Samsung’s A series comes with flagship-like looks and mid-range specs, making them just the right fir for people who crave premium but lack the cash to go for the top tier smartphones.
Samsung has refreshed the A Series this year, bringing some sizable improvements without tinkering with its formula much. The latest Galaxy A5 (2017) builds on its predecessor, A5 (2016). It comes with the same solid build quality and higher end features we’ve come to expect from the A series.
The Galaxy A5 (2017) bears a striking resemblance to the flagship S series. Let’s a take a deeper look at what the Galaxy A5 (2017) offers and whether it has what it takes to shine among competitors in its price range.
Build Quality & Display
Similar to what we have witnessed with Samsung’s previous series, the A-series also has a very consistent design. The Galaxy A5 (2017) fares extremely well in terms of build quality.
Like the Galaxy A5 (2016) from last year, the weight of the A5 model adds to its premium feel. It might be considered as heavy by some but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Galaxy A5 (2017) has a metal frame and a shiny plastic back which mimics the dual-glass look on the Galaxy S7.
As depicted in the pictures above, the build quality is one of the main areas where Samsung A5 (2017) shines. The aluminium frame, dual-glass sandwich, shape and proportions of the device compliment each other and are made of top-shelf material.
It’s a joy to hold in the hand because of its smooth curves. Some people may find the A-series phones to be slippery but this aspect is primarily down to every individual’s preferences and grip.
Samsung A5 (2017) sports a 5.2 inch 1080p Super AMOLED display. The resolution is fine for a screen this size, and you won’t notice any pixels unless you are eyeballing the screen or using it for VR purposes. As is usual with AMOLED screens, you get deep blacks. The Galaxy A5 (2017) has an ultra-bright display and it is legible in bright sunlight as well.
The A5 (2017) does bring something unique, unlike any previous non-flagship phone, and it’s the IP68 certification for dust and water resistance.
One thing I would like to add is that the device has minor issues with its screen. There is a slight blueish hue when you view the screen from the side. The screen brightness also tends to drop dramatically if you’re looking at it from the side.
Hardware and Performance
The A5 (2017) is powered by an octa-core 1.9 GHz Cortex-A53 Exynos 7880 chipset which comes with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The Mali T80MP3 GPU takes charge of the graphics load.
In terms of performance of the chipset, the A5’s performance nearly matches those of Snapdragon 625 powered phones. There was no lag, even when high quality games were tested. However the multitasking is decent at best. It’s better than A3 (2017) but it can’t compete with, say, a Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 with the same amount of RAM. We believe that Samsung’s UI optimization is to blame for it.
You can multitask about 5 heavy apps at once without resetting the last app.
For all the tech savvy people, here are the benchmark results for the Samsung A5 (2017)
A fingerprint sensor is embedded within the home button. The sensor works fine but isn’t as consistent as the sensors on flagship phones and might miss out 2 out 10 times. When it does work, it unlocks the phone and goes to the home screen in about 0.5 seconds from sleep.
A-series has always been criticized for one thing – its lack of a notification LED. The new 2017 model doesn’t include it either.
Apart from that, the device contains all other usual stuff in the top bezel; earpiece, proximity/ambient light sensor and of course, a selfie camera.
The loudspeaker is placed above the power button on the right side. It is nicely positioned and can’t be easily blocked with the hands or when the phone is placed on a flat surface. The volume is a little on the lower side and the sound output is of pretty low quality. You will definitely need to keep the vibration on to avoid missing incoming calls.
Operating System & User Interface
The A-series debuts the Always On Display (AOD) feature. It comes with three main views: Clock, Calendar and Image. When the ambient light is low, the AOD dims, and it shuts off completely when you pocket the device. Samsung has brought this feature with customizations and you can put it on a schedule as well.
Like most phones nowadays, there is a Briefing panel on the left of the homescreen – which can be disabled. Settings are easier to find (when compared to stock Android) as Samsung has made some nice improvements in its UI. Some more advanced settings and options have been hidden deeper though.
The notification panel is very familiar, with a slight change; quick toggle line is present and upon further pulling it down reveals all toggles and more.
Samsung has added a game launcher which can boost game performance by reducing the resolution it runs on. This has an added benefit as it can also help with the battery consumption.
There’s an S Bike Mode as well. As the name suggests, it’s for bikers. It turns on safety and easy navigation features. There’s a bunch of useful utilities which can keep you safe while on a bike.
