Sam­sung Gal­axy A5

£399 inc VAT • sam­sung.com/uk

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Sam­sung’s A-se­ries of mid-range Gal­axy smart­phones has been up­dated for 2017. This A5 is the mid­dle model, with the smaller, cheaper and less pow­er­ful A3 (2017) be­low it and the larger A7 (2017) above. The new A5 shares many of the same spec­i­fi­ca­tions as the lat­est A7, and in our opin­ion of­fers much bet­ter value un­less you par­tic­u­larly de­mand the larger screen. All three adopt the same de­sign, one we’ve seen pre­vi­ously in the gor­geous Gal­axy S7.

Price

Be­cause this is a brand-new phone, chances are right now you’ll pay close to its RRP to get it SIM-free – and clearly the im­prove­ments to the Gal­axy A5 (2017) have come at a price, since its RRP has shot up from £319 to £399, tak­ing it away from the af­ford­able mid-ground and dan­ger­ously close to flag­ship ter­ri­tory.

At this price there is a dif­fer­ence of just £47 be­tween this Gal­axy A5 and the Gal­axy S7 (you can now buy the year-old Gal­axy S7 SIM-free from Ama­zon.co.uk for £446).

That RRP comes from Mo­bileFun, though, which supplied our Gal­axy A5 for re­view. You will find it a lit­tle cheaper if you shop around on­line through the likes of Car­phone Ware­house, which at the time of writ­ing lists the Gal­axy A5 (2017) at £369. The ex­tra £30 dis­count could be enough to sway you over the Gal­axy S7, but it all de­pends on how tight is your bud­get.

As with all Sam­sung phones, we ex­pect the price to rapidly drop – usu­ally by as much as 20 per­cent within the first few months. At which point the Gal­axy A5 (2017) would of­fer bet­ter value, though brand-new to­day it just doesn’t rep­re­sent a good deal when com­pared to the high-end Gal­axy S7, which we still re­gard as the best An­droid phone on the mar­ket.

The al­ter­na­tive, of course, is to get the Gal­axy A5 on a con­tract. While monthly prices for the Gal­axy S7 (with no up-front charge) start at £30.99, you can get this Gal­axy A5 from £27.50 per month. That seems to be a rel­a­tively small sav­ing, but over the course of 24 months it works out just short of £85.

Mo­bileFun supplied our Gal­axy A5 2017 with a hand­ful of cases to pro­tect it from dam­age. It sells a wide range of Gal­axy A5 (2017) cases and cov­ers, charg­ers, car hold­ers, screen pro­tec­tors and other ac­ces­sories. It par­tic­u­larly rec­om­mended to us the of­fi­cial Sam­sung S View Premium Cover Case (£34.99), which comes in black, blue, pink and gold to match the avail­able colours of the Gal­axy A5, the Olixar Flex­iShield Sam­sung Gal­axy A5 Gel

Case (£4.99) and the Olixar Ul­tra-Thin Sam­sung Gal­axy A5 (2017) Case (£5.99), cov­er­ing a range of styles and bud­gets. The lat­ter is not only cheap but as close as you’ll get to in­vis­i­ble should you want to show off the Gal­axy A5’s gor­geous de­sign.

De­sign

If you’ve ever played with a Gal­axy S7, you will know roughly what the A5 (2017) looks and feels like. In our of­fice at least, we found the ten­dency was to think of it as a smaller S7, which is crazy since it’s ac­tu­ally larger – al­beit only just.

The rea­son for this is the ever so slightly larger screen – 5.2in against the S7’s 5.1in. The S7 is both shorter and nar­rower than the A5 (2017), mea­sur­ing 142x70mm against its 146.1x71.4mm, al­though with match­ing 3000mAh bat­ter­ies in­side both are 7.9mm thick. That’s not bad for a midrange phone such as this.

