Samsung Galaxy A70 full review
The Samsung Galaxy A70 is a cheaper alternative to the Galaxy S10+ or Note 10. It has a huge screen, the same software and that all-important Samsung name on the back. It’s a huge price drop from the flagship Samsungs too, at just £369. You lose plenty in return, though, like a curvy glass, a top-end processor and the cameras aren’t as good either.
But it’s not the other Samsungs you should have your eye on. The Samsung Galaxy A70 is a very competent, likeable phone, one with a small army of cheaper Chinese alternatives at its heels. Don’t discount the Oppo Reno 2Z, Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro and Honor 9X.
They may not have the brand cred of Samsung here in the UK, but they do offer a bit more hardware per pound, with extras like glass backs and motorised front cameras. Let's see what the A70 has to offer, though.
Price & Availability
The Samsung Galaxy A70 costs £369, just a little more than the Galaxy A50 we reviewed recently. Screen size is the main difference. This one is 0.3 inches larger, and every tenth of an inch counts if you stream video regularly.
Samsung released the phone in late 2019, around November. In some territories there’s a sister phone too, the Galaxy A70S. It has a higher-res primary camera, but you’ll only find it in the UK if you dig pretty deep as it is not widely distributed here.
Our review sample was provided by Carphone Warehouse which has the phone for £329 as well as a wide range of contracts on UK networks. You can buy it from various places including Samsung, Amazon, Very and eBuyer.
In the US the price is around $450 but Amazon has it for over $100 less.
Design & Build
The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the Galaxy A70’s closest relative among Samsung’s top-end phones. Like that “slightly cheaper than the best” phone, the A70 has a flat front, not one that curves around at the sides for a smoother look and feel.
It’s no great loss unless you are desperate for a show-off phone, but there is another compromise for the price here.
The Samsung Galaxy A70 looks like a glass and metal mobile, but only the front is glass. Its back and sides are plastic. Pretty plastic, but still plastic. For a little more money, the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro has genuine metal sides and a glass back. For the same outlay, the Oppo Reno 2Z has a glass back, plastic sides.
If you want higher-end build at this price, you can have it. However, the Samsung Galaxy A70 has appeals of its own. It is slim at 7.9mm, the rear contours are comfortable and while this is a glass impersonation, it’s a fairly convincing one.
You can get the Samsung Galaxy A70 in four colours in the UK: black, white, blue and Coral. Ours is the Coral version. You might call it pink, but this is no basic flamingo shade. It’s a clash of pink, orange and auburn, although the careful tone selection is undermined slightly by the chromed gold sides.
Specs & Features
The Samsung Galaxy A70 makes a good case for buying a mid-range phone instead of a high-end one, before bringing the price into it. You get advanced features like an in-screen fingerprint scanner, but also a headphone jack. These are now rare in pricey phones.
A decent 128GB storage matches the Oppo Reno 2Z, and there’s space for a microSD card in the SIM tray if that still won’t do.
As ever, Samsung’s wireless connectivity is super-comprehensive. You get NFC for wireless payments, and the far more unusual ANT+, although unless you need to hook up a Bluetooth-less heart rate chest strap you probably won’t use it.
The Samsung Galaxy A70 is not officially water resistant at all and there’s no 5G versions. But the same is true of just about every phone at the price.
We were unable to test the finger scanner due to some software restrictions placed on our review phone. Face unlock works well, though. It slows down in very dark conditions, but does still function in low light. There are suggestions online the Samsung Galaxy A70’s finger scanner isn’t great too, so face unlock may be the better choice here.
The Samsung Galaxy A70 has a very large 6.7-inch Super AMOLED screen, using one of Samsung’s own panels. It is a delight.
OLED phones offer exceptional contrast and very deep, rich colour. But, as usual, Samsung gives you the option to tame those tones if you prefer a natural look. There are “vivid” and “natural” modes, and we recommend the natural setting.
An XL-side display like this is a delight for YouTube and Netflix, and the emissive pixels of OLED means dark movie scenes still look rich even if you watch in bed, under the covers. An LCD of this size and resolution would look fractionally sharper than the Samsung Galaxy A70, because of the way pixels are arranged in Samsung OLEDs, but images and text still look very sharp.
