Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 review
Samsung has upgraded its Galaxy A5 for 2016, and it’s done a fantastic job on this mid-range Android phone. We review the Samsung Galaxy A5 2016. Updated with our video review. Also see: Samsung Galaxy A3 6 (2016) review and Samsung Galaxy A-series 2016 UK release date, price, features and specification.
Also see: Best Black Friday Phone Deals
Last year Samsung put a lot of effort into upgrading its top-end S-series with the then-flagship Samsung Galaxy S6. In 2016, amid criticism that there’s not a lot new in the Galaxy S7, we can now see that it’s focused that same care and attention on its mid-range A-series. The new Samsung Galaxy A3, A5 (reviewed here) and A7 are now well worth a second look.
The Galaxy A5 has had a complete makeover. In place of the plastic-looking but actually aluminium rear is a new Gorilla Glass 4 panel, while Samsung has swapped out the 5in HD screen for a 5.2in full-HD SuperAMOLED display. There’s a new fingerprint scanner built into the Home button, while the chassis has expanded to allow a higher-capacity 2,900mAh battery. The corners are a little less rounded, the phone is a little taller and the rear camera doesn’t protrude so far, but it really wouldn’t be difficult to mistake the Galaxy A5 2016 for the Samsung Galaxy S6, which is now available for around only £50 more. Also see: Samsung Galaxy A5 2015 review
Under the hood are more changes, which are visible to the end user through the Galaxy A5’s greatly improved performance. Last year we were disappointed to find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core chip inside the A5 2015, but Samsung has corrected that mistake with the 1.6GHz Exynos 7580, an octa-core chip based on the Cortex-A53, paired with 2GB of RAM. MicroSD support has also been expanded from 64- to 128GB, although you’ll still find just 16GB of internal storage. Also see: Best phones 2016
New Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 review: UK price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 is not yet available direct through Samsung, but our review sample was supplied by Mobile Fun. The mobile phone accessories retailer is selling the Galaxy A5 for £319, and should have stock within two- to three weeks. We reviewed the black version, but the Galaxy A5 is also available through Mobile Fun in white and gold. Also see: Best budget phones 2016
At £319 the Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 comes in around £50 lower than last year’s flagship Galaxy S6, now available SIM-free for around £363 from Amazon UK. While we really like the new Samsung Galaxy A5 for 2016, if you can afford that extra outlay you get a lot more bang for your buck - the Galaxy S6 is faster, with more internal storage (although no microSD support) and has a Quad-HD screen, to name just a few of its advantages over the A5.
It’s worth pointing out that Mobile Fun will also be stocking the 2016 Galaxy A3 and Galaxy A7, and at £399 the Galaxy A7 is actually more expensive than the Galaxy S6, which makes this A5 appear to be much better value. Check out our best SIM-only deals to get the best Galaxy A5 package.
New Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 review: Design and build
As we noted, the Samsung Galaxy A5 is in many ways similar in design to the Galaxy S6, with the new mirror-finish glass front and rear and fingerprint scanner built into the home button. There are some subtle differences in the overall shape and size (the Galaxy A5 has a slightly larger 5.2in screen, for example), but this 2016 A5 is every bit a gorgeous and premium-looking smartphone. Also see: Best Android phones 2016
With no removable back panel the Galaxy A5 feels tough, and not at all fragile thanks to its Gorilla Glass 4 protective armour. Unfortunately we see the same problems here as we did with the S6: fingerprints - and they’re everywhere.
You’ll barely notice the increase in thickness over the A5’s predecessor, but this has allowed Samsung to pack in a 2,900mAh battery that offers very good runtime. The A5 is still slim at 7.9mm, but feels sufficiently weighty in the hand at 155g. The rear camera juts out a little at the rear, but not enough to make the A5 2016 rock on a desk. Also see: Best Samsung phones 2016: What is the difference between Galaxy Note, Galaxy S, Galaxy A and Galaxy J?
A standout feature is the full-HD SuperAMOLED panel, which measures 5.2in on the diagonal and is large enough for all your multimedia needs. We’re huge fans of SuperAMOLED and its vibrant, slightly oversaturated colours and deep, rich blacks. It’s not just better-looking (in our opinion) than more common IPS, but more energy-efficient since it doesn’t require a backlight. Even so, the screen is plenty bright, while viewing angles are strong and detail is sharp - the Galaxy A5 has a pixel density of 424ppi, which is higher than even the latest iPhone 6s.
New Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 review: Core hardware and performance
Inside are some of the most notable changes in terms of usability, and the Samsung Galaxy A5 has gone from what looks and feels like a budget phone to something much more deserving of its mid-range price tag. The new A5 feels more responsive, and overall performance is greatly improved - something that was mirrored in our benchmarks.
For general processing performance measurements we run AnTuTu, in which the Galaxy A5 2016 scored 37,906 points, and Geekbench 3, in which it recorded 694 points single-core and 3688 multi-core. This is a lot faster than the A5 2015’s 1476 points, yet a fair bit lower than the now only slightly more expensive Galaxy S6, which scored 4438. Perhaps more importantly, the A5 2016 floored the similarly priced- and specced Nexus 5X (3528 points), HTC One A9 (3094 points) and Moto X Play (2570 points).
We also use Geekbench to test battery life, and the Galaxy A5 2016 with its higher-capacity 2,900mAh battery and less-demanding hardware did an excellent job - better than the Galaxy S6 with 4709 points against its 4136, and a time of 11 hours 46 minutes against 6 hours 53 minutes. In real-world use you can easily expect a full working day and potentially two, depending on your usage. Wireless charging is not supported but, like the Galaxy S6, the A5 2016 has Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging.
In our GFXBench graphics tests the Galaxy A5 fell down against the Galaxy S6 and Nexus 5X, which respectively scored 30- and 38fps in T-Rex and 14- and 16fps in Manhattan to its 5- and 14fps. However, its scores are only slightly lower than the Moto X Play (6/15fps) and HTC One A9 (7/16fps).
One area where the Galaxy A5 2016 shows its mid-range roots is in storage, with just 16GB supplied internally. The Galaxy S6 doubles this to 32GB, but it has no removable storage - the Galaxy A5 2016 supports up to 128GB via microSD (up from 64GB in the 2015 model). Also see: How to add storage to Android
Connectivity- and extra options are also fairly standard at this price point: while the Galaxy S6 has the fastest 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, a heart-rate scanner and an infrared sensor, the Galaxy A5 2016 maxes out at dual-band 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0, and has no pulse checker or IR blaster. Both have a touch-input fingerprint scanner, GPS and GLONASS, NFC, OTG and support for 4G LTE. (A dual-SIM variant of the Galaxy A5 2016 will also be available outside the UK.)