Review | Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) smartphone

By Charlemagne Losaria

The Galaxy A5, Samsung’s latest mid-range smartphone, takes it cue from the immensely popular Samsung S7. Aside from the looks department, Samsung is bringing in a lot of features from their flagship S series to the mid-range A series. The Samsung A5 was launched with the larger A7 earlier this year.

After spending a few weeks with the A5, here is our review.

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Design and Build

As mentioned, the A5 2017’s design takes its cue from the S7 flat version, with the glass-and-metal design approach. The rounded corners of the A5 are also very S7-esque.

The A5 sports a 5.2-inch Super Amoled display. Samsung did not mention the protection used on the A5 so we will just assume it’s a highly scratch-resistant glass panel.

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The A5 has a physical home button which doubles as a fingerprint scanner sandwiched between by the recent and back key, both of which are backlit.

Like the S7, you do not have to press the home button to unlock the device. You simply place your finger on it to unlock the device.

The fingerprint scanner is fast when it works. Like the J7 Prime, the fingerprint scanner is a little bit unpredictable compared to, say the Huawei Mate 9, Asus Zenfone 3, and Moto G4 Plus, which all unlocks 99 percent of the time. For the A5, sometimes I must resort to the swipe to unlock method.

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The back part is made of thin glass, dubbed as rear 3D glass. And although there is no mention of protection used, it is highly resistant to scratch from daily wear and tear. However, it is extremely prone to fingerprint smudges.

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Like the J7 Prime, Samsung opted to place the small and not-so-loud speaker north of the power button, found on the right edge of the phone. The top edge houses the dedicated micro-SD and SIM slot.

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On the left edge, you can find the tactile volume buttons and just south of it is another SIM slot.

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The bottom edge features the 3.5mm headset port, a mic, and a modern USB Type C port which the S7 doesn’t even have.

Like the S7, the A5 is resistant to dust and water and is certified as an IP68 device. That means the A5 can be immersed in 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.

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The A5 comes in Black Sky, Gold Sand, and Blue Mist, though in some countries, another Peach Cloud will be released.

If I were to choose among the colors, I would go with the black variant of the A5. It simply looks good even with the display off. The display blends well with the super thin side bezels and top and bottom bezels. One can also feel the “premium-ness” of the display used as “oleophobic” coating was used to minimize fingerprint smudges.

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Display

As always, Samsung proved to me it’s still the best in the business when it comes to display. The A5 has a 5.1-inch Full-HD Super Amoled Display with a resolution of 1920×1080 and 425ppi.

The display is vibrant and speaks premium. Once you start using Super Amoled devices, phones utilizing other LCD technology simply pale in comparison. The display is bright for both indoor and outdoor use. The display is definitely a strong suit of the A5.

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The A5 lacks LED notifications light but don’t fret as the A5 supports the Always-on Display feature, first seen on the S7. This feature displays the clock, calendar, and notifications in white on a black background which are basically pixels turned off. Only Amoled screens can use this feature without having major impact on battery life.

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Performance

The A5, like the bigger A7, is powered by its homegrown 8-core processor Exynos 7880 clocked at 1.9 GHz, paired with an ample 3GB of RAM. The A5 has a 32GB of on-board storage but can support 256GB microSD cards.

As a power user, the A5 was able keep up with my daily activities and I experienced no lags navigating through my most used apps.

For the gaming department, the A5 could run the Asphalt 8 with little lags which can be negated by adjusting the settings.

The A5 ships with heavily skinned GraceUX UI running on top of Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 — surprising for a 2017 device, but a Nougat update has been rolled out for the S7 and we expect the same for the A5.

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Camera

The A5 has two dual 16MP cameras, one on the front and one on the back. Looks like Samsung isn’t going to dip its finger on dual-rear cameras just yet.

The 16MP front camera has an f/1.9 aperture and supports on-screen flash ideal for selfies on low-light environment. It supports a couple of filters and beauty mode.

One thing I noticed with the front snapper is that only the subject is in focus with the rest blurred. In traditional photography, it simply means it has a shallow depth of field. However good it may sound, we could have appreciated it more if it was in the rear snapper.

Taking group selfies proved to be somewhat disappointing as only one of the subject will be sharp, the rest are blurred. If this is a feature or a bug, I have no idea.

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Flipping it over, one can see the 16MP, f/1.9 rear camera which is flushed to the body, somewhat different from that of the S7 and S7 Edge, which have protruding cameras.

The rear camera support Phase Detect Auto Focus or PDAF and captures great photos with natural looking colors especially on well-lit environments. However, A5 struggles to focus a bit on low-light conditions, taking a little more time to focus on subjects.

The camera app is less cluttered and simple to use. It has a couple of useful modes like Food mode, Night mode, and Professional Mode. However, disappointing is the lack of shutter speed controls on the Professional Mode.

For those who are into long exposure night photography like myself, you won’t be able to that with the A5 or even A7. The A5 also lacks optical image stabilization (OIS) which is a shame for the price tag you’re paying. This can result to blurry photos or shaky videos. Speaking of which, the A5 only supports 1920x1080p video recording at 30fps.

Below are sample shots from the A5 2017.

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Battery life

The A5 packs a 3000 mAh non-removable battery and supports quick charging with the supplied charger. The Exynos 7880 is being compared to the Snapdragon 625 when it comes to power efficiency.

The battery life on the A5 is impressive, lasting me one and half day on heavy use of social media app, a couple of YouTube videos, and some SMS messaging. Average screen on time is between 5 to 6 hours for me. It is also good to note that the phone doesn’t generate much heat on prolonged usage.

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The verdict

The A5 2017 lets you partially have the S7 experience but at a lesser price tag.

The good

• Excellent display
• Water- and dust-resistant
• Dual SIM with dedicated microSD slot
• Premium feel with a metal chassis sandwiched by glass panels
• Impressive battery life

The bad

• Erratic fingerprint scanner
• Front camera has shallow depth of field
• Rear camera struggles to focus on low-light conditions
• Loudspeaker not so loud
• No Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
• No 4K video recording

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