Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 review
Samsung's A-series of mid-range Galaxy smartphones has been updated for 2017. This Galaxy A5 is the middle model, with the smaller, cheaper and less powerful Galaxy A3 2017 below it and the larger Galaxy A7 2017 above. The new Galaxy A5 shares many of the same specifications as the new Galaxy A7, and in our opinion offers much better value unless you particularly demand the larger screen. All three adopt the same design, one we've seen previously in the gorgeous Samsung Galaxy S7.
As it did for the previous Galaxy A-series update in 2016, Samsung has moved key features from its top-end Galaxy S-series down a rank. The resulting Galaxy A5 2017 is a very worthy update over its predecessor.
Key changes in the Galaxy A5 2017 include the new always-on display, IP68 waterproofing and a slightly higher-capacity battery. There has also been a significant bump in performance, now with a faster processor, an increase from 2- to 3GB of RAM and double the amount of storage with 32GB as standard. The A5 can now accept microSD cards up to 256GB, and it also sees an improvement in the photography department with 16Mp cameras both front and rear (up from 5Mp and 13Mp respectively).
Then there's the new, significantly sleeker design. The camera doesn't protrude so far at the rear, for example, and the new Galaxy A5 gains the same beautiful curves as the S7, now with curved glass at the front and tapered edges at the rear. The metal frame is thinner on the left- and right sides, without the previous model’s chiselled edge, and the glass rear wraps around further toward the front.
Interestingly, Samsung has gone above and beyond the Galaxy S7's improvements, which could be a sign of what's to come with the upcoming Galaxy S8. It has switched the Micro-USB port for reversible USB-C, and it's moved the speaker from the phone's bottom edge to a new, less likely to be muffled position at the top right edge above the power button.
But while it has clearly taken a lot of inspiration from the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy A5 2017 is still decidedly a mid-range phone. Performance is greatly improved but nowhere near that of the flagship, while the display is lower-resolution and without a curved-screen option. The primary camera is arguably inferior, and the new Galaxy A5 lacks certain features of the Galaxy S7 such as the heart-rate scanner.
Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 review: UK price and availability
Because this is a brand-new phone, chances are right now you'll pay close to its RRP to get it SIM-free - and clearly the improvements to the Galaxy A5 have come at a price, since its RRP has shot up from £319 to £399, taking it away from the affordable mid-ground and dangerously close to flagship territory.
At this price there is a difference of just £47 between this Galaxy A5 and the Galaxy S7 (you can now buy the year-old Galaxy S7 SIM-free from Amazon UK for £446.97).
That RRP comes from MobileFun, though, which supplied our Galaxy A5 for review. You will find it a little cheaper if you shop around online through the likes of Carphone Warehouse, which at the time of writing lists the Galaxy A5 2017 at £369.99. The extra £30 discount could be enough to sway you over the Galaxy S7, but it all depends on how tight is your budget.
As with all Samsung phones, we expect the price to rapidly drop - usually by as much as 20 percent within the first few months. At which point the Galaxy A5 2017 would offer better value, though brand-new today it just doesn't represent a good deal when compared to the high-end Galaxy S7, which we still regard as the best Android phone on the market.
The alternative, of course, is to get the Galaxy A5 on a contract. While monthly prices for the Galaxy S7 (with no upfront charge) start at £30.99, you can get this Galaxy A5 from £27.50 per month. That seems to be a relatively small saving, but over the course of 24 months it works out just short of £85. (Browse more Galaxy A5 2017 deals at Carphone Warehouse.)
MobileFun supplied our Galaxy A5 2017 with a handful of cases to protect it from damage. It sells a wide range of Galaxy A5 2017 cases and covers, chargers, car holders, screen protectors and other accessories.
It particularly recommended to us the official Samsung S View Premium Cover Case (£34.99), which comes in black, blue, pink and gold to match the available colours of the Galaxy A5, the Olixar FlexiShield Samsung Galaxy A5 Gel Case (£4.99) and the Olixar Ultra-Thin Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 Case (£5.99), covering a range of styles and budgets. The latter is not only cheap but as close as you'll get to invisible should you want to show off the Galaxy A5's gorgeous design.
Samsung Galaxy A5 review: Design and build
If you've ever played with a Galaxy S7 then you will know roughly what the Galaxy A5 looks and feels like. In our office at least, we found the tendency was to think of it as a smaller Galaxy S7, which is crazy since it's actually larger - albeit only just.
The reason for this is the ever so slightly larger screen - 5.2in against the S7's 5.1in. The Galaxy S7 is both shorter and narrower than the A5, measuring 142x70mm against its 146.1x71.4mm, although with matching 3,000mAh batteries inside both are 7.9mm thick. That's not at all bad for a mid-range phone such as this.
The screen might be larger, but it has significantly fewer pixels. The Galaxy S7 has a Quad-HD resolution of 2560x1440 pixels, turning in a screen density of 577ppi, while the full-HD resolution of this 1920x1080-pixel panel works out at just 424ppi. We say 'just'; it's actually a very sharp screen (sharper than that of any iPhone, for example), simply inferior to that of the Galaxy S7.
We can hardly complain about the display, though, which uses our personal favourite SuperAMOLED tech. SuperAMOLED produces rich, vibrant, saturated colours with very deep blacks and dazzling whites. Viewing angles are excellent, and the display is very bright and clear - a pleasure to use. Another plus: SuperAMOLED places less of a hit on battery life than many competing technologies.
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