Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) review: A great all-rounder for under £300


The Samsung Galaxy A5 is one of those smartphones that, as soon as you take it out of your pocket, draws admiring glances. Just like Samsung’s recent flagship devices, it’s clad in glossy glass at the front and the rear. And just like those phones, it looks fabulous. The Samsung Galaxy A5 has the heft, the fit and finish and the attention to detail that wouldn’t be out of place in handset costing north of £500.  

Yet, at £290 (from Mobile Fun), 2016’s Samsung Galaxy A5 comes into full contact with a troop of mid-range big-hitters. Handsets such as the Nexus 5X, OnePlus 3, Sony Xperia XA and Nexus 6P all provide stiff competition in this price bracket. Has the Galaxy A5 got what it takes?

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Certainly, the design is right up there with the best. It’s a conveniently pocketable size, too, and especially so if you don’t get on with the latest breed of 5.5in and larger smartphones. The 5.2in screen on the Samsung Galaxy A5 makes it just about usable in one hand, and it’s much easier to slide into a front jeans pocket than the OnePlus 3.

And there’s little lacking in terms of features. It takes microSD cards up to 256GB in size, outdoing its rivals from OnePlus and Google. Those glass front and rear panels are scratch- and shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass 4, a huge plus point in a phone at this price. The 16GB of storage isn’t particularly generous, although the storage expansion compensates for this somewhat. There’s a fingerprint reader integrated into the home button on the front and NFC, too, so you’ll be able to use your fingerprint to pay at contactless terminals.

Samsung is currently the only supplier of small, phone-sized AMOLED panels in the world, and it takes advantage of its position by including the tech on everything from flagship phones to low-budget handsets such as the Galaxy J5 and Galaxy J3.

Since it’s the pre-eminent expert in the technology, the screens on its smartphones tend to be fantastic, and the Samsung Galaxy A5 is no exception to the rule. Its base maximum brightness is 400cd/m2, which doesn’t look bright when sat next to a phone with a bright IPS screen. However, for an AMOLED panel, it’s perfectly acceptable. And if you leave it in automatic brightness mode, it boosts a little higher than this, reaching 452cd/m2 in bright sunlight. It’s also good to see that the screen goes dim enough for night-time use, with the brightness dropping right down to below 2cd/m2.

The Samsung Galaxy A5’s screen resolution doesn’t look wonderful on paper, especially with so many manufacturers now moving to high-DPI displays, but on a 5.2in screen, 1080p is absolutely fine. There’s little visible grain or pixellation when viewed from a normal arm’s length of around 40cm. You wouldn’t want to use the Galaxy A5 in a VR headset – the only application currently for higher-resolution screens – but that’s the only criticism I have.

The screen quality is top-notch. Since it’s an AMOLED screen, contrast is effectively perfect. AMOLED panels don’t have a backlight as each pixel provides its own light source, so when it’s off, it’s off.

Colour accuracy is exceptional. The screen covers 100% of the sRGB colour gamut and there’s none of the lurid, neon glow you see with some AMOLED devices. For truly accurate colours, you’ll need to switch the “Screen mode” to “Basic”, but when you do, you’ll see an average deltaE of 1.34 and a maximum of 3.79. Essentially what this means is that, in most cases, the graphics, photos and videos you see on the screen of the A5 will match those that the creator of those visuals intended you to see; assuming that those videos, photos and graphics were created by a professional designer with a colour accurate display, of course.

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