The most important point first: none of our four candidates from Samsung's brand new A series erupted into flames during the tests. This includes during the numerous times charged in the lab and the arduous benchmarks. But joking aside, after the fiasco of the Galaxy Note 7 Samsung has been trying to find its way back to normality, to win back trust, and to impress consumers with excellent smartphones as it did in the past. The new editions of the popular and successful A series are to be the first step in this direction: the Galaxy A5 (2017) for €429 and the Galaxy A3 (2017) for €329. Both predecessors in the A series from 2016 were able to impress across the board in the connect test in the 4/2016 issue. They offered a great deal of value at a moderate cost and secured Samsung a large slice of the highly contested middle class cake. The duo will now have to show in the test if the conditions are good enough for a renewed coup.
Samsung has sharpened the profile optically and haptically, doing everything right here. The duo have gone for the high-end look of their expensive Galaxy S7 brother, making the same powerful impression. Given the current flagship model is getting a successor soon, we can get excited now as to what guise this will take - there's sure to be lots of change. Our A series test devices turned up in the same jet-black outfit. Not only do the elegantly rounded glass surfaces on the front and, particularly, on the reverse have the classic coating, but also the matte metal frame bordering the smartphone is in black. This looks high-end and feels great, especially as the camera lens on the reverse and the home button on the front have been integrated into the case. If the black look is too gloomy for you, you can also have it in gold, blue or a kind of pink. Although the last option, called "peach cloud", is initially only available on the Samsung online shop.
High-end design and finish
Easy-to-use via good user interface
Brilliant OLED display with full-HD resolution
Dust- and waterproof case
Good wireless and sound features
Very good battery life
USB Type-C port
Removable storage slot
No dual SIM
Front camera has its faults
Comparably high price
Waterproof with USB-C
Like the Galaxy S7 bigger brother, the cases are protected against dust and water and meet the IP68 standard. That means that both smartphones can withstand up to 30 minutes at a maximum of 1.5 metres under water. However, Samsung only guarantees this in clear water, not in salt water, in the sink or in bath water. The A models have a plain and simply perfect finish, as usual with Samsung, while they weigh a little more than their competitors due to the high-end materials used. Both still sit very well in the hand. The Galaxy A3 (2017) does this even better again thanks to its clearly compact and pocket-friendly dimensions. Upon closer inspection, experts will notice that the pair are charged via a USB-C port and linked to a PC with this. They will also notice that the speaker on the bottom has wandered over to the right side of the device, which ensures an acoustically better sound output. Everyday audibility and volume are better than their predecessors. Enough with similarities. In addition to the dimensions, there are differences with the plug-in features. While the Galaxy A3 offers a combo-slot for SIM and micro-SD cards on the front side, its bigger brother has an advantage with two separate slots, meaning it does not need to be restarted when you change the micro-SD card. A small, but nice detail.
The Galaxy A5 (2017) has more to offer in terms of display, too. Here Samsung has used a 5.2-inch OLED display with full-HD, while the Galaxy A3 (2017) is equipped with a 4.7-inch HD screen and also uses OLED technology. The larger model chalks up a win in terms of display quality as it can display content more brilliantly. At 423 to 313 ppi, the pixel density for the Galaxy A5 (2017) makes a strong statement. The connect lab measured 430 cd/m2 for brightness, both achieving the same high level: this is a great measurement for the self-luminous OLED technology and should make the screens fine to see even in direct sunlight.
Performance and memory
The situation is similar with the system performance. Both models use in-house system-on-a-chip technology, which are not too different from one another. The Galaxy A5 (2017) has the Exynos 7880 version with its 1.87 GHz octa-core CPU and 3 GB of RAM, while the Galaxy A3 (2017) works with the Exynos 7870 with eight 1.59 GHz cores and 2 GB of RAM. That doesn't sound like much of a difference, but the benchmark app Antutu showed the larger model to be clearly ahead with its processor with 59,286 to 45,700 points. The same was proven with other benchmarks, including 3DMARK. However, the differences are not particularly noticeable in everyday life: the Galaxy A5 (2017) reacts somewhat quicker to input and starts apps a little faster. More serious is the issue of user memory: Samsung has given the large A model a solid 32 GB, 23 GB of which is available for the user. On the other hand, the Galaxy A3 (2017) has to settle for 16 GB, a mere 9.5 GB of which is available for the user. Both models have a micro-SD slot to expand upon the memory.
Well-rounded features, modern UI
Equality rules the day again when it comes to "Connectivity". The newcomers dominate data transfer with LTE Cat. 6, HSPA+, and fast ac Wi-Fi. Bluetooth is on-board with the latest 4.2 version, as is the above-mentioned USB-C port, and short-distance communication via NFC. You can make telephone calls via Voice over LTE (VoLTE) in HD quality. The fingerprint sensor reacts well and sits, as usual with Samsung smartphones, in the home button. Those who want to can pass the time with the FM radio. The Galaxy A models come with the latest in-house user interface, Touchwiz, that covers Android 6.0.1, which also spices up the Galaxy S7 models with Android 7 with the same look. Samsung has already announced an imminent update to the latest Android version for the A models. The quick menu, settings area, and icons have been given a bright and modern design. Operating the phone is child's play and the adjustment options are vast.
Into the top 10 with excellent battery life
Although the weaker performance and less crisp display of the Galaxy A3 (2017) led to point deductions, they serve as an advantage when it comes to battery life. This lets the compact smartphone get the most out of its 2300 mAh battery, achieving a magnificent 9:25 hours in practical mixed usage. However, the small model does not have the quick-charge function of the A5. It cannot win the in-house duel with its 9:01 hours from a single charge, but is just as impressive in itself given the 3000 mAh battery is charged very quickly when needed. Both models put in a very solid performance in terms of sound and especially in sending and receiving capabilities. Samsung is back with an impressive performance and has managed the leap into the top 10 of the leader board under intensified test conditions with both Galaxy A models. The Galaxy A5 (2017) offers an overall package that is successful in every aspect. Number people will prefer the Galaxy A3 (2017), which is only mildly behind the A5 and makes an excellent impression in everyday life with its better battery life and compact dimensions. MICHAEL PEUCKERT