Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) review
|Review: February 2017|
In a nutshell: The Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017 edition) is a compact and slim smartphone with a beautiful unibody design. With a decent processor, excellent screen and good camera, only the battery life is below average. But we feel that at £25/month on Pay Monthly, the phone is over-priced.
A version of the Galaxy A3 for 2017
Samsung really needs to rethink its naming strategy for its A series phones, as this is the third version of the Galaxy A3. This one is denoted by the year of release - 2017 - but we bet that it's going to cause confusion.
The 2017 version of the A3 is almost the same size as the 2016 version, with the same screen size, but a touch thicker. It's still ultra-slim though by our reckoning, at 7.9mm depth. It's a lightweight phone, but very solidly built, with an almost seamless unibody construction that's very sleek. Even the camera is flush with the rear of the phone. The front and rear glass panels also sit flush with the metal edges, making the phone tough and also dust-and water-resistant to the IP68 standard.
Really, in terms of looks and design, this is the ideal phone for anyone looking for a compact mid-range model.
The speaker grille has moved from the bottom edge to the right hand edge, but is still mono. The 3.5mm headphone jack is still found on the bottom edge, next to the upgraded USB Type-C connector. The volume keys are on the left.
The screen is the same as on the 2016 edition of the A3. With a modest size of 4.7 inches, and HD resolution, it's very sharp, with a pixel density of 312ppi. Being of Super AMOLED type, it's super clear, with excellent brightness, contrast and colour saturation too.
So in terms off design, this is easily a 5-star phone, and one of the best you'll find in the middle area of the market in 2017. It's available in a choice of colours - Black, Gold, Peach and Blue.
The 2017 edition of the A3 has a new processor with 8 cores running at up to 1.6 GHz, compared with 4 cores at 1.5GHz on the 2016 edition. In practice, the extra cores don't get used much in everyday operations, and the extra clock speed is marginal. Performance is typical for a mid-range phone, and the A3 handles most apps quickly.
The RAM has been increased from 1.5GB to 2GB, which helps the phone handle more demanding apps, and multitasking.
The built-in memory remains at a reasonable 16GB, of which 9.7GB is available to the user, and the phone can handle memory cards up to a huge 256GB.
The A3 comes with Android Marshmallow (6.0.1) installed.
13 megapixel camera
The 2017 version of the A3 sticks with the same 13 megapixel camera as last year, with autofocus, HDR mode, an LED flash, and a wide f/1.9 aperture. The camera performs very well in good lighting, and handles itself pretty well in the dark too, although low light shots are noticeably grainier. The camera can record video at full 1080p HD resolution.
The front camera has been upgraded from 5 to 8 megapixels. Results are excellent in good lighting, but less impressive in dark conditions.
For 2017, the USB connection has been upgraded to the new USB Type-C. The phone is 4G capable, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and ANT+ connectivity too. It also includes GPS and Glonass location services.
Mediocre battery life
The battery life of the A series phones has never been stellar. It's one of the downsides of an ultra-slim compact smartphone. For 2017, Samsung has squeezed a tiny bit more juice into the battery, but at 2350mAh it's still relatively small. In ideal conditions, the battery will give you 16 hours of continuous use, but in real life you should expect less. The typical user ought to be able to make it through a day before the battery dies.
Note also that because of the unibody design, the battery is not removable.
Conclusion - beautiful, but over-priced
If you're looking for a compact Android smartphone, you'll struggle to find anything better than the Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017). It's a beautifully-designed phone with a stunning screen, decent mid-range performance, and a good camera.
It's not perfect - the battery life isn't as good as we'd like, but in all other ways it's a great phone.
So why only 4 stars? The answer is the price. Whereas the 2016 version of the A3 is available on monthly contracts for just £15/month, you'll be spending £25/month to get the new 2017 edition. The new version is certainly better, but only in small, incremental ways, and we certainly can't justify such a price hike. Our advice - wait until the phone drops in price before buying, and stick with the 2016 version in the meantime.
Another option to consider is the Sony Xperia X Compact.
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) features include:
- Operating System: Android Marshmallow
- 13 megapixel camera with LED flash, autofocus, digital zoom, 1080p HD video recording
- 8 megapixel front camera with 1080p HD video recording
- Display: Super AMOLED, 4.7 inches, 720 x 1280 pixels
- GPS, Glonass positioning
- Messaging: SMS, MMS, instant messaging, email
- Processor: Octa-core 1.6GHz
- Memory: 16GB plus microSD card (up to 256GB), 2GB RAM
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n/ac 2.4+5GHz), Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.2, USB Type-C, 3.5mm audio jack, NFC, ANT+
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor
- Networks: 4G LTE (Bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20), 3G HSPA+ (850/900/1900/2100 MHz), Quadband EDGE / GPRS
- Size: 135 x 66 x 7.9 mm
- Weight: 138g
- Battery: 2350mAh battery
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