This is not a huge downgrade from the very highest-end phones in terms of what you actually experience.
Samsung has not experimented with motorised front cameras yet, though, and this leaves you with a notch at the top. It’s not too large, not too annoying, not too offensive. But does mean you get the same effective area for widescreen movies as a slightly smaller display.
At this point we’re looking for problems to point at. The Samsung Galaxy A70’s display is great, and is easily among the best you’ll find at the price for video streaming.
Performance & Software
The Samsung Galaxy A70 has a Snapdragon 675 processor. It is, curiously, not the same as the Galaxy A50’s, even though the phones cost a similar amount.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 675 has eight cores. Two of them are performance cores, the other six somewhat less powerful ones. However, when hooked up with 6GB RAM, it’s easily enough power to make Android feel great.
The phone uses the same Samsung UI seen in phones like the Galaxy S10. It’s quick, friendly-looking and generally solid, as long as you fix one problem, stat. The Samsung Galaxy A70 uses four rows of comically large icons as standard, which just does not look right on a screen this size. Long-press an empty bit of homescreen, tap through to the layout options and you can change the grid to 5x6, which look much better on this screen.
We’ve only encountered one annoying bug. Sometimes the soft keys don’t seem to respond when a “full screen” app takes over the display, and you manually make them appear.
Basic day-to-day performance is generally sound, but how about gaming?
The Snapdragon 675 has an Adreno 612 graphics chipset. It is slightly more powerful than the Mali-G72 MP3 used in the Galaxy A50, to the tune of up to around 8-10%. How about the other rivals?
Oppo’s Reno 2Z has an unusual PowerVR GPU, and slight oddities like this are less desirable as game developers optimise for the most common, most popular hardware. Its benchmark performance is just slightly better than the Samsung’s.
There are other phone to consider too, though. Xiaomi offers a lot more power for your cash. The Xiaomi Mi 9T has a Snapdragon 730 with almost double the graphics ability, and for a little more the Mi 9T Pro’s Snapdragon 855 is a true monster processor. It is 4-6 times as powerful.
You see this difference when you try some of Android’s most demanding games on the Samsung Galaxy A70. The Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro can handle ARK: Survival Evolved with everything maxed-out. Here your are better off setting the detail to “medium” and the resolution slider to just below half way.
The game still looks good, and the huge screen is a superb canvas for games like this. But it is a reminder you’re dealing with lower-end hardware.
The Samsung Galaxy A70 has three rear cameras. And they lack the same thing many new mid-range phones do, a zoom lens.
You can shoot ultra-wide images and normal ones, but any zoomed pictures simply crop into the primary camera’s 32Mp sensor. The third 5Mp camera is used for blurry background portraits, to judge depth rather than to capture pixels seen in the final images.
The Samsung Galaxy A70 camera array is a case of very fine image processing pressing up to the limits of flawed camera hardware. And perhaps pressing a little too hard on occasion.
Samsung’s tasteful processing is seen in things like colour temperature and white balance. Images of autumnal nature scenes look suitably warm and rich. There’s a very slight hint of affectation to this at times, but when it charms the eyes, we tend not to mind.
There’s less of a sense of a disparity in tone and clarity between the ultra-wide and standard cameras than some rivals too. This means you’re more likely to use the two focal lengths, as there’s no obvious poor relation here.
The limited abilities of the Samsung Galaxy A70 become apparent when you look closer at the darker areas of an image shot with the main camera. Any half decent phone camera today uses a degree of HDR tone mapping in virtually all of its images. This is where the darker areas are lifted, brightened, to reveal more detail without making the image as a whole brighter.
The Samsung Galaxy A70’s GD1 sensor doesn’t seem up to the task at times. Dark and mid-tone detail becomes mush in many shots. And we’re not talking about shooting in low light or even at dusk. These are day-lit shots, just ones where there’s a solid degree of variance in light level across the scene.
We saw this after shooting with the A70 in the local park. Some images look lovely, but in others background foliage looked unexpectedly indistinct, ultra-soft. After shooting back-to-back with the Samsung Galaxy A70, Google Pixel 3A XL and Oppo Reno 2Z back to back, the diagnosis was clear. The A70 has a case of the stodgy mid-tones.
