Samsung introduced its A-series smartphones in late 2014. The highlight of the smartphones was their slim profile and metallic edges. They offered a good (not the best in class) combination of features, design and hardware at that time, which enabled them to get decent success in the mid-range price category. Fast forward to 2016 and Samsung is reinventing the same series by adding the much needed changes considering the current market needs.
The new breed of A-series smartphones from Samsung brings noticeable upgrades to design, display, chipset, cameras and also adds features like Fast charging and Samsung Pay. However, in this time span the smartphone market too has evolved quite a bit. Currently, at the same price point, there are plenty of good smartphones that the consumers can lap up such as Moto X Sytle, Lenovo Vibe X3, Nexus 5X, OnePlus 2, Nexus 6 (64GB) that are retailing in the price bracket of Rs 20,000 to 25,000.
So does the Galaxy A5 (2016) edition be able to give good competition to these? We shall try and answer this below.
Display: 5.2-inch full HD 1920x1080p display, 424ppi
OS: Android Lollipop 5.1 Lollipop
CPU: 1.6GHz octa-core SoC, 2GB
Storage: 16GB inbuilt storage, expandable upto 128GB via microSD
Cameras: 13MP (rear with LED flash), 5 MP (front)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 3G/4G/2G, GPS, Bluetooth, microUSB charging port, USB OTG
Dimensions: 144.80 x 71.00 x 7.30 mm
Weight: 155 grams
Price: Rs 29,400 (Currently retailing for a little less on select e-commerce sites)
During the launch presentation, Samsung had gone all gaga over how the Galaxy A5 is all about metal and glass and we can now say that it is indeed true! The smartphone has a metal frame and 2.5D Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and the rear, which gives it a solid construction and also adds a noticeable weight to it. It shares resemblance to the Galaxy S6, but is more rectangular around the corners, thicker and heavier than it.
The front has the 5.2-inch display, a home bottom, which integrates the fingerprint sensor and two touch capacitive on either sides of it. The phone houses the microUSB 2.0 port, a loudspeaker and a mic at the bottom edge. The top has the microSD card slot and another mic, which works in sync with the bottom mic for noise cancellation and stereo sound recording. The power button on the right and the volume rockers on the left are ergonomically placed, are made of metal and offers tactile response.
Overall, we really like the look and feel of the Galaxy A5 (2016). We believe that it will please the consumers who are not fond of big phablets and are looking for a stylish Android smartphone with good built and fit for one-hand operation.
Going by the specifications on papers, this is not the most powerful smartphone in its respective price category. Galaxy A5 is powered by a 1.6 GHz octa-core Exynos 7580 CPU in support with 2GB of RAM. Yes you read it right, we have become so use to of seeing a 3GB of RAM in smartphone's spec lists priced under Rs 15,000 (and some even under Rs 10,000), that a smartphone of upper mid-range price bracket having a 2GB of RAM feels a disappointment. Besides, the competitors of the A5 such as Vibe X3, OnePlus 2, Honor 7 etc. come with 3GB of RAM and comparatively faster CPUs. It is worth noting that, Nexus 5X has a 2GB of RAM but packs in a faster CPU.
However, the real-life performance is not all about the numbers and depends a lot on syncronisation between the processor, RAM and the software of the device. We will talk about it when we will touch upon the performance aspect of the smartphone.
In terms of storage, Samsung is offering a 16GB of internal storage (of which 10.7GB is available for actual usage) with Galaxy A5 and the option of a microSD card, which allows you to expand the storage to 128GB. Talking about the connectivity, the smartphone supports dual-SIM connectivity, has NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, USB 2.0 and USB OTG. The smartphone is 4G compatible.
When it comes to display, Samsung's AMOLED panels does a great job in day-to-day performance. The Galaxy A5 comes packed with a 5.2-inch Super AMOLED panel 1080p display, which offers a pixel density of 424ppi, resulting in vibrant and deep colours with rich contrast. The pictures, videos, text, apps, etc. look quite crisp and because of the AMOLED technology. Some might find it too saturated but you can adjust the colours in the display settings according to your preference.
The display is bright enough to make the content visible in direct sunlight (479 nits) and goes dim to the levels of 2.1nits to make viewing comfortable when lights are off.
