Hands on: Samsung Galaxy A5 review

The larger rival to Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

A neat package that finally points to Samsung sorting out the design problems it's had for years.

For

  • Neat design
  • More powerful screen

Against

  • Still feels slightly odd
  • Could be more expensive than better specced models

Samsung's a good brand for trying things out. After the mixed reviews to the Galaxy S5 it needed something big, as the Galaxy Alpha and Note 4 both accelerated the design story while keeping up with the high-power internals.

But that doesn't mean the South Korean giant wasn't looking to keep things fresh in the non-premium market, offering something for those that don't want to have to sell a car / kidney / house every time they fancy a new handset.

The Galaxy A5 joins the A3 in the new range of more affordable smartphones, bringing with it a lower spec list while upping the design message with an all-metal unibody along with a microSD slot.

Samsung Galaxy A5 review

The latter part is important, after the Galaxy Alpha (which only had a 4.7-inch screen) decided to go without the memory expansion but keep the removable battery.

It seems Samsung can only ever have one of these features on board at any one time, with the metal chassis prohibiting the use of a battery pack that can be swapped out.

Samsung Galaxy A5 review

Not that this should matter too much, as the Snapdragon 410 chipset combined with the 720p 5-inch screen won't be too taxing on the 2300mAh battery – although given this could be in the same price category as the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, that's quite a disappointing spec list.

The CPU issue is one that will worry those that know what they're looking on the spec sheet, as it's nowhere near as powerful as the Snapdragon 800 and 801 chipsets that are being offered for a similar price.

Samsung Galaxy A5 review

The 2GB of RAM is more than enough to power most games and heavy web pages, and as such should keep your phone running smoothly for a good few months. However, you might find that some apps don't perform as well as on friends' phones as Samsung has curiously skimped on the power here.

Samsung Galaxy A5 review

The design is half-decent though, with the all metal frame feeling nice in the hand. The rear still doesn't feel a high-class as the iPhone 6 or HTC One M8, but then again I'd rather that was saved for the Galaxy S6 – if you can imagine Samsung fans will finally realise that having a battery pack, rather than a spare battery, is a much better and simpler idea.

Samsung Galaxy A5 review

It's not a bad phone to hold though, and like many phones on the market the advanced screen technology (in this case Samsung's Super AMOLED) helps offset the lower resolution. It was more like a Full HD display on first sight, and looked like a superior level of quality compared to the A3.

Samsung Galaxy A5 review

The camera on the Samsung Galaxy A5 is a pretty high quality affair, and along with the metal chassis is probably the key selling point on the mid-range phone from Samsung.

At 13MP it's certainly powerful enough for most, but again the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is offering a 20.7MP effort in the same sort of frame – complete with more camera modes as well.

Samsung Galaxy A5 review

That said, the Galaxy A5 does have wide selfie mode, which will appease a few of those looking to get a phone that's better for the group shots they want to be in as well.

The camera protrudes slightly from the rear of the phone, sitting alongside the single LED flash and speaker grille, which doesn't really get in the way when holding the phone but could have looked nicer if flush with the chassis.

Samsung Galaxy A5 review

The argument there is that the optics needed to be that large to fit everything in, but a couple of 0.1mm wouldn't have hurt and could have facilitated a larger battery – perhaps even a curved back?

Carphone Warehouse has revealed its contract pricing for the Galaxy A5.

The handset is available in black or white from £26.50 a month with no upfront charge.

A gold version of the handset is set to launch on March 10 and will be available for the same price.

Sadly no retailers have yet revealed a SIM-free price for the handset but contracts are available on both O2 and Vodafone in the UK.

Early verdict

The Samsung Galaxy A5 is a fine phone for the mid range market – albeit a bit underpowered, coming with a CPU that's only marginally better than that found in most Android Wear smartwatches.

The design is definitely a step forward and, along with the 13MP camera, will probably be what tempts customers looking for a new handset when browsing the shelves of the local phone seller.

However, it feels like this phone should be a little cheaper – perhaps it will appear for something a little more palatable when the Samsung Galaxy A5 release date rolls around in a few months – as it's just a metal phone with some basic internals and Samsung's TouchWiz interface.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, but there's nothing here that really sets the heart racing. And it doesn't even have the heart rate monitor of the S range to check it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phones and Tablets Editor

Gareth (Twitter, Google+) has been part of the mobile phone industry from the era of the brick to the tiny device in the pocket... and now watching them grow back up to behemothic proportions once more. He's spent five years dissecting all the top phones in the world as TechRadar's Phones and Tablets Editor, and still can't resist answering the dreaded question - "which new phone should I get?" - with 15 choices.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.