Samsung Galaxy A5 2016, review: Samsung's super mid-range dresses in luxury
A little over a year ago something must have clicked on Samsung. After years mistreating its mid-range with devices that did not represent what this company was capable of, they decided to start from scratch and eliminate the Ace and Mini to found, among others, the Galaxy A line. Powerful devices that flirted with the high-end by introducing some elements of it like the materials or the screen. Last year they understood it very well and this year they doubled their bet with a very clear objective: to be the benchmark for the super mid-range.
A couple of weeks ago Samsung presented its new Galaxy A5 in Spain. A terminal with a screen of just over five inches that combines good specifications with a large selection of design and materials. Now, do you have what it takes to be a competitive terminal? We are going to discover it in our analysis but I already tell you that the Achilles heel of this terminal is not inside it.
Samsung knows how to understand the super mid-range
If you are a regular reader of Xataka, you will have read for a long time that we use the term super mid-range. Well, what differentiates one of these terminals with a mid-range stream? The materials are of better quality (glass and metal instead of plastic) in addition to including components that if they were in a high range would not clash, such as the screen. Rather than compete on price, brands seek to differentiate themselves to offer something different and with the Galaxy A5 Samsung proves it.
-Octa-core 1.6GHz GHz
-GPU Mali T720
5MP front with flash
Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n
5V / 9V fast charge
Among the list of components there are a few elements that draw a lot of attention. On the one hand we have the 5.2-inch Super AMOLED panel. Normally when Samsung bets on this technology, it does so with AMOLED, reserving its best panels for the top of the range. Here the only thing they have spared has been in resolution but Full HD in that size is perfect.
In the processor we find an Exynos 7 that already passed our radar last summer and that aims to be the reference SoC for Samsung this year in the mid-range. 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage are not a miracle but are enough to guarantee good performance. Note: we have a microSD slot to expand memory.
Samsung has been able to translate the design ideas from its top of the range in 2015 to a super mid-range in 2016 with remarkable specifications and design very well.
A detail that we liked a lot has been the introduction of a fingerprint reader, an element that until now we have only seen in top-of-the-range devices and in a few affordable smartphones from China with brands like UMI or Xiaomi. The technology is the same as in the S6 so the performance is impeccable.Samsung does not want to enter the price war with its Galaxy A and hopes to convince us with strong arguments: design and screen.
The camera is a good sensor, they do not put the best technology but the quality is sufficient for most circumstances. We will talk more about it later. The detail that squeaks the most in the set is undoubtedly the software: Android 5.1 Lollipop being Marshmallow for months is an ugly gesture by Samsung. There will be an update in the future but coming as standard to save all the news for the S7 is not the best option.
Overall, a good device with few shortcomings, some successes and a very attractive look. Now that we have made the presentations giving some brushstrokes of the hardware, let's get into the matter by talking to one of the aspects that stands out most in this Galaxy A5: the design.
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016: our video review
Before continuing with our analysis, let's go with the video so that you can see in detail what this terminal is capable of.
Design, the best and the worst of the Galaxy S6
For years we have asked Samsung to take care of the Mini versions of its top of the range. It was difficult but with series A they finally understood that they had to take care of the shapes. This year they have redoubled the bet in this section and bring us a superb design. Wait, do you say that your mobile phone sounds like something to you? Of course, the similarities with the Samsung Galaxy S6 are evident.
The gold color is slightly more copper than last year's hue. In my opinion, this time they hit the mark because the Galaxy S6 and Edge + generated too many reflections.
The Koreans do not hide it: they have taken everything they learned about design with their latest flagship and translated it into a device that maintains materials and almost all the schemes. The most significant change is found in the elimination of the curved profile on the sides, making the mobile straighter. A change that makes you lose a little grip but thanks to small curves make it possible to support the finger and thus prevent it from slipping.
On the front there is no doubt that it is a Samsung mobile: well rushed frames, good use of space to place the screen and the physical button accompanied by two touchs on the sides. No surprises, very sober but functional. To the rear it is as if they had taken the S6 and stuck it as is. That's a compliment since the glass works so well and the end result is attractive. Now it's not perfect as the camera still sticks out slightly.
On the left, Galaxy A5. On the right, Galaxy S6 Edge +. It's hard to tell them apart.
The size / weight ratio is correct. It is not a light mobile but not heavy. Balanced, it fits well in the hand and the glass does not take away its grip. Prepare a chamois, however, because the back of the mobile tends to accumulate grease from the fingers and other types of dirt very easily. The physical buttons are robust, they have little travel and the sensation to the touch is perfect, great work with these little details.
