Hands-on with Samsung’s latest mid-range device
- Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Price: £399
- Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Release date: January 2017
The first phone released by Samsung after the storied tale of the combustible Galaxy Note 7 isn’t a flagship device, but the new Galaxy A5 (2017) gives us some clues about the direction the Korean company will take this year. While also offering up a decent mid-range phone.
Last year’s Galaxy A5 – and to a similar extent its smaller brother the Galaxy A3 – were adequate phones that didn’t offer enough, apart from the Samsung name badge, to bother the real budget champs. But, it could be different this year.
The Samsung Galaxy A5 takes a lot that made the Galaxy S7 my favourite phone from 2016, but also adds in a few features that we’ll probably see in the upcoming Galaxy S8.
Related: All the news from CES 2017
At first glance you’ll be hard-pressed to differentiate the A5 from its flagship brother. It has the same sleek metal body, rounded sides thanks to the 2.5D glass used and the same overall design. It’s lovely to both look at and to hold, but then I would expect nothing else from Samsung these days.
Like the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy A5 is IP68 water and resistant so they’ll be no worrying if you accidentally drop it in the bath. You’ll be able to submerge the phone in 1m of water for about 30 minutes without suffering any lasting damage.
There’s also the now typical fingerprint sensor toting home button below the display, and it seems to be just as fast and accurate as previous devices. Little touches like the fingerprint sensor, water resistance and addition of a microSD card slot make it feel like Samsung is finally bothering to care about the mid-range.
A lot of thought has gone into the cameras too, and the Galaxy A5 has a 16-megapixel f/1.9 camera on both the front and back. The rear snapper benefits from phase-detection autofocus, while the selfie camera has a clever floating shutter button that should make it easier to get the perfect shot from varying angles.
Like the Galaxy Note 7, the Galaxy A5 ditches microUSB for USB-C and surely this guarantees that the port will be coming to the S8. The 3,000 mAh battery seems beefy enough for a day of use, but there’s always quick-charging for that boost if you’re running low.
There are some sacrifices though, but none of them seem like a deal breaker.
The 5.2-inch display is 1080p, but while it’s not the highest resolution it looks fantastic. The Super AMOLED panel produces rich colours, deep blacks and a strong hit of brightness that you still struggle to get with LCD displays. Viewing angles are great too, and it features the nifty Always-on Display feature that constantly shows your notifications even when the screen is off.
Samsung was a little bit coy on what CPU is used, but the model I tested had an Exynos 7880 octa-core CPU and 3GB RAM. My time with the phone was brief, but it feels smooth and nippy. Though that can be said for any phone that’s just been set up.
32GB of internal is another nice touch, and of course that can be expanded via microSD.
It’s a shame then that software seems to be holding the Galaxy A5 back. When the phone ships it’ll still be running Android Marshmallow, and while an update to Nougat was confirmed to me, I wasn’t given a likely release date.
There’s also the price-tag to take into consideration. While this is labelled as a mid-range product by Samsung, it’s £399 RRP seems to little high. For that price you can get a OnePlus 3T, or an older Galaxy S6, and I think I would still plump for one of those.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017): First impressions
Samsung’s stance on mid-range devices seems to be improving, and there’s a lot to like about the Galaxy A5. It’s water-resistant, USB-C enabled and has impressive sounding cameras and a big battery.
But, I would have liked to see the latest version of Android from the start and a slightly lower price-tag.