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Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Great battery life
  • Solid cameras
  • Fingerprint sensor

The Bad

  • Deja-vu design
  • Old Android
5

Samsung Galaxy A5 6 (2016) Review: We’ve fallen hard for the Galaxy A5 6, Samsung’s 2016 reboot of last year’s original Galaxy A5, which supplies a premium mobile experience for just a shade over £300. Is this a Galaxy S7 beater for those on a budget? Here’s our full Galaxy A5 6 (2016) review.

Back in the day, Samsung’s smartphone output used to consist of very good expensive flagship mobiles, and bloody awful affordable handsets. We’re talking cheap plastic, crap cameras, flaky touchscreens; you get the idea. Thankfully times have changes, so while Samsung’s premium devices remain strong, its mid-range and budget blowers are now galaxies (ahem) better.

Last year, Samsung impressed us with the affordable Galaxy A range, consisting of the dinky Galaxy A3, the Galaxy A5 and the super-sized Galaxy A7. In 2016, the Galaxy A range is being refreshed to bring them up to date. We’ve already reviewed the excellent Galaxy A3 6 and next up is the Galaxy A5 6, a 5.2-inch mobile boasting Full HD visuals, 13-megapixel camera tech, fingerprint security and more.

Read next: Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 vs Galaxy S6, which is best for me?

With a £319 price point, the 2016 edition of the Galaxy A5 could be ideal for anyone after the desirable features of the Galaxy S7 who can’t stomach those steep contract costs. Here’s our in-depth Galaxy A5 6 review.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) Review: Design

Like the Galaxy A3 6 before it, the Galaxy A5 6 sports a sleek metal-and-glass design that mimics last year’s Galaxy S6 flagship phone. In fact, the new Galaxy A5 is almost the exact same dimensions and weight as the S6, with a slightly bigger screen adding just a tiny bit of extra height. That means the A5 is quite comfortable to use one-handed, despite that sizeable 5.2-inch display.

Of course, if you want a truly satisfying one-handed experience, check out the Galaxy A3 2016 instead. This 4.7-incher is nice and compact (actually, it’s one of our favourite compact phones of recent times).

You don’t get the perfectly formed curves of the Galaxy S7, nor is the A5 water resistant (so there goes playtime in the bath). However, we still love Samsung’s gorgeous combination of silver metallic edging and glass rear, despite that undeniable sense of deja-vu.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) Review: Screen and media

As you’d expect from a Samsung device, the A5’s 5.2-inch screen is bright, sharp and eye-poundingly vibrant. The Full HD resolution keeps images crisp and clear, with individual pixels invisible to the naked eye. On top brightness you’ll have no trouble with sun glare, while the Super AMOLED panel pumps out rich, gorgeous colours that bring images to life.

As with the Galaxy S7, you can set the screen to Samsung’s ‘Adaptive display’ mode, which automatically adjusts the colour range and saturation depending on what you’re up to. And if you’re not a fan of those boosted colours, you can stick the Galaxy A5 on ‘Basic’ mode instead, which warms the colour hue and dials down those rich tones.

The Galaxy A5’s solitary speaker, positioned on the bottom of the device, packs a surprising amount of power. Even with our office Sonos blasting out rock music, the A5 was loud enough for us to make out movie dialogue on top volume. Audio quality isn’t bad either; there’s not much in the way of bass, as you’d expect from a dinky mobile device, but there’s very little distortion and music doesn’t sound too tinny.

You get 16GB of storage space, but only 10GB of this roughly is available for your apps and files. Thankfully there’s a microSD memory card slot, so you can quickly and easily expand.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) Review: OS and features

The Galaxy A5 2016 refresh comes with Android Lollipop 5.1.1 on-board, rather than Google’s latest Android Marshmallow, which means that you miss out on some of the latest Android features.

Of course, stuff like the integrated fingerprint scanner support isn’t needed anyway; Samsung has done a solid job of supporting the Galaxy A5’s fingerprint sensor all on its own. That scanner, built into the A5’s home button beneath the screen, takes very little time to set up and yet is impressively accurate. You can press your chosen digit to the sensor at almost any angle, and it will be recognised first time pretty much every single time.

It isn’t the fastest scanner around, of course. That bragging right goes to the excellent HTC 10. But you’ll still be into your desktops in under a second, which is plenty fast.

Samsung’s Touchwiz interface will be immediately familiar to any fans and previous owners, adding a touch of colour to Android as well as Flipboard support (which can thankfully be deactivated at will). You can also expect a ton of Samsung services, such as the S Health exercise tracker and a link to Samsung’s own online apps store.

We’ve got nothing against S Health and the rest, but Samsung has annoyingly added its own browser, email client and other bits to the Google apps line-up, which means lots of duplication. And of course, there’s no way to delete them. Yay.

Still, at least Samsung has added in some nifty shortcuts, such as the ability to hang up a call by turning your phone screen-down or open the camera by double-tapping the home button. You also get access to Samsung’s Knox security software, to keep your privates super-safe with extra encryption.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) Review: Performance and battery life

The new Galaxy A5 packs a Snapdragon 615 processor, along with 2GB of RAM. The 615 chipset can be found on loads of mid-range handsets from the past year, including Motorola’s most recent Moto G, where it’s proved highly dependable. Of course, Samsung’s heavy Touchwiz overlay is something that the Moto G doesn’t have to contend with.

Read next: Moto G re-review after one year

So far, the Galaxy A5 has thankfully given us a smooth and satisfying experience. You can multi-task with two apps side-by-side and there’s still no sign of a stutter, while the latest fast-paced games run with a solid and dependable frame rate. Of course, whether the A5 can keep up this level of performance remains to be seen; check back later for our long-term Galaxy A5 2016 review to see.

The Galaxy A3 blew us away with its amazing battery life, giving us two days of use before finally biting the dust. Good news is, the Galaxy A5 is just as impressive. We once again regularly enjoyed 48 hours of life between charges, even with plenty of web browsing, messaging, camera shots and the rest. And if you choose to stream video non-stop, you’ll still get an excellent ten hours of life before the A5 is drained.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) Review: Cameras

Amusingly, the Galaxy A5 actually has a ‘better’ camera on paper than the premium Galaxy S7, with a 13-megapixel snapper versus the flagship’s 12-megapixel camera. Of course, there’s much more to a camera’s quality than simple numbers, and of course the A5’s camera isn’t quite as outstanding as the S7’s.

However, it is a very good mid-range shooter, and highly dependable on full auto mode. We took dozens of snaps in all kinds of lighting conditions and the results speak for themselves – check out our in-depth Samsung Galaxy A5 camera review for full photo and video samples, and our personal impressions.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) Review: Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy A5 6 is a brilliant refresh of an already solid smartphone, and one of the best £300 mobiles you’ll find (alongside greats such as the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact and Motorola Moto X Force). Dependable performance, solid battery life and great features like the excellent dual cameras and fingerprint sensor make it an essential purchase for those who desire flagship quality, but can’t afford those premium price tags.

Big thanks to MobileFun.co.uk for the Galaxy A5 2016 review sample. You can buy the Galaxy A5 6 right now.

Read next: Galaxy A3, A5 and A7 2016 UK price and release dates

Specification

Screen size5.2-inches
Screen resolutionFull HD
Weight155g
OSAndroid 5.1.1
Rear Camera13-megapixels
Front camera5-megapixels
ProcessorSnapdragon 615
Memory2GB
Storage16GB
4G LTEYes
Bonus featuresFingerprint sensor

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