In the sound section we find a small speaker in the lower frame of the terminal. Mono sound, low power and a placement that makes it very easy for us to cover it inadvertently when we are watching video in landscape format. The slot to put the nanoSIM card and the microSD is combined so we will have a slightly wider tray. This decision is striking since the normal is usually a double tray with greater depth.
Again, the camera sticks out a bit. Enough to scratch but not so much that the phone "dances" on a flat surface. Nothing that can't be fixed with a case.
Without a doubt, this Samsung Galaxy A5 is the best mid-range that Koreans have designed to date. If this is going to be the standard for 2016, the rest of the manufacturers will have a difficult time. They have set the bar very high and although it has some flaws, the combination works very well on a daily basis.
An excellent Super AMOLED
AMOLED technology today is not a raffle where everything can go very well or be a real disaster. Samsung has understood that this section must take center stage and that a good screen should not be exclusive to something from a top of the range. The Super AMOLED panel that this A5 mounts is a wise choice and one that, like the design, knows how to get right through the eyes.
5.2 inches in size and a Full HD 1080p resolution to give us a density of just over 400 pixels per inch. The sharpness of the screen is tremendous, you just have to read a page or see a photo with many details to realize that the panel chosen by Samsung is a good decision.
The viewing angle is almost 180 degrees, the color space is very wide and the contrast, being AMOLED, is infinite so we will enjoy a great depth of color when we watch video. On sunny days, outdoors it offers enough light so that we can see the screen without much difficulty. The front glass is not very thick, so hardly any reflections are generated.
This AMOLED panel would not clash on any top-of-the-range smartphone in 2016. Great work by Samsung.
With the brightness at a minimum we have enough light to be able to read at night and rest our eyes. Where we notice that it wavers a bit is in the color temperature: the panel tends to be a little cold, something that we will notice when we try to put a pure white on the screen. A small detail that we will only notice when we compare with better calibrated screens and that in the day to day is not a problem.
The only thing I miss about AMOLED displays is that the manufacturers get more out of it with the software. It is rumored that with the Galaxy S7 there will be a display technology similar to the Ambient Display that the Nexus have. To have put that function in the A5 to see notifications without hardly consuming energy would have been quite an agreement. Hopefully it will arrive (if the rumor is true, of course) in that future update to Marshmallow 6.0.
Exynos fine-tunes in the mid-range but still has room for improvement
After several in the shadow of Qualcomm, in 2015 Samsung demonstrated with its Exynos 7 that it could make a good top-of-the-line mobile processor. The next step is the mid-range and thus eliminate dependency with Snapdragon chips. Exynos 7580 is the chosen one and the results in the benchmarks show us that it does not do anything wrong.
It is early to conclude how it will do with other phones in its line since the A5 is the first super mid-range smartphone so far this year. If we compare it with figures of the more modest high-end of 2015, we see that in the benchmarks it does not go far away and the results it shows are high. Remember that these are synthetic tests but the day-to-day experience, as we will see now, is up to the task.
Samsung does the homework again well and the performance of this Exynos is formidable. The system is going fast, there are hardly any slowdowns and considering that it has to deal with a layer of customization as heavy as TouchWiz is quite a compliment. The only section where we have noticed that it loosens a little is in the performance of the GPU, when it has to render heavy games it costs a little and you can see small frame drops.
The 2GB of RAM is enough, but once again Samsung makes it clear that it is not the best managing multitasking: few apps in the background with a performance similar to phones from a year ago.Again, it seems that the Koreans keep their main optimization news for the future Samsung Galaxy S7.The fingerprint reader offers performance similar to that of the Galaxy S6. Fast, accurate but still needs to turn on the screen to fully unlock.
16GB of storage is an acceptable starting point. As standard, without installing anything, we will have about 10 free at our disposal. Enough to avoid having to juggle first, but in the long run they can get small if we don't uninstall the applications we don't use. The microSD slot is a good addition and once the update arrives in Marshmallow it will have more value since it will be possible to easily transfer applications to the card.
The fingerprint reader built into the physical button offers performance as good as the previous year's top of the range: fast reading and a very low error rate. The only drawback is that it is still necessary to press your finger and there is no unlocking by rubbing as in the Mate S, Nexus 6P, OnePlus 2, etc. Leaving this small nuance aside, it is an addition that gives a lot of value to the terminal.
With less than 3,000 mAh of battery we did not expect an above-average performance and, indeed, it is. We can get four hours of screen on if we do not use demanding applications such as games or streaming video playback. On days of heavy use, it will barely last one day. In case we use it little, we will go loose but we will not have enough battery to last another full day.
No new features in software and with Lollipop
TouchWiz arrives on this Galaxy A5 2016 with all the legacy we saw last year, the same layer of software without substantial changes. This lack of changes can be understood in two ways: if something works, better not touch it or Samsung has not wanted to make a great effort in this terminal and saves its best cards for the S7. Whatever the interpretation, we liked the result.
