Friday, 5 February 2016

Samsung Galaxy A5, A7 2016 quick review: The affordable Galaxy S6 alternatives

Samsung launched its flagship Galaxy S6 phone -- in India -- back in March 2015 at a starting price of Rs.50,000 for the 32GB base variant. The price went all the way up to Rs.60,000 if you were looking to buy the top-end 128GB memory version. Of course, it cost nothing short of a bomb to own one, but at the end of the day, it was all worth it. The phone - save some minor shortcomings, primarily lack of expandable storage and water-proofing capability - was well worth your every penny. Not to forget, this (alongside the Galaxy S6 Edge) was the phone that brought Samsung back in to the game. Fast forward to February 2016 and the company is looking to offer much of the same experience in a slightly toned down package. Enter, the Galaxy A5 (2016) and A7 (2016) smartphones.

While not exactly 'mini' variants - of the S6 -- in terms of size per se, the new Galaxy A5 and A7 phones look ridiculously like it; and yet they are far from it when you dig down into the spec sheet. Still, the proposition of owing a Galaxy S6 alternative at perhaps an affordable price could be interesting. While, the former part holds some ground with the Galaxy A5 and A7, it is the latter half that could spoil their party. Samsung has priced the A5 and A7 at Rs.29,400 and Rs.33,400 respectively. All this when the original S6 can be purchased at as low as Rs.34,000.
We spent some time with the Galaxy A5 and A7 2016 phones - at the launch event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - and here's what we think about these phones based on first impressions:

As mentioned earlier, both the Galaxy A5 and A7 look ridiculously like the Galaxy S6. An A-series phone honing S-series design aesthetics was hard to find, until sometime back. But, none of the past A-series phones came so close to being an S6 clone in terms of looks and feel. The Galaxy A5 and A7 fill that gap convincingly. At the same time, both the phones are also exact replicas of each other. They differ in only their screen size. They differ in weight as well, on paper that is. Not so much in the hands though. Of the two, the Galaxy A7 is a little more convenient in hand. The smaller A5 would suit those who prefer a compact form factor and/or have smaller hands.
Since we are talking about S6 clones here, a fusion of glass and metal was only but inevitable. There are subtle yet useful changes that Samsung has incorporated in the A5 and A7's design language atop the S6's inherent design scheme. More pronounced now is the bevelled Gorilla Glass 4 screen on the front that adds to the phones' visual elegance. Meanwhile, their outer metal frame with chamfered edges (and bumpy corners) adds to the overall grip. The new phones - even though glass and metal -- are not as slippery as the S6. They continue to be as reflective and as finger-print friendly as the S6 though.
While the power button is on the right, the volume rocker is on the left. These are well-placed and offer good feedback. The left side also houses a dual slot for either two nanoSIMs or one nanoSIM and one microSD card.
The Galaxy A5 is a 5.2-inch phone, while the A7 is a larger 5.5-inch phablet which is kind of odd to say the least. The S6 was just the 5.1-inches. Not that it is bad. Look at it this way, you now get to choose between two different S6-like size variants. Always a plus

Both the phones come with fullHD Super AMOLED displays with 1080 x 1920 pixels resolution. While not as in-your-face beautiful like the S6's quadHD screen, the Galaxy A5 and A7 have very effective (and promising) screens nevertheless. Samsung's in-house Super AMOLED panel works just the way it should to pop those colours and animations for you. Both the phones have displays that are in line with most phones in and around their price bracket, even better (read brighter) as some may say. Viewing angles are good.
The Galaxy A5 and A7 are powered by the same processor, which is an octa-core Exynos 7580 CPU (albeit with slightly different clock speeds). While the smaller A5 comes with 2GB RAM, the larger A7 has 3 gigs of it. Both the phones come with 16GB internal storage which is further expandable by up to 128GB via microSD card. The A5 and A7 run Android 5.1.1 Lollipop-based TouchWiz UI out-of-the-box. TouchWiz has been on diet ever since the S6. Not much has changed in the UI per se in the new A5 and A7 phones since the S6, except that Samsung has added a few more themes to the whole package. More on this in our full review.
Both the phones come with fingerprint sensors which are increasingly becoming the norm in mid-range and top-tier phones.
On the camera front, the A5 and A7 sport a 13-megapixel shooter on the rear with f/1.9 lens, optical image stabilisation, autofocus and LED flash. There's also a 5-megapixel camera up-front. We were pretty impressed with the rear camera's quick focus and shutter speed capabilities in our brief usage. Also, image quality was spot-on (in indoor artificial lighting conditions) with lots of detail and good dynamic range. Sadly, the rear camera maxes out at 1080p in video recording. There's no 4K recording on either phones.
The Galaxy A5 is backed by a 2,900mAh battery, while the A7 uses a bigger 3,300 mAh battery. Fast charging is supported.
Both the 4G LTE-capable phones will be available in the colours: Gold, Black and White starting from February 15 from Snapdeal and various offline channels.
The Galaxy A5 (2016) and A7 (2016) are pretty neat smartphones, each in their own right. More importantly, they give you an option to try out the S6 in two different form factors, if design aesthetics are what you're solely looking for. Question is, will that be enough. While the Galaxy A5 and A7 look nice and seem promising on paper, Samsung might just have got the pricing way wrong on so many levels. Competition is of course one thing. And frankly, there is way too much competition in and around this price point now. Then there's the S6. True, the S6 doesn't support microSD and everything, but if someone's looking for an S6-like phone around Rs.30,000 wouldn't it be wiser to just go buy the real deal? Well, if that isn't enough, you can also try out the Galaxy A8 which is a fantastic phone by the way. The Galaxy A5 and A7 (2016) might be the hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy S6, but their pricing is way more than what hitchhikers would possibly like. Watch this space for our full review of the Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) and A7 (2016) smartphones in the days to come.

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