Friday 20 October 2017

Adrian Weckler Tech Review: Samsung Galaxy A5

Samsung zips along nicely - yet it's slightly unexciting

Samsung Galaxy A5
Samsung Galaxy A5
Nokia 3310
BlackBerry KeyOne
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

It's a common conundrum. You want a solid new smartphone with a good amount of bells and whistles but are a little shy of the €800 it takes to reach for the top-tier handsets.

If this sounds like you, Samsung's updated Galaxy A5 phone will absolutely be one of the three or four options around the €400 mark you'll want to look at.

By Samsung's standards, this 5.2-inch phone is middle-of-the-road fare. But these days, that still means a really decent 16-megapixel camera (front and back), good enough storage (32GB) and being waterproof to 1.5 metres.

It zips along reasonably well and has a fingerprint scanner for security and payment systems such as Android Pay.

The A5's screen is nice and bright and is up to scratch for use indoors and outdoors. However, at 424 pixels per inch, it doesn't quite have the resolution to work with Samsung's Gear VR headset so if you're looking to virtual reality, you'll need another brand of headset.

Its 3,000mAh battery is also quite good compared to entry-level iPhones, but doesn't compare to other rivals such as the OnePlus 3T. Like most new Android phones, the A5 uses USB-C to charge and connect to things. On the plus side, this means it's faster to charge. On the downside, it means that all your old MicroUSB cables won't work with it. From a design perspective, this phone is largely a vanilla affair with a few nice touches. It looks quite a lot like the old Samsung S6: a plastic finish on front and rear is bonded with nice metal around the edges to give a decent, heavy feel. It comes in a few different colour options (mine was gold) and is pretty satisfactory for a mid-range handset.

As usual, there are a few annoying bits of bloatware here, including the never-to-be-used Samsung apps.

But the f1.9 lens on the phone's cameras mean that you can get pretty good quality from casual snaps.

Samsung has some proper competition in this space. The fiercest comes from the OnePlus 3T, which has an extra 32GB of storage, more power and a slimmer, more attractive design.

But overall, the new A5 is a very good, if slightly unexciting, large smartphone that will do what you need it to.

Expect to see this as the default mid-budget option offered to office workers all around Ireland and the UK. Compare prices.

Samsung Galaxy A5

Price: €389

Rating: 4 Stars

Two to Try

Nokia 3310 (€50)

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Nokia 3310
 

Those who fancy a digital detox will like Nokia's updated 3310, just announced at Mobile World Congress. It's cheap, fun and comes in bright colours. Technically, its basic colour screen is little more than two inches across while its camera is an ultra-basic two megapixels. It has an elementary mobile web browser that won't let you get sucked into social media moan-fests. Compare prices.

BlackBerry KeyOne (€599)

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BlackBerry KeyOne
 

If you never really got over the demise of BlackBerry, it has a new model out. The KeyOne has a 4.5-inch Android touchscreen phone with a full Qwerty physical keyboard tucked in underneath. All of its 52 physical keyboard buttons can be programmed as shortcuts to launch applications such as Facebook or Twitter. It has a 12-megapixel main camera and a larger-than-average battery (3,505mAh).

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