The screen might be larger, but it has sig­nif­i­cantly fewer pix­els. The S7 has a Quad-HD res­o­lu­tion of 2560x1440 pix­els, turn­ing in a screen den­sity of 577ppi, while the full-HD res­o­lu­tion of this 1920x1080-pixel panel works out at just 424ppi. We say ‘just’, it’s ac­tu­ally a very sharp screen (sharper than that of any iPhone, for ex­am­ple), sim­ply in­fe­rior to that of the Gal­axy S7.

We can’t com­plain about the dis­play, though, which uses our per­sonal favourite Su­perAMOLED tech. Su­perAMOLED pro­duces rich, vi­brant, sat­u­rated colours with deep blacks and daz­zling whites. View­ing an­gles are ex­cel­lent, and the dis­play is very bright and clear – a plea­sure to use. An­other plus: Su­perAMOLED places less of a hit

on bat­tery life than many com­pet­ing tech­nolo­gies. New to the Gal­axy A5 is Sam­sung’s al­ways-on dis­play. We’re still not convinced as to whether it is much more than a gim­mick, but ex­perts tell us that we each check our phones sev­eral hun­dred times a day. By dis­play­ing the in­for­ma­tion we need on the screen at all times we don’t need to wake the screen to read it, which saves time and power. And al­though it is on at all times (un­less you specif­i­cally turn it off in the set­tings), the fea­ture uses very lit­tle bat­tery life.

Ev­ery­thing we said about the im­prove­ments to the S7 de­sign is also true here. The A5 of 2016 was a fan­tas­tic-look­ing de­vice, but this year’s model is much more re­fined. The newly curved rear edges re­sult in a glass-backed phone that make it less slip­pery in the hand and more com­fort­able to hold. It feels far less frag­ile – and that’s not just down to the glass.

The ad­di­tion of IP68 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, which means it is re­sis­tant to dust and wa­ter and can sur­vive a 1.5m dunk for up to 30 min­utes, is very wel­come. And pleas­ingly, as with the Gal­axy S7, it has been achieved without fid­dly port cov­ers and flaps but the ap­pli­ca­tion of an anti-cor­ro­sive coat­ing to the met­al­work.

As USB-C be­comes more main­stream – and will even­tu­ally be­come the stan­dard for all An­droid phones – we’re pleased to see Sam­sung has fi­nally brought it to its smart­phone line-up. USB-C is more con­ve­nient, a re­versible port that Ap­ple users have en­joyed for years, and po­ten­tially much faster than Mi­cro-USB. USB-C will al­most cer­tainly be added in the next Gal­axy S-se­ries up­date, too.

The po­si­tion­ing of the speaker on the de­vice’s top right edge is a wel­come move, since no mat­ter how you hold it you’ll strug­gle to muf­fle the sound. Pleas­ingly, fol­low­ing ru­mours Sam­sung would move to USB-C au­dio only, you also get a stan­dard 3.5mm jack on the bot­tom of the phone.

The Gal­axy A5 2017 is avail­able in Black, Gold, Peach Cloud and a new Blue model re­plac­ing last year’s White. We tried both the Black and Gold mod­els, and though both are very good look­ing we very much pre­fer the black ver­sion. It will be worth your while try­ing them in store be­fore you de­cide which is right for you.

Per­for­mance

The Gal­axy A5 (2017) has had a de­cent up­grade on the in­side, and is now sig­nif­i­cantly faster than last year’s model. There’s an octa-core Exynos pro­ces­sor clocked at 1.9GHz which builds in the Mali-T830 GPU. Sam­sung has also in­creased the RAM al­lo­ca­tion from 2- to 3GB, and dou­bled the in­ter­nal stor­age – now 32GB as stan­dard.

