As the middle sibling in Samsung’s new trio of metal mid-range smartphones, the Galaxy A5 shows that you don’t need to splash out on an expensive flagship handset to enjoy the same kind of excellent built quality and top-of-the-range design.
A 5in 1,280×720 resolution Super AMOLED display arguably makes the A5 easier to handle than the super-sized Galaxy A7, and the higher resolution screen is much better for web browsing than the compact Galaxy A3. It’s a lot more attractive than other mid-range smartphones we’ve seen recently, like the plasticHTC Desire 820, and we particularly like how the glitter finish on the rear shimmers when it catches the light.
Impressively, Samsung has managed to fit everything inside a svelte 6.7mm thick, 123g handset; that’s thinner than both the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, albeit only by 0.1mm and 0.3mm respectively. It gives the A5 the look and feel of a top-flight smartphone without the eye-wateringly high prices.
The A5 also shares the same screen lineage as its top-end cousins, with Samsung’s Super AMOLED panel technology giving the 5in, 1,280×720 resolution display plenty of punch. While its maximum brightness level of 347.26cd/m2 isn’t as bright as a typical LCD screen, the A5’s colour accuracy is top of its class, as our colour calibrator returned a perfect sRGB colour gamut score of 100%. As a result, colours were rich and vibrant and blacks were incredibly deep at 0.00cd/m2, which helps text really stand out against white backgrounds.
Likewise, the screen’s contrast levels are extremely high, so much so that our calibrator couldn’t even give us a score, so you should find plenty of detail on show in photos and videos. The 1,280×720 resolution gives most web pages enough definition, although you’ll still have to zoom in occasionally to read smaller text on desktop sites.
Battery Life & Performance
A bigger, higher resolution screen doesn’t come at the cost of battery life, as the Galaxy A5’s 2,300mAh battery lasted an excellent 15h 18m in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to 170cd/m2. That’s almost an hour more than the Galaxy A3 and just over ten minutes shy of the S6 Edge, so you should get plenty of use over the course of a day.
It’s the quad-core, 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor that betrays the Galaxy A5’s mid-range aspirations, however, as it’s not only the same processor powering the cheaper Galaxy A3, but the one you’ll find in the £110 2nd Gen Motorola Moto E. While this is just about acceptable in the £220 Galaxy A3, we would really expect to see something a bit faster, like the Snapdragon 615, in the £290 A5.
This is a shame, as it leaves the A5 feeling decidedly sluggish for its price. Geekbench 3 scores of 481 and 1,431 in the single and multicore tests are almost identical to the Moto E’s 470 and 1,397, and graphics performance isn’t any better. The A5 and Moto E produced an identical 112 frames in the offscreen Manhattan test in GFX Bench GL 3.0.
Admittedly, it’s still fast enough to run Android 4.4.4, as menu animations were smooth and apps loaded relatively quickly. However, it can often take a while to switch back and forth between the A5’s fullscreen Flipboard widget, and web pages often take several seconds to load.
Even when pages have loaded, scrolling up and down articles can be very stop start and overall performance isn’t half as snappy as we might expect from a phone of this price. This was reflected in the A5’s Peacekeeper browser test score of just 685, a long way off similarly priced phones such as the £280 HTC Desire 820’s 1,138, or the £300 Honor 6 Plus which scored 1,164. Android 5 Lollipop is promised soon too, but it’s unknown whether the phone will be powerful enough to run the new OS smoothly.