Samsung Galaxy A3 2017
£299 • samsung.com/uk
Samsung’s CES 2017 offerings were exciting, with a new Chromebook and the company’s first gaming laptop, but the bad news is that neither of those are coming to the UK any time soon (probably not at all). We did, however, get to spend some time with the company’s new mid-range phones on the show floor. The firm has updated its A series for 2017, which comprises the A3, A5 and A7. The best-seller is the A3, which is the smallest of the three models with a 4.7in screen.
The first thing that struck us about the new A3 and its bigger siblings is its design, which now looks even more like Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S7 thanks to its slightly curved back and rounded edges that feel brilliantly comfortable in the hand. We’re not the biggest fans of the shiny back because it soon becomes covered in fingerprints, but the lighter colours tend to hide those quite well so we’d recommend opting against the black model if that’s something that bothers you. It’s available in Black Sky, Gold Sand, Blue Mist and Peach Cloud.
The A3 has actually increased in thickness over last year’s 7.3mm, now measuring 7.9mm. That’s still suitably slim though, so we didn’t find it to be a major drawback during our testing but could be something to consider for some consumers. That extra thickness could be in part due to the small battery bump from 2300- to 2350mAh and the addition of a fingerprint sensor, which is new for the A3 this year. The battery is still non-removable, though, but it does offer fast-charging.
Samsung has also moved the phone’s speaker from the bottom of the device to the right side after last year’s move from the back to the bottom. This time the idea behind the move is that the position of the speaker means you’ll never cover it up, whether you’re playing a game or watching a video. It seemed to work in practice, but we weren’t able to test the quality of the speaker because the show floor at CES was remarkably loud.
One of the most exciting things about the A3’s design and build is its new IP68 waterproof rating like the S7, which is a real boon for the clumsy
like us and puts your mind at rest if you’re out and about with your phone in the unpredictable British weather. This rating makes the A3 waterproof up to 1.5m for 30 minutes, so you could even take it into the pool on holiday if you’re feeling brave.
The Galaxy A3 2017’s 4.7in screen hits the sweet spot for us when it comes to screen size. Most flagship phones these days have a screen that’s 5in or bigger, but we prefer the portability of the 4.7in screen size and find it to be a good balance between being usable, enjoyable to use for gaming and watching videos and a comfortable fit in the hand, pocket or bag.
The screen itself is Samsung’s HD Super AMOLED display which the company describes
as 2.5D due to its slight curve at the edges. Super AMOLED screen tech is our favourite of all phone displays thanks to its vibrant, slightly oversaturated colours and excellent contrast. This screen hasn’t changed since last year’s models and is still HD at 1280x720 pixels, but due to the smaller screen size this still offers a pixel density of 312ppi which will be plenty sharp enough for most users.
During our testing we found the A3 2017’s screen to be bright, crisp and satisfactory but not outstanding like the quad- and Ultra-HD offerings you’ll see in many flagships this year, but that’s one of the reasons Samsung can keep this phone’s price tag much lower than its flagship so it’s up to you to decide whether that’s a sacrifice you’re willing to make in order to save yourself some cash.
Beneath that screen is the tech that powers the A3, including its 1.6GHz Exynos 7870 Octa-core processor. That’s an improvement over the 1.5GHz Exynos 7578 quad-core processor in last year’s model and is paired with 2GB RAM over 1.5GB too, so could present quite a speed bump.
During our testing we found it to be responsive and speedy even when playing a driving game and opening apps including the camera, but we know from experience with previous A series phones from Samsung and other handsets with mid-range processors that it’ll likely slow down a bit once you start eating through storage.
There’s 16GB of internal storage in the A3, but there is now also the capacity to add up to 256GB thanks to the microSD card slot, which is
an improvement over last year’s 128GB max. You’ll likely never need quite that much, but most users will want to add a microSD card of some size to the phone as you’re likely to be left with under 10GB of space left once you’ve updated all of the preinstalled apps on the phone.
We’re looking forward to running the A3 through our benchmark tests to find out exactly how it compares with last year’s model and its rivals from Motorola, which tends to be the company Samsung struggles to compete with in the mid-range market.
When it comes to connectivity, the A3 now charges via USB-C like Samsung’s Note 7. USB-C will soon be the norm for all phones rather than the current Micro-USB, but it does mean there’s a slightly annoying transition period to deal with first as you’ll need a new cable and potentially adapters for your accessories too. The A3 also has NFC, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 and GPS.
The A3’s rear camera is still the 13Mp f/1.9 snapper with an LED flash that we got with last year’s model. There’s autofocus but still no optical image stabilisation which means you’ll need to keep a steady hand to capture the best shots.
The major camera improvement goes to the front-facing camera though, which is now 8Mp rather than 5Mp but is still f/1.9.
While photos are unlikely to blow you away, they’re reasonably sharp and offer realistic colours, and there are various shooting modes to choose from including Pro, Panorama, Continuous Shot, HDR, Night and more, as well as plenty of filters.
The A3 now offers Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI overlaid but nothing particularly notable and there are some features missing that you’ll find on Samsung’s flagship models like Multi-Window View, Pop-Up Window modes and more.
Overall, the A3’s improvements for 2017 are pretty significant and make this nice-sized, nice-priced phone even more appealing for those who like the idea of the Galaxy S7 but can’t quite stretch their budget that far. Its waterproofing and fingerprint sensor are both convenient and practical, and the good-looking design makes it easy to forget that this phone has a price tag that’s half that of many flagship phones. We’ve yet to be able to properly test the camera, speed and performance of the A3
2017, but we’ll update this review as soon as we’ve got our benchmark results and camera test results through.
2.5D 4.7in HD Super-AMOLED display
Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Exynos Octa-Core 7870 1.6GHz CPU
16GB internal storage
13Mp rear camera
8Mp front-facing camera
microSD slot for up to 256GB additional storage