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Samsung Galaxy J5: Design
At a glance, the Galaxy J5 looks quite a lot like the Galaxy S5, right down to the button placement and the ovoid home button. From the front, the only really obvious difference is the presence of a front-facing flash.
Flipping things over makes the differences a touch more obvious. There’s no heart-rate monitor, and the weird texturing on the plastic is gone, replaced with a smooth, shiny back which actually manages to look really nice, even in these days of all-metal frames. It also means that you can easily remove the battery and expand the memory, should you wish.
In all, it’s a very nice looking phone that can stand up pretty proudly alongside handsets twice its price. It does that strange thing, common to many Samsung devices, of switching over the ‘back’ and ‘menu’ buttons compared to almost every other Android phone, but even that makes sense for right-handers like me, given you use the ‘back’ button significantly more often than you need to access the menu.
Samsung Galaxy J5: Screen
The differences become a bit more obvious when you turn on the handset, as the J5’s 5in screen is 1280x720 resolution with a pixel density of 294 pixels per inch. That’s quite low for a five-inch screen, but the overall quality of the display is impressive enough for it not to be too big a problem. The Galaxy J5’s screen is AMOLED.First of all, in terms of brightness, it reached a very respectable 357.72cd/m2 with 1:1 contrast, thanks to being AMOLED. It covers 100% of the sRGB gamut, which puts it well ahead of its budget rivals – including our reigning cheap champion, the third generation Moto G, which only manages 85.4%.
That brightness may look off-putting, but it’s a quirk of AMOLED technology that it doesn’t need to be as bright. This display is pretty incredible for the price, despite its resolution.
Samsung Galaxy J5: Performance
The Samsung Galaxy J5 keeps things solid in terms of processing power, too. Packing an ARM quad-core 1.2GHz Cortex A53 processor and 1.5GB RAM, the handset is a pleasant surprise in day-to-day usage.
The phone is a smooth performer, transitioning between screens and apps without fuss. True, you’d expect that from a brand new handset, but I’ve used some budget phones that have failed this test. Still, it’s important to dig deeper, which is where our benchmarks come into play.
While unmistakably a cheap phone, the Samsung Galaxy J5 holds up very well against its rivals, with scores of 459 and 1,343 in Geekbench 3’s single and multi-core tests. In GFX Bench, it manages 3.9fps on the Manhattan benchmark, which is obviously unplayable, but that particular test is designed to push mobile chipsets hard (for comparison, the newly released Galaxy S7 managed 27fps).
Samsung Galaxy J5: Battery
The battery is where things really get interesting. The second generation Moto E was the reigning cheap battery champion by some margin, offering a really impressive 13.5 hours of battery life in our testing, but the Samsung Galaxy S5 knocked that figure out of the park.
Brace yourself. In our standard battery testing at 170cd/m2, the Samsung Galaxy J5 managed a whopping 17 hours and 50 minutes. To put that into perspective, that’s actually two minutes longer than Samsung’s new flagship, the Galaxy S7. Combine that with the fact you can replace the battery yourself, and you’ve got a handset that can really go the distance.
Samsung Galaxy J5: Camera
It had to fall down somewhere, and if there’s one weak spot in the Samsung Galaxy J5’s armour, it comes in the form of its camera. On paper, the camera’s 13-megapixel resolution camera with its f/1.9 aperture should provide good shots, and it does… sometimes.
The problem seems to be with how the J5 copes with lighting. Too much, and the images end up overexposed with halos of white light obscuring the detail. Too little, and the images suddenly become dark and lose much of their detail. Get the environment exactly right, and the pictures can look fantastic, with plenty of detail and vibrant colours, but you’re very much a hostage to circumstance. Bizarrely, there is no HDR setting to try and fix the issue.
The front-facing 5MP selfie camera fares a little better within its smaller remit, especially as it benefits from an LED flash, but it’s no substitute for a solid snapper on the back.
Samsung Galaxy J5: Verdict
The real headline here is that Samsung has released a budget phone . Wasn’t expecting great things when I opened the box, but at this price point, Samsung has really delivered.
Samsung Galaxy J5 specifications
ProcessorQuad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410RAM1.5GBScreen size5inScreen resolution1,280 x 720Screen typeSuper AMOLEDFront camera5MPRear camera13MPFlashSingle LEDStorage (free)8GB (4.6GB)Memory card slotmicroSDWi-Fi802.11nBluetoothBluetooth 4.1NFCYesWireless data3G, 4GSize142mmWeight146gOperating systemAndroid 5.1.1Battery size2,600mAh