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Samsung Galaxy J1 (2015) review: This is no Moto E

Richard Easton
13 Oct 2016
Samsung Galaxy J1 lead
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
89
inc VAT

The Samsung Galaxy J1 is cheap for a reason and there are better options available if you don't want to spend much

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Specifications

Processor: Dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A7 , Screen Size: 4.3in, Screen resolution: 800x480, Rear camera: 5-megapixel, Storage (free): 4GB (2GB), Wireless data: 3G, Size: 129x68.2x8.9mm, Weight: 122g, Operating system: Android 4.4

Well, you certainly can't say Samsung doesn't give us plenty of options when it comes to buying our next smartphone. In addition to its trio of Galaxy 'A' series phones, its Galaxy 'J' range also has a number of differently priced handsets to suit a wide range of budgets. However, for every excellent phone in the series, there's usually at least one that doesn't make quite the same impression. In this case, it's the unfortunate Galaxy J1.

It's worth noting that the model on test here is the 2015 version of the Galaxy J1 rather than the newer 2016 handset, but you can still buy the older J1 for around £95 SIM-free. That's a pretty tempting price for those that want a big-name brand without a big-brand price, but having put the J1 through our Expert Reviews labs, there are simply better handsets out there for the same amount of money.

Design

Wrap your mitts around the Galaxy J1 and its budget-price becomes immediately apparent. There’s no dressing this one up as anything but a budget handset and it's all plastic as you'd expect. It's very clearly a Samsung, though, with the silver edge strip and shape reminiscent of older Galaxy S generations. We wish that Samsung would do something a little bolder with its low-end models than simply make cheap copies of its more expensive designs.

Still, its 4.3in form factor means it sits nicely in your hand and it’s easy to grip. The camera lens protrudes out of the rear like so many other Galaxy handsets. At 8.9mm thick it’s not particularly svelte, but at 122g, it’s easy enough to forget about in your pocket.


Samsung Galaxy J1 rear camera

Characteristic to Samsung’s Android handsets, the Android control buttons have been moved below the screen, which does mean the bottom portion of the display isn’t taken up with onscreen buttons. The white finish is decidedly plain, but the build quality feels good with everything fitting together neatly and tightly. There’s also the option of a blue finish.

The backplate can be easily popped off, where you can access a user-replaceable battery and the SIM and microSD combo slot. There’s only 4GB of onboard storage, 2GB of which is available to the user, so you’ll want to put in a microSD card - for which there's support for up to 128GB.

Display

The J1’s budget credentials are abundant where it comes to the display. Don’t expect any of Samsung’s luxurious AMOLED displays here. Instead, you have to make do with a 800x400 TFT. In its defence, what it lacks in resolution it partially makes up for with colour vibrancy and contrast. Its contrast ratio of 991:1 is very good even if black levels of 0.41cd/m2 are a little high. It’s all helped by an impressive maximum brightness of 407.3cd/m2 and this isn’t even with the Outdoor mode engaged.


Samsung Galaxy J1 straight

The Outdoor setting is accessed from the notification menu and then boosts the brightness all the way up to 485.5cd/m2. This is limited to 15 minutes but should be plenty to fire off a few messages when out basking in the sun. Even then, with Outdoor mode off but brightness dialled all the way up, the J1 is still usable outside. Colour accuracy isn’t one of its strong points at 69.4% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut but largely the display was a pleasant surprise.

Performance

Not much can be expected from the dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A7 processor, which is paired with just 512MB of RAM. It managed scores of 362 in the Geekbench 3 single core test and 1,054 in the multicore test. For comparison’s sake, I ran the same test on the Moto E 2nd Gen and that scored 474 and 1,437 respectively. The Peacekeeper browser score of 487 was also about 150 points behind the Moto E 2nd Gen, too.

In terms of graphics performance, the J1 couldn’t handle either the GFXBench Manhattan test nor the older T-Rex test, so not off to the greatest start. Still, firing up a game of Threes! it managed to cope well enough. Casual games are fine then but you’ll need to keep your expectations in check. Think Words with Friends rather than racers and shooters.


Samsung Galaxy J1 side

Navigating around the Android 4.4-based TouchWiz wasn’t too frustrating, at least. The app drawer opened up promptly, although there was the occasional stutter when opening apps and the settings menu, but nothing out of the ordinary considering the specifications available.

In terms of networking, you have to make do with 3G and the built-in Wi-Fi is only 802.11b/g/n and does not support 5GHz. Battery life was distinctly average at 10 hours 7 minutes in our standard battery test. This is 3 hours 30 minutes short of the time achieved by the Moto E 2nd Gen. You do at least have the option of carrying a spare if desired, which isn't possible with the Moto E.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy J1 (2015) now from Mobile Fun


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