Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 full review

Samsung has upgraded its Galaxy A5 for 2016, and it’s done a fantastic job on this mid-range Android phone. We review the Samsung Galaxy A5 2016. Updated with our video review. Also see: Samsung Galaxy A3 6 (2016) review and Samsung Galaxy A-series 2016 UK release date, price, features and specification.

Last year Samsung put a lot of effort into upgrading its top-end S-series with the then-flagship Samsung Galaxy S6. In 2016, amid criticism that there’s not a lot new in the Galaxy S7, we can now see that it’s focused that same care and attention on its mid-range A-series. The new Samsung Galaxy A3, A5 (reviewed here) and A7 are now well worth a second look.

The Galaxy A5 has had a complete makeover. In place of the plastic-looking but actually aluminium rear is a new Gorilla Glass 4 panel, while Samsung has swapped out the 5in HD screen for a 5.2in full-HD SuperAMOLED display. There’s a new fingerprint scanner built into the Home button, while the chassis has expanded to allow a higher-capacity 2,900mAh battery. The corners are a little less rounded, the phone is a little taller and the rear camera doesn’t protrude so far, but it really wouldn’t be difficult to mistake the Galaxy A5 2016 for the Samsung Galaxy S6, which is now available for around only £50 more. Also see: Samsung Galaxy A5 2015 review

Under the hood are more changes, which are visible to the end user through the Galaxy A5’s greatly improved performance. Last year we were disappointed to find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core chip inside the A5 2015, but Samsung has corrected that mistake with the 1.6GHz Exynos 7580, an octa-core chip based on the Cortex-A53, paired with 2GB of RAM. MicroSD support has also been expanded from 64- to 128GB, although you’ll still find just 16GB of internal storage. Also see: Best phones

Samsung Galaxy A5 6 (2016)

New Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 review: UK price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 is not yet available direct through Samsung, but our review sample was supplied by Mobile Fun. The mobile phone accessories retailer is selling the Galaxy A5 for £319, and should have stock within two- to three weeks. We reviewed the black version, but the Galaxy A5 is also available through Mobile Fun in white and gold. Also see: Best budget phones 2016

At £319 the Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 comes in around £50 lower than last year’s flagship Galaxy S6, now available SIM-free for around £363 from Amazon UK. While we really like the new Samsung Galaxy A5 for 2016, if you can afford that extra outlay you get a lot more bang for your buck - the Galaxy S6 is faster, with more internal storage (although no microSD support) and has a Quad-HD screen, to name just a few of its advantages over the A5.

It’s worth pointing out that Mobile Fun will also be stocking the 2016 Galaxy A3 and Galaxy A7, and at £399 the Galaxy A7 is actually more expensive than the Galaxy S6, which makes this A5 appear to be much better value. Check out our best SIM-only deals to get the best Galaxy A5 package.

Samsung Galaxy A5 6 (2016)

New Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 review: Design and build

As we noted, the Samsung Galaxy A5 is in many ways similar in design to the Galaxy S6, with the new mirror-finish glass front and rear and fingerprint scanner built into the home button. There are some subtle differences in the overall shape and size (the Galaxy A5 has a slightly larger 5.2in screen, for example), but this 2016 A5 is every bit a gorgeous and premium-looking smartphone. Also see: Best Android phones 2016

With no removable back panel the Galaxy A5 feels tough, and not at all fragile thanks to its Gorilla Glass 4 protective armour. Unfortunately we see the same problems here as we did with the S6: fingerprints - and they’re everywhere.

You’ll barely notice the increase in thickness over the A5’s predecessor, but this has allowed Samsung to pack in a 2,900mAh battery that offers very good runtime. The A5 is still slim at 7.9mm, but feels sufficiently weighty in the hand at 155g. The rear camera juts out a little at the rear, but not enough to make the A5 2016 rock on a desk. Also see: Best Samsung phones 2016: What is the difference between Galaxy Note, Galaxy S, Galaxy A and Galaxy J?

A standout feature is the full-HD SuperAMOLED panel, which measures 5.2in on the diagonal and is large enough for all your multimedia needs. We’re huge fans of SuperAMOLED and its vibrant, slightly oversaturated colours and deep, rich blacks. It’s not just better-looking (in our opinion) than more common IPS, but more energy-efficient since it doesn’t require a backlight. Even so, the screen is plenty bright, while viewing angles are strong and detail is sharp - the Galaxy A5 has a pixel density of 424ppi, which is higher than even the latest iPhone 6s.

Samsung Galaxy A5 6 (2016)

New Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 review: Core hardware and performance

Inside are some of the most notable changes in terms of usability, and the Samsung Galaxy A5 has gone from what looks and feels like a budget phone to something much more deserving of its mid-range price tag. The new A5 feels more responsive, and overall performance is greatly improved - something that was mirrored in our benchmarks.

With a new Samsung Exynos 7580 chip and 2GB of RAM, the new Galaxy A5 is no longer in Moto G territory and now a true rival to the likes of the HTC One A9, Google Nexus 5X and Moto X Play.

For general processing performance measurements we run AnTuTu, in which the Galaxy A5 2016 scored 37,906 points, and Geekbench 3, in which it recorded 694 points single-core and 3688 multi-core. This is a lot faster than the A5 2015’s 1476 points, yet a fair bit lower than the now only slightly more expensive Galaxy S6, which scored 4438. Perhaps more importantly, the A5 2016 floored the similarly priced- and specced Nexus 5X (3528 points), HTC One A9 (3094 points) and Moto X Play (2570 points).

We also use Geekbench to test battery life, and the Galaxy A5 2016 with its higher-capacity 2,900mAh battery and less-demanding hardware did an excellent job - better than the Galaxy S6 with 4709 points against its 4136, and a time of 11 hours 46 minutes against 6 hours 53 minutes. In real-world use you can easily expect a full working day and potentially two, depending on your usage. Wireless charging is not supported but, like the Galaxy S6, the A5 2016 has Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging.

In our GFXBench graphics tests the Galaxy A5 fell down against the Galaxy S6 and Nexus 5X, which respectively scored 30- and 38fps in T-Rex and 14- and 16fps in Manhattan to its 5- and 14fps. However, its scores are only slightly lower than the Moto X Play (6/15fps) and HTC One A9 (7/16fps).

We also ran the JetStream JavaScript test, where the Galaxy A5 2016 recorded 23.146. See how the A5 compares to all the phones we’ve recently tested in our article What’s the fastest phone 2016?

One area where the Galaxy A5 2016 shows its mid-range roots is in storage, with just 16GB supplied internally. The Galaxy S6 doubles this to 32GB, but it has no removable storage - the Galaxy A5 2016 supports up to 128GB via microSD (up from 64GB in the 2015 model). Also see: How to add storage to Android

Connectivity- and extra options are also fairly standard at this price point: while the Galaxy S6 has the fastest 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, a heart-rate scanner and an infrared sensor, the Galaxy A5 2016 maxes out at dual-band 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0, and has no pulse checker or IR blaster. Both have a touch-input fingerprint scanner, GPS and GLONASS, NFC, OTG and support for 4G LTE. (A dual-SIM variant of the Galaxy A5 2016 will also be available outside the UK.)

New Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 review: Camera review

Samsung Galaxy A5 6 (2016)

Samsung has made the same update to the Galaxy A5’s camera as it did to the Galaxy S6 over the Galaxy S5: it’s added optical image stabilisation. Otherwise the phone remains fitted with a 13Mp, f/1.9 rear camera with LED flash, and 5Mp (also f/1.9) at the front. Both cameras are capable of 1080p video at 30fps. Also see: Best phone camera 2016

By default the main camera shoots in 16:9 at 9.6Mp; if you want the full 13Mp it’s available in 4:3 mode, which means you’ll lose the top and bottom sections of photos.

The camera isn’t as good as the 16Mp model found in the Galaxy S6, but it does capture a fair amount of detail (you can make out the Midland Road street sign in a photo captured from our 7th floor roof terrace, for example), with accurate exposure and the lens is sharp right to the corners.

The camera app is unchanged, with various shooting modes including Pro, Panorama, Continuous Shot, HDR and Night, with an option to download more. There are also real-time effects and, in selfie mode, a Wide Selfie option.

You can check out a couple of our test shots of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel below, first with Auto settings and secondly in HDR mode.

Samsung Galaxy A5 6 (2016)

Samsung Galaxy A5 6 (2016)

New Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 review: Software

While the Samsung Galaxy S7 comes with Android Marshmallow preinstalled, and an upgrade is available for the Galaxy S6, the Galaxy A5 2016 comes with 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box. This might be a previous-gen Android operating system, but just 4.6 percent of all Android phones are running Marshmallow today. Plus we think Lollipop is pretty good.

Samsung overlays its TouchWiz UI, and while you get the Easy mode, Smart alert, Easy mute, Palm swipe to capture and quick access to the camera with a double-tap of the Home button, as seen in the Galaxy S6, there’s no Smart Stay, Pop-up view or Multi-View Window, nor the handy new screenshotting capabilities (see How to take a screenshot on Galaxy S7).

Samsung Galaxy A5 6 (2016)

The Galaxy A5 2016 features the usual TouchWiz customisations on the drop-down notification bar, with shortcuts to S Finder and Quick Connect alongside a row of circular quick-access icons for Wi-Fi, Location, Sound, Screen Rotation and Bluetooth (you can edit what’s shown here).

As usual, you get a load of Samsung’s own apps for browsing the web, playing back music and video, email, calendar and so on, with access to the Galaxy Apps store as well as Google’s Play store. Google apps are also preinstalled, as are Microsoft apps - Excel, Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype - and you get 100GB of free OneDrive storage. All in all that’s quite a lot gobbling away at the device’s 16GB of storage, and you’ll see just 9GB available.

Read next: Best new phones coming in 2016.

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Specs

Samsung Galaxy A5 2016: Specs

  • 1.6GHz Exynos 7580 (Cortex-A53) octa-core processor
  • Mali-T720 MP2 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • up to 128GB via microSD
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with TouchWiz
  • 5.2in full-HD (1920x1080, 424ppi) SuperAMOLED display
  • Gorilla Glass 4 front and rear panel
  • 4G LTE (single-SIM)
  • dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • GPS, GLONASS
  • NFC
  • Micro-USB
  • fingerprint scanner
  • 13Mp, f/1.9 rear camera with OIS and LED flash, records 1080 video at 30fps
  • 5Mp, f/1.9 front camera, records 1080 video
  • available in black, white, gold or pink
  • 2,900mAh non-removable lithium-polymer battery
  • adaptive fast charging
  • 144.8x71x7.3mm
  • 155g
  • Geekbench 3: 694 (single-core), 3688 (multi-core)
  • AnTuTu: 37,906
  • GFXBench: T-Rex: 14fps, Manhattan: 4.7fps
  • JetStream: 23.146
  • Geekbench 3 battery life: 11:46:20 (4709)