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Samsung Galaxy J5 review (2016): 2017 model is here, but is it worth the upgrade?

Nathan Spendelow Katharine Byrne
24 Aug 2017
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
150
inc VAT

2016's Galaxy J5 was Samsung's best budget phone yet, but a much-needed 2017 upgrade is here

Pros 
Great price
Excellent screen
Lengthy battery life
Cons 
Rubbish camera
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Update: New Samsung Galaxy J5 is here

Stop! if you've been eyeing up Samsung's excellent budget phone, the Galaxy J5, hold that thought for a moment. The 2016 model is old news, and there's a spangly new 2017 upgrade that's deserving of your attention (and hard-earned cash). What's so good about it I hear you ask? Here's what's so special.

Some big changes can be found in this yearly upgrade. For one, there's a new all-metal unibody design, just like the J5's pricier siblings. Next, the camera has seen a significant improvement - and is now much more versatile than the camera it proceeds. Finally, performance differences are night and day, and this year's J5 blows its predecessor clean out of the water.

READ NEXT: Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017) review

Everything seems too good to be true right? well, there is one pretty hefty sticking point. Where last year's model cost just £150 at launch, we're expecting to fork over £240 this year. That's a sizeable £90 price increase if you do the maths. Because of this, 2017's Galaxy J5 verges closer to OnePlus' domain, verging on the mid-range, rather than the budget market it seems to aim for. It all boils down to how much you want to spend, the 2016 J5 is still a cracking phone, but splurge on the 2017 model and you're looking at a phone with a bit more future-proofing.

2016's Samsung Galaxy J5 can still be picked up on the cheap mind you, so continue after the break to read my original Galaxy J5 review.

Samsung Galaxy J5 review (2016)

Well, that's a bit embarrassing. The Galaxy J5, one of Samsung's brand-new budget handsets for 2016, has just beaten Samsung's flagship Galaxy S7 in our battery life test. Only by two minutes, mind, but it just goes to show that you don't necessarily need to fork out hundreds of pounds to get a smartphone with plenty of stamina.

READ NEXT: The best budget smartphones of 2017

With the screen brightness set to our standard measurement of 170cd/m2, the J5 lasted an incredible 17h 50m in our continuous video playback test, just edging out the S7 as the second-longest-lasting smartphone I've ever tested (behind the Amazing, but explosive, Samsung Galaxy Note 7). That's amazing for a smartphone that only costs £160 SIM-free or £13.50-per-month contract, and it blows other budget smartphones like the 3rd Gen Moto G right out of the water.

Best Samsung Galaxy J5 contract and SIM-free deals

Samsung Galaxy J5 review (2016): Design

Galaxy S7 owners needn't be too worried, though, since the J5 makes compromises in other areas, such as performance and overall build quality, in order to help keep the price as low as possible. Its plastic frame, for example, doesn't protect against water damage, and its glossy finish can't help but look and feel a little tacky after the beautifully sculpted metal frames on Samsung's mid-range A series. Still, when the latest version of the A5 is almost double the price of the J5, a plastic chassis is fairly forgivable.

Samsung Galaxy J5 display

The most important thing is that it feels well-made, and the J5 delivers on this in spades. Its matt cover is rather plain compared to the grooved finish on the 3rd Gen Moto G, but both phones feel like they could survive the odd knock. The J5's slim dimensions also make it very easy to hold, and its curved sides are grippy rather than slippery.

Samsung Galaxy J5 review (2016): Display

Where the J5 leaps ahead of the 3rd Gen Moto G is its 5in, 1,280 x 720 Super AMOLED display. This is the cheapest Samsung phone I've ever seen to come with one of its Super AMOLED panels, and it makes other budget LCD-based displays look positively insipid by comparison. The screen on the Moto G, for instance, is pretty good, but it can't match the sheer vibrancy of the J5's display. With its 100% sRGB colour gamut coverage, perfect black and contrast ratio, images on the J5 look absolutely stunning, and I've yet to see an LCD-based screen at this kind of price that can best it.

Of course, the one downside of AMOLED screens is that they're nowhere near as bright as LCD. However, the J5's peak brightness of 358cd/m2 is still pretty respectable, and should be more than enough for most lighting conditions. Only in bright sunshine will you need to have it on max.

Samsung Galaxy J5

Samsung Galaxy J5 review (2016): Performance

Admittedly, it's not the fastest handset around, as its quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor and 1.5GB of RAM put its day-to-day performance on par with almost every other budget smartphone. In Geekbench 3, the J5 scored 459 in the single core test and 1,343 in the multicore test, putting it just behind the Moto G on our budget leaderboard.

That said, Samsung's Android 5.1.1-based TouchWiz interface still feels relatively smooth and responsive, and apps don't take an age to open either. The Moto G proved quicker at loading games, but web browsing was more or less a level playing field, as evidenced by the J5's Peacekeeper score of 634, which is only around 100 points short of the Moto G. Scrolling was a little jerky in places, and browsing could be rather stop-start when pages were still loading, but otherwise surfing the web was pretty hassle free.

Samsung Galaxy J5 rear

The J5 isn't really capable of playing the latest games, as it only managed 113 frames (or 1.8fps) in the offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test in GFX Bench GL. This is to be expected on a budget smartphone, so Hearthstone fanatics should probably look elsewhere. However, I was able to play simple games such as Threes! absolutely fine, so you should still be able to get your Candy Crush fix on the J5 without too much trouble. Continues on Page 2

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