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 our review of the Galaxy A5 2017, we’ll give you a run-down of Samsung's mid-range gem and all its features. Could 2017's mid-range darling still be a top choice in 2018?
- ✓Attractive design
- ✓Good display
- ✓Excellent battery life
- ✓Extras (IP68, Game launcher, Always on)
- ✕Old software version
- ✕High price
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) release date and price
The Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 was made official at the beginning of January 2017 and went on sale February 3 of that year. Four colors are available: black sky, gold sand, peach cloud, and blue mist. Initial prices were £369 in the UK, $399 in the US, marking it as one of the pricier options in the mid-range.
While unboxing the phone, we discovered the included USB Type-C, the 5V / A2 charger, and a tool 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, resembling the high-end models in many ways. One of these well-built smartphones is of course the Galaxy A5 2017, thanks to its evident similarity to 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. These keys are backlit (but do not remain illuminated for long periods of time) and do not offer tactile feedback.
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 to optimize the gaming experience
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.
An impressive Always-on 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 preceding generation. The colors are brilliant and the same can be said of all viewing angles. Under bright sunlight, some details are lost unless you turn up the brightness to the max.
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. In addition, you can view notifications from third-party applications such as WhatsApp.
In the display menu, you can activate the blue light filter (equivalent to the night mode) to avoid eye fatigue.
A smartphone for gamers and outdoor enthusiasts
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.
Just like on the Galaxy S7, the A5 comes with Samsung's Game Launcher. For those who don't know, this is a platform that enhances the gaming experience with specific features: disable notifications, lock keys, take a screenshot, save the game...
After starting a game, you will see a button to access the Game Launcher. From there, you can access the various functions. This will delight all those who want to stay immersed in their game without any distractions.
The Oreo update is scheduled
This is one of the features that may irk potential owners: it originally came stocked with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and was only later updated to Nougat. Fortunately, the update to Android 8.0 Oreo has been scheduled.
In recent years, the interface has been improved to offer a cleaner, more modern look with shades of white and blue. We currently don't know the real name of the interface (we contacted the manufacturer to find out the end of the story): is it TouchWiz, Grace UX or Samsung Experience? Whatever the answer, it won't change the user experience and that's the main thing.
In practice, the smartphone offers 31.1 GB of internal memory and 1.1 GB of RAM.
In practice, the smartphone offers 23.1 GB of internal memory and 1.1 GB of RAM. Pre-installed applications include Google Services, Samsung applications (with S-Health and S Voice), and Microsoft applications (total of 6). You will also find Upday pre-installed, you can access it with a simple swipe to the right.
If you press and hold on an application, a window appears where you can uninstall the application, get information on how to put it in standby and add it to the Secure Folder. With the latter, you can thus place the content away from prying eyes (such as photos, or documents) and you can also duplicate applications: one visible to everyone, the other visible only by you. Another interesting feature is the ability to block or delete notifications all at once. To activate the multi-window mode, simply press and hold the multitasking button.
I can't say that the fingerprint reader is slow, but it's not accurate.
The fingerprint reader allows you to enter three prints in the settings. The recording system is slower than on other phones (e. g. the Honor 6X), and when using it, the sensor can't always recognize my fingerprint at first. With the index finger, I get much better results than with the thumb. I can't say that the fingerprint reader is slow, but it's not accurate.
On a personal note, I would like to add that placing the fingerprint reader on the back offers a smoother result than when placed in the front because it is easier to recognize the sensor.
The minimum hardware for 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.
For most everyday tasks, the Galaxy A5 2017 will meet your needs
In practice, you can use the Galaxy A5 to surf the web, use social networks, play games (even greedy, high graphics games), and you don't have problems with slowdowns or overheating. On a daily basis you won't have any problems, I just had a little problem with Google Chrome but nothing recurrent or really annoying. The Galaxy A5 can multitask effectively.
We have tested the device on different benchmarks, you will find the results below:
Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 benchmark results
|3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.1||3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.0||3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0||Geekbench CPU - single core||Geekbench CPU - multicore|
|Samsung Galaxy A5 2017||814||1146||13413||775||4109|
As far as the SAR is concerned, the model we tested (European version) offers the following values: 0.522 W/kg for the head and 1.39 W/kg for the body.
The speaker moves to the side
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.
The result is a better audio experience during game and video sessions. It's a mono speaker but, after all, it's a mid-range device so no surprises there.
The audio quality is good, but I was expecting a little bit more from the maximum volume, which, let's be clear, is much lower than what you can find on other devices, such as the Huawei Nova Plus. In terms of calls, the sound quality is good and communication is trouble-free.
