There’s no denying that Samsung goes all out with their smartphones, packing them to near bursting point with tons of special features and generally cutting edge specs. Special features and hardware aside, one point of contention has always been the use of plastic, making even premium devices feel somewhat cheap. The good news is that Samsung began turning over a new leaf by introducing the metal-framed Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy Note 4. More recently, Samsung also introduced a couple of mid-range smartphones that featured a full metal unibody metal construction. Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at one of these devices, in this in-depth review of the Samsung Galaxy A5!
As mentioned, the marquee feature of the Samsung Galaxy A5 is its full metal unibody construction. Apart from the change in build material, the general design language of the device remains largely the same as the many other Samsung smartphones available.
The signature home button returns up front, flanked by capacitive back and Recent Apps keys, with the 13 MP camera on the back placed at the usual position, along the top and in the center. On the right is the power button and dual SIM card slots, on the left is the volume rocker, with the headphone jack and the microUSB port found at the bottom. The rear camera is flanked by the LED flash and the speaker grill.
Despite its aluminium construction, the Galaxy A5 is quite light at just 123 grams, and is one of the thinnest smartphones in the company’s portfolio at just 6.7 mm. With the phone being as thin as it is, the rear camera module does protrude a little bit, and while the device doesn’t sit flush with a surface, it remains well balanced and doesn’t rock back and forth.
The Samsung Galaxy A5 is light and sleek, and finally offers the premium feeling in the hand that consumers have been calling for. If this is an indication of what we can expect from Samsung’s upcoming flagship, a lot of people are going to be very happy.
Given its mid-range nature, the Galaxy A5 packs a 5-inch Super AMOLED display with a 720 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 294 ppi, with the device featuring a decent screen to body ratio of 71%.
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As is the case with most Samsung displays, saturation levels are high and colors have a punch to them. If the colors are too vivid for you, you do have the option to change the settings to better suit your liking. Even with a non-flagship resolution, Samsung’s display prowess shines through and you will have a great experience doing anything on this screen.
Performance and Hardware
Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy A5 packs a quad-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, along with the Adreno 306 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. With Android 5.0 Lollipop slowly making its way to more and more devices, this 64-bit processing package is likely what we’ll see with most upcoming mid-range smartphones.
In terms of performance, the Snapdragon 410 certainly impresses, with day to day usage feeling comparable to even the high-end Snapdragon 805. The device flies through the various elements of the user interface, and all the issues users have faced with TouchWiz lag are nowhere to be seen. Multitasking is a breeze, and gaming is quite good on the device as well. Apart from the most graphic-intensive of games, the Galaxy A5 handles gaming smoothly, without any lag.
The Galaxy A5 comes with 16 GB of on-board storage, which is further expandable up to 64 GB. A full suite of connectivity options are available, including support for LTE, which works on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks for high-speed internet access. Dual microSIM slots are also available, ideal for users who travel internationally.
As mentioned, the speaker grill is positioned on the back next to the rear camera, which proves to be somewhat awkward, especially while using the phone in landscape orientation. While watching videos or playing games, it is quite easy to cover up the speaker grill, and the placement also makes the sound lack depth and a sense of direction. Using the speakerphone is fine, but when listening to music, all the issues related to a single speaker setup show up.
On the battery front, the Galaxy A5 features a 2,300 mAh unit which is not removable. This is an unfortunate compromise that had to be made to accommodate the new unibody design, and might leave some Samsung fans who appreciated the replaceable battery setup unhappy. The performance of the battery is quite good, and you should be able to easily get a full day of use out of this phone.
Samsung recognizes that the camera is an important feature for a lot of users and packs even their mid-range devices with high quality cameras, which is the case with the Galaxy A5. The 13 MP rear shooter is an extremely quick camera, and provides very clean images. For a smartphone camera, the depth of field is also quite impressive.
In good lighting, images appear bright and vivid, and the quality remains quite good even as the lighting conditions deteriorate. There is a bit more grain to the images and they sometimes lack color, but it is still one of the better low light cameras out there.
The front-facing camera is a 5 MP unit, but the images are lacking in detail and color, and depends on the software to compensate for that. A Beautify Mode is on by default, but it doesn’t always result in the best images.
On the camera software side of things, it isn’t as feature packed as you may be used to with Samsung cameras, with only a few shooting modes available. While more can be downloaded from the Samsung store, the available options are quite limited. A slide out menu on the right includes some additional settings such as white balance and ISO, along with voice activated pictures and hand gesture settings to make taking selfies very easy.
The 13 MP rear shooter of the Galaxy A5 is equally impressive as the 16 MP camera of the flagship Galaxy S5, with image quality at par with each other, even if there are a few more shooting modes available with the latter.
Out of the box, the Galaxy A5 is running Android 4.4 Kitkat, of course, with TouchWiz on top. There are three screens by default, with a swipe to the left giving you access to Flipboard, and pressing and holding on the screen lets you select various homescreen functions, settings, or add widgets.
Apart from a few Samsung applications like S Planner, Voice Recorder, and My Files, the software is otherwise free of any bloatware. A contributing factor is also fact that the Galaxy A5 isn’t linked to a network carrier in the US, which does tend to add its fair share of bloatware to the overall software experience.
TouchWiz seems to have been watered down in its current iteration, and isn’t as in your face as it may have been before. Lot of reports suggest that Samsung is moving to a more stock-like version of its software with its upcoming flagship, and while TouchWiz is still TouchWiz in a lot of ways, the decided lack of additional applications and features is very noticeable.
|Screen||5-inch Super AMOLED display
720p resolution, 294 ppi
|Size and Weight||139.3 x 69.7 x 6.7 mm
|Cameras||13 MP rear camera
5 MP front-facing camera
|Memory and Storage||2 GB RAM
16 GB storage, expandable up to 64 GB
|Processor||1.2 GHz quad-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410
Adreno 306 GPU
|Sensors||GPS, Accelerometer, Compass, Proximity|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, hotspot
|OS||Android 4.4 KitKat|
Pricing and Final Thoughts
The Samsung Galaxy A5 isn’t available at a subsidized rate from any network operators in the US, but can be picked up from Amazon, priced at $434.95.
So there you have it – the Samsung Galaxy A5! This smartphone is another fantastic addition to Samsung’s mid-range portfolio. The latest Snapdragon 410 processor, coupled with a watered down iteration of TouchWiz allows for a fast and snappy experience. The camera is one of the better ones out there. And of course, the full metal unibody construction gives the device the premium look and feel that we’ve all been wanting from Samsung. If you’re in the market for a mid-range smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy A5 is definitely one of the choices you should consider.