigned notification center and style, and, of course, Samsung system apps.
In terms of “weight”, neither skin is exactly light. But if you’re someone who’s overwhelmed by lots of options and settings, OxygenOS may be the better choice for you.
Even though both the OnePlus Nord N200 5G and the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G have very similar processors, the Nord N200 performs significantly better. In some cases, you might not even realize it’s a lower-mid-range device.
Unfortunately, Samsung did not optimize its software well for the Galaxy A32 5G. At times, it’ll work fine, with smooth animations and fast load times. But seemingly randomly, it’ll drop to somewhere in the range of 15 frames-per-second, with slow load times and constant freezes. I don’t know what could be causing this aside from general lack of testing and optimization.
The OnePlus Nord N200, on the other hand, is a completely different story. It very rarely lags or hitches, with what feels like a near-constant 90Hz. Apps load quickly, animations are smooth, and it almost never seems to struggle under normal use.
The only real sore spot for the Nord N200 is also an issue with the Galaxy A32 — the limited RAM. I don’t care what anyone says, current versions of Android aren’t designed to run on less than 6GB. Neither phone can handle more than two apps running at once before one or more has to reload. Sometimes one will even reload with only two open, which makes things like using Authy for two-factor-authentication annoying.
Overall, OnePlus definitely wins in software performance.
What’s historically been a problem for OnePlus no longer is. The Nord N200 5G reliably delivers notifications from Twitter, Discord, Slack, you name it. Even with battery optimization active for them.
Almost ironically, it’s the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G that struggles with notifications. One UI in general seems to have an issue specifically with Slack notifications, but I regularly miss other things like emails and even Telegram messages on the Galaxy A32 5G.
Surprisingly, the OnePlus Nord N200 5G delivers a superior notification experience.
Night Mode, Eye Comfort Shield, Yellow Shift, f.lux, whatever you want to call it, has become pretty popular on smart devices recently. Making the screen yellower at night or when it’s dark makes the display less harsh to look at, and allegedly helps with sleep cycles. Almost every Android brand has their own implementation.
Samsung’s Eye Comfort Shield for its devices with OLED displays is pretty good. It shifts the color temperature without really interfering with the image. Unfortunately, the Galaxy A32 5G has an IPS display. Eye Comfort Shield for devices with IPS displays isn’t good. Instead of a color temperature shift, it’s just an ugly yellow screen overlay. It looks terrible, possibly makes the display look harsher in the dark, and just isn’t particularly good in general. I don’t know why Samsung does this.
OnePlus, on the other hand, has a Night Mode that looks a lot like Samsung’s OLED Eye Comfort Shield. On the Nord N200 5G, the color temperature is properly shifted, and you barely notice it’s yellower than usual after a few minutes.
The OnePlus Nord N200 5G has, by far, the better Night Mode.
Auto brightness is something a lot of us take for granted on smart devices. On the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G, you can’t do that.
Samsung decided to forego the dedicated proximity and light sensors in the Galaxy A32 5G in favor of software-based solutions using the selfie camera. Normally, this might not be so bad, but Samsung really messed up the implementation. The Galaxy A32 loves to randomly drop to minimum brightness even in full light. When it’s working “properly”, it’s delayed, and absolutely eats up battery. This is likely why the Nord’s screen-on battery life is so much better.
The OnePlus Nord N200 5G, on the other hand, has dedicated proximity and light sensors, and it’s definitely the way to go. Auto brightness is much more reliable, much more responsive, and just better overall.
The way I use the term “Ambient Display” is to describe the momentary black-background display that some devices have. It’ll come on for a few seconds in response to a gesture, event, or notification, and then turn off again.
This is what the OnePlus Nord N200 5G has, even with its IPS display. If you raise the phone or a notification comes in, the date, time, battery percentage, and notifications will appear for a few seconds. The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G has no such feature.
Historically, neither OnePlus nor Samsung has been very good at providing updates. Recently though, Samsung has improved its process significantly, while OnePlus seems to still be having trouble.
This is where the software story turns in Samsung’s favor. While we don’t really have any specific guarantees, both the Galaxy A30 and Galaxy A31 got two major version upgrades. Because of that, I’d say it’s safe to assume the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G will receive at least Android 13 and another year of security updates.
OnePlus, however, has explicitly stated there are only plans to provide one major version update to the Nord N200 5G, along with three years of security updates. That means that the Nord N200 5G will probably only officially receive Android 12. Both have the same period of security updates.
If you’re into unofficial updates though, either through a GSI or custom-made ROM, it looks like at least the T-Mobile Nord N200 5G can be bootloader unlocked, subject to T-Mobile’s terms. Fully pay it off and have it activated for 40 days, and you could give it Android 13, 14, even 15, yourself.
Which is the Better Phone?
When I went into this comparison, I fully expected to be recommending the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G here.
But it turns out the OnePlus Nord N200 5G beats it in almost every category I can think of. It has better performance, better battery life, a better display, better cellular, and so on. There are only a few places where the A32 5G beats it.
So, here’s my verdict. If camera performance and official update support are important to you, get the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G. If software performance, connectivity — and really anything else — are more important to you, get the OnePlus Nord N200 5G.