Larger And Higher-Samsung Galaxy A3 2016
Samsung has given the Galaxy A3 a lot of love and attention in its 2016 update. Samsung has also improved the display, which is now larger and higher in resolution, and bumped up the rear camera spec to 13Mp. There’s still no fingerprint scanner, but the battery capacity has increased, the speaker has been moved from the back to the bottom, and microSD support has been nudged from 64- to 128GB.
Build and design
The design is perhaps the key selling point of the 2016 Samsung Galaxy A3. In 2015 we marvelled at how Samsung had finally got it right with the Galaxy S6’s build, and that it at last looked like the premium phone the company sold it as. In 2016 Samsung has brought the same mirror-finish glass front- and rear design to its mid-range A series, with the A3 identical to the larger Galaxy A5, which is itself remarkably similar in design to the Galaxy S6 – the corners are slightly squarer, the phone a tad taller and the rear camera protrudes less obviously, but the Galaxy A-series now has a premium design worthy of Samsung’s flagship family at a mid-range price.
One of the best things about the new Galaxy A3 is its display. At 4.7in (up from 4.5in) it’s the perfect size for balancing a usable screen area for watching movies and playing games, and offering a comfortable fit in the hand. The screen bezels are very small, with a thin black line bordering the display, and the 2.5D curved glass at the front offers a smooth, seamless feel. Plus there’s the fact it’s a very decent screen.
Samsung’s SuperAMOLED screen tech is our favourite of all phone displays, with vibrant, slightly oversaturated colours and excellent contrast. Although the new Galaxy A3’s screen is ‘just’ HD (1280×720 pixels) in resolution, its relatively small screen size means it has a sharp pixel density of 312ppi – not exactly quad- or Ultra-HD, but bordering on Apple’s Retina Display quality. Viewing angles are decent, the display is plenty bright, and it will gobble up less battery power than the likes of IPS by omitting a backlight.
Core hardware and performance
In use the Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 feels reasonably fluid, although things will likely start to slow down as you increasingly eat through the storage by downloading apps, music and games and make use of the built-in camera and video camera. The A3 is sold with 16GB of internal storage, but having updated all the preinstalled apps (see Software) we had just 9.3GB spare for our files. As with its predecessor there’s a microSD slot, and it now accepts 128- rather than 64GB of additional storage, although you should note not all apps can be moved to SD.
In our experience apps could take a second or two to open on first launch, and more so when you try to open several at once, but performance is noticeably improved over the original A3. This is thanks to Samsung swapping out the 1.2GHz Snapdragon 410 for a 1.5GHz Exynos 7578 processor. This is a quad-core chip based on the Cortex-A53, and is paired with the Mali T720 GPU and 1.5GB of RAM. If you move up the range to the Galaxy A5 you’ll get an octa-core A53 chip, but it’s not as necessary here with the lower-resolution, smaller screen.
We ran the Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 through our usual benchmarks and found general processing performance in excess of budget phones such as the Motorola Moto E it was previously in league with, but lower than similarly priced phones such as the Motorola Moto X Play, Sony Xperia M4 Aqua and OnePlus X. In comparison to its sibling, the Galaxy A5, it performed better on graphics (thanks to the lower-resolution screen), but fell behind on general performance.
The new Galaxy A3 is fitted with exactly the same camera setup as the Galaxy A5, but without the optical image stabilisation, which means you’ll need to ensure you hold the phone steady to avoid blurring a shot. Also see: Best phone camera 2016
The A3 has a 13Mp, f/1.9 rear camera with LED flash, and 5Mp, f/1.9 camera at the front. By default the main camera shoots 9.6Mp pictures in 16:9 mode, while 13Mp images are captured at 4:3. Both cameras are capable of 1080p video at 30fps.
At this price the photo quality is acceptable, with realistic colours and reasonably sharp detail. You can check out a couple of our test shots of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel below, first with Auto settings and secondly in HDR mode.
The camera app has various shooting modes including Pro, Panorama, Continuous Shot, HDR and Night, with an option to download more. There are also real-time effects and, in selfie mode, a Wide Selfie option.
Out of the box the A3 runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop (the latest version is Marshmallow) with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI overlaid. The main customisations you’ll see here are found in the drop-down notification bar, with rounded quick-access shortcut icons (you can customise which five are shown here). Unlike models higher up the range there’s no Quick connect or S Finder shortcut to be found here.
Something that can’t be switched off are the great many apps preinstalled by Samsung, which not include Google’s apps but also Samsung’s own apps (including its own app store) and Microsoft Office apps. You’ll get 100GB free OneDrive storage space with the A3, but just 9.3GB of its 16GB internal memory is available thanks to all the preinstalled bloat.
To be fair to the Galaxy A3 there is definitely less here when compared to older versions of TouchWiz, or even that found in the Galaxy A5 and S6. For example, there’s no built-in Themes store.