TouchWiz, Sam­sung’s own user in­ter­face that is ap­plied over An­droid 6.0.1 Marsh­mal­low, has been sig­nif­i­cantly slimmed down over re­cent years, and is now much more user-friendly. There is still a lot of pre­in­stalled soft­ware com­pared to some An­droid phones, with just 22.7GB of that 32GB avail­able out of the box. Nev­er­the­less, the in­ter­face feels smooth and fluid, and you can al­ways add on more stor­age with up to 256GB pos­si­ble via the

mi­croSD slot. We ran the Gal­axy A5 (2017) through our usual per­for­mance bench­marks and found de­cent per­for­mance that trans­lates to a gen­uinely us­able de­vice in real-world use. Un­for­tu­nately, we have no Geek­bench 4 scores with which to com­pare the Gal­axy S7 and A5 (2016), since these were tested un­der Geek­bench 3, but from the other re­sults it’s clear that the A5 (2017) has im­proved on all fronts. Gam­ing fram­er­ates are higher, as is gen­eral pro­cess­ing per­for­mance. It might be a mid-range phone, but it’s ca­pa­ble of help­ing you ful­fil all your daily tasks.

In Geek­bench 4 we recorded a sin­gle-core score of 775 points, but with all its eight cores in ac­tion it gave a multi-core re­sult of 4125 points. As a guide, 4000 points is the base­line set by an In­tel Core i7-6600U pro­ces­sor, and higher scores are bet­ter. This score is right up there with many of to­day’s flag­ships, though its AnTuTu 6 score of 60,437 is sig­nif­i­cantly lower.

De­cent gam­ing fram­er­ates of 33-, 15-, 9- and 5fps re­spec­tively in GFXBench’s T-Rex, Man­hat­tan, Man­hat­tan 3.1 and Car Chase com­po­nents are par­tially thanks to a lower-res­o­lu­tion full-HD screen, since we run only GFXBench’s on-screen tests, and yet they are still some way off those achieved by the QuadHD-dis­play S7. For ca­sual gam­ing, though, you should have no prob­lem with the A5 (2017).

Our fi­nal test is JetStream, a JavaScript bench­mark, and here the

Gal­axy A5 turned in 25.959. That’s a score very much in line with its mid-range ri­vals.

In­side the A5 (2017) is a 3000mAh bat­tery, which matches the ca­pac­ity of the S7 and is 100mAh higher in ca­pac­ity than that of its pre­de­ces­sor. Be­cause the phone doesn’t use a Snap­dragon pro­ces­sor it does not sup­port Quick Charge, but just like Sam­sung’s flag­ship there’s sup­port for the com­pany’s Adap­tive Fast Charg­ing. Un­like that phone there’s no wire­less charg­ing. Bat­tery life should eas­ily stretch to a full day, though how much longer will re­ally de­pend on how fre­quently you use the phone and for which type of tasks.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

The ver­sion of the Gal­axy A5 (2017) we re­view here is a sin­gle-SIM model, though ap­par­ently dual-SIM ver­sions are or will be avail­able in other ter­ri­to­ries. If you de­cide to buy one of these, then we ad­vise you first check the spec­i­fi­ca­tions to en­sure it will work on your net­work. The phone comes with both a fin­ger­print scan­ner built into a phys­i­cal home but­ton and NFC, two of the key re­quire­ments for mak­ing mo­bile pay­ments through An­droid Pay or Sam­sung Pay. Sam­sung Pay is not yet avail­able in the UK, so you won’t find the app pre­in­stalled on this phone, though we sus­pect it might ar­rive along­side the Gal­axy S8 in late March.

Both the Wi-Fi and Blue­tooth have been up­graded over last year’s model, now with sup­port for the lat­est 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Blue­tooth 4.2. You also get GPS with GLONASS and OTG. As with the Gal­axy S7, there’s no IR blaster, and this phone also lacks its heart-rate scan­ner.

Cam­eras

One of the key changes in the A5 (2017) over last year’s A5 is its im­proved cam­eras. Pre­vi­ously fit­ted with a 13Mp cam­era at the rear and 5Mp at the front, both are now rated at 16Mp, sug­gest­ing Sam­sung is tar­get­ing the selfie-lov­ing younger gen­er­a­tion with this hand­set. As be­fore, they have an aper­ture of f/1.9, and there’s a sin­gle-LED flash at the rear while the dis­play it­self can act as a flash for the selfie cam­era. Video still maxes out at 1080p (full-HD), so don’t buy this phone if you’re hop­ing for 4K.

