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Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Seriously good battery life
  • Comfortably small
  • Strong optics

The Bad

  • Camera struggles in low light
  • No processor update
4.5

Samsung Galaxy A3 6 (2016) Review: We review the new 2016 edition of Samsung’s mid-range mini mobile, the 4.7-inch Galaxy A3, to see how it compares to the original 2015 Galaxy A3.

Samsung has just re-released the Galaxy A3 in a fresh new form for 2016 and it could honestly be renamed the ‘Samsung Galaxy S6 Mini’, because that’s effectively what it is. For just over £200 you get a strong set of specs and that sexy Samsung design that’s suddenly emerged in the past 18 months.

So, is the Galaxy A3 2016 too good to be true? Here’s our full review.

Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 review: Design

We’re not kidding when we say that the Galaxy A3 6 looks like a slightly smaller sibling to the Galaxy S6. Size difference aside, they’re close to identical from every angle. You get the same clean front, the same matt metallic edging and that shiny glass back panel, which thankfully doesn’t scuff up too noticeably on the darker models. Port and button positioning is the same too and you’ll even find the same jutting camera lens poking out of the rear.

The Galaxy S6 was already quite comfortable to use one-handed, but the Galaxy A3 is even more so. That compact body fits pretty much any hand and means you can use the phone with just one mitt, no sweat. There’s a decent heft to the dinky frame too, so it doesn’t feel cheap or toy-like.

The A3 is surprisingly rugged too, putting up with quite a bit of punishment. That said, a good-sized drop onto a hard surface will likely be its undoing. Thankfully you can grab a selection of protective cases from MobileFun (who kindly provided our review model), like this subtle transparent cover from Olixar.

Ultimately, there’s very little to dislike about the Galaxy A3’s design. Unlike Samsung’s new Galaxy S7, the A3 isn’t water-resistant; not a surprise at this price point, and we certainly didn’t miss it. And while that camera lens does poke out a wee bit, it never gets in the way and doesn’t even make the phone rock when you’re using it flat on a desk.

Check out our full unboxing video for a close-up look at the A3.

Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 review: Screen and media

One feature that the Galaxy A3 6 thankfully doesn’t share with the Galaxy S7 is a lack of expandable storage. Pop open the A3’s SIM tray and you’ll see a memory card slot, so you can slip in a microSD card to boost the almost non-existent internal capacity.

That’s particularly good news if you want to carry around a massive collection of music and tunes, to enjoy offline. After all, not all of us can afford massive data-heavy contracts to stream from the likes of Netflix and Spotify on our commutes. And while the Galaxy A3’s 4.7-inch screen may be on the compact side, it’s still perfectly fine for enjoying some telly on your commute.

It’s a Super AMOLED display (obviously, this being a Samsung device), so colours are richly reproduced, while the powerful maximum brightness makes the A3 easy to view even in bright sunlight. Images are pleasingly crisp too, with the 720p resolution giving almost the same pixel density (312ppi) as the iPhone SE. That’s a serious step up from last year’s 4.5-inch Galaxy A3, which packed in just 245ppi. You’ll be squinting pretty hard to try and make out individual pixels.

Of course, the tiny bottom-mounted speaker can’t produce a very powerful sound, but audio quality is decent enough for kicking back with a YouTube video or two. You get some perfectly fine earbuds bundled in the A3’s box, which work in a pinch.

Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 review: Features

The only big miss between the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy A3 when it comes to features is the lack of a fingerprint sensor. That means you’re resigned to tapping in a PIN or pattern every time you want to unlock your phone, unless you’re happy to use Android’s Trusted Devices and Trusted Places security tools.

There’s no heart rate sensor on the back of the A3 either, but with so many fitness wearables now available on the cheap, we’d be surprised if anyone was bothered.

Android 5.1.1 comes pre-installed on the Galaxy A3, but we’re hopeful that this will be updated to Marshmallow shortly. For now Lollipop does the job, complete with Samsung’s usual TouchWiz tweaks; the interface is basically identical to the Galaxy S6’s layout, which is no bad thing.

There’s built-in Flipboard support which can thankfully be quickly deactivated and you get the usual array of Sammy and Microsoft apps pre-installed. The notifications bar and settings menu give you fast access to everything you use often and there’s a Themes app for tweaking the look and feel of the A3’s desktops.

Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 review: Performance and battery life

One thing that Samsung hasn’t tweaked compared with last year’s Galaxy A3 is the processor that runs the show. The 2016 model still uses a Snapdragon 410 chipset, backed by 1.5GB of RAM. Thankfully we didn’t notice any stumbles or stutters when using the A3 for a full week, with apps loading quickly and menu browsing proving satisfyingly smooth.

Gaming is also perfectly possible, with some memory-intensive titles like Hitman Sniper running with a decent frame rate. Just don’t expect performance to be quite as smooth in a year or two, as the chipset is starting to age.

Battery life is another serious highlight. The Galaxy A3 kept us going for close to two days on a single charge, with standard use; plenty of web browsing and email checks, plus the odd bit of camera use and media playback. Even with heavy use you’ll happily see the day out, while non-stop video playback gives you around nine to ten hours of life. That’s one of the best results you’ll see on a modern mobile.

Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 review: Cameras

We’ve already fully tested the new Galaxy A3’s 13-megapixel camera and 5-megapixel selfie lens, along with Samsung’s camera app and various bonus modes. Check out our Galaxy A3 2016 camera review for more info.

Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 review: Verdict

Samsung’s Galaxy A3 2016 is essentially a mini Galaxy S6, boasting excellent battery life, strong optics and a great media experience, all wrapped up in a compact and gorgeous 4.7-inch package. If you want a mini mobile or simply can’t afford Samsung’s full-priced flagship phones, this Galaxy A3 refresh will definitely do the job.

You can grab Galaxy A3 cases, chargers and accessories right now from MobileFun.

Read next: Galaxy A3, A5 and A7 (2016) price and release date

Specification

Screen size4.7-inch
Screen resolution720p
Weight130g
OSAndroid 5.1.1
Rear Camera13-megapixel
Front camera5-megapixel
ProcessorSnapdragon 410
Memory1.5GB
Storage16GB + microSD
4G LTEYes

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