Its night photography is also not the best around. There is a dedicated Night mode that significantly brightens images, sometimes so they are brighter than they appear to the naked eye. However, the Oppo Reno 2Z’s night images are cleaner and more detailed, and the Google Pixel 3a XL’s Night Sight mode beats both, hands down.
So is the Samsung Galaxy A70 camera a dud? Absolutely not. Many of the photos we took have lovely-looking colour, good detail at the focal point, and the natural background blur of the f/1.7 lens is charming. However, it doesn’t hold up quite as well as hoped in more challenging situations. And we blame the Samsung GD1 sensor and its tine 0.8 micron sensor pixels.
Curiously, hardware checker Device Info HW actually recognises the main camera as 8Mp in resolution. This makes sense as the Samsung Galaxy A70 likely bins together four pixels from the 32Mp sensor to make each pixel in the final image. And then it blows the 8Mp result up to 12Mp, because no-one’s going to be impressed by a rear camera that takes 8Mp stills.
As if to prove the point the GD1 isn’t a killer chip, Samsung uses the same sensor on the Galaxy A70’s front. And we see similar results here. Well-lit selfies are packed with detail. Low-light ones are soft but clear, and backlit ones can look a mess. However, as we have slightly lower standards for selfie cameras, it gets a thumbs-up.
You can shoot video at up to 4k resolution (30fps) with the Samsung Galaxy A70, but it is best to stick to 1080p. Above it you can’t use the Super Steady stabilisation mode, which is brilliant. You can tilt the phone side to side by 10 degrees back and forth and the final footage looks as though it were held still.
It comes with the same caveat as Steady Shot on the Galaxy S10: it uses the ultra-wide camera. You’re therefore cropping significantly into what is already a lower-end sensor, so there’s a hit to image quality. For the best compromise for lower-motion video, shoot at 1080p with Steady Shot turned off. It’s still stabilised, but you get better detail and dynamic range.
The Samsung Galaxy A70 has a 4500mAh battery, the kind of capacity found in Samsung’s much more expensive large phones. An average phone is around the 3000mAh mark.
It lasts 10 hours in our in-house test, which is a good result considering the very large screen, although large phones like the OnePlus 7T Pro lasted even longer (10 hours 47 minutes).
However, it does prove there’s nothing here to make the battery life dip below what you might expect given the spec. We haven’t once had to worry about the battery dropping near to zero before bed time, and we tend to end up with 30-45% left when it is time to plug the Samsung Galaxy A70 in and set the alarm.
Battery stamina is very good, but the cheaper Oppo A9 2020 is unsurprisingly even better, thanks to a 5000mAh battery and lower-res screen.
The Samsung Galaxy A70 uses a USB-C cable to charge. And while we were not sent a charger with the phone, we’re told it comes with a 25W plug when you receive the phone in box. This is a powerful power plug for any phone, let alone a relatively affordable one, so you should be able to give your A70 a quick, effective top-up in a short amount of time.
Hardware hounds can get a little more for their cash elsewhere by buying a phone from one of the rising Chinese brands like Oppo or Xiaomi. But this should surprise no-one.
There’s little to seriously dislike about the Samsung Galaxy A70. Its battery lasts a long time, its XL-size OLED screen is fantastic for video streaming, and despite fairly modest specs it handles Android and even higher-end games well.
It doesn’t have our favourite camera setup at the price, with less low-light clarity than the best and some stodgy textured in more HDR-reliant scenes.
But we never expected the A70 to nail every single element of the tech at its price. It gets enough right to be easy to recommend, particularly if you like the idea of owning a Samsung instead of, say, a Xiaomi.
Samsung Galaxy A70: Specs
- Android 9.0 Pie
- 6.7in Full HD+ (2400x1080) 20:9 OLED, 393ppi
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 octa-core processor
- Adreno 612 GPU
- 6GB RAM
- 128GB storage, no microSD support
- 32Mp f/1.7 rear camera with autofocus
- 8Mp f/2.2 ultra-wide
- 5Mp depth sensor
- 8Mp f/2.0 selfie camera
- In-screen fingerprint sensor
- Mono speaker
- Headphone jack
- Dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 5.0 LE
- 4500mAh battery
- 25W Fast charging
- 164.3 x 76.7 x 7.9mm
- Available in Coral, Black, White, Blue
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