Samsung Galaxy J5 review 2017 – When I first reviewed last year’s excellent Samsung Galaxy J5, I called it a proper Moto G competitor. It was a top-notch phone, hitting all the right buttons at a great price.
Since then, a whole new generation of budget competitors has appeared, challenging not just each other but much more expensive flagship devices – and now the Korean firm has hit back with a new and improved J5. While the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 might be grabbing the headlines, Samsung’s superb budget phone is big news too, improving on everything that made its predecessor so great to begin with.
Samsung Galaxy J5 review (2017): What you need to know
The first thing you’ll spot with Samsung’s new Galaxy J5 is its super low asking price. While flagships like the Galaxy S8 or iPhone 7 still come in at around £600, the Galaxy J5 sells for less than half that. Despite the low price, it features a perfectly capable 1.6GHz Exynos 7870 processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, expandable via microSD. The screen is a 5in 720p Super AMOLED panel, and there’s a 13-megapixel camera on the back, with a 13-megapixel selfie-snapper on the front.
Samsung Galaxy J5 review (2017): Price and competition
The Galaxy J5’s £240 price tag is a big part of its appeal – but it’s still £100 more than last year’s J5 cost at launch. And if you’re shopping in this price range there’s plenty of similarly-priced alternatives, including some big hitters.
In particular, this year’s J5 faces stiff competition from the Moto G5 Plus (£250), the Nokia 6 (£230) and our current reigning champion with its monstrous battery life, Lenovo’s P2 (£200). There’s also last year’s Galaxy J5 to contend with, which can still be found for just shy of £170.
Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017) review: Design
The Galaxy J5 can’t be faulted on aesthetics. At first glance, it looks a lot like Samsung phones of old, right down to the button placement and the home button in the centre – which now does double duties as a fingerprint reader.
Flip it over however and you’ll notice some changes. Samsung has managed to get rid of the chunky camera bump of last year’s model, so the rear camera now sits flush with the case. Good on them: it now sits nice and flat on your desk, and there’s less of a risk of scratching the lens.
The J5 also now has an all-metal unibody design; this feels much nicer in the hand than the plastic casing of its predecessor, with rounded, chamfered edges helping it to sit snug in the palm. It’s exactly what you’d want: a flagship feel at a fraction of the price.
Alas, if you were hoping for USB-C quick charging, you’d best look elsewhere. A traditional micro-USB socket is located on the bottom edge, to the left of the (thankfully still present) 3.5mm headset jack. On the left edge you’ll spot the volume rocker and on the right, the power button underneath the solitary speaker grille.
Pick up a Samsung Galaxy J5 case from Mobile Fun
Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017) review: Display
The Galaxy J5’s 1,280 x 720 display sets it apart from other low-cost phones. That sub-Full HD resolution might sound low for a 5in screen, but what it lacks in detail it more than makes up for in vibrance: it uses Samsung’s excellent Super AMOLED panel, and it’s an incredible screen for the price.
As usual with OLED, the contrast ratio is perfect and colours look amazingly rich. The panel covers 98.5% of the sRGB colour gamut, which places it well in front of its budget rivals – especially Motorola’s Moto G5 Plus, which only managed a paltry 73.4%.
Maximum brightness isn’t quite as dazzling as some other phones, topping out at just under 300cd/m2. But, so long as you’re not trying to use it in direct sunlight, you won’t be squinting at your Facebook feed too often.
Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017) review: Performance and battery life
Budget phones tend to use mid-range CPUs, so performance can be a weak point. Aside from the Lenovo P2, I can’t think of anything around the £200 mark that hasn’t faltered in our usual suite of rigorous benchmarks.
Still, the 2017 Galaxy J5, with its dual-core Exynos 7870 and 2GB of RAM, proved a respectable performer. In Geekbench 4’s multi-core-core test, it scored 3,736 – that’s almost a 50% bump over last year’s. It impressed in single-core performance too, scoring a total of 800. You can see how the J5 stacks up against its competitors, below.
The J5 is also capable of playing most Android games you throw at it, too. The low 10fps score in GFXBench’s Manhattan 3.0 test indicates that it won’t handle the most demanding 3D scenes, but it has no problem with everyday games, blasting away enemy ships in Sky Force: Reloaded without so much as a hiccup.
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And we’re very pleased to say that battery life is far improved over its predecessor. In our standard battery test at 170cd/m2, 2017’s Galaxy J5 managed a crazy 18hrs 26mins away from the wall socket. That’s nearly two hours longer than Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S8.
Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017) review: Camera
The camera is another area that often suffers in cheap phones. Last year’s J5 was let down by a tendency to overexpose most images, and on paper this year’s model doesn’t look much better, featuring a similar 13-megapixel resolution with only a slight aperture bump to f/1.7. In use, though, it turns out to be a marked improvement over the old model.
Images are clear and well-defined, with outstanding colour reproduction and very little visible noise. Low-light situations were handled very well, while daylight shots were packed with detail. Even tricky subjects such as foliage were captured with outstanding clarity. No doubt about it, this is a much more versatile camera than you’d expect for the price.
Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017) review: Verdict
Samsung’s updated Galaxy J5 does everything you could ask for. It’s a solid performer when put side-by-side with its competition, battery life is excellent, the new design is top-notch and its camera is far improved over last year’s effort.
The only issue is that price hike. For £140, last year’s J5 felt like a real bargain, despite its limitations. The new Galaxy J5 is a stronger phone in almost every way, but at £240 we’re starting to creep towards OnePlus territory, and that’s a fight the J5 can’t win. Overall though it’s still a fantastic deal – a brilliant smartphone for less than half the price of the popular flagships.
|Processor||Octa-core 1.6GHz Exynos 7870|
|Screen resolution||1,280 x 720|
|Screen type||Super AMOLED|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||microSD|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac|
|Dimensions||146.2 x 71.3 x 8 mm|
|Operating system||Android 7.0|
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