While it’s always nice to have the newest, most fashionable gadgets, not everybody has the sort of expendable income to be able to afford them. While the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge might be the finest phone to come out of Samsung in years, it comes with a particularly prohibitive price-tag. That, I suppose, is where the Galaxy A5 comes in. With a more palatable price point, and a premium aesthetic, it finds a nice balance between affordability and luxury. Or at least it does on the surface.

Aesthetics

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At first glance, the Samsung Galaxy is a snappy, slim and sleek looking device, which seems to have Samsung’s new design ethos all over it. Taking a page or two or thirty-seven from the iPhone, it sports a thin all-metal unibody, with a non-removable plastic back plate. It’s just 6.7mm thin, which makes it thinner than most Android Phones – and even comes in slightly slimmer than the iPhone 6. It’s pretty damned light too, coming in at just 123g.

It packs a Gorilla glass 4-protected 5 inch Super AMOLED screen, with a resolution of 720 x 1280. While it’s not as crisp as we’d like from a phone, with a pixel density of 294 pixels per inch, it makes up for that with sharp, vivid colours and the natural softness you’d expect from AMOLED. Unfortunately, that means it doesn’t work especially well in high-light situations, meaning you’ll be stumbling about trying to cover the screen if you use it in direct sunlight.

Along the side of the body, you’ll find the power button (just like the iPhone 6!) , which took a bit of getting used to for me. Just about every phone I’ve used since the inception of smartphones has had the power button on top, so whenever I’d pull the phone out of my pocket to use it, I’d invariably fumble with the top trying to find the button, like a teenager trying to find the clasp on a girl’s bra. On the same edge you’ll find the nano-sim slot, and one to house a micro SD card to expand the storage beyond the 16GB of built-in storage. As any Android user knows, 16GB doesn’t go very far.

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The opposite side of the phone is home to the phone’s volume rockers, with a headphone jack and the micro-USB port on the bottom finishing the device off. On the face, you’ll find that slightly elliptical rectangular button that Samsung’s fallen in love with, with two soft-keys on either side of it. It looks and feels like a high-end phone, but it packs in some decidedly mid-range internals.

Performance

It’s powered by the Snapdragon 410 chipset, a quad-core CPU that clocks in at just under 1.2 GHz, which is a capable enough, but the fact that it’s now being used in some entry-level Android phones tells you all you need to know about what’s under the hood here. With 2GB of RAM, you should have no real problem running anything beyond the latest, resource-hungry 3D games. And while the phone should be powerful enough for nearly everyone, it is prone to a few aberrant hiccups and intermittent freezes.

Using Geekbench 3, we got single core scores of 429 and 1234 respectively, which puts it in the performance bracket of the much older Samsung Galaxy S3. A 3D mark score of 2640 shows you probably shouldn’t expect to run 3D games on the phone.

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Camera

Yes I'm a sucker.

The phone is home, as with most phones these days, to two cameras; a 13MP main camera that is more than adequate, and a 5MP front-facing one for all your selfie needs. Yes, it comes with gestures and shortcuts to capture the perfect bit of digital narcissism. The rear camera protrudes from the back quite a bit, making it slightly uncomfortable in tighter pockets – but that’ll only affect the tight jeans-wearing hipsters, and they all have iPhones anyway. It also captures video at 1080p/30fps.

Connectivity

It comes with just about all the connectivity you’d want from a mobile device: 4G support, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0, NFC and ANT+. The NFC means you’ll not be able to tap and pay to buy your groceries, just like the millions of other South Africans whose phones have the feature, but haven’t been able to find merchants that utilise it. ANT+ is the standard that many of the popular fitness and sports bands use. It’s something I had to look up, because my general mantra when it comes to fitness is “No Pain? NO PAIN!”

Software

Interestingly, the phone is – for whatever reason – stuck on Android Kitkat. I’ve browsed the internet and found rumours of a Lollipop update, but at the time of writing there was no such update that exists. As far as software goes, it comes with Samsung’s own Touchwiz, which is a secondary layer on Android I’ve always despised, especially when compared to lighter implementations like HTC’s Sense and Sony’s Xperia UI. Samsung seems to be learning from its past transgressions though, and like the S6, this comes with far less pre-loaded bloatware, with Samsung’s Siri-alike S-Voice and a pre-installed Flipboard being the only egregious additions.

Battery life

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Because it’s packing middling hardware, its battery life can’t really be faulted, and you’ll easily get about a day and a half’s worth of juice out of the 2300mAH battery, with Wi-Fi, 4G use and the odd bit of gaming, browsing and video play. At rest, the phone can last for days, so people like Darryn who never get calls or messages could probably get by with charging it just twice a week.

It has a recommended retail price in the region of R5999.

 

 

 

 

Last Updated: May 18, 2015

Samsung Galaxy A5
Summary
The Samsung Galaxy A5 is in a bit of a tricky spot. It’s priced in the upper echelons of the middle end, but has the guts of a lower end phone. Its premium body, stylish design and abundance of features though make it more desirable than it really should be. It’s sleek and sexy, and its premium design belies the middling hardware that lurks underneath. I really liked the A5, and though I’d have preferred beefier hardware, it makes for a good, lower-cost alternative to both Samsung’s S range and Apple’s iPhone.
7

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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