Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) review: We’ve already tasted the fruits of Samsung’s efforts with 2017’s A Series thanks to this year’s stellar A5 but now it’s the turn of its more compact compatriot, the new Galaxy A3.
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) review: Design
The 2017 A3 is an enticing recipe comprised of Galaxy S7-inspired style paired with the screen size of an iPhone 7 and internals befitting of a promising 2017 mid-ranger. What’s more, it’s available in four attractive colours, with Blue Mist and Peach Cloud (a Carphone Warehouse exclusive in the UK) being our personal picks.
The body feels as premium as the company’s top-tier phones with a metal frame and hardware controls to match encircling a pillowed glass front and a curved back, which considering its compact size make for a pleasingly comfortable and pocketable form factor.
The high-end touches don’t stop there, however, with IP68 dust and waterproofing to give peace of mind to the clumsy and a fingerprint sensor-laden home button for the security conscious who still appreciate convenience; two more traits it also shares with its flagship brethren.
It’s smaller size makes this the easiest of the A Series to use one-handed and the unorthodox loudspeaker placement, high up on the phone’s right side, is actually beneficial when enjoying games or videos whilst holding the phone in landscape as it’s tougher to cover with a palm – stereo speakers would have made the implementation all the sweeter but we still appreciate Samsung’s decision-making here.
Along the bottom, you’ll find both a standard headphone jack and a reversible Type-C USB connection for more convenient charging, whilst the absence of any camera bump whatsoever just adds to the overall design prowess of the A3 both aesthetically and functionally speaking.
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) review: Screen
A 4.7-inch 720p HD Super AMOLED display is nothing ground-breaking, in fact, it’s the same specification of screen used by last year’s A3, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s a pleasingly punchy panel that gives us little to complain about in terms of visibility, responsiveness or overall brightness.
Samsung’s thrown in the same always-on functionality that we first encountered with the S7 family which proves invaluable for simple things like checking the time, weather or your notifications, whilst the size of the display twinned with some narrow bezels are what allow for more convenient one-handed operation.
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) review: OS
At this point, Android 6.0 seems a little long in the tooth to be appearing on a 2017 handset like the A3 but it’s not as big of an issue as we initially anticipated.
The phone will almost certainly see at least one upgrade to the next major release of Google’s mobile OS in its lifetime but despite not being able to benefit from some of the company’s in-house advancements, Samsung has ensured that its heavily customised skin serves as a competent surrogate with key features like enhanced performance optimisation and power management on hand.
Split-screen functionality is apparently reserved for its larger siblings but beyond that, you get the same customisable TouchWiz experience, complete with a theme store and easy-to-modify quick settings.
The Secure Folder lets you lock away copies of apps or media you don’t want prying eyes and wandering fingers to stumble across whilst integrated one-touch optimisation tools help ensure that your A3 will feel tightly-wound for longer.
The biggest gripe is that some may struggle to see value in the Galaxy Apps store and the (unremovable) duplicate apps that Samsung places alongside Google’s native offerings, subsequent iterations of TouchWiz at least include a ‘hide’ option for such apps but for the time being there’s no such functionality on the A3.
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) review: Performance
With an Antutu score of 46690, the Exynos 7870 processor and 2GB of RAM that accompanies it aren’t going to give any rivals cause for concern but in real-world operation the A3 doesn’t feel underpowered.
General usage is fast and fluid whilst most 3D games play comfortably in the phone’s native resolution and as there’s no split-screen functionality, multitasking only goes so far as jumping from one app to another, which also doesn’t appear to trouble the A3.
16GB of internal storage seems a little stingy when similarly specced devices like Sony’s Xperia XA1 include double the amount for less, especially when around 4GB is already occupied out the box. The only saving grace is microSD expandability at up to 256GB.
For a relatively small phone, the rather capacious 2350mAh battery Samsung’s stuffed inside the latest A3 is a welcome inclusion. Longevity has never really been an issue with previous iterations but a big battery twinned with conservative mid-range hardware simply means more use time. Most users should expect up to an excellent two days of use between charges with fast-charging on hand, plus a standard recharge time of under two hours.
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) review: Cameras
Aside from size, the most obvious departure from the larger Galaxy A5 (and A7) is a drop in camera resolution. Both the front and back snappers still retain pleasingly wide f/1.9 apertures but the forward-facing sensor has been dialled down to 8-megapixels whilst the rear shooter captures 13-megapixel stills. As for image quality, selfies look particularly sharp with a rich set of beauty tools on-hand if you want to modify reality that little bit, whilst shots taken in bright, naturally lit conditions using the primary camera yield the best results.
There’s an HDR mode on-hand to even out high contrast scenes that works pretty well and whilst fine detail is generally a little lacking the A3 pushes some impressive macro shooting capabilities. Low light scenarios are unsurprisingly the most challenging although the night mode actually does help brighten and clear things up, even if details are again murky.
As for video, the A3 tops out at 1080p HD at 30fps which is as we expected. A lack of image stabilisation is the most obvious shortcoming with small shakes and jitters clearly travelling through footage. The autofocus also sometimes needs a helping hand when quickly shifting from nearby subjects to those further away but at least it offers pleasingly accurate colours and contrast.
Check out our in-depth Samsung Galaxy A3 2017 camera review for all you need to know.
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) review: Verdict
Despite its standing in the company’s current product lineup, for the most part, Samsung hasn’t skimped on quality with this mid-ranger. Its design and build quality are unquestionably excellent with useful inclusions like water resistance, USB-C and a fingerprint sensor to boot.
Modest performance is helped by excellent battery longevity whilst the camera experience is arguably its weakest aspect. A price tag of £250 for a phone with 16GB of storage also seems a little cheeky on Samsung’s part too.
Just as its predecessor made a respectable attempt to distill down the flagship experience of the Galaxy S6, so too does the 2017 Galaxy A3 emulate some of the fundamental draws of the excellent Galaxy S7 and if you’re not desperately wanting after the Xperia XA1, this makes for a worthwhile alternative.
Read next: Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Review