Samsung Galaxy J5 In-Depth Review – Budget, Budget, Budget
- Budget friendly
- Good build quality
- Long-lasting battery
- Removeable battery
- Expandable storage
- Super AMOLED
- Mostly plastic construction
- Display could be better
- TouchWiz UI heavy on RAM
- Noticeable lag
The Samsung Galaxy line has come a long way since its inception with the Samsung Galaxy S. The flagship S and Note series has come into a class of their own with the latest S7 and S7 Edge (the Note 7 is a sad story). The mid-range line, the Samsung Galaxy A line-up also offers very compelling hardware at competitive prices. Their offering of Galaxy A phones dominate the segment mostly in terms of the sort of spec and experience offered. Then, there is the Samsung Galaxy J entry-level smartphones. Budget friendly with the most basic bells and whistle to cater to the masses.
All this segmenting are part of Samsung’s strategy is streamlining their device line-up. Within those lines of devices there are still plenty of offerings, very much like how Samsung of old is; flood the market with devices in all kinds of price range. Unlike that old Samsung though their devices within the Galaxy J, A, S, and Note lines are very much more focused to their own market offering different kinds of flexibility in their own class.
The Samsung Galaxy J5, though is not the cheapest Samsung Android smartphone money can buy is meant to be one of the best-selling device in its market segment. Striking a balance between a large screen, useable specs, and low price-point the device looks to be a winner. It is a smaller device compared to its J7 sibling which makes it perfect for one-handed operation without stretching or twisting your hands in uncanny ways.
The top of the device is obviously all screen which makes no difference with plenty of devices in the market these days. You can only tell its difference from the SAMSUNG branding sandwiched between the speakerphone and screen on the top bezel, and the rectangle, rounded edges home button at the bottom bezel. The side finishing is metal which give this device some very interesting premium feel; well, just a little bit. The back plate is removable and plastic, very flexible plastic. The cover plate is not coated