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Tuesday August 22, 2017
Review: Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
by Nathan Spendelow | Jun 5, 2017 | Comment Now
Review: Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)

"... there’s so much to like about the A5 that it deserves our Recommended award."

$499 AUD *

> Pricing info

Octa-core 1.9GHz Samsung Exynos 7880 processor • 3GB RAM • ARM Mali-T830MP3 graphics • 5.2in 1,920 x 1,080 AMOLED screen • 32GB storage • microSD slot l 16MP/16MP rear/front camera • 802.11ac Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 4.2 • NFC • USB Type-C connector • 3,000mAh battery •  Android 6 • 71.4 x 7.9 x 146mm (WDH) • 157g l 1yr warranty
* Price at time of review
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The strongest rival yet to the OnePlus 3T, with bags of style, amazing battery life and an excellent camera.

T he Galaxy A5 may sit a tier or two below the Galaxy S7 in Samsung’s enormous phone range, but with its clean metal frame and all-glass front, it almost puts its pricier sibling to shame. The tapered back helps it fit snugly in your palm, and it’s nice to see that the rear camera is flush to the body of the phone. There are four paint jobs to choose from: Black Sky, Gold Sand, Blue Mist or Peach Cloud, and while Blue Mist isn’t to my taste, all the other colours look snazzy.

This 2017 model features some internal upgrades compared to last year’s A5, with a new CPU, more RAM and storage, and a higher-resolution camera. It still comes equipped with a 5.2in, Full HD, Super AMOLED display, racking up a pixel density of 424ppi. That isn’t sharp enough to use the A5 with the Gear VR headset according to Samsung – and thus it isn’t supported – but there’s nothing to stop you from using Google Cardboard instead.
Colours are striking, too, covering a perfect 100% of the sRGB colour gamut. While our X-Rite colour calibrator did spot slight inaccuracies in some of the darker green shades, it’s so marginal that you won’t spot them with the naked eye. 

Manually, you can only adjust the screen’s brightness to a maximum of 355cd/m2, so it’s not as dazzling as the Huawei P8 Lite opposite with its blinding 700cd/m2. You’ll also need to shade the screen if you want to read it in super-bright conditions, but for the most part it’s fine for outdoor viewing. This is a fast phone, too. The octa-core Samsung Exynos 7880, clocked at 1.9GHz, is a nippy performer and the accompanying 3GB of RAM keeps Android feeling snappy. It does fall behind the OnePlus 3T in the benchmarks, though, scoring 767 in the Geekbench 4 single-core test and 4,054 in multi-core, compared with 1,903 and 4,274 respectively. 

The phone’s graphics performance is less impressive. It scores an average frame rate of 14fps in GFXBench’s onscreen Manhattan 3 test, which is 33fps fewer than the OnePlus 3T. In practice, I found Sky Force: Reloaded ran with minimal hiccups, even when there was lots of action, but be aware that it may struggle with future games.

I have no such reservations about battery life. This year’s Galaxy A5 ships with a 3,000mAh power pack, and with the phone in Flight Mode and the screen calibrated to 170cd/m2, it lasted 22hrs 5mins before shutting down, beating the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge by almost four hours. There’s USB Type-C fast charging, too.

Another plus: the 2017 Galaxy A5’s camera is now completely flush with the rear panel, a change that means you can tap out texts and emails on a flat surface without the handset teetering back and forth. Samsung has also boosted the resolution to 16 megapixels in both the front and rear cameras; the rear camera captured detail-rich shots of the streets below the office.

Indoor snaps weren’t a problem, with shots of our low-light still-life arrangement picking up an abundance of colour. Noise is kept at bay, too, with details such as hair – which can often look fuzzy – kept crisp and well-defined.

Samsung’s camera software has been updated, too. In a similar move to Huawei’s slick Camera app, specific shooting modes can be accessed via quick swipes to the left and right, rather than having to navigate through convoluted menus. It’s the almost-perfect one-handed experience – especially with the new moveable virtual shutter button for selfie enthusiasts. There’s even a “Food Filter” mode to boost colours, but this was a little oversaturated for my tastes.

As ever, the OnePlus 3T looms large in this mid-range territory, and this remains the top choice if you’re after all-out speed. (Also note that, if you’re desperate for Android 7, you’ll have to wait for an over-the-air update “coming soon”.) Still, there’s so much to like about the A5 that it deserves our Recommended award. It’s waterproof for up to 30 minutes (it has an IP68 rating), you can expand the 32GB of storage by 256GB via the microSD slot, and it’s stylish. Even if it doesn’t quite usurp the OnePlus 3T, its long battery life alone may convince you to buy.  

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