Review by Sunetra Chakravati,6/2/2015 12:18:01 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Under £300 | Beautiful build quality | Expandable storage | 4G connectivity
Runs Android KitKat | small battery | Still has old TouchWiz | Underpowered Processor | Shaky camera output in low-light conditions
Ever since Samsung's Galaxy S5 didn't set consumers aflutter with excitement, the consumer electronics giant was on a soul searching mission. Their phones talked the talk but by popular consent, they didnt look walk the walk- aka the design element didnt get many enthusiasts.
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha, their full-metal baby had done well in the looks department and so when it came to launching a duo of mid-range phones, they went for the clean metal lines of the Galaxy Alpha.
Samsung went down the chamfered metal edges look this time. They call it a unibody design but the back is still plastic. There's Gorilla Glass 4 on the display and something quite well-balanced and symmetrical about the A5. The metal chiselled sides glint as they catch the light and talking of light, the phone weighs a mere 123 grams despite all the metal.
My review version was a pearly white and the glint extends to the rim, around the pill shaped Home button and on the back around the raised camera lens. There are four other colours available with equally fancy names but in lay terms they are: dark blue, white, pale gold and silver.
There is an expandable storage slot on one end- it takes a micro-SD slot upping the memory by 64GB over the slightly puny 16GB that the phone comes with. Next to it, there is a SIM card slot- a nanoSIM, Samsung have quietly made the switch over to the tinier version.
The 5-inch screen is an HD one with a 1280 x 720 resolution. It may not be a 4K screen, but it gets the high definition sticker next to its name. It has a 294 pixel per inch density and Samsung's usual Super AMOLED sharp and bright screen is here for all to enjoy.
As I said earlier, a resolution of 720 isnt the best, but Samsung's tech does the job brilliantly here. Super AMOLED is the screen that they put on their flagships and high-end phones so to see it on an under-£300 device is refreshing.
Contrast levels are quite high and leaving the Adaptive display on will mean better viewing angles and better ratios whether it is in bright sunlight that you are using the phone or indoors.
A 13-MP super snapper does the job for the Galaxy A5. And it comes with enough add-ons to keep even the most dedicated camera phone photographers happy. There is a burst mode that can convert your images into animated gifs, it even gives you an opportunity to download a series of paid and free modes for your phone. During my time reviewing the phone, there were two available: Sports shot and another one called the Sound & shot, boh with 4/5 star reviews.
The night mode does well and even though it is quite a pain holding the phone still and you are able to adjust the usuals on the phone like the ISO, exposure level, grid lines- basically, all you'll ever need to make sure nobody can tell the difference between your phone shots and the ones you take on your DSLR camera.
I know it is a mid-range phone and I shouldn't really crib, but the phone still runs last generation of Android. It is Android 4.4.2 that helps you through with your daily tasks here and to add insult to injury, Samsung's much derided and older version of TouchWiz, its user interface is overlaid onto it.
Samsung are planning on rolling out the new Android update onto this phone soon, but until that happens, we are stuck in the past.
The A5 packs a 2300 mAH battery which, to put it mildly just about a day long. The bit that works in favour of this phone is te fact that it has a lower resolution than flagships and so the 2300 mAH which might seem meagre in comparison with the 3000 mAH of the Honor 6 Plus, but it made through an entire day's worth of internetting for us.
A quad-core processor makes up the brains bit of the phone. With a 1.2GHz processor, the A5 isnt the most powerful mid-range phone in the market, in fact, far from it. We recently reviewed the Honor 6 Plus which packs an octa-core processor for a very similar price range as the A5. And sadly in terms of processing power, the A5 doesnt really match up.
But then I review phones for a living, use a new one every week and so perhaps gram for gram, I would notice things more than the consumer on the street. During routine tasks, the phone will do fine- but would you want to buy something not quite as powerful for the same price?
The Galaxy A5 has taken on the beautiful build quality that we first saw in the Galaxy Alpha and brought it to a very affordable price point. There are a few hits and misses- the camera could have been better, we would have loved to have Lollipop as opposed to Kitkat and a more robust processor would have been fab too.
However, for under-£300 you get a beautiful 4G device with a crisp and sharp screen, which takes amazing selfies and comes with expandable storage. And there is nothing wrong with that.