Samsungís not the kind of company that believes less is more. Their strategy is to saturate the market at pretty much all price points often times with multiple overlapping models.
The Samsung Galaxy A5 was released in Canada recently. Looking at the spec sheet, highlights include a 5Ē 1280x720 display, 13 megapixel camera, a Snapdragon 410 processor and 2GB of RAM. The biggest feature however is the metal frame which makes it very solid. Please note that even though it was released in Canada in late 2015, this is the 2014 version of the A5, the SM-A500W.
While there are many competitors, 4 big ones come to mind; the ZTE Grand X 2, Motorolaís Moto X Play, the ZTE Axon and the OnePlus X.
What about the ZTE Grand X 2?
Off the top of my head, the ZTE has similar specs; 5Ē HD display, Snapdragon 410, 16GB storage and a similarly sized battery. The kicker is that the ZTE actually has more RAM, 2 vs 1.5GB, a more recent version of Android and only costs $150 on prepaid or almost ⅓ the cost of the Samsung.
So what do you get when you nearly 3x as much for the A5?
First off, you get a slick aluminum body. If you held the 2 phones, one in each hand thereís no doubt which one youíd think would cost more.
The A5ís camera is also better and has a better screen. So while the A5 is arguably a more well rounded device, youíre paying an awful lot more for a device with such a modest processor.
vs Motorola Moto X Play:
For the same money, you can pick up a Moto X Play. The Play has a larger, higher resolution display which is noticeably sharper and cleaner looking.
It also comes with 2GB of RAM which is rapidly becoming the new 1GB (industry standard) vs the A5ís stingy 1.5GB, a newer version of Android and a more powerful Snapdragon 615 SoC. However, the Playís piece du resistance is itís huge 3630mAh battery which is about 50% larger than the A5ís.
The A5 counters with a nicer metal body though the Playís isnít too shabby either.
Between the 2, the Play is the easier choice.
What about the ZTE Axon?
Another $400 phone is the ZTE Axon. It has the A5 completely out-specíd; bigger, higher resolution display, more RAM, newer version of Android, a Snapdragon 801 and double the storage. Heck, it even has a metal back; the A5 only has metal on the sides.
With all that said, the Axonís camera is pretty awful as is the speaker. Still, the Axon provides way more value.
What about the OnePlus X?
The other headache is that you can pick up the OnePlus X for similar money. Like the Axon, it also comes with a Snapdragon 801 which is backed with a generous 3GB RAM. It also comes with a metal frame and a glass back.
- 5Ē Super AMOLED display
- 2GB RAM
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 410
- 16GB storage
- 2300mAh battery
- 13 megapixel rear camera
- 5 megapixel front camera
- LTE bands 1/2/4/5/7/17
- 802.11 AC
- 139.3 x 69.7 x 6.7
You get a slick metal frame with a plastic back. Itís a budget phone with expensive clothes.
The edges are chamfered edge like the Galaxy Alpha/Note 5. I like how they ditched the Alphaís corner bulges. While it make the A5ís body less interesting, it makes it much more comfortable to hold.
The buttons are all quite good. They stick just enough and click nicely when you press them in. They also donít wobble when you half press them.
The only downside to the A5 body is the plastic back. Itís not glass like many other recent Samsung phones.
You get a 5Ē 1280x720 Super AMOLED display. Colour is pleasing with deep blacks and excellent viewing angles. Itís also very bright.
The only problem is that it only has 1280x720 resolution. 1280x720 on a 5Ē LCD display looks passable but on an AMOLED display, itís a bit gritty looking. Many recent AMOLED displays have their sub pixels arranged in a PenTILE matrix. At super high PPIís, you wonít notice it but at the A5ís more modest 290 you can see dots quite clearly. Itís kind of distracting to look at when you hold the A5 close.
While the display has good fundamentals (color, blacks, viewing angles, brightness), in 2016, a $400 Android phone has no business having such a grainy looking display.
I donít the camera app. It gives you a respectable amount of control without being too cluttered. Thereís no manual mode
Picture quality is passable. You wonít get a lot of keepers in doors but it does alright for static subjects.
Video resolution tops out at 1920x1080.
My A5 came with Android 5.0.2 which is a bit of a disappointment since most newer phone ship with 5.1 or 6 already. I guess the type of person who spends A5 money in 2016 on a Snapdragon 410 phone isnít going to be too bothered with just 5.0.
Itís anyoneís guess if the A5 will receive major updates from Samsung.
It comes with Samsungís Touchwiz overlay which duplicates a lot of the apps already built into Android like a second browser, gallery, music player, video player and their mostly superfluous Samsung App store. To be fair, some of the stock Android apps are polarizing choices - it usually takes Google a few years to get things right so thereís still room for some duplication.
The best example is the camera app - with few exceptions OEM camera apps are always better than the Google one.
It also includes a few extra utilities in case like a file manager, photo editor in case which I suppose saves you a trip to to Google Play to download your own.
Under the hood, you get a Snapdragon 410 SoC. You typically find 410ís on fancier entry level phones like the ZTE Grand X 2 or Moto G 3. Itís a perfectly adequate processor for a $200 phone like the ZTE Grand X 2 but in a $400 phone, itís a bit of a shock.
For $400, I would expect a Snapdragon 615 (Moto X Play) at the very least or maybe even a powerful 801 (Axon, OnePlus X).
As such, the A5 is probably the slowest $400 phone youíll find.
For basic tasks, the 410 is fine but youíll notice that apps take longer to load with more stuttering and skipping than you should at this price point.
As a Phone:
The earpiece and speakerphone are both quite powerful. Thereís a volume boost feature in case you need it.
RF performance is also quite good.
The A5 isnít really aimed at power users so itís 2300mAh battery should be adequate for most users.
You get 16GB of storage, if that's not enough you can add a MicroSD.
The built-in speaker is quite powerful but it has a really narrow range so it sounds tinny with no bass at all.
In the end, the A5 is an entry-level phone with the body of a flagship phone. Itís like a hotdog served with a side of caviar, an Armani blazer with a pair jeans that have a hole in the seat. While there's nothing wrong with these pairings but theyíre somewhat unbalanced.
Still, if you can appreciate the exterior and donít have great processing needs the A5 could be an interesting choice.
2.5 Howies out of 5.
- Sleek body
- Bright screen
- Powerful speaker
- Expensive for what it is
- Only a Snapdragon 410 SoC.
- Only 1.5GB of RAM