Samsung Galaxy A5 – First Impressions from CES 2015
Samsung’s at it again, introducing yet another new line of mid-range handsets to further clutter the smartphone market. This time, however, we’re actually quite excited. The new ‘A-series’ combines modest specs sheets with wallet-friendly price tags and more premium, metal-framed styling.
A spin-off of sorts from the Galaxy Alpha, the Samsung Galaxy A5 is set to hit the UK in Q1 on £25-per-month contracts. Not one to be kept waiting, though, I had an early play with the device at CES 2015.
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Off the bat, the Galaxy A5 is far more visually appealing than past ‘affordable’ Samsung handsets, such as the Galaxy Ace family. The manufacturer has been repeatedly criticised in the past for its shoddy build quality and, to its credit, it’s responded.
The Galaxy A5’s metal frame improves both the look and feel of the device, but this isn’t where the design improvements end. Although the handset retains the plastic back of its price-bracket predecessors, styling has been drastically improved. Bulbous curves have been replaced by sleek, 6.7mm-thick flat lines and the company’s trademark cheap-looking gloss finish has been substituted for a more subtle and sophisticated matt look.
The results are strong and show a turning point for Samsung’s non-flagship smartphone efforts, at least visually.
Pleasingly, this strong start is carried across into the phone’s features and performance. The A5’s 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor isn’t the most powerful chipset on the market, but the device never felt slow during my early hands-on time. Combining this modest chipset with 2GB of RAM, app launches were sharp and fuss free. Further, more strenuous testing is required, however, before any serious judgment can be passed on its overall performance.
The screen is another area where the A5 carefully treads the line between pleasing and underwhelming. The phone’s 5-inch, 720p HD display is neither groundbreaking nor experience diminishing. The Super AMOLED panel is bright and vibrant, colours are detailed and screen transitions smooth.
Looking closely, however, slight pixellation and a lack of definition to the edge of text and images can be seen. The screen isn’t as pin sharp as some at this price point – we’re looking at the Moto G here – but it’s satisfactory.
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On to the phone’s imaging abilities and Samsung is upping the mid-market ante with the inclusion of a 13-megapixel primary camera and a 5-megapixel secondary camera up front. Yes, there are mid-range devices on the market with equally impressive camera combos, but this is an area where Samsung has cut corners in the past.
In use, the phone’s 13-megapixel offering is very impressive. Quick to focus and with a speedy shutter, the phone handled challenging lighting conditions with aplomb to provide decently detailed images. Given the very limited shooting conditions during my early use, however, it’s still far too early for any final verdict to be passed. Stay tuned for our full Samsung Galaxy A5 review, coming soon, for a more in-depth breakdown of the phone’s photographic abilities.
Around front, the A5’s secondary camera again handled the awkward lighting conditions well. Usually the scourge of many selfie shots, images were reasonable sharp and detailed, despite the far-from-ideal conditions.
Although the phone’s front-facing camera is enhanced by a panoramic shooting ‘Wide Selfie’ mode, I found this to be a little clunky on first use. The feature was cumbersome and a little awkward to operate with one hand. For the selfie fiends among you, LG’s Gesture Shot is a far more pleasing enhancement.
Set to ease your battery anxiety, the A5 features a 2300mAh Lithium-Ion power pack, which should get you through a single day’s usage with ease. Samsung’s quick-charge technology, a feature we’ve raved about on past handsets, makes a welcome appearance, too.
The Samsung Galaxy A5 has left me pleasantly surprised. Whereas Samsung’s mid-range and low-end phones might have left us frustrated and feeling let down in the past, the A5 is a capable across-the-board performer. Yes, there are still shortfalls and compromises, but the overall package is strong. With this device Samsung looks to be on its way to mid-market refinement.