Sam­sung Gal­axy A3

Tech Advisor - - REVIEWS - Jim Martin

We’ve al­ready re­viewed the Gal­axy A5, which turned out to be a nicely built mid-range An­droid phone, but too ex­pen­sive given the medi­ocre com­po­nents in­side it. But what about its smaller brother, the A3?

Not ev­ery­one wants a phone with a huge screen and the A3 of­fers a 4.5in qHD Su­per AMOLED dis­play. To un­pack the acronyms, this means it has a res­o­lu­tion of 960x540 pix­els, which is a quar­ter of the num­ber in a full HD screen (1920x1080).

Many phones have LCD dis­plays, but Su­per AMOLED is com­pletely dif­fer­ent. Like other OLED dis­plays, in­di­vid­ual pix­els emit light rather than there be­ing a back­light which il­lu­mi­nates an en­tire LCD screen. This means con­trast is bet­ter and AMOLED screens also have more vivid colours, in gen­eral.

So, given its price, the A3 has a rel­a­tively low res­o­lu­tion but good-qual­ity screen. Some will think it looks a lit­tle blocky or fuzzy if com­ing from a phone with a high­er­res­o­lu­tion screen, but the 244ppi pixel den­sity means it’s ac­cept­able.

As with the A5, the A3 has an alu­minium uni­body much like an iPhone. It looks stylish and is slim and light­weight at 6.9mm and just 110g. There’s a phys­i­cal home but­ton, with touch-sen­si­tive back and re­cent but­tons ei­ther side of it. Mi­cro-USB and head­phone sock­ets can be found on the bot­tom edge and iPhone-style trays hold a nano SIM and up to a 64GB mi­croSD card on the right-hand side. The sleep/wake but­ton is above the trays, and the vol­ume rocker is on the left. Mounted cen­trally on the back is a cam­era that’s flanked by an LED flash and the main speaker.

You get the same choice of four colours: white, black, gold and sil­ver.

Like the A5, the A3 runs An­droid KitKat. That’s strange given that the new ver­sion – Lol­lipop has been around for six months now. How­ever, an up­date to An­droid 5.0 for both phones is rolling out right now.

Sam­sung’s TouchWiz in­ter­face masks most of An­droid any­way, so the up­grade won’t be as no­tice­able as on a phone run­ning plain An­droid. It’s still worth hav­ing Lol­lipop though for its other fea­tures.

You might ex­pect the A3 to have the same in­ter­nals as the A5, but you’d be wrong. Yes, there’s the same Snap­dragon 410 pro­ces­sor with the Adreno 306 GPU, but you get only 1.5GB of RAM in­stead of 2GB and only an 8Mp cam­era at the rear in­stead of 13Mp. Wi-Fi is sin­gle-band in the A3, so un­like the A5 it won’t be able to con­nect to 802.11n routers on 5GHz. It’s a non-is­sue for most peo­ple, of course.

The front cam­era is the same at 5Mp, and there’s Blue­tooth 4.0, GPS and NFC. There’s also 4G LTE sup­port as well as 3G. The A3 is one of few phones with built-in ANT+ sup­port, which could be use­ful if you have any ANT+ fit­ness gad­gets.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, the A3 is more or less ex­actly as fast as the A5. In our tests, it re­turned roughly the same scores and in gen­eral day-to-day used proved fast enough. The prob­lem is that it’s not re­ally good enough for the price: you can buy the Mo­torola Moto E for just £109, which has the same pro­ces­sor, sup­ports 4G and has ba­si­cally the same screen size and res­o­lu­tion.

The bat­tery is rated at 1900mAh which is a lot less than the 2300mAh cell in the Gal­axy A5. In gen­eral use though, we found the A3 would last a full day with no prob­lems. There’s the same Ul­tra Power Sav­ing mode as the A5, which ex­tends standby time for over a day even if you’re down to 10 per­cent.

In our bat­tery test, the A3 lasted just a cou­ple of min­utes shy of six hours. That’s only quar­ter of an hour less than the Gal­axy A5, de­spite the smaller bat­tery. Over­all, it’s a de­cent re­sult.

One area where the Moto E 4G shows its bud­get na­ture is the plas­tic body. But the low-res­o­lu­tion cam­eras also let it down. In this re­spect the Gal­axy A3 is much bet­ter. Photos have a de­cent amount of de­tail and are sharp. Don’t ex­pect qual­ity to ri­val the iPhone 6’s 8Mp cam­era, but snaps are re­spectable enough to share with fam­ily and online.

Bear in mind that both cam­eras de­fault to a 16:9 as­pect ra­tio, which means they take lower res­o­lu­tion photos (6Mp rear, 3.7Mp front) un­less you change the set­tings to use their na­tive 4:3 as­pect ra­tios.

Also, the front cam­era de­faults to selfie mode which it­self au­to­mat­i­cally re­touches your face giv­ing a strange plas­tic look. With this dis­abled, photos from the front cam­era are very good. Along with the handy op­tions for au­to­mat­i­cally tak­ing self­ies when hold­ing up your palm and a wide-selfie mode, the A3 is a good choice if you take a lot of photos of your­self.

Ver­dict

Sam­sung’s RRP is £249, but you can buy the Gal­axy A3 SIM-free for a lit­tle un­der £200 if you search around online. If you do want it on con­tract, there should be no up-front cost. But as we’ve said, it’s pos­si­ble to get a phone with sim­i­lar spec­i­fi­ca­tions for a lot less, so it’s hard to jus­tify spend­ing the ex­tra on the A3 for its cam­eras or even Sam­sung’s soft­ware.

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