Samsung Galaxy J5 review

This budget Galaxy is low in price but high in quality

IT Pro Value
Price
£125
  • Excellent Super AMOLED display; Lengthy battery life; Cheap
  • Camera has disappointing issues with exposure; Average performance

Although the Samsung Galaxy J5 is neither the most advanced nor the newest phone in Samsung's collection of Android smartphones, it is one of the highest ranking budget smartphones around, more than worthy of a place beside the Huawei P Smart, the Lenovo P2, the Moto G4 and Vodafone's range of low-cost smartphones.

It isn't the most immediate device to spring to mind when you think of budget smartphones, though, and that's because Samsung hasn't really been blowing the budget trumpet, preferring to shout about and push its pricey flagships.

However, look deeper into its feature set and it's hard to argue that this isn't a fantastic smartphone. Priced at just a touch above 100, you'll be hard-pushed to find a device with the same specification and performance in that bracket - even the Huawei P Smart and Lenovo P2 cost double that.

So what makes the Samsung Galaxy J5 deserve consideration if you're looking to refresh your Android device without breaking the bank? 

Samsung Galaxy J5 review: Appearance and casing

The majority of budget devices swap out premium metals for cheap looking - and feeling - plastic. But not the Samsung Galaxy J5. The Galaxy J5 takes many elements from the flagship lineup of Samsung's devices, such as a pill-shaped home button and curved edges. Its sturdy finish doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart if you drop it either - definitely a break away from other budget devices.

This gives it a rather luxurious style compared with some of the cheaper and aesthetically dull designs of rival devices in the budget bracket. Naturally there is some compromise, most notably in the use of plastic rather than metal, but this does mean the back plate is removable, granting access to a replaceable battery and micro SD slot. 

It also lacks waterproofing, which has become somewhat of an industry standard in high-end devices. Yet this is a budget device after all, and the J5 still has a very attractive design with an equally impressive build quality.

Samsung Galaxy J5 review: Display

When you consider the Samsung J5 is such a low-cost device, it's pleasing to see such a high-end display packed into a handset. Instead of using a run-of-the-mill LCD panel, Samsung as opted to up the ante with a 5-inch Super AMOLED screen.

In fact, the same panel is used for the much more premium Samsung Galaxy S7 and although the tech isn't as sophisticated as the display on the newer Samsung flagships, just the fact it's AMOLED gets the thumbs up from us.

Brightness is also not as impressive as that found on the Samsung Galaxy S7, so you may struggle to see a lot of detail on the screen on sunny days, but its contrast ratios and vibrancy make up for this in normal conditions.

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Samsung has cut back on the Samsung J5's screen resolution too. So although it presents an almost excellent all-round performance, it's not as crisp as some of Samsung's lineup, but at 1280x720 pixels, it's still not to be sniffed at.

Samsung Galaxy J5 review: Performance and battery life

Packed inside the Samsung J5, you'll find a quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor with 1.5GB of RAM. This is where you start to realise that the J5 really is a low-end device. Although performance wasn't awful and was OK for getting the majority of everyday tasks done, anything particularly demanding was quite a struggle. We certainly wouldn't recommend playing any high-intensity games.

That being said, it can run some lower-end games, especially the standard timewaster ones. Web pages load fast enough to get by, but don't expect anything to be ground-breaking on this device.

The Samsung J5 did have a hard time loading more media-rich pages and PDFs with images. The device found scrolling in these pages challenging as there was a noticeable lag between swiping down and content loading. If you;re a designer, or work with pictures and heavy content, you're probably want to jump to another device before your contract is up.

However, one positive aspect of the device that we should mention is its battery life. It has a 2,600mAh capacity battery compared to the bigger 3,000mAh of its competitors, the low resolution screen and efficient processor means the Samsung J5 can survive for 18 hours. This is way above similar-specced devices and a definite advantage.

Samsung Galaxy J5 review: Camera

Unfortunately, the J5's camera is the main area in which it falls over. Although it has a 13 megapixel sensor and an f/1.9 aperture - which should in theory be perfectly adequate - the results were often decidedly mixed.

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The problem stems from the J5's sensor. If a scene has too much light then it will bleed over and overexpose the photo. But if it's too dark, then most of the detail will be obscured.

Better image processing and a good HDR mode would likely go a long way in fixing this problem, but for now taking photos on the J5 is basically a gamble. When you do get the right conditions, however, pictures can be packed with crisp detail and vibrant colours.

Samsung Galaxy J5 review: Verdict

The Moto G series has been the gold standard in budget smartphones, but the Samsung Galaxy J5 is a great alternative thanks to its superlative screen and long lasting battery. It's an excellent choice for anyone who's looking for quality on a budget.

Having said all that, it's worth waiting for the new 2016 Moto G4 (the fourth generation Moto G) which is due any day now. Unless you need a cheap phone right away, it's worth waiting to see if the now Lenovo-owned Motorola can continue its success streak.

This review was updated on 16/02/2016.

ProcessorQuad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410
Screen size5in
Screen resolution1,280x720
Rear camera13 megapixels
Storage (free)8GB (4.6GB)
Wireless data3G, 4G
Size142x72x7.9mm
Weight146g
Operating systemAndroid 5.1.1
WarrantyOne year RTB
Detailswww.samsung.com/uk
Part codeSM-J500FN
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