Samsung kicked off 2017 by presenting the Galaxy A5 2017 and Galaxy A3 2017 at the CES in Las Vegas, both devices with design traits clearly borrowed from the Galaxy S7. In this first hands-on review of the Galaxy A5 2017, we’ll give you a run-down of Samsung's new mid-range gem with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow running on board.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) release date and price
Unveiled in early January, it will be available starting February 3 in four different colors: black sky, gold sand, peach cloud, blue mist. So far, there is no word about US availability, but the phone will be made available in the UK for £399, which would be about $500.
While unboxing the phone, we discovered the included USB Type-C, the 5V / A2 charger and the pin for opening the SIM and MicroSD card trays.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) design and build quality
The Galaxy A5 2017 is a head turner among mid-range devices thanks to its elegant design. In the past years, the design of mid-range phones has progressed and become more elegant and better assembled, giving those who buy them hardly a reason to eye high-end variants. One of these well-built smartphones is of course the Galaxy A5 2017 thanks to its evident similarity with the Galaxy S7.
Samsung’s smartphone comes with a metallic unibody coated with 3D glass. The front can be distinguished from the Galaxy S7 in that the upper and lower bezels are broader. On the front, the Samsung logo is up top alongside the front camera lens, proximity sensor and speaker for calls. On the top of the display, you’ll find the home button with integrated fingerprint reader, and the back and recent apps capacitative buttons.
An elegant design that stands out from other mid-range devices
The glossy body has curved edges which are encased in a metal frame. On the back: here you’ve got the Samsung logo, the LED flash and the barely protruding camera lens. Thanks to its sleek design, the phone doesn’t wobble when put on a flat surface.
A new feature is the location of the speaker next to the power button on the the right side of the display, which is featured on the bottom of the Galaxy S7 and last year’s Galaxy A5. The decision to move the speaker was likely motivated by the fact the bottom-located speakers are often covered up by the hand when gaming.
The speaker is now on the right side
The bottom edge lacks the classic grill for the speaker, but keeps the headphone jack on the right next to the USB Type-C port.
The volume buttons are on the left side of the device with the nano SIM, while the MicroSD card slot can be found along the top edge. It is in this detail that the A5 differs from the A3 2017: the latter only has one slot at the top that accommodates both card types together.
The black metal frame encasing the body is interrupted by the gray antenna bands. The lines on the Galaxy A5 2017 are a lot softer than the previous model, and with dimensions of 146.1 x 71.4 x 7.9 mm, it is larger than the Galaxy S7, but has the same thickness. It is also 7 grams lighter than the high-end model, weighing in at 159 grams. The curved edges and the reflection off the device mask its true size, seeing as from a first glance you’d never think it was bigger than the Galaxy S7 or previous model.
The curved edges and the reflection off the device mask its true size, seeing as from a first glance you’d never think it was bigger than the Galaxy S7 or previous model.
Holding the Galaxy A5 is comfortable, it’s easy to handle with one hand, and it isn't slippery. A negative but unavoidable aspect with the choice of materials is that it attracts fingerprints, as in the case with many phones. I find the black model used in the review to be aesthetically pleasing, but this is a subjective matter. The phone is elegant and subtle. Those who open the box will not be disappointed by what they find inside.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) display
The Galaxy A5 2017 has a 5.2-inch Super AMOLED screen with a Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) resulting in 412 ppi. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 4. The technology, measurements and resolution are therefore identical to those of preceeding generation. The colors, at first glance, are brilliant and the same can be said of all viewing angles. Overall, my first impression is positive regarding the display, but with the Super AMOLED Samsung playing on home turf!
The Galaxy A5 2017 has the Always-on feature, which is not common among mid-range phones.
The Galaxy A5 2017 has the Always-on feature, which is not common among mid-range phones. This was a feature introduced with the Galaxy S7 that allows you to keep tabs on the time, date and battery status even when the screen is off, a feature not to take for granted in the likes of a mid-range phone.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) special features
Samsung packed a solid punch behind the Galaxy A series this year by adding IP68 certification, a feature that is also not common on mid-range phones. This certification protects the phone from dust and water, making the device better suited to use when doing outdoor activities (within reason). The Galaxy A5 2017 can be immersed to a depth of 1.5 meters for no longer than 30 minutes.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) software
This is one of the features that may irk potential owners: it comes stocked with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and not the latest iteration of Android, Android 7.0 Nougat. The latter was released in August, has yet to reach the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge and is expected to be available for the Galaxy A5 2017 in the coming months.
The A5 is coming with Android Marshmallow
TouchWiz is running on board, as is the norm for Samsung Galaxy phones. The interface has been cleaned up over the years and now has a modern look. In the final review, we’ll be able to explore and report on the interface a little more in depth.
Among the preinstalled apps, you will find Google apps and services, Samsung apps (S Health and S Voice) and six Microsoft apps.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) performance
Under the hood of the Galaxy A5, you’ll find an octacore Exynos 7880 that ticks at 1.9 GHz and 3GB of RAM. The graphics are powered by a Mali T830 MP3 chip. The phone comes with 32 GB of internal storage that you can expand up to 256 GB with an SD card. According the figures on the tech specs table, the Galaxy A5 2017 should be able to provide an adequate performance.
While testing the device for my initial hands-on review, I was able to see that the smartphone functions fluidly, but that is what is to be expected from a new device. In our hands on review, which we will soon complete, we’ll be able to report more extensively on the performance and benchmark results.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) audio
Like previously mentioned in the review, Samsung decided to move the speaker from the bottom to the left side, meaning the speaker will no longer be covered when you use the device in landscape mode, for instance when playing a game or watching a video. Whether this really improves user experience will be further tested and reported on in our final review.
Samsung also includes earbuds in the box, which we will later test. The smartphone has an antenna with various audio settings, such as an equalizer, as seen on the Galaxy A5 2016.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) camera
Both the front and back camera have 16 MP. Samsung was able to up the ante from last year’s model, especially in the camera department, where the camera only had 5 MP. Both come with an aperture of f/1.9, but only the back camera has optical image stabilization.
The camera comes with many filters and modes, which you can access by swiping from right to left. The modes are: basic, beauty, Pro, HDR, Panorama and Night. For group selfies, the front camera also has panorama mode, and it allows you to change the tone of your skin, size of your eyes and face shape. Both cameras can also take videos in 1080p. More will be shown in our final review.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) battery
Samsung was able to show that it doesn’t want to merge with other mid-range devices, but instead stay at the top of the game. The Galaxy A5 2017 has a great new design that could be mistaken for a high-end phone, along with nice new colors that follow current trends. It also comes with features that we don’t usually find in this caliber of phone, such as IP68 certification, USB Type-C and Always On mode.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) technical specifications
Even just having moved the speaker will do wonders to improve user experience. This small but significant factor shows us that the Samsung put a lot of effort into the Galaxy A series to come up with a quality phone. So far, there is no news about a US release, but it will show its face in the UK starting in February at a price of £399, which would be around $500. This may cause some users to shy away, especially if you consider that the OnePlus 3T, a high-end device, costs about the same. Our first impressions of the Galaxy A5 2017 is that it is a top class mid-range phone. Check back to find out more about the phone in our final review.