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Hands on: Samsung Galaxy A90 5G review

Samsung's first affordable 5G handset

What is a hands on review?
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

As one of the first affordable 5G phones out there, there's not much to compare the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G to, but its strong performance and display suggest it's not a far cry from premium status.

For

  • Vibrant display
  • Long battery life

Against

  • Quite a heavy device
  • Samsung's camera app UI is confusing

Samsung has come out in force at IFA 2019 (an annual tech show in Berlin), and one of the products it has shown off is the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G.

The Galaxy A90 5G is the latest of Samsung's 5G smartphones (as the name suggests), and is also the newest entry to the brand's affordable Galaxy A range (also something you can tell from the title).

However 5G isn't exactly an affordable feature yet, so a 5G device in an affordable brand is something of a contradiction, and it seems like the handset has something of an identity crisis.

We got hands on with the device to find out where the Galaxy A90 5G stands.

Samsung Galaxy A90 5G price and release date

The Samsung Galaxy A90 5G became available to buy in Korea immediately following its September 5 reveal, but there's a month between that and its UK release date of October 4.

If you live in Australia or the US, you're going to be waiting longer most likely, as we don't know a release date in those regions just yet.

In terms of price, the 5G handset will cost €749 (which roughly converts to $830, £630, AU$1,215), so it's not exactly an 'affordable' device, but compared to other 5G handset's it's a bargain.

We wouldn't expect that price to convert exactly to other regions though, so you'll probably end up paying a little more or less in the end.

Design and display

 The Samsung Galaxy A90 5G sits in a strange place in Samsung’s line-up. In theory, it’s an “affordable” phone, but that’s only in the context of the 5G market, so it still carries what many would consider a premium price tag. But on the flipside, it’s using materials that you’d expect from a more mid-range device in its construction, which is reflected in its weight.

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy A90 5G then is slim, then, but not flagship thin. Its tactile side mounted power and volume rockers feel sturdy and comfortably placed, but there’s a bit of heft to its thickness. It’s not a heavy phone, weighing in at 206g (which is quite a bit for a smartphone), but you’ll note it feels a tad heavier than its price tag might suggest.

The dimensions of the handset are 164.8 x 76.4 x 8.4mm, so it's a fairly tall handset, although not as wide as some other handsets with similar screen sizes.

Black plastics are used heavily in its construction, with a two-tone rear panel. The top half has a gloss shine to it, but halfway down it splits, where the phone’s rear then shifts to an oil-slick like rainbow-on-black effect. It’s subtle, and unusual, and it reminds us somewhat of the Google Pixel 3.

The display the Galaxy A90 5G is packing is relatively large, at 6.7 inches diagonally, but it’s attractive too. Under the harsh light of the IFA 2019 Samsung showroom, it held its own, with vibrant colors and brightness enough to counteract the glare of the many overhead lights. 

There’s a bit of a dropoff in color vibrancy if held at an angle – but this should only really concern the Peeping Tom trying to sneek a peek over your shoulder on the train.

(Image credit: Future)

The Super AMOLED screen is sharp enough, too, but not the most crisp Samsung display we’ve ever seen. Text and apps are legible, but get close enough and the pixel density becomes apparent. Again, this isn’t of too much concern in average day-to-day usage, but it too shows that it’s the 5G capabilities here that are really ramping up that price tag above all else.

Like most of the Samsung Galaxy A series, it's an Infinity-U display, which means at the top there's a 'tear-drop' notch that houses the front-facing camera.

Camera and battery life

The Samsung Galaxy A90 5G has three rear cameras, consisting of a 48MP main camera, 5MP depth sensor, and 8MP snapper with ultra-wide lens. We've seen ultra-wide cameras on many smartphones before, but in three-camera arrays there's usually a telephoto lens for optical zoom instead of the depth sensor here.

This means Samsung is intending you to use the handset to take pictures of your friends, pets, or meals, rather than shots from far away.

The front-facing camera is 32MP, which is fairly high-res for a camera that you'll use mainly to take selfies.

We'll get into the Galaxy A90 5G's responsiveness in a second, but it's clearly apparent in the phone’s camera too. It launches in an instant, quickly focussing on a subject with a tap of the screen, and enthusiastically jumping into AR modes without concern. 

Camera modes can be toggled with a swipe of the screen, making it easy to select the mode you want to use in a hurry, even with one hand. However, the names of each setting may be a bit confusing in a hurry to someone not used to Samsung phones – it’s not immediately clear what ‘Live Focus’ is before using it, for instance, nor what its concentric blurring circle options do.

(Image credit: Future)

The quality of the images taken was difficult to discern in the demo area – the real test will be seeing them blown up on a big display. But if you’re in the need of taking a quick snap in a hurry, the A90 5G should do the trick.

In terms of battery life, the Galaxy A90 5G is packing a 4,500mAh power pack, which is fairly impressively huge, although since it takes time to understand a phone's actual staying power, we couldn't work out how far this capacity will take you.

The handset supports 25W fast charging, which is rather snappy for any phone, although it remains to be seen if such a charger comes bundled or if you'll have to buy it yourself.

Performance and specs

 Our brief hands-on time with the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G was promising in terms of performance. Flipping through menus was smooth, the screen responding with no hint of stutter or delay, giving it a very responsive feel.

This could be thanks to the 6GB or 8GB the handset is packing, depending on which model you pick up. Samsung hasn't actually told us what processor the device is packing, though it's likely to be Exynos or Snapdragon depending on the region, same as all other Samsung devices.

(Image credit: Future)

Likewise, it had no problems quickly firing up apps, or jumping between multi-tasked apps and tabs. Though there were no games installed on the demo model we tested, Samsung promises that its chipset will optimise on the fly to the requirements of your game – supercharging when you’re in need of a killer headshot, and dialling back the performance to conserve battery when you’re having a casual game of solitaire. 

In terms of accessibility, the Galaxy A90 5G facilitates both on-screen fingerprint sensing and facial recognition, which is what we'd expect at its price tag.

The titular feature here, though, is 5G. This is Samsung's fifth 5G phone after the Galaxy S10 5G, Galaxy Fold (since it's recently been announced that the foldable phone will have a 5G variant), Galaxy Note 10 5G, and Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, and the Korean manufacturer has become one of the most prolific 5G phones makers.

Early verdict

(Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy A90 5G heralds a 'new age' for 5G – one in which you may not have to break the bank for high-speed data connections (well, for the handset, as data costs could still hurt!).

The handset has all the features that make Samsung devices impressive, particularly the display quality and sleek design.

New features here, like the games optimization function, also make it a worthy device for people who want to make the most of its 5G connection.

We'll have to save our final verdict for when we've got the phone into the TechRadar labs for a review, however, as most handsets show their cracks (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) after we've used them a while. Stay tuned to TechRadar in the future for this in-depth review.

Check out TechRadar now, though, to find out all about the new phones, TVs, speakers, wearables, and more, that are getting announced constantly.

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.