Samsung offers in the box a pair of headphones with which you can adjust the volume and skip to the next song. The smartphone has an FM radio and various audio configuration options, such as an equalizer that was already available in the Galaxy A5 2016. At the reception end, I didn't encounter any problems, not even in the subway.
A standard camera
The camera's lens is 16MP at the rear and front. Samsung therefore ups its game compared to the previous generation, especially with the front camera which was only 5MP. Both lenses have an f/1.9 aperture, but only the rear camera has optical stabilization. The lack of stabilization can be a problem in some situations.
The camera application offers several filters, you can access them by swiping from right to left. You will then see two modes: basic and beauty. You will also find a mode that is intended to take pictures of food: with filters it allows you to optimize your shots without having to go through a third party application.
The colors are vivid and realistic, the quality of images taken in good light conditions is also good.
You can also find the Panorama, HDR, Night and Pro modes. This allows you to change the ISO, exposure and white balance. You cannot set the shutter speed, making Pro mode almost unnecessary.
The colors are vivid and realistic, the quality of images taken in good light conditions is also good. When the brightness is not optimal, we find noise on the picture and we lose a lot of detail, but despite that the colors remain rather good and we don't see any yellow dots on the gray surfaces.
As my colleague Stefan Möllenhoff explains, to maintain a low ISO speed, the use of such exposure time is rather optimistic (1/17 seconds with ISO 250), which gives a fuzzy result if you can't hold the camera firmly in poor light conditions. When the ISO is greater than 800, the image quality decreases significantly, which is probably why 800 is the maximum value in this Pro mode, which is not really a Pro mode.
The HDR mode works smoothly and displays details in both bright and dark areas. However, it is not included in the default settings.
To switch to the front camera, simply swipe up and down. Samsung has integrated a beauty mode to improve skin, refine the face and enlarge the eyes. Fans will love the selfies! Although both lenses are 16MP, the rear camera provides slightly better shots. Both cameras capture video in 1080p at 30fps. The colors of the video and sound rendering are good.
The gallery automatically synchronizes your photos with the Samsung cloud. In the options menu, you can disable automatic story creation (which is enabled by default), which creates stories according to the faces, times and places where photos and videos are taken. The system also provides advice on which images to add to stories. All this can be disabled. You can also share your stories online with other contacts, by invitation, and add photos and videos.
To summarize: the camera is not as good as the one found in the Galaxy S7, but it does a good job (as long as you don't expect too much from the Pro mode).
A fantastic battery
The Galaxy A5 2017 packs a 3000 mAh battery. This is 100 mAh more than the previous generation, already known for good autonomy. A quick recharge system is available, allowing you to fully charge your phone in 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Battery life is one of the strong points of the Galaxy A5 2017
Battery life is one of the strong points of the Galaxy A5. If you send messages to WhatsApp, use Facebook and Instagram, play Pacman and Ninja Spinki, check your emails, watch some videos and make some audio and video calls (all with 50% brightness), you manage to last a day and a half. With a more intensive use you can reach the end of the day with between 10% and 15% more battery.
If you access the "Device maintenance"menu, you can access the Medium or Maximum options. The latter displays a black background and limits usage to basic services. On PCMark, the test scored a score of 8 hours and 59 minutes, which is excellent.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) technical specifications
|Dimensions:||146.1 x 71.4 x 7.9 mm|
|Battery size:||3000 mAh|
|Screen size:||5.2 in|
|Screen:||1920 x 1080 pixels (424 ppi)|
|Front camera:||16 megapixels|
|Rear camera:||16 megapixels|
|Android version:||6.0 - Marshmallow|
|Internal storage:||32 GB|
|Number of cores:||8|
|Max. clock speed:||1.9 GHz|
|Connectivity:||HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2|
With the Galaxy A5 (2017), Samsung has made one of the most impressive devices in the mid-range market. The smartphone offers a new design that could be confused with a high-end device, fashionable colors, and features that are not usually found on phones in this range: IP68 certification, Type-C USB port and Always-On mode. The screen and battery are good, the camera is not as powerful as the S7 but it doesn't disappoint.
Even just the repositioning of the speaker does wonders to improve user experience. This small but significant factor shows us that Samsung put a lot of effort into the Galaxy A series to come up with a quality phone. The price is still a little high at $330, but UK readers may find it more appealing at £230.
This Galaxy A5 2017 is a successful mid-range device, capable of meeting the expectations of users better than many others in this range. Although it's not quite as good as the Galaxy S7 in most respects, these defects are easily made up for by its excellent battery life.