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Review 15 min read 10 comments

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review: even better one year later

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?

Rating

Good

  • Attractive design
  • Good display
  • Excellent battery life
  • Extras (IP68, Game launcher, Always on)

Bad

  • 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.

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It definitely drew design inspiration form the S7. / © AndroidPIT

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.

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The camera doesn't protrude from the back. / © AndroidPIT

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 bottom edge lacks the classic grill for the speaker, but keeps the headphone jack on the right next to the USB Type-C port that supports USB OTG.

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The single-SIM card slot. / © AndroidPIT

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.

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A small difference from the previous model, the headphone jack is on the right. / © AndroidPIT

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.

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The Galaxy A5 is always on. / © AndroidPIT

A smartphone for gamers and outdoor enthusiasts

Certification IP68

 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.

Game Launcher

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. 

When will your phone get Android 8.0 Oreo?

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.

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The UI has adopted a more modern look. / © AndroidPIT

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. 

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Here is what the menu looks like when you long press an app. / © AndroidPIT

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
Nokia 5 289 580 9500 659 2788
LG Q6 230 470 7764 637 2119
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.

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This is the equalizer and the built-in radio. / © AndroidPIT

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.

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Samsung opted for a 16MP lens for the front camera. / © AndroidPIT

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.

iso comparison
Comparison of ISO values. / © AndroidPIT

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.

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We lose quality when the brightness is not optimal. / © AndroidPIT

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.

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HDR mode in action. © AndroidPIT

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
Weight: 159 g
Battery size: 3000 mAh
Screen size: 5.2 in
Display technology: AMOLED
Screen: 1920 x 1080 pixels (424 ppi)
Front camera: 16 megapixels
Rear camera: 16 megapixels
Flashlight: LED
Android version: 6.0 - Marshmallow
User interface: TouchWiz
RAM: 3 GB
Internal storage: 32 GB
Removable storage: microSD
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 1.9 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2

Final verdict

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.

10 comments

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  • very nice phone but naaa


  • storm 6 months ago Link to comment

    For just a little more you can buy an essential ph1. It outperforms this in every way, has faster updates and is a lot more "premium" in materials.


  • let me say first here, its garbage. i was using a g4 and got the samsung galaxy a5 2017 as a replacement. there are a couple of key features that lg incorporates in their phones that samsung either didnt think about or didnt see that they were as extremely useful as they are. the led reminder, the double tap top open the phone, or even the user interface. im not an lg fan boy and i wouldnt even recommend their g4 due to the bootloop issue they dont seem to want to fix.
    BUT in essence its user interface was more user friendly and a lot less complicated without all the garbage bloatware samsung packs into your device.
    the speaker on the side, is just bad, as im holding my phone while playing a game it easily gets covered up. imo its kind of an ugly phone, i dont know why ppl would stare at it unless they couldnt beleive that you owned such a god awful phone.
    The always on screen is really dumb and drains battery life all day. the homescreen options including their free themes are a joke. ive had flip phones ten years ago with more options. this phone will test your patience.


  • The internet on the phone is horrible! Whether I'm using WiFi or not, there's a 50/50 chance that I have to open a new tab to conduct a search/load a page because it won't load. Or sometimes the page takes forever to load, and I don't have many tabs open to begin with or have extra things running in the background. I want my Samsung Galaxy S5 back!


  • Nice review


  • I know I should be commenting about the phone itself but I could resist saying that the girl on the video seens to be a pretty good danm robot kkk. Great review although...


  • storm Jan 31, 2017 Link to comment

    Glass, more glass and metal. Nothing about those materials is premium. They're fragile, heavy and poorly suited to the task of pocket usability.

    Yes, metal is fragile. It dings and scratches permanently. With plastic, you can usually swap out the part easily. Or it was light enough it didn't mar in the first place. Or it's easily rounded over with common every day tools.

    Many common plastics are stronger than metal by weight anyway so why are we adding needless weight to the phone again? Oh that's right, people think heft means premium for no good reason at all.


    • What's wrong with glass and metal? When I'm paying more than 400 bucks for a premium phone I expect it to look exactly that...premium! Samsung are not only pioneers in introducing phones with aesthetic beauty but also consistent flag bearers of the same. I've been using Samsung galaxy s7 edge for the past year and let me tell you I still keep getting oohs and aahs each time I pull it out. In fact strangers go so far as to stare at it. Oh, the joys of preening and strutting with a phone that' s bang on a looker!
      I am a die hard Samsung fan and would anyday prefer it over the much overrated iPhone. My husband (an ardent iPhone user) has now pre ordered the samsung Galaxy A5 2017 having read glowing reviews from at least 8 tech sources including thus one. So hats off to you guys for a wonderful review that helped us arrive at a decision.


  • To be honest I don't see the point in a person buying a premium samsung device anymore as the premium and mid range look the same, what I have seen premium devices get better firmware/security updates than the premium devices. The only difference is the processor and 1GB ram that you have in the premium model. Is it really worth it then buying the premium model for so much more? I don't think it is. Not to mention the people that have a s7, in other words the previous years model, would have paid so much more and now a person purchases a device the next year for much less and it looks basically, if not completely, the same.


  •   12
    Deactivated Account Jan 30, 2017 Link to comment

    This is a very nice phone, but being released with Android 6 in February/March of 2017 is just plain wrong and not something that should be overlooked.

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