Samsung Galaxy A5 review

The sleek appeal of a premium flagship at mid-range prices

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£308
  • Very attractive; Excellent build quality; Gorgeous screen
  • Performance lags slightly behind rivals; Speaker is easy to accidentally muffle

Samsung's forthcoming Galaxy S8 may be grabbing all the headlines but, behind the scenes, the tech giant has been quietly producing some of the most attractive mid-range devices on the market.

The latest in the company's Galaxy A series - the Samsung Galaxy A5 - borrows a surprising amount from Samsung's flagship line. But is it enough to defeat increasingly competent rivals like the OnePlus 3T?

Design and appearance

The Galaxy A5 is strikingly similar in appearance to the S7. It's got the same curved-glass rear shell, banded by an aluminium frame, meaning the A5 suffers no noticeable drop in design or build quality compared to its more expensive stablemate.

In fact, the few design differences we did notice are largely positive: the camera is now flush with the back of the device, and the option of getting one in a gold hue is a nice added touch. In fact, we think it's preferable to most of the default colour options the S7 is available in.

The speaker has moved from the bottom of the device to the right-hand side, which means it's much easier to accidentally cover it with your thumb. This is a minor gripe, however and, overall, the A5 is one of the nicest-looking mid-range handsets we've ever seen.

Display

As expected, the A5's display is excellent. The 5.2in superAMOLED panel is predictably vibrant, with an exceptional sRGB coverage of 100% and virtually flawless colour accuracy. A max brightness of 355cd/m2 is also respectable, although far from chart-topping.

It's only got a 1080p resolution, rather than the more impressive QHD seen on more expensive rivals, but it's hardly a surprise at this price point - in fact, anything more than 1080p would likely have proved an unwelcome drain on the battery.

Samsung has a track record of putting rather excellent displays in its devices and the A5 is no exception. It's not quite as blisteringly bright and high-def as the screens on the flagship-class products, but it's perfectly sufficient for the price range, and we've got absolutely no complaints with it.

Specs and performance

Specs and performance are one of the few areas in which the A5 stumbles slightly. It's powered by one of Samsung's own-brand octa-core Exynos 7880 chips clocked at 1.9GHz and 3GB of RAM. This isn't a hugely meaty combination, and performance is something of a mixed bag as a result.

The A5's single-core performance wasn't great, coming in behind the (substantially cheaper) Huawei P9 Lite. Multi-core performance, on the other hand, was far more capable, with the A5 coming in ahead of the iPhone 6 Plus and just behind the Google Pixel.

It's a fair bit behind the OnePlus 3T on paper, but we're inclined to forgive this, bearing in mind that the OnePlus 3T is around 60 more expensive and has way more impressive internal components.

In practice, the A5 is actually very nippy. We didn't experience a single noticeable problem with input lag, long load times or unexpected crashes, and performance is every bit as nippy as we'd expect from a phone in this category. It served us well as a main device, despite putting a reasonable amount of strain on it.

Battery and charging

Battery life is another one of the A5's strong suits. The 3,000mAh battery yielded an excellent result in our tests, finally giving up the ghost after 22hrs 5mins. This is an exceptional result, and while it isn't quite as long-lasting as our current chart-topper, the Lenovo P2, we have no doubts that this phone can easily see you through a full day - possibly even two - with shrewd power management.

Charging is provided via USB Type-C, as it is with virtually all new Samsung devices, and the A5's fast charging deserves special mention here. It's absolutely blazing, and feels noticeably faster than other devices with similar technology, including the Galaxy S7.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy A5 is an excellent mid-range phone, and though it will doubtless be overshadowed by the Galaxy S8, it really doesn't deserve to be. For less than 400, it offers an experience that's almost comparable to that of flagship devices.

While it can't quite match up to the OnePlus 3T for performance or the Lenovo P2 for battery life, the A5 feels like a nicer device overall. Samsung's trademark engineering and design pedigree has been deployed with full force and the result is a device that feels absolutely sublime to use.

Verdict

If you want all the style and panache of the latest Samsung flagship without the premium price, the Galaxy A5 delivers it in spades. What's more, the screen, battery and performance are all excellent.

CPUOcta-core 1.9GHz Exynos 7880 
RAM3GB
Display5.2in 1,920 x 1,080 Super AMOLED
Storage32GB
Weight157g
Camera16 megapixel
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