By now, all new models in Samsung’s 2016 Galaxy A series are available at least somewhere. And thus we’ve managed to get our hands on them. Here are our first impressions of the Galaxy A3 (2016) and Galaxy A5 (2016). If you’re into the larger devices, don’t forget to head over to our preview of the Galaxy A7 (2016) and Galaxy A9 as well.
The first thing that stands out when handling the revamped A devices is the design. Last year’s Galaxy A3 and A5 might have been Samsung’s first all-metal Galaxys, but truly beautiful they were not. At least not compared to the current generation, that takes the design of the Galaxy S6 and adds some significant improvements.
The corners and metal frame of the A3 and A5 (2016) are just a bit less round. This might seem like only a very subtle difference, but the result is that the phones look thinner than the S6, even though they are not. Another small but significant difference is the glass. The 2.5D Gorilla Glass is a lot more 2.5D than in the S6, ensuring the display looks like it’s floating on top of the device.
Overall, Samsung’s design has matured a lot since the first Galaxy A devices were released one year ago, and even since the S6 things have not been standing still. Because the devices also pack larger batteries, the weight has increased, giving them a more substantial feeling of quality. The compact A3 (2016) weighs roughly the same as the S6, the A5 (2016) is some 20 grams heavier, despite being the same size.
In front, the corner of the Galaxy S6, behind it the Galax A3 (2016)
Not only the build quality has taken big steps forward, so have the displays on both the A3 and A5 (2016). The new A3 now packs a 4.7 inch 720p HD AMOLED screen, and the A5 even got upgraded to 1080p Full HD status. The most important thing, however, is the vastly improved color reproduction, and even the cheaper A3 (2016) is capable of offering relatively natural looking imagery.
This being a first, quick preview, we will spare you the extensive digging into specs and benchmarks. Suffice it to say neither device will win any awards here, but basic performance coupled with Samsung’s recent TouchWiz optimization efforts ensure satisfactory handling. A game like Riptide GP2 runs smooth enough on the A3 (2016), which packs the modest quad core version of the octa core Exynos 7580 found in the Galaxy A5 (2016).
It is here, in the camera department, we run into the first area where the mid-range pricing of the A3 and A5 (2016) really become apparent. While the five megapixel front cams are sufficient, the 13-megapixel rear shooter are rather mediocre. Of course, the A5′s optical image stabilization does something in conditions with less-than-perfect light conditions, but overall these are no phones to consider if you have any real photography ambitions.
With the Galaxy A (2016) line now packing seriously good design and build quality, the distinction with Samsung’s flagship devices has to be made somewhere, and camera quality is where it happens. Still, we’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve had ample time to do our full review of the phones.
2.5D Gorilla Glass front on the Galaxy A5 (2016)
Features: Galaxy A3 (2016)
The A3 (2016) at a glance is all about its build quality, display and a decent basic user experience. Apart from an FM radio, and Samsung’s usual features (battery saving tricks, theme store with a few exclusives) there aren’t many extras. No fast charging, no fingerprint reader, no Samsung Pay support. Of course, there is room for a microSD card, in case the 16 GB of storage (eleven of which is available to the user) is not enough for you, so that’s one perk you don’t get with Samsung’s high-end devices (well, at least not last year).
Features: Galaxy A5 (2016)
If you need any of these extras, the A5 (2016) provides. You can charge it really fast with the fast charger that comes free of charge (pun unintended) with the phone, and added security is provided by the fuss-free fingerprint reader that also supports Samsung Pay. All alliterations aside, the A5 is simply a much more complete device, despite the fact that for some inexplicable reason Samsung again failed to equip it with a notification LED, just like the A3. That’s five cents nobody needed to be saved.
The other strange thing about the entire new Galaxy A (2016) line-up is the presence of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. While in use, there’s not much wrong with it per se, but Android 6.0 Marshmallow should have been there out of the box. Now, you’ll have to wait for the update for a couple of months. This is, to be honest, something most manufacturers are doing (even HTC has phones coming out with Lollipop in addition to those with Marshmallow), though Samsung could have done well to lead the way.
Yes, we haven’t said anything yet about battery life. You will have to wait for our full reviews, but the big batteries powering these modestly spec’d phones promise good endurance, the first glimpses of which we did witness in the short period we’ve been playing with them.
For now, the takeaway message is that the Galaxy A3 (2016) and A5 (2016) are very beautiful, well-built devices with good-looking displays, the latter of which even packs a few very practical extra features. Photography enthusiasts should look elsewhere, but on the whole, Samsung has just significantly upped its mid-range game this year.