When I first heard that I would be receiving a Galaxy A5 to review (thanks to the wonderful folks at Expansys), I thought it would be another crappy mid-range Samsung device to fill out their ridiculously huge smartphone line-up. The final product was a complete surprise to me.
The Galaxy A5 uses one of the nicest designs I’ve ever seen in a Samsung smartphone. It’s thin, light and well built, using a premium selection of materials that looks clean and fantastic from most angles. Place the A5 next to a Galaxy S5 and the cheaper handset far outshines the more expensive, which goes to show how far Samsung’s designs have come in a short period of time.
Internally we’re getting a Snapdragon 410, which is a decent upgrade on the Snapdragon 400, though not revolutionary. CPU performance has increased by around 20% without affecting power efficiency, which helps the Galaxy A5 achieve decent life from a fairly small battery. Unfortunately GPU performance has stayed the same, restricting the Snapdragon 410’s use to 720p displays.
Luckily the Galaxy A5 comes with said 720p display, which is generally excellent. It’s one of the better Super AMOLEDs going around, with fantastic color quality and deep blacks reminiscent of the superb Galaxy Note 4 display. Its size, 5.0-inches, is also perfect for usability and readability with one hand or two.
Unfortunately the Galaxy A5 doesn’t come with Android 5.0 on-board, and it’s unclear when an update will be available. Samsung doesn’t have the best record of timely updates, so I’d be wary of expecting an upgrade soon, especially if you’re hoping for 64-bit support to be unlocked. However, Samsung’s latest builds of Android 4.4.4 with TouchWiz are generally okay, and come with a decent selection of extra features including multi-window functionality and great power saving modes.
One of the standout features of the Galaxy A5 is its camera. The 13-megapixel sensor is identical to those found in select flagships over the past few years, including the Note 3 and LG G3. It excels at capturing images in good conditions, with vibrant color reproduction and good clarity. It’s not as good indoors or in low light, though that’s typical for mid-range handsets.
While the Galaxy A5 itself is a pretty darn good mid-range smartphone, Samsung has fallen into a nasty trap: the price. Expansys currently sells the handset unlocked and off-contract for $390, which is around $100 too expensive for this class of products. If Samsung had read the market correctly and priced this device just under $300, it would be an absolute winner.
They haven’t, and so the Galaxy A5 is competing against the last generation of flagships that have received discounted price tags. As good as the Galaxy A5 is, it’s hard to look past the superb LG G2 for just $350, or the Nexus 5. The Sony Xperia Z2 retails these days for the same $390 price tag as the Galaxy A5, and like the aforementioned devices, it’s more powerful, has a better display and (in some cases) longer battery life.
Even though the Samsung Galaxy A5 is actually a very good mid-range device, and the best I’ve used in this category from the company, the price completely lets it down.
Pros: Excellent build quality. Great display and camera. Snapdragon 410 is a modest, powerful enough upgrade.
Cons: This mid-range handset is at least $100 too expensive. No Android 5.0 upgrade just yet.