Besides, the 5.2-inch screen is protected by a 2.5D Gorilla Glass 4.
As we mentioned in the hardware part of the review, Galaxy A5 is not the toughest kid in its price bracket due to slower chipset and lesser RAM, but that does seem to have a huge impact in real-life usage of the smartphone. We did not encounter any major issues while multitasking or playing games, editing pictures in Picsart, Snapseed, etc. or using Chrome with multiple tabs. The smartphone handled all such tasks with an ease. However, while using camera to shoot videos and playing games or while phone is kept on charging, the rear of the smartphone heats up in a short time. Something we have observed in previous Samsung smartphones with metallic body.
Another thing we would like to mention here is that the A5 does not stack up against the Lenovo Vibe X3 if you are looking for a device with amazing multimedia features. The display is crisp but smaller than the Vibe X3 and the mono speaker unit of the A5 does not stand a chance against the large dual speakers of the Vibe X3 that are equipped with Dolby ATMOS surround audio. If you love to watch movies and play graphical intensive games on your smartphone, then A5 is not the best choice. Moreover, there's a considerable price difference between the two.
Talking about the software performance, we are quite disappointed with the Galaxy A5. The smartphone runs on Android 5.1 Lollipop with a layer of Samsung's TouchWiz over it. Everything was working smoothly until we fiddled around with the themes (which mind you were downloaded via Samsung's very own theme store). The smartphone started showing lags and the worst part was the dialer inconsistency, which used to freeze every time during an incoming call. We had to uninstall all the themes and restart the smartphone to make it work smoothly again! We also faced some issues with camera UI that become unresponsive a number of times and then the fingerprint sensor, which takes its own sweet time to register the input and unlock the handset. There were instances when A5 refused to get unlocked with the fingerprint sensor and we had to input the backup password to use the smartphone. The rivals such as Nexus 5X, Vibe X3 and others are much better in terms of software performance than the A5.
Besides, Samsung has added the split-screen multitasking feature and has a good collection of and first-party Samsung apps.
The camera on the Galaxy A5 reminds us of the last year's flagship Galaxy S6. The 13MP rear sensor has a wide f/1.9 aperture (28mm field of view, not as wide as S6) and also features Optical Image Stablisation (OIS). The front camera packs a 5MP sensor with a f/1.9 aperture. There's a Pro-mode, which is not as extensive as the camera on the Galaxy S6 and offers White balance, ISO and Exposure compensation, just like most of the smartphones have these days.
Pressing twice the home key will launch the camera, which according to us does a great job clicking images in ample light. These images come out to be detailed, rich and look vivid on the Super AMOLED panel. The HDR mode is quite effective, can give shots with rich detail and good contrasts though noise is also evident. We faced some issues with the sensor's focusing abilities while taking macro shots, however once it locks the subject, the results are amazing. Overall, the camera on Galaxy A5 is a decent performer.
Here are some sample shots
The phone has a 2,900mAh battery, which gave us enough juice to last an entire day. During this time, we played games for about half an hour, took more than 60 shots, posted pictures on Instagram (after they had been edited and touched up in some of the popular image editing apps), browsed web on and off and yes attended almost a dozen phone calls (which ranged from a couple of minutes to half an hour). Besides, the phone comes with a Fast charger in the package, which can be handy to get the phone up and about in a short time!
Samsung Galaxy A5 comes with a solid metal-glass design, a vibrant full HD display and camera sensors that can give some amazing shots. Besides, the battery performance is also decent and the handset takes care of all of your storage and connectivity needs.
Samsung still hasn't been able to crack the code with its TouchWiz, which continues to have its share of glitches and the fingerprint sensor is inconsistent.
Galaxy A5 (2016) looks and feel premium in hands. The smartphone effectively address the consumer's needs of a good camera, battery performance, display and premium design. It's also future proof with a fingerprint sensor and the integrated Samsung Pay technology. The area where it lacks is the audio output and software performance. The latter can be addressed with updates by the Korean smartphone maker and we hope it will do that in due course of time.
The Galaxy A5 is worth considering if you are looking for a upper mid-ranger with a premium design and good overall performance.