Samsung A5 (2016) – Owner's review

It has been a couple of months now, and I think it’s enough time for me to go for an owner’s review. While the initial review has already been published, this review is meant to view the phone from an owner’s perspective.

What is it?

The Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) is a premium mid-range phone, which marries mid-range specs with high-end material, giving it a premium feel to the touch and look, but on closer inspection (and usage), reveals the limitation of a mid-range phone.


CPU Speed 1.6GHz
CPU Type Octa-Core
Size (Main Display) 5.2″ (132.2mm)
Resolution (Main Display) 1920 x 1080 (FHD)
Technology (Main Display) Super AMOLED
Color Depth (Main Display) 16M
S Pen Support No
Video Recording Resolution FHD (1920 x 1080)@30fps
Main Camera – Resolution CMOS 13.0 MP
Front Camera – Resolution CMOS 5.0 MP
Main Camera – Flash Yes
Main Camera – Auto Focus Yes
RAM Size (GB) 2 GB
ROM Size (GB) 16 GB
Available Memory (GB) 10.7 GB
External Memory Support MicroSD (Up to 128GB)
Multi-SIM Dual-SIM
SIM size Nano-SIM (4FF)
2G GSM GSM850, GSM900, DCS1800, PCS1900
3G UMTS B1(2100), B2(1900), B5(850), B8(900)
4G FDD LTE B1(2100), B3(1800), B5(850), B7(2600), B8(900), B20(800)
4G TDD LTE B40(2300)
USB Version USB 2.0
Location Technology GPS, Glonass
Earjack 3.5mm Stereo
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4+5GHz, HT40
Wi-Fi Direct Yes
Bluetooth Version Bluetooth v4.1
Bluetooth Profiles A2DP, AVRCP, DI, HFP, HID, HOGP, HSP, MAP, OPP, PAN, PBAP
PC Sync. Smart Switch (PC version)
OS Android
General Information
Form Factor Touchscreen Bar
Sensors Accelerometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor
Physical specification
Dimension (HxWxD, mm) 144.8 x 71.0 x 7.3
Weight (g) 153
Internet Usage Time(3G) (Hours) Up to 14
Internet Usage Time(LTE) (Hours) Up to 14
Internet Usage Time(Wi-Fi) (Hours) Up to 16
Video Playback Time (Hours) Up to 14
Standard Battery Capacity (mAh) 2900
Removable No
Audio Playback Time (Hours) Up to 75
Talk Time (3G WCDMA) (Hours) Up to 16
Audio and Video
Video Playing Format MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM
Video Playing Resolution FHD (1920 x 1080)@30fps
Audio Playing Format MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, M
Services and Applications
S-Voice Yes
Mobile TV No

First impression

When I first saw it online, and even when I first get to hold it in my own hand, the phone feels great! Even now with the launch of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, I do sometimes feel that they should carry over the look and feel of the A5 to the S line (I have yet to feel the S7, as only S7 Edge is available in stores right now).

I was amazed at how much it exudes the premium feel, even though it’s aimed as a mid-range phone. They have also thrown in some interesting features such as fingerprint reader, Samsung Pay support, and Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)


Looks and feel

It has a nice metal sides with matte treatment,  sandwiched between 2 glass panels. The black version (it comes with gold version too, which I feel makes it look meh) refects light nicely, and in my opinion, makes the phone look understated and sophisticated at the same time.

Any time someone holds the phone to either help me take a photo or something, they were impressed by it, and immediately compare it to the more expensive and higher end S series.

It’s suffice to say, the look department does not fail me.

It has some heft to it, which might be off-putting for some, but its a good heft and does make the phone feel substantial. The metal sides have a rounded-chamfered design, which makes it not as slippery as the Galaxy S6.

The Malaysian version comes with dual sim support along with SD Card support. there are 2 slots on the side, one wider to hold either 2 SIM cards or a SIM Card and a SD Card, while there’s an additional SIM Card slot at the top.

The bottom has the same design as the S6, which carries over both its pros and cons. Pros, having all ports at one side cleans up the top, but the speaker placement makes it easier to block the speaker with your palm when using it with one hand. Probably it’s the more rigid metal sides, but the speaker gets almost silenced if blocked by the palm.

Using it

Using it, however, reveals the dark side of the phone. While its processor boasts Octa-Core (8 cores) with 64bit processing, the combination of the mid-range processor with 2GB of RAM makes medium to heavy use a test of patience. There are times where the phone struggles to wake from sleep (probably some background service were running at full steam at that time).

The camera has a quick enough shutter for most shots, except during low light. That’s when it takes its own sweet time to snap a photo, often missing the shot. that’s not including the time it takes to open the camera app. it may take as low as 2 seconds to more than 5 seconds before i can snap a photo, depending on what the phone is doing at the time.

Having said that, the camera is actually, not bad. Not great, but considerably good. It tends to blow up bright images, but the combination of OIS, f1.9 aperture and software enhancements, helps the camera stand close to its flagship siblings, but not too close. There’s still a gap between this camera and current flagship ones, however, comparing it with yesteryear’s flagship, it’s really close.

Speaking from experience, while having a good  camera helps, most of the time a good photo comes from framing, choosing a good subject an others pre-photography planning. The challenge, however, is capturing moment that is active, and not still. While the shutter is fast, it has its time when something overwhelms the processor and the phone lags, not to mention the camera boot up time (both cold start or from memory).

This is actually my first non-flagship android phone, and I was surprised to see some elements being removed to reduce costs. For example, it does not have a Gyroscope sensor, so you could not use Virtual Reality (VR) functions (on Cardboard, or on Youtube, for example). The camera also have less shooting modes as compared to the Galaxy S6.

One other area the phone excels way over many other phones (other than looks), flagship or not, is the battery life. As of writing time, it was almost 17 hours since I plugged it in into its charger, 4 hours of screen time, and it’s at 38%. This is running full services, including an hour of Youtube session, about 45mins of listening to Spotify over Bluetooth, sending notifications over Bluetooth to my Android Wear watch and other miscellaneous usage.

And if it’s out of juice, I could top it of fairly quick with it’s Adaptive Fast Charger, that could fully charge it in less than an hour. I don’t really think about charging this phone that often, and even with less than 35% before I go to sleep, I don’t plug it in but rather wait until the next day to charge it at work. It’s not that it’s that hard or anything, but I’m using a WSKEN magnetic charging cable that requires me to install a magnetic port adapter into its micro-USB port.

Owning it

It’s a mixed bag.

There are times when I absolutely love this phone. Its looks, it’s battery, and when it works, it works as it should.

However when it’s overwhelmed, things slow down to a halt, often when it’s really needed the most. Often I found myself praying the phone does not freeze in that short amount of time I have to take an interesting photo.

As a daily driver, it performs as it should. No more, no less. While it looks like a premium flagship phone, using it reveals the real story. This makes the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of RM 1699. It should be cheaper now, but no where as cheap as flagships from Chinese and Taiwanese companies such as Xiaomi, Huawei and Lenovo.

If only they could reduce the amount of lag, then this could be a very capable phone, but as an offering from Samsung, this is as close as you can get to a flagship phone, without the need to pay through your nose (the RRP for S7 Edge is RM 3099).

You can read another review comparing the Galaxy A5 (2016) to the Galaxy Note 3 here.