You’ve seen my exclusive hands-on first look of the Samsung GALAXY A5 (well, at least I hope you did) so here’s a more in depth look at Samsung’s new metal-clad premium midrange smartphone. The 5-inch Android-powered number is certainly a good looker and feels the part too. Read on.
A new beginning
For the longest time, Samsung (as well as most phone vendors for that matter) has used some form of polycarbonate for mobile phones. As competition becomes strife over the past few years and consumers increasingly getting more sophisticated, Samsung had to dig deep to re-look at the design language and build of its phones. Sure, they’ve been highly successful especially with its flagship products, but the game is changing, and quickly.
Hence, when the GALAXY Alpha made an appearance, it was a breath of fresh air. The GALAXY phone has been rebirthed into a more premium, more stylish device. Unfortunately though, Samsung has quickly discontinued the Alpha, for no known reason. It’s likelihood that the Alpha was mere testing ground to gauge consumer interest.
We’ve seen elements of the new design language in the new Note 4. And now, officially, the Alpha has evolved into a whole new series for Samsung called the GALAXY A series. The A series consists of the GALAXY A5 and GALAXY A3.
Design and build
So like the Alpha, the GALAXY A5 is based around a metal frame. Samsung isn’t hiding the fact that it wants to compete and dominate in the premium segment of the market. And it shows. The GALAXY A5 is well-built, with build quality rivaling the best out there. For the first time, the back plate is non-removable and features a matt, non-slip finish. It doesn’t have faux leather or soft touch material like the Alpha or Note 4. Still, it feels good and comfortable in the hands, and its 5-inch size should be suited for the masses.
The A5 measures a slim 6.7mm and weighs a scant 123g. This puts it in the league of the OPPO R5 and Huawei Mate 7, both ultrathin phones. Where it differs from the Alpha that it is widely based on, is it doesn’t have chiseled edges. Lines are simpler and cleaner.
When front-facing, it’s still unmistakably a Samsung phone, which isn’t a bad thing.
On the left side, there’s a power button and on the opposite, the volume rocker, SIM slot and microSD slot. Weirdly, the SIM and microSD slots bulge out from the frame, instead of being flat.
Overall though, it’s a beautiful device and should win some hearts out there.
Make no mistake, the GALAXY A5 is a mid-ranger, and the specs reflect that as much. In the heart of it, is the new 64-bit quad-core 1.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 paired with an Adreno 306 GPU. It gets 2GB RAM and 16GB storage, expandable to 64GB via microSD. You get all the usual bells and whistles – dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC.
The 5-inch HD Super AMOLED display (1280 x 720 @ 294PPI) isn’t exactly the latest and greatest considering the competition out there and Samsung’s capabilities in display tech, however it is sufficiently crisp and bright as you would expect from an AMOLED.
The GALAXY A5 is 4G LTE-enabled and has two variants. This review unit is a dual-SIM version available in some markets. Malaysia officially gets the single SIM version.
The 13MP autofocus rear camera with LED flash should satisfy most consumers. I found it quick and produced good detail, with performance similar to the Alpha. The front gets a 5MP and this should be more than enough pixels for the selfie-hungry.
In terms of battery, the A5 gets a 2300mAh battery — certainly not the biggest mind you, but thanks to the lower-res screen, the A5 copes well and lasts at least a full day of normal use. Being ultrathin cramming a big battery would have been a major challenges. So, a compromise to a certain extent.
The GALAXY A5 runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat with TouchWIZ. No official word on Android L support but the A5 should be more than capable to run the latest update. Love it or hate it, TouchWIZ is feature-packed and highly customisable. It’s oversaturated with multi-layers of options, and remains mostly unchanged from the Alpha or GALAXY S5. Samsung has added the ability of themes. While it isn’t extensive, themes (much like you’ve seen on Xiaomi’s MIUI, OPPO’s ColorOS and Huawei’s Emotion UI) enable you to change desktop wallpapers and icons. There are a handful of themes available and this should grow over time.
The camera software gets a slight boost with added modes such as Animated GIF and also a couple that you’ve seen on the Note 4 — Wide Selfie and voice- or gesture-activated phototaking.
The GALAXY A5 performs predictably throughout — flies through all your daily tasks be it emails, IM, social, photo-taking, video and more. It runs the latest games without complain too. A quick benchmark test with Antutu returns 21,000 points, which puts it in the leagues of the ASUS Zenfone 5 and Xiaomi Mi2. It’s not going to blow your mind, at least not on paper. In the real world though, you’re going to get generally lag-free experience.
The camera is good, as you would expect from Samsung and it’s one of the highlights of the phone.
- Beautiful design
- Good material build quality
- Good camera
- MicroSD expansion
- Mid-range specs
- Battery could be bigger
- Slightly pricey for its specs
Pricing and availability
UPDATE: The Samsung GALAXY A5 retails for RM1,199 (US$335) and is available from 9 January onwards.
If anything, the GALAXY A5 is the start of a new journey in design from Samsung. Now with metal in its future and its emphasis on premium styling, you can expect this in every GALAXY phone coming out of Samsung’s stable. Which is a welcomed thing. The GALAXY A5 certainly feels premium and the fit and finish is fantastic. Sure, there’s compromise in hardware specs and battery life but ultimately specs on paper will not matter much for the general consumer.
If you’re looking for style and don’t bother too much with specs, then the GALAXY A5 should fit you just fine.
In case you missed it, catch the video of the exclusive hands-on first impressions of the GALAXY A5.