Galaxy software is no longer slow but still just as heavy. There will be those who enjoy the Rococo of the Koreans but the interfaces are much more loaded and move away from the simple lines of Material Design. Taking into account that everything goes light and fast, it is something that does not end up mattering much, but if you are looking for a mobile phone where simplicity reigns, you will not find it in this terminal.
As on other occasions, Samsung took the opportunity to introduce applications of its vintage: tools to add more functions (such as the connection with Smart TVs) and strategic apps such as the introduction of the Office or Skype package. The good news is that both S Voice and S Health and S Club don't get in the way too much if we don't activate them. In fact, its integration into the system is very timid this time.
The number of applications pre-installed on the A5 is remarkable, but less than on other Samsung terminals. Most cannot be uninstalled first (we can disable or remove them with root, of course) but they are not a big hindrance in the user experience, nor do they represent a big hole in the memory of the device.It is understandable that Samsung keeps the letter from Marshmallow for the Galaxy S7 but it is not tolerable that a terminal like the A5 comes with Lollipop as standard.
It is noted that Samsung tries to reconcile with the users an intermediate point in which they can offer their experience (interface, applications, tools ...) without compromising the user very much and giving them a break. They do not do it badly, the only reproach is that there are no news and that the software they put on the terminal is the same as we have seen in 2015.
Come without Marshmallow as a series a little disappointment. At some point in the year it will come but at the moment we do not have a specific date. A pity that once again the mid-range terminals suffer this discrimination.
One of lime and the other of sand in the photographic section
The Galaxy A5 of 2015 showed us that you could have a good camera in the mid-range. Nothing spectacular but enough for most situations. This year they maintain the bet to have a pair of competitive sensors. Let's see some photos to see what we can achieve with the rear camera.
With hard lights the Galaxy A5 sensor suffers. It is capable of capturing many details in the cutouts and makes the processing software do its job well. Now, the dynamic range is very poor as you can see in the image. By focusing on the building for detail, almost all of the blue information in the sky is lost, forcing us to have to use HDR mode to balance the scene.
Indoors in natural and diffused light the camera achieves better results. In the most illuminated areas much information about the textures is observed and in the shadows many details can be observed. Very faithful in the capture of colors and fast focus.
Interior photo to a detail of the painting. Hard test for the processing software and with somewhat disparate results. It does its job very well with the texture of the canvas since it does not paste the whites and allows us to appreciate the property of that material. However, the background is left with some noise despite having enough light. True with the colors although in this case a little saturated.
In night situations it is able to capture a lot of light and put little noise. The disadvantage is the approach that in this case fails to refine as much as possible. Still, if we look for a small artistic effect, the result is acceptable.
The camera of the A5 meets very well first: bright images, accurate colors ... Seeing them from the mobile is a delight (that Super AMOLED screen helps a lot) but a more detailed analysis lets us see that the processing software is not entirely fine in details and 100% cutouts. Fine-tuning here remains exclusive to the high-end.
The application interface is identical to the Galaxy S6: clean, with quick access to various advanced settings and giving absolute priority to what is in front of us. Another detail that we liked a lot has been the maintenance of the double click on the start button to start the camera at the moment.
The front camera is bright and offers good results for self-portraits and video conferencing. The only thing I did not like is that by default beauty mode is always activated so we will have to deactivate it so that it does not soften the skin without us noticing. The exposure is automatically by default and we cannot change it manually so be careful when taking photos because they can be very dark or bright if we are not careful.
The super mid-range of 2016 starts off strong, the opinion of Xataka
Samsung wants its A series to be super mid-range and it has succeeded: excellent screen, correct camera, good performance and quality details such as the introduction of a fingerprint reader. He has no major commitments and the experience is almost round. All good until we see the RRP of 429 euros, a somewhat high figure and eye, not because the terminal is not worth it but for the many and attractive options that are in a range of 300 euros.
Koreans have done a good job with this renovation and offer many reasons to get hold of it. Its screen and design go very well through the eyes to convince us that this could be our next mobile. The rest of the experience does not disappoint but you have to take a good look at it in detail to appreciate all its virtues.
7.8Design: 9 Screen: 9 Yield: 8 Autonomy: 7.5 Software: 7.5 Camera: 7
- Excellent design, a good reconstruction of the lines of the Galaxy S6.
- High quality Super AMOLED screen.
- Exynos does a great job on the processor.
- MicroSD slot.
- Lollipop as standard with a 2015 TouchWiz.
- Irregular camera performance.
- Small and poorly positioned speaker.
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