Much to our delight, the midrange smartphone market is growing crowded. Increased competition has seen many features from the upper midrange phones trickling down to lower tiered ones. The Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) is a good example of these blurred lines or at least it tries to be.
The company’s A series always stands close to its flagship S series in terms of build, design and specifications. With that of course, comes a high price tag, but still reasonably lower than the Samsung flagships.
The recently updated A3 (2017), moves towards an S series like design aiming to copy the dual glass looks of the premium S7. Let’s take a look if the new A3 justifies its price tag or not.
Build Quality & Display
As expected of the A series, the A3 (2017) has an attractive design with great attention to detail. You instantly notice the weight of the device in your hand, which allows for a premium feel yet feels light enough not to be uncomfortable. The phone has a metal frame and plastic back. The rear is shiny and aims to mimic the glass like look on the Galaxy S7.
The phone’s a bit slippery but fortunately it’s small so grip isn’t too much of an issue unless you have really tiny hands.
A3 (2017) comes with a 4.7 inch 720p Super AMOLED screen. The resolution is subpar but unless you are looking at it from 8 inches away, you won’t notice the pixels. As is usual with AMOLED screens, you get deep blacks. Other than that, the brightness is pretty high and the screen is legible in bright sunlight.
There are some minor issues with the screen though. When viewed from the side, there is a slight greenish hue. This results in some color deviation as well. It doesn’t hamper the daily usage but it’s definitely noticeable. The screen brightness also drops dramatically when viewed from the sides.
The phone is IP68 water and dust resistance rated. So if you’re a bit clumsy, that should provide you some peace of mind. Just don’t go swimming with it.
Hardware and Performance
The A3 (2017) is powered by an octa-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A53 Exynos 7870 chipset which comes with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage.
The chipset is reasonably powerful and is better than what you get with most midrangers in the market. There isn’t any noticeable lag or stutter. Game performance is great and even the best games run smoothly, partly due to the slightly lower-res 720p screen which requires less graphics processing.
Multitasking, however, was mediocre at best. You can’t run more than 4 apps at once without resetting the last app. We tested with slightly heavy Google apps and were dissatisfied with the performance. However, that’s just bread and butter with phones limited to 2GB of RAM.
The A3 (2017) got a good Antutu score, posted weak numbers for the Geekbench single core test and did decently in the multi-core benchmark. PC Mark gave it an acceptable score for different daily usage benchmarks.
The phone also comes with a fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button. The sensor, however, is a little iffy and often doesn’t even notice the finger. When it does work, it takes about 1.5 seconds from sleep to the homescreen, definitely not the fastest around but still good enough if Samsung manage to fix the recognition feature.
The loudspeaker is placed above the power button on the right side. While it is nicely positioned such that it can’t be easily blocked with the hands or when placing it on a flat surface, the volume is very low. You probably won’t even be able to hear the audio output in the noise of ACs or fans during the summer season. The headphone volume is pretty low as well.
That’s not the only issue as the sound output is pretty bad and tinny.
Operating System & User Interface
As mentioned before, the UI has no noticeable lag and day to day usage is great. The UI offers limited customization so you will have to do some work if you dislike the stock look.
The A3 comes with an Easy mode for people who like simpler interfaces with very few settings and it’s mostly targeted towards old or illiterate people. Settings are easier to find (compared to stock Android) with the new UI.
Samsung has added a game launcher which can boost game performance by reducing the resolution. It can also help with the battery consumption as well.
The phone comes with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, though an upgrade to Nougat is expected in the coming months. With Android O around the corner, we would have loved to see it come out with Android 7.0 out of the box.
A3 (2017) comes with a 13MP rear camera accompanied by a dual LED flash. Our expectations were high when reviewing the camera but unfortunately, camera was a big let down in this case. While daylight photography is good enough for the price, indoor and low light photography is abysmal. Take a look at the samples below:
Colors are good in broad daylight and sharpness is decent as well. HDR, curiously enough, brings no benefits and there’s little retrieval of lost details. Instead, HDR mode ends up bringing more noise unless the scene is very well lit.
As soon as light starts to drop, there is a sharp decrease in quality. You can barely make out the pictures during the evening. It grows worse as it gets darker and even the flash cannot help unless the focal target is less than 1 meter away.
Pro mode is available on A3 (2017) and allows for ISO adjustment from 200 to 800 and exposure adjustment. With the results in auto mode, we weren’t expecting much from the pro mode and we were sadly proven right. Pro mode is subpar and brings nothing good to the table due to the weak sensor.
With the default camera app, you can easily apply filters by swiping right on the camera screen. It’s an easy to use feature for those who like Instagram their every moment.
The front camera features an 8MP sensor. It offers some nice beautification features like skin tone adjustment, face slimming, blemish removal and more. The front camera is pretty good for social media usage and selfie lovers won’t be disappointed.
With a small 2,350mAh battery, we didn’t expect much from the A3 (2017) in terms of battery life. However, the Exynos 7870, 2GB RAM and a relatively small 4.7-inch screen proved it a beast.
It passed our extensive battery testing with flying colors and exceeded all our expectations. The phone got 9 hours and 30 minutes of continuous use during our real life benchmark testing which includes web browsing, video playback, graphics editing, gaming and video editing. The brightness was set at 50% during the whole time. In normal day-to-day usage, we got about 6 hours of screen-on-time with over 34 hours of standby.
In case you want even longer battery life, you can enable the different battery saving modes available in the Battery Settings menu.
The phone comes with USB Type-C cable though a fast charger is missing. Even without it, the phone charges in just 1.5 hours.
A3 (2017) leaves us with mixed feelings, specially with the asking price of around Rs. 25,000-30,000 depending on where you purchase it, While the phone could be good for the average user who spends more time on social networking or mobile gaming, power users will find it sorely lacking. Simply put, there are better phones in this price range so we can’t recommend it unless the price drops substantially.
Here’s a breakdown of what we liked and disliked about the Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017).
- Battery life is great
- No noticeable lag
- Great build quality
- Phone is water resistant
- Display is good (although it has minor color shifts)
- Camera quality is decent in bright light, terrible in low light
- Loudspeaker is quiet and low quality
- Price is too high considering what’s on offer
Edit: Updated review in light of recent price jump for the phone