Samsung’s latest mid-range devices takes its cue from the immensely popular Samsung Galaxy S7. Aside from the looks department, Samsung is bringing in a lot of features from their flagship S series to the mid-range A series. The Samsung A5 2017 was launch with the larger A7 2017 earlier this year. After spending a few weeks with the A5 2017, here is our review.
Design and Build
As mentioned earlier, the A5 2017’s design takes its cue from the S7 flat version, with the glass and metal design approach. The rounded corners of the A5 are very S7-esque.
The A5 sports a 5.2 inch Super AMOLED display. Samsung did not mention the protection used on the A5 so we will just assume it’s a highly scratch resistant glass panel.
The A5 has a physical home button which doubles as a fingerprint scanner sandwiched in between by the recent and back key both of which are backlit. Like the S7, you do not have to press the home button to unlock the device. You simply place your finger on it to access the phone.
The fingerprint scanner is fast, when it works. Like the J7 Prime, the fingerprint scanner is a little bit mercurial compared to, the Huawei Mate 9, Asus Zenfone 3 and Moto G4 Plus l, which all unlocks the phone 99 percent of the time. For the A5, sometimes, I must resort to the swipe to unlock method.
The back part is made of thin glass, dubbed as rear 3D glass, and although there is no mention of protection used, it is highly resistant to scratch from daily wear and tear. However, it is extremely prone to finger print smudges.
Like the J7 Prime, Samsung opted to place the small and not so loud speaker north of the power button, found on the right edge of the phone. The top edge houses the dedicated Micro SD and SIM slot.
On the left edge, you can find the tactile volume buttons and just south of it is another SIM slot.
The bottom edge features the 3.5mm headset port, a mic, and a modern USB Type C port which the S7 doesn’t even have.
Like the S7, the A5 is resistant to dust and water and is certified as an IP68 device. That means the A5 can be immersed in 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 mins.
The A5 comes in Black Sky, Gold Sand, and Blue Mist, though in some countries, another Peach Cloud will be released.
If I were to choose amongst the colors, I would go with the black variant of the A5. It simply looks good even with the display off. The display blends well with the super thin side bezels and top and bottom bezels. One can also feel the “premium-ness” of the display as oleophobic coating was used to minimize fingerprint smudges.
As always, Samsung has proven it’s still the best in business when it comes to displays. The A5 2017 has a 5.1-inch Full-HD Super AMOLED Display with a resolution of 1920×1080 and 425ppi.
The display is vibrant and speaks premium. Once you go start using Super AMOLED devices, phones utilizing other LCD technology simply pales in comparison. The display is bright for both indoor and outdoor use. The display is definitely a strong suit of the A5.
The A5 lacks for a led notifications light but don’t fret as the A5 supports the Always on Display feature first seen on the S7. This feature displays the clock, calendar and notifications in white on a black background which are basically pixels turned off. Only AMOLED screens can use this feature without having a major impact on the battery life.
The A5, like the bigger A7, is powered by its home grown 8-core processor Exynos 7880 clocked at 1.9ghz, paired with an ample 3GB of RAM. The A5 has a 32GB of on board storage but can support 256GB microSD cards. As a power user, the A5 was able to keep up with my daily activities and I experience no lags navigating thru my most used apps.
For the gaming department, the A5 could run the Asphalt 8 with occasional lags which can be negated by adjusting the settings. The A5 ships with heavily skinned GraceUX UI running on top of Android Marshmallow 6.0.1, surprising for a 2017 device, but a Nougat updates has been rolled out for the S7 and we expect the same for the A5 2017.
The A5 has two dual 16MP Cameras, one on the front and one on the back. Looks like Samsung isn’t going to dip its finger on dual rear cameras just yet.
The 16MP Front Camera has an f/1.9 aperture and supports on-screen flash ideal for selfies on low light environment. It supports a couple of filters and beauty mode. One thing I noticed with the front snapper is that only the subject is in focus with the rest blurred. In traditional photography, it simply means it has a shallow depth of field. However good it may sound; we appreciate it more if it was in the rear snapper. Taking group selfies proved to be somewhat disappointing as only the main subject will be sharp, while the rest are blurred. If this is a feature or a bug, I have no idea.
Flipping it over, the 16MP, f/1.9 rear camera with is flushed to the body, different from that of the S7 and S7 Edge, which has protruding cameras.
The rear camera support Phase Detect Auto Focus or PDAF and captures great photos with natural looking colors especially on well-lit environments. However, A5 struggles to focus a bit on low light conditions taking a little more time to focus on subjects.
The camera app is less cluttered and simple to use. It has a couple of useful modes like Food mode, Night mode, and Professional Mode. However, disappointing is the lack of shutter speed controls on the Professional Mode. For those who are into long exposure night photography like myself, you won’t be able to that with the A5 or even A7. The A5 also lacks optical image stabilization (OIS) which is a shame for the price tag you’re paying. This can result in blurry photos or shaky videos. Speaking of which, the A5 only supports 1920x1080p video recording @30fps.
Below are sample shots from the A5 2017.
The A5 2017 packs a 3000mah non-removable battery and supports quick charging with the supplied charger. The Exynos 7880 is being compared to the Snapdragon 625 when it comes to power efficiency.
The battery life on the A5 is impressive, lasting me 1 and half day on heavy use of social media app, a couple of YouTube videos and some SMS messaging. The average screen on time is between 5 to 6 hours for me. It is also good to note that the phone doesn’t generate much heat on prolonged usage.
The A5 2017 lets you have the S7 experience but at a lesser price tag and reduced performance.
+ Excellent display
+ Water and dust resistant
+ Dual SIM slot with dedicated microSD Slot
+ Premium feel with a metal chassis sandwiched by glass panels
+ Impressive battery life
- USB Type C
– Mercurial fingerprint scanner
– Front camera has shallow depth of field
– Rear camera struggles to focus on low light condition
– Loud speaker not so loud
– No Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
– No 4K video recording
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