The qual­ity of its still im­ages is very good, though. As you can see in some of our test shots above (with Auto and HDR modes en­gaged), suf­fi­cient de­tail is cap­tured that you can make out the road names from shots cap­tured from our sev­enth-floor roof ter­race. There is some blur­ring to­ward the edges, but over­all the cam­era does a great job and pro­duces some ex­cel­lent colours.

The cam­era app is pretty de­cent, of­fer­ing a range of real-time fil­ters that in­clude sev­eral beauty op­tions. There are also Auto, Pro, Panorama, Hyper­lapse, HDR, Night and Food pre­sets, with a cou­ple more avail­able to down­load. Right now there’s just An­i­mated GIF and Sports shot, though we will hope­fully see more added to the col­lec­tion. As with Sam­sung’s flag­ship you can open the Cam­era app with a dou­ble-press of the home but­ton, and there is sup­port for ges­tures and voice con­trols to trig­ger the shut­ter.

Soft­ware

Last year’s Gal­axy A5 came with An­droid Lol­lipop out of the box and, al­though Nougat is now rolling out to the S se­ries, this A5 (2017) comes with An­droid 6.0 Marsh­mal­low. Sam­sung ap­plies its TouchWiz UI, plus some ad­di­tional apps – most no­tably the Mi­crosoft Of­fice suite, S Health and the Gal­axy Apps Store.

TouchWiz has been re­fined over the years, and is not the re­source hog it once was. Some new de­sign changes in­clude en­hance­ments to the drop-down no­ti­fi­ca­tion bar, with quick set­tings that are cleanly listed with none of the cir­cu­lar but­tons of old. The Set­tings menu mir­rors this with a very clean lay­out that is one long list rather than be­ing sep­a­rated into cat­e­gories. It feels much more like vanilla An­droid than TouchWiz has pre­vi­ously, though it’s still far from a car­bon copy.

There are new wall­pa­pers that re­act to move­ment by chang­ing colour, and new fea­tures in­tro­duced in the Gal­axy S7 such as the abil­ity to take longer screen­shots when you want to cap­ture a web page or text con­ver­sa­tion. Add to that one­handed op­er­a­tion and games modes, smart stay (stops the dis­play tim­ing out while you’re look­ing at it) and a hand­ful of ges­tures for quickly call­ing con­tacts, alert­ing you to missed no­ti­fi­ca­tions and more, and the Gal­axy A5 (2017) has some very use­ful soft­ware in­deed.

Ver­dict

The Gal­axy A5 (2017) is a fan­tas­tic midrange smart­phone, with the looks of a flag­ship and some de­cent per­for­mance and all-round specs. Our only real con­cern is that Sam­sung is pric­ing it­self out the mar­ket, with just a small dif­fer­ence in price sep­a­rat­ing this and the Gal­axy S7 – we like the new A5, but we’d choose the higher-spec Gal­axy S7 ev­ery time. Marie Brewis

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.2in full-HD (1920x1080) Su­perAMOLED screen, al­ways-on dis­play • An­droid 6.0.1 Marsh­mal­low with TouchWiz • 1.9GHz Eynos octa-core CPU • Mali-T830 GPU • 3GB RAM • 32GB stor­age • Mi­croSD up to 256GB • IP68 • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi • Blue­tooth 4.2 • NFC • GPS • GLONASS • 16Mp, f/1.9 rear cam­era, sin­gle-LED flash • 16Mp, f/1.9 front cam­era • 3000mAh non-re­mov­able bat­tery, fast charg­ing • USB-C • Fin­ger­print sen­sor • 46.1x71.4x7.9mm • 157g

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