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Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Great expandability
  • Bright, vibrant screen
  • Good battery life

The Bad

  • Incoherent design
  • Low internal storage
  • So so performance
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Samsung Galaxy J3 review: The Galaxy J3 is one of the lesser publicised and more affordable offerings in Samsung’s 2016 lineup, but is it worth picking up or best left alone?

Design

Spearheaded by the likes of 2014’s Galaxy Alpha, Samsung has been striving for a more premium look and feel across its product line, which today is most prominently found in the company’s 2016 A Series and S7 handsets. The J3, however, appears to be a step back in time, falling to older design queues that neither look nor feel particularly attractive.

Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) - front Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) - back

The silver plastic edging is reminiscent of the metalwork on the Galaxy S6, whilst the removable back looks just like the ones found on Samsung’s 2012 lineup, offering next to no grip in the hand either.

The front meanwhile swaps out backlit capacitive keys for reflective ones, which are admittedly more readily visible, and a black bezel around the display glass that feels incoherent with the rest of the phone’s stylings, as well as Samsung’s current mobile design direction as a whole.

Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) - thickness

There are undoubtedly uglier phones out there, but the J3 sticks out aesthetically as an awkward entry in Samsung’s 2016 smartphone portfolio.

Screen

The 5-inch 720p HD Super AMOLED screen is, in contrast to the design work, very attractive. In true Samsung fashion colours really pop, with good management of contrast distortion and brightness drop-off at more extreme viewing angles.

Samsung Galaxy J3 review - screen

It lends itself well to enjoying media and although there’s no automatic brightness adjustment, the quick settings toggle that replaces it puts the screen into ‘outdoor’ mode, which pushes the brightness even higher for better legibility in bright sunlight for a short time.

OS

Despite being a 2016 handset, the J3 launches on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, with Samsung’s matching TouchWiz user experience on top.

The styling feels a little tired, but it’s wholly functional if a little convoluted in some places. You have both the Google Play Store and Samsung’s own App Store to jump between, which can be beneficial, provided you’re willing to check out the exclusive deals and experiences Samsung’s has tailored to fit atop Android, such as its Upday news feed app.

You can edit the quick settings within the notifications tab and the myGalaxy app offers experiential goodies and tech help surrounding the company’s products.

Performance

At the heart of the J3 lies the seldom-seen Spreadtrum SC8830 – a quad-core processor backed up by 1.5GB of RAM. In the case of the J3 the pairing feels competent enough for fundamental smartphone use and although you may find yourself waiting for apps to open from time to time, it’s never by an exorbitant amount.

Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) - back off

Low-cost handsets such as this one almost always come with meagre amounts of internal storage and the J3 struggles along on just 8GB of space, most of which is already occupied by system files. Thankfully you can expand the storage by an additional 256GB, which is a cut above other affordable handsets by some margin.

The 2600mAh battery will grant you a respectable one and a half days of use on a charge unless you plan on using it solely as a media device for a time. If that’s the case you can expect a significant 12 hours (11 hours, 45 minutes) of video playback before the battery reaches its final ounce of charge.

Camera

The primary 5-megapixel snapper on the J3’s back does a decent job of capturing shots in most conditions, the exception being low light environments which are too noisy to be useful. Elsewhere the J3 surprised us with its detail, macro capabilities and HDR mode, which doesn’t go over the top with regards to image processing and still creates effective results, provided your subject is stationary.

There’s also a usable 2-megapixel front facing camera with a wide angle lens, plus 720p HD video recording at your disposal. Footage doesn’t look all that bad, with fast automatic contrast adjustment, but a complete lack of image stabilisation technology, slow autofocus, and poor audio recording mean it’s only usable in specific circumstances.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy J3 isn’t a particularly memorable or innovative phone, but it has its merits. Provided that you can get past the convoluted design, this phone works well as a media player, namely thanks to that punchy screen, great expandability, and decent battery life.

Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) - handheld

At £160 SIM-free, we’d place our money on other devices, but as most carriers (including O2) are offering this handset on a cheap contract with no upfront cost, there will undoubtedly be those out there who see value in the J3’s skillset, even if it’s one of a host of similarly-specced phones worth considering.

Handset provided by the good folks at MobileFun.co.uk

Specification

Screen size5-inches
Screen resolution720p HD (720x1280)
Weight137 grams
OSAndroid 5.1.1 Lollipop
Rear Camera5-megapixels
Front camera2-megapixels
Processor1.3GHz quad-core Spreadtrum SC8830
Memory1.5GB RAM
Storage8GB/16GB. Expandable via microSD up to 256GB
4G LTEYes
Bonus featuresOutdoor brightness mode

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