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Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 review

 Review: May 2016  

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Samsung Galaxy A3 2016-edition is probably our favourite mid-range phone! We doubt that you'll find another compact premium handset this good for less than 300. Sleek metal-and-glass looks give the new A3 killer looks, and it packs in a high spec too - a HD AMOLED screen, a fast quadcore processor, and strong battery life.

Today's best buy: Samsung Galaxy A3 SM-A310 from Laptops Direct (£194.97)


A mini version of the Galaxy S6

The original Galaxy A3 phone was a stunning device that stood out from the crowd of mid-priced Android clones with its premium aluminium unibody. The new Galaxy A3 has been updated with a slightly different look, using glass - very much like the Galaxy S6 flagship from 2015.

The new Galaxy A3 is a couple of millimetres larger than the original, but very compact for an Android phone, even though the screen has increased in size from 4.5 to 4.7 inches. The A3 (2016) is very slightly thicker and heavier, but we'd still class it as ultrathin and lightweight. It's really the perfect size for anyone who doesn't want to lug around a monster smartphone, and is easy to use single-handedly.

Like The Galaxy S6, the phone is constructed from a mix of glass and metal, with Gorilla Glass making up the front and back panels, and a smooth transition to metal along the edges. It's a beautiful look, but can be slippery to grasp, and prone to fingerprints, and even to fine surface scratches if you put it in a pocket with keys or coins. Having said that, it's a very tough phone, and won't be easy to break.

The mono speaker grille is on the bottom edge, so audio output is good even when the phone is placed on a surface. A 3.5mm headphone jack is also found on the bottom edge.

The screen is a beauty. Its 4.7 inch size makes it only just slightly smaller than the Galaxy S6, and there's plenty of space for viewing websites, apps, photos and videos. Samsung's Super AMOLED screens are probably the best, combining brightness, contrast, good viewing angles, saturated colours and high responsiveness. The old A3 had a relatively low pixel density, but this new version has a HD display that's as sharp as any rivals in this price range, with a high 312ppi pixel density.

Available in a choice of Black, White or Gold, the A3 is one of the nicest-looking mid-range phones available, and can easily stand comparison with Samsung's high-end Galaxy S range. Full marks for design!

Quadcore processor

The new A3 has an upgraded processor with four Cortex A53 cores running at 1.5GHz, and with 1.5GB of RAM available. While this is not a particularly high-end configuration, in practice the A3 runs smoothly and can handle everyday apps and games with ease. Apps may take a little longer than we'd like to load, but this is the "right" processor for a phone that's not in the premium price bracket.

The Mali T720 GPU is surprisingly capable, with smooth graphics and good frame rates for a wide range of games.

The 16GB of memory is unchanged from before, and is a decent amount for storage, giving around 10GB for user data. You can easily add a microSD card - giving you up to 128GB of extra space. You also get 100GB of free cloud storage from OneDrive.

The phone has been released running Android 5.1.1, with Samsung's usual TouchWiz modifications on top. There are a fair number of small mods included, and some third party apps, some of which are useful, such as Microsoft Office apps.

Upgraded camera

The A3 also has been given an improved rear camera for 2016. The new camera has an increased 13 megapixel resolution, with autofocus, HDR mode and an LED flash. It captures excellent daylight images, and even at night its wide f/1.9 aperture and bright flash are quite successful at producing decent shots, although these can be a little grainy, and the autofocus isn't always accurate in low light.

The camera can record video at full 1080p HD resolution, and gets good results on the whole.

The front fixed-focus camera is good for selfies, with a 5 megapixel resolution, and a wide selfie mode. Results are excellent in good lighting, but less impressive in dark conditions.


Like the original A3, the new phone is 4G capable, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, USB and ANT+ connectivity. It also includes GPS and Glonass location services.

Battery life

The original Galaxy A3 caused us some distress when it came to battery life. Fortunately, the 2016 edition has a significantly larger battery, with a 2300mAh capacity. This moves the A3's battery life from well below average to above average, with up to 15 hours of continuous use possible. That's still below the amazing battery life of the J5, but for a phone this slim and light, it's very impressive.

The battery is not removable.

Conclusion - compact premium just got better

The Galaxy A3 2016-edition fits a tightly-defined niche. It's perfect if you want a compact phone with premium looks, but don't want to spend silly money on a flagship phone.

The original A3 did the same, but was compromised in several ways - screen resolution, processor power and battery life. The 2016 model sweeps these problems aside, giving you a solid performing handset with an excellent screen, strong battery life, and fast performance. In short, it's as good as it looks.

With a price of around £200, the Galaxy A3 looks set to dominate the mid-range in 2016.

Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 features include:

Best buys
Samsung Galaxy A3 SM-A310
Click for details

User questions

Got a question? This is the place to ask it!

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How long is the guarantee?

Asked by Graham from UK on 26th Sep 2016

Does the Galaxy A3 (2016) support Screen Mirroring?

Asked by Alan from UK on 9th Jul 2016

The new Galaxy A3 (2016) - Does it have FM Radio??

Asked by marie from UK on 28th Jun 2016

Reply by Oor Wullie from Scotland on 29th Jun 2016
Hi Marie
Yes it does have a offline fm radio.

Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 user reviews

Love this product? Hate it? Please share your experiences to help other people choose the product that's best for them. Please do not review this product if you have not used it, and please ask questions in our User Questions section above. Please do not use swear words or offensive language, and please, no advertising!

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Average rating from 6 reviews:

Reviewed by Anne from United Kingdom on 21st Apr 2017
I have had the Samsung A3 for two years and am very pleased with it. It is the first time I am thinking of getting the same phone again. A great fan of Samsung!!

Reviewed by Mark from UK on 10th Mar 2017
Great phone for the price (200 from Argos on 26/12/2016) - while it lasted. Unfortunately, less than three months later, I left it charging overnight and in the morning it was bricked. Completely dead. Apparently, Sudden Death Syndrome is emerging as a common fault on these. I suppose I should be grateful that it didn't explode, but I won't be buying Samsung again.

Reply by Mark from UK on 19th Mar 2017
I wrote the original 1 star review and would like to revise it to 3 stars as the phone was later resurrected. Not happy that it expired for no reason while charging, but at least it was recoverable.

Reviewed by Nainaseven@gmail.com from Indonesia on 16th Nov 2016
It's the best compact phone of Samsung, And I got it only 230$ because 2016 almost end, and it mean it's only 10$ more expensive than the j5 2016, but obviously I choose A3 2016 because it really sexy design and due to my small hand.

This youngest sibling of S6 is really worth to buy.

People tend to compare the price with specs of any brand which cheaper, But remember the best user experience is not the price but satisfaction. Big Brand tend to sell the quality first not people pocket.

Reviewed by Simon from England on 22nd Sep 2016
Was issued this as a company phone recently. Great phone, really fast and lovely looking. I used to have an iPhone 6 and to be honest now I have the new A3 I dont really miss the iPhone. The new A3 looks like a premium device.

Reviewed by Oor Wullie from Scotland on 29th Jun 2016
Had this phone for just over a week, one of the best phones I've had for a long time. Excellent battery life, nice screen size, black and gold looks good, has the feel and looks of a more expensive phone, one to consider before digging to deep into your pockets, enjoy.

Reviewed by Sammysung from UK on 26th Jun 2016
Had it for 3 weeks and no issues, battery is excellent as indicated. Took me a bit to get used to having downsized from the Note 4. Overall a top premium phone for the price.

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