The Galaxy A5 (2017) comes with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and Samsung plans to upgrade it to Nougat 7.0 in the coming months. With Android O coming out soon, we would have loved to see the A5 (2017) come with Android 7.0 out of the box.
Since the device is slightly bigger than its predecessor, Samsung has brought one-handed operation mode in A5 (2017). It is part of the newly introduced Advanced features menu by Samsung, which include other actions such as camera launch by home button double press and screenshot capture with a palm swipe.
Moreover, there’s an in-built Secure folder feature. It enables users to store their files in a secure place. It is worth mentioning the content added in the secure folder, be it photo or a video, won’t appear in the media folder. To access them, you will have to move them from the secure folder first.
The Galaxy A5 (2017) comes with a 16MP rear camera with f/1.9 aperture accompanied by an LED flash. Specifications tend to suggest that the camera quality should be quite good while low light photography shouldn’t be that bad.
The camera didn’t meet our expectations unfortunately. Daylight photography and bright light shots are great. But low light photography is a big let down with a lot of noise, and a lack of both brightness and detail. The inbuilt night mode brings more light but it’s at the expense of color saturation and extra noise.
Take a look at the samples below:
Speaking about the modes: there is no Auto HDR, which means you have to manually turn it on and off. Users can get control of exposure compensation, ISO and white balance in the Pro Mode. However, you cannot get access to manual focus and shutter speed.
It offers some nice beautification features like skin tone adjustment, face slimming, blemish removal and more. The front camera is great and probably as good as you will ever need from a smartphone.
A5 (2017) captures video up to 1080p/30fps, which is acceptable but still not great. Videos are encoded with a 17Mbps bitrate whereas the audio has 256kbps stereo.
With a nice 3,000mAh battery, we expected a lot from the Galaxy A5 (2017) since the A3 (2017) did an amazing job despite a small battery. The difference is that the Galaxy A5 (2017) is more power intensive due to the Exynos 7880, 3GB RAM and a 5.2-inch 1080p screen.
The Galaxy A5 (2017) did great in our real life benchmark tests and managed to run for 9 hours and 11 minutes. Benchmarking included web browsing, video playback, graphics editing, gaming and video editing. The brightness was set at 50% during the battery test. In normal day-to-day usage, we got about 8 hours of screen-on-time with nearly two days of use.
To achieve better battery life, you can enable different battery saving modes which make a major difference is how long the phone lasts. The A5 (2017) comes with a USB Type-C cable and supports fast charging. It went from almost drained to 80% charge in less than an hour.
The A5 (2017) poses a conundrum. On one hand, it has great battery life, a great camera for well lit scenes and selfies and great build quality. On the other hand is the price. It starts at Rs. 34,249 with no warranty and Rs. 44,999 with official Samsung warranty.
At roughly 45k, you can buy better phones. Even at 35k, we are faced with a question: Is the price premium you pay worth what you get? For everyday casual users who want to go with the dependable Samsung brand name, the A5 is worth it and you should definitely consider it.
For power users, it’s going to be a cost benefit analysis. Are you okay with poor low light performance and less power if it gets you water & dust resistance and premium build quality?
Here’s a list of pros and cons to make that decision easier.
- Battery life is superb
- Premium build quality
- Phone is water resistant
- Front camera is excellent
- High quality display
- Poor low light performance
- Loudspeaker volume is slightly low
- Expensive compared to competition
- Huge price difference between warranty and non-warranty versions
Galaxy A5 (2017) Specifications:
- Processor: Exynos 7880, Octa-core 1.9 GHz Cortex-A53
- Operating System: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
- Dimensions: 146.1 x 71.4 x 7.9 mm
- Weight: 157g
- Connectivity: 2G, 3G, 4G LTE – Dual SIM
- Size: 5.2-inch display
- Resolution: 1080 x 1920 (424ppi), Super AMOLED
- RAM: 3 GB
- Internal Storage: 32GB
- MicroSD slot: Yes, expandable by up to 256GB
- Primary: 16MP camera, f/1.9, 27mm, LED flash, 1080p @30fps
- Secondary: 16MP, f/1.9, 1080p
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot, NFC
- Sensors: Fingerprint scanner, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
- Battery: 3,000 mAh
- Price: Rs. 34,499 (no warranty), Rs. 44,999 (official warranty)