Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) review

Is the Galaxy J3 a budget beast?

Samsung Galaxy J3 review

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  • Barrel-scraping, unknown processor
  • Performance is acceptable, but not admirable

One of the Samsung Galaxy J3's more curious budget cuts is the use of an all-but-unknown processor – it's a Spreadtrum SC8830, which I've never encountered before.

This is a rather weak and dated chip compared to those in other phones around this price point. It's a 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, but uses 32-bit Cortex-A7 cores rather than the 64-bit Cortex-A53 cores that are popular in budget phones at the moment.

Its spec is very similar to that of the Snapdragon 400 used in the original Motorola Moto G from back in 2013. You also only get 1.5GB of RAM, where other budget rivals have 2GB at this point.

The Galaxy J3 does not bristle with raw power, and the 1175 (371 per core) Geekbench 3 score is bang-on what you'd get from a Snapdragon 400 phone. There's some barrel-scraping going on here.

Samsung Galaxy J3 review

Phone performance is acceptable, but not admirable. While most of the surface-level parts of the interface feel fast, with animations designed to make the J3 feel nippy, apps do take a little while to load, even rudimentary ones like Gmail. The delays are only short, but add up create the impression of a phone that doesn't feel 'instant'. There's occasional stuttering in some transitions too.

I've been spoilt recently, having come straight from using the Samsung Galaxy S7 to review the Galaxy J3. However, the best budget alternatives feel slightly nippier as well. Some of this slow feel may come down to the use of Android 5.1.1 rather than 6.0, as the newer OS tends to feel faster no matter what level of phone you're using.

Samsung hasn't announced whether the Galaxy J3 will be upgraded to Android 6 Marshmallow or Android 7 Nougat in the future. Considering Samsung usually updates most of its phone pretty quickly, so I've been quite surprised the phone hasn't seen an upgrade yet.

It may mean Samsung is never going to update its phone, or maybe it'll just make the jump straight to Android 7 Nougat later.

Samsung has yet to announce whether the Galaxy J3 will get a software upgrade to Android 6 Marshmallow.

Battery life

  • Will just about last a day on a single charge with moderate use
  • Heavier users will need to top up before bed

The Samsung Galaxy J3's battery sounds about right for the spec. It has a 2,600mAh battery, which you can replace easily, which isn't the case with so many other phones these days.

Samsung Galaxy J3 review

In our regular video test, however, the J3 didn't do as well as either the Moto G or the Oppo F1, losing 21% of its battery when playing a 720p video at max brightness. The caveat here is that OLED screens tend to vary in battery consumption more than LCDs when displaying different content, at different levels of brightness.

In general use, though, I found that the Galaxy J3's stamina was only passable, as on several days I managed to run the phone down by early evening. 

I'd say there's not much hope of squeezing two days' use out of the J3 – and heavy users will have to pack an external battery to ensure they don't end up with a dead phone before bedtime.

The manual brightness setting won't help here either. It's quite easy to leave the J3 much brighter than is strictly necessary indoors, and while the 'outdoors' mode is pretty effective, it doesn't half eat away at the battery level.

Andrew Williams

Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.