- Premium design
- Smooth performance
- Well designed UX
- Strong display
- Out-performed by similarly priced phones
- Fingerprint magnet
- No 4K video recording
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review: The Samsung Galaxy A5 has already proven its worth in previous years, with last year’s model landing a full five-star review, but does the 2017 refresh still make for a winning recipe?
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review: Design
The A Series has always been about distilling down what makes the company’s top-tier handsets so desirable and repackaging that into a more affordable handset. With that in mind it should come as no surprise that 2017’s A5 bears more than a passing resemblance to Samsung’s current flagship, the Galaxy S7.
It looks and feels like a high-end device; a lightly pillowed glass front meeting with a textured and colour-matched metal frame, whilst the phone’s glass back curves off at the sides, just like the S7’s, making for a comfortable fit and feel in the hand. The back also debuts a primary camera that doesn’t protrude, a first for the A5 family.
2017’s A Series also all adopt USB-C, so you now have the convenience of that reversible connector, along with IP68 dust and water resistance, as found on last year’s model. There’s a fingerprint sensor mounted into the physical home button (again, like the S7) and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack to accompany the buds that come in-box, whilst the loudspeaker is interestingly positioned high on the right side of the phone.
It seems odd that we haven’t seen phones use this layout already, as despite still only offering a single driver, it’s now better positioned for enjoying media whilst holding the phone in a landscape orientation, as it minimises the risk of becoming obscured by a hand.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review: Screen and media
The 5.2-inch Full HD Super AMOLED panel is wonderfully crisp and colourful, with next to no colour or contrast distortion and strong overall brightness. Paired with a blue light filter that’s readily accessible from the phone’s quick settings, it’s more than a match for the similarly specced screen found on the Honor 8.
Its size also ensures that it’s well balanced for both comfort and media consumption, whilst a one-handed mode is baked into the user experience to alleviate the challenge of trying to pull down the notifications shade single-handedly.
Another talent that 2017’s A5 has borrowed from Samsung’s 2016 flagship is the always-on display feature, which is customisable to show your calendar, the date and/or time when the phone is locked, along with icons relating to unread notifications, all in a clear, glanceable format.
Audio quality from the aforementioned loudspeaker is also wonderfully clear, even if it’s unsurprisingly a touch lacking in both loudness and bass.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review: OS
Just as with last year’s model, this new A5 doesn’t come running the latest build of Android, but instead the marginally older Marshmallow release. Whilst it’ll no doubt get an update in the near future, Samsung has still ensured that it feels like a current-gen device by implementing features like split screen multitasking, which would otherwise be found natively on Android 7.0 Nougat.
Beyond that the company’s made some other small, but meaningful tweaks to its own already approachable overlay that make for easier navigation and customisation of the software experience found on the A5.
Long pressing icons on a home screen, for example, offers new functionality, like sleeping apps, by which they are deactivated until you next use them, and the ability to uninstall directly from the same menu. You can also pull in a native Theme Store more readily for easier personalisation and software experience as a whole just feels more cohesive than ever before.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review: Performance
The 2017 Galaxy A5 and A7 are the only two devices on the market to currently sport Samsung’s own Exynos 7880, accompanied by 3GB of RAM. Whilst the A5 doesn’t appear to score particularly high with benchmarks like Antutu, it seems more than capable of handling everyday tasks, the aforementioned multitasking and 3D games with aplomb, with buttery smooth animations no matter how fast you swipe around the UI.
32GB of internal storage is the least we’d expect on a mid-ranger in 2017, but expandability means that you can also throw in microSD cards up to 256GB, so there really aren’t any concerns on our part about running out of space with the A5.
As for battery life, the 3000mAh cell should see you through a day of intensive use without issue and just shy of a day and a half for muggles with more conventional usage, whilst the adaptive fast charger that comes with the phone is able to juice it back up in just over an hour and 15 minutes.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review: Cameras
Samsung’s created a focussed photographic experience in 2017’s A5 that looks as though the company’s been paying attention to what its customers are looking for in a mid-range smartphone snapper.
You can see full resolution photo samples from this article here.
The 16-megapixel primary sensor produces pleasingly colourful imagery in all manner of conditions, including low light, but can struggle in high contrast scenarios. HDR mode is the perfect remedy for that problem, if you can handle the slower shutter, whilst the 16-megapixel front-facing camera is good, even if it doesn’t capture flawless detail to the degree of the phone’s main snapper.
On the video front 1080p HD recording is impressively fast to manage colour and contrast, but falls down with image stability as no OIS means it can’t iron out hand shake or motion if you’re walking around.
The highlight has to be the intuitive, fluid new camera interface, which relies on swipes to jump between its primary features, including live filters, a food mode and manual control via pro mode.
For more read our full Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) camera review.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review: Verdict
It’s not a perfect mid-range phone, but it consistently hits all the key notes you’d want a device in its class to, and it does so very well. It also does an excellent job of distilling down some of the main draws of the Galaxy S7 flagship, so if you’re looking for a similar experience by way of a premium design, fingerprint sensor and IP68 certification without the same price tag, then the 2017 revision of the A5 certainly delivers.
The one barrier all current phones in the £300 to £400 region are unable to avoid right now is the might of OnePlus and its current flagship the 3T, which is only £30 more than Samsung’s new mid-ranger and brings flagship-class optics, performance and battery technology to the table, albeit at the expense of that water resistance.
- Full HD (1920x1080)
- 157 grams
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- 1.9GHz octa-core Exynos 7880
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB. Expandable via microSD up to 256GB
- Fingerprint sensor, IP68 certified, USB-C, adaptive fast charging