Samsung stole the show at MWC 2016 with its VR-laden, Zuckerberg-wielding press conference announcing the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.
But those handsets are hardly the sort of thing your everyday man on the street is going to buy. Instead, it’s the mid-range A-series of Android phones that they’ll most likely go for.
The Samsung Galaxy A5 is the middle child in the range, with the A3 and A7 a step below and above it respectively. It isn’t the first A5 from Samsung, and it’s no incremental update, either.
Samsung Galaxy A5 review: Design and changes
The first major change is to the A5’s physical design, with a small increase in screen size from 5in to 5.2in. This has increased the weight by a fair chunk, up from 123g on last year’s model to 155g in 2016. It’s also 0.6mm thicker at 7.3mm and is expected to cost around £40 more than last year, too.
That’s a fairly major shift and it’s certainly a more chunky phone, but it’s by no means uncomfortable to hold. Styling remains similar, although the shiny, machined chamfered corners have been replaced by the same brushed metal as used on the edges of the phone.
Colours include black, white, brown (pictured here) and pink. Its glossy back is slightly slippery but thanks to the slightly grippier frame, I wasn’t constantly worried about dropping it.
Samsung Galaxy A5 review: Performance and specifications
Inside, the quad-core QualComm Snapdragon 410 chip from last year has been replaced by an octa-core Samsung Exynos 7580 chip, with four cores running at 1.5GHz and the other four running at 1.2GHz.
Performance is sprightly, with Android 5.1.1 (no word on Marshmallow for now) running like a dream for the most part. It stumbled when I opened and immediately closed an app, but this is nothing unusual for a mid-range phone with only 2GB of RAM.
With the screen size upgrade comes a resolution bump: the 720 x 1,280 pixel screen from last year has been replaced by a Full HD, Super AMOLED panel. Super AMOLED screens have tremendous contrast thanks to the fact that each pixel provides its own illumination, meaning there’s no light to leak through from behind. It also means colours have a huge amount of punch. It doesn’t have the same always-on display tech that the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge do, however.
Samsung has retained the 13-megapixel camera from last year. On the show floor, the photographs I captured with it looked bright and full of detail, but more in-depth analysis will be required to evaluate how well it performs in low light. But the battery has got bigger: it has a capacity of 2,900mAh, whereas last year’s was 2,300mAh in size.
Samsung Galaxy A5 review: Early verdict
The Galaxy A5 found itself lost in the shuffle last year because its price was awkwardly positioned between better-value, lower-end phones and faster mid-range phones. This year, with its price bump and processor boost, it may be able to shake that off, but much depends on its competition.
See also: The best smartphones of 2016 – these are our favourite handsets
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