It’s understandable that most of the hype and excitement throughout the year is focused on flagship smartphones – these are, after all, the handsets which bring us all the cutting-edge new features, like massive high-res displays, fancy dual-cameras, and face scanning technology.
But while sales of flagship phones, such as, in the case of Samsung, the Galaxy S8 series and the Galaxy Note 8, grab a lot of the limelight and do indeed generate a sizeable chunk of revenue (higher prices, higher profit margins, and all that jazz), they’re not the only side of the story as another considerable chunk of sales is made up of mid and lower-tier hardware.
On this front, Samsung has had the Galaxy A series ticking away successfully in the background for a long while now.
These devices, which include the Galaxy A3, Galaxy A5, and Galaxy A7, encompass the budget, mid-tier, and premium-mid-tier smartphone brackets, which covers a very large bunch of consumers who simply can’t spend big money on the flagship phones.
The thing about the Galaxy A series, however, is that Samsung brings a somewhat premium edge to the whole range, with sharp design and a metal and glass build which is derived in no small part from the flagship drawing boards.
It’s a pretty simple concept really, people might want to buy something at a lower price, but they don’t want something that looks and feels like cheap plastic tat, and they want a good set of optimised hardware and software for their money too.
We’ll readily admit, we’re big fans of Samsung as it stands today with this premium-grade design. But we don’t feel too guilty about singing its praises, because this wasn’t always the case.
There was a time where we regularly gave the firm a good kicking in reviews because it used too much horrible plastic, clunky software overlays, and too much bloatware.
The Galaxy S5 was a rude awakening for Samsung that consumers on the shop floors had also had enough. Cue the Galaxy S6 the following year, and the rest is history; it’s mostly been glass and metal since then.
In this review we’ll be taking a look at the middle-child of the latest generation of the Galaxy A series, the Galaxy A5 (2017). This is a mid-ranger with a price tag of around £340-£370 usually.
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Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Review: Design & Display
The Samsung Galaxy A5 design has quite a lot in common with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7 – the regular editions with the flat displays, that is, not the curved EDGE ones.
The front fascia is a familiar sight with the Samsung style rounded corners, lozenge Home key, and a flush-fitting glass panel covering the whole frontage.
The metal frame around the outer edge is pretty much a direct clone of what we’ve seen aboard Samsung’s flagships, right down to the buttons, ports, and punched speaker grilles.
Likewise the rear panel is a slab of shaped and curved glass, although the curvature of the edges isn’t as pronounced as you’d find on the flagship models; the camera sensor also fits flush for a really smooth look.
The Galaxy A5 also features the same IP68 water and dust resistance you’ll find on the Galaxy S models; a brilliant and practical feature meaning your handset won’t be ruined by a drop in the bathtub.
The long and the short of it is this phone is super stylish, or at least, if you like Samsung’s premium aesthetic; and a lot of people seem to! It also feels great in the hand with that reassuringly solid metal bodywork.
To be honest with you, I don’t really get why Samsung makes phones like this? Surely it just steals business from its flagships? I like specs and hardware as much as the next guy, but the Galaxy A5 offers up these with aplomb and it looks stunning to boot.
I didn’t expect to like this handset as much as I ended up doing. But this just goes to show you can’t judge a phone by its price tag; this little number is one of the nicest looking phones I have ever owned – and I’ve owned a lot of nice-looking phones.
Samsung offers the Galaxy A5 in a range of colours which are quite interesting, even the standard black model (Black Sky) has that all-over glossy black Stealth Bomber vibe we’ve seen on recent iPhones.
Other options include your now required metallic gold (Gold Sand), as well as a couple of pastel metallic shades; light blue (Blue Mist) and pink (Peach Cloud).
The display panel is a 5.2in Super AMOLED screen with a 1080p Full HD resolution at 424ppi – decently sharp, though apparently a little lacking when it comes to the close proximity of VR; therefore, Samsung hasn’t made the phone compatible with its Gear VR headset.
Still, for normal viewing this is nice and clear, and as we’ve come to expect from Samsung display tech the colour gamut is fantastic, contrast is excellent, and the brightness levels are quite capable, though not the brightest on the market by any means.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Review: Processor & Performance
The Galaxy A5 runs a new Samsung Exynos 7880 octa-core CPU, with a Mali-T830MP3 GPU, 3GB of RAM and a clock speed of 1.9GHz. It’s based on ARM Cortex-A53 cores using the 14nm FinFET semiconductor architecture; that’s the same architecture inside the current-gen Galaxy S7 series.
Although this is about to be superseded by new 10nm hardware inside the Galaxy S8, it’s still damn fast and plenty capable of running all your contemporary apps and games, but it’s questionable how it’ll fare as things change in the next few years.
General operation in Android is pretty smooth as things have become better optimised on Google’s end, and OEMs such as Samsung have figured out better how to implement it.
That on top of the latest CPU tech, homebrewed by Samsung at that, means you get a pretty slick experience on the whole. It’ll also make a good go of multitasking and gaming to a reasonable degree. It’s slightly slower than the latest OnePlus 3T flagship, particularly in benchmarks, but it’s also slightly cheaper, so it kind of works out.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Review: Specs, Hardware & Other Features
KEY SPECS: 5.2-inch FHD Always-On-Display with Octa-core CPU clocked at 1.9GHz, 16MP main + 16MP front-facing camera, 3GB RAM / 32GB ROM powered by a 3000mAh battery with fast charging, IP68 water and dust resistance, USB Type-C support
This latest Galaxy A5 uses the new reversible Type-C USB port for charging (including fast charging) and data and is packed with the usual slew of wireless connectivity including Wi-Fi, WiFi Direct, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, and GPS.
There’s an ample 32GB of onboard storage, which should suit most users other than power users who, frankly, are unlikely to go for a mid-range model anyway. On top of this you can expand via microSD up to 256GB, which is always welcome.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Review: Battery
The battery is a non-removable 3,000mAh cell, a decent size and one which seems to offer quite a lot of juice for this display and hardware setup. The Galaxy A5 can last an impressive 22 hours of continuous video playback which is even better than the Galaxy S7.
There’s not really much to add to that, other than you’ll be hard pressed to find better battery performance other than a few select ultra-sized phablets, such as the Huawei Mate 9, and at considerably higher cost.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Review: Camera
Both front and rear cameras are 16MP sensors with wide f/1.9 apertures. The primary features autofocus, touch focus, and an LED flash, as well as face detection, panoramic capture, and HDR – both front and rear have 1080p video capture too.
In terms of image quality, this is fairly typical Samsung fare, and that’s a good thing, with very easy point-and-shoot operation delivering decent snaps with plenty of detail, robust contrast, and good dynamic range. Colour is also Samsung’s typically rich capture being both bright and vibrant.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Review: Verdict
This is an extremely compelling little smartphone, it seems perfectly priced and specced for its niche; to slot in the market where there are people prepared to throw down a few hundred pounds for quality, but who don’t want to bother with more phone than they need at the considerably higher prices flagships command.
It is a cohesive and well-thought-out package, and again, a big part of the appeal is getting premium aesthetics and build on the outside as much as the inside; this shouldn’t be the exclusive territory of flagships, and Samsung clearly understands that with the Galaxy A5.
It’s also well worth considering if you’re simply one of many consumers desperately looking for a smartphone with tons of battery life.
Carphone Warehouse has A TON of exclusive offers on the Samsung Galaxy A5, which you will definitely want to have a look at. With next day, free delivery and a range of color options as well as tons of offers, acquiring this phone has never been easier!