Samsung has wrapped its new A-series in an elegant metal housing – at last! Stylish newcomers Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A3 are also excellent when it comes to technology.
The Galaxy A5 is a real high flyer in its price range and will win you over not only with perfect workmanship, but also with great inner values.
Constant dripping wears away a stone. This saying comes to mind when looking at the first models of the brand new A-series from Samsung. The Koreans were criticized more and more for their choice of material – that the current Galaxy S5 (test in connect 6/2014) and Galaxy Note 4 (test in 12/2014) flagships are still housed in plastic annoyed many smartphone enthusiasts. Samsung is at last tackling the issue of tactile quality – first in the mid-range. The A-series models are covered in a chic unibody aluminum housing, thereby eradicating the last area of attack for the competitors. Can the Galaxy A5 for 399 euros show off in other areas?
The first contact proves that the Galaxy A5, available in black, white, silver and champagne gold, are easy on the hands. The nearly seven-millimeter-wide flat metal housing is free from any seams and lies comfortably in the hand due to the flattened edges. The slightly roughened back of the black test devices also makes for a secure hold. Headphones and micro USB connectors are located on the bottom of the Galaxy A5, the slots for a nano SIM and micro SD memory card are perfectly integrated into the side. The Samsung does not skimp on visual stimuli and, with every touch, users know they have made the right purchase decision at least in terms of workmanship and value.
Such an elegant packaging deserves a display befitting its quality. Samsung equipped the Galaxy A5 accordingly with a 5-inch OLED display with HD resolution. The display provides both brilliant and strongly colored presentation and a good brightness of 348 cd/m2. Thus equipped, it is a real pleasure to zap through the menus, surf the Web, look at photos and watch videos, or play a game.
The combination of a 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU and 2 GB of RAM is primarily responsible for a great operating experience for all of these actions. However, the Qualcomm MSM 8916 platform used belongs in the major leagues, which was not expected for the price. Nevertheless, the multitasking features known from higher-class Samsung models run smoothly, such as Multi Window, which allows two functions to run parallel on the display of the Galaxy A5.
10.5 gigabytes of media and app memory are available to the user, and this can be expanded through the use of a micro SD memory card. When it comes to connectivity, the Galaxy A5 runs the full program and masters all important and current standards with quad-band GSM and -UMTS, LTE, HSPA +, NFC, a/b/g/n WLAN and A-GPS.
And what about the hot topic of photography? The main camera has a maximum resolution of 12.8 megapixels, but features an autofocus and a photo light. You might also like the purified menu navigation: there are eight pre-installed image modes, but you can define which are displayed. This makes for an organized overview. If that’s not enough for you: other settings can always be downloaded from the App Store.
The picture quality is above average with sufficient artificial or natural light. In low light, however, clear image noise occurs. The A5 takes full HD quality videos.
The trendy selfie cannot be ignored, and it even has its own entry in the main camera menu. In most cases, however, the 5 megapixel camera on the front is used for this popular pastime. A special features is the mode for group selfies, beauty retouching and gesture control for the trigger.
The Touchwiz user interface that Samsung lays over the installed Android 4.4 is also no big challenge for beginners and laymen. You reach the individual functions intuitively, of which there are not as many as with the flagship models.
As is common with Samsung, there are a variety of setting options which you can use to customize the interface to your needs. Different home screen themes are new, which make for diversity in everyday smartphone use with differently designed icons.
Now the question arises: can the Galaxy A5 win over the connect lab? It can. The permanently installed energy supplier makes for good running time across the board with its capacity of 2300 mAh. In practical mixed mode (more on page 16), it comes in strong at 7:45 hours, and the talk times are 16:26 hours in GSM and 12:39 hours in UMTS mode. They are joined by good to very good transmission and reception properties, as well as impeccable acoustics.
If you are looking for a high quality but affordable smartphone, you can’t ignore the Galaxy A5. The elegant metal model is impressive with its OLED screen, perfect workmanship and a range of equipment that has truly matured. With this strong performance, the Samsung Galaxy A5 deserves not only the verbal grade “very good”, but also a strong connect recommendation.
The Galaxy A3 is currently the least expensive metal smartphone on the market. The equipment also makes this clear, however.
Samsung has marked its entry into the new world of metal smartphones with the Galaxy A3 for only 299 euros.
Like its big brother, the Galaxy A3 in wrapped in a perfectly crafted and very flat unibody enclosure. When it comes to color selection, however, the champagne gold version is lacking – this is reserved for the Galaxy A5 at least for the time being. The shape factor is even more compact, and so the Galaxy A3 weighs only 110 grams. The slightly rough back of the metal housing makes for a secure grip.
A 4.5-inch OLED display does its job on the front. However, the display has to do with a somewhat low resolution of 540 x 960 pixels, so the presentation is less brilliant than the A5, but the color strength and viewing angle stability leave nothing to be desired. The brilliance of the display is also good at 345 cd/m2.
Aside from the screen, the Koreans have also cut costs with the equipment. The Galaxy A3 with Multi Window is lacking the practical multi-tasking function, and the main camera has to make do with a resolution of only 8 megapixels. However, autofocus, photo light and good image quality with optimal lighting conditions are also offered by the Galaxy A3. As is a 5 megapixel front camera for selfies.
There is also nothing to complain about when it comes to the performance The Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 platform is also used here, but the RAM is somewhat reduced at 1.5 GB. With user memory, Samsung is again very generous with 10.5 GB, as well as with the extensive connectivity options, including LTE.
In the lab, the Galaxy A3 showed some weaknesses. In endurance measurements in particular, the reserves of the battery with its 1900 mAh are insufficient for outstanding performance. With GSM reception, the Samsung is also a bit weak, while the UMTS and LTE performance is good. If you can live with the above caveats, you will get a smartphone with an excellent feel for a low price.
Price: 299 euros
Dimensions: 130 x 68 x 7 mm; Weight: 110 grams
Attractive design with flat construction
Strong color OLED display
Easy to use
10.5 GB of internal memory
8 megapixel camera takes good pictures in bright places
FM radio with RDS
Slot for micro SD memory cards
Permanently installed battery
Low display resolution
Weaknesses in endurance and the GSM reception