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Hands On with the Samsung Galaxy A5 and A3

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Jan 5, 2017, 6:39 PM   by Rich Brome   @rbrome
updated Jan 7, 2017, 7:11 PM

Best of CES
Samsung Galaxy A5

Samsung is bringing much of its acclaimed S-series design and features to its much more affordable A-series in 2017. In the A3, A5, and A7, you'll find a premium metal-and-glass design, water resistance, fingerprint security, Samsung Pay, Super AMOLED displays, and USB-C. What are they like in person? Read on for our first impressions.

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The new A5 and A7 differ only in size (both screen and battery), with the A5 clocking in at a 5.2-inch, full-HD display, and the A7 bumping up to 5.7-inch. The A5 has a 3,000 mAh battery, while the A7 has an impressive 3,600 mAh battery. Both models have all of the features already mentioned, plus 3 GB of RAM, 16-megapixel cameras on both the front and back, dual-band Wi-Fi, LTE Cat.6, and a memory card slot. Just like the S-series, the battery is sealed inside.

Galaxy A5  

The new A3 steps down to a 4.7-inch 720p display compared to the new A5, and that does make it quite compact. It also takes small steps down on the processor, RAM, battery, and camera specs. But you still get everything else from the larger models, from the premium design to Samsung Pay. Unfortunately the smaller size only fits a 2,350 mAh battery, which isn't great.

Galaxy A3  

They all share the same exact design; you can only tell them apart by measuring the size.

The design is truly top-notch. If you handed me one of these without telling me the specs and said it was a major flagship phone, I'd believe you. The front glass has curved edges, and the rear glass is actually curved, much like the Galaxy S7. The metal frame is solid. It feels extremely high-quality and comfortable. It also looks enough like the S7 that you could lie and say it's an S7, and most people would believe you.

Interface  

The software is standard Samsung, which some will like and others might not. I find it a bit cartoonish, but functional. Samsung has brought its Always On Display function to the A Series, a welcome feature that lets you always see the time and notifications.

The camera software is well-designed, with a simple grid menu of modes always one swipe away. One clever feature is a floating on-screen shutter button that you drag to position anywhere, making it easier to take a selfie no matter how you hold the phone. The manual mode options are very limited, but otherwise it's a full-featured camera app.

Samsung isn't ready to talk about pricing and availability for the A-series in the U.S.. I hope they do bring them here. At the right price, they could be an impressive value. So many people buy an S-series that don't really need a flagship phone; the A5 might be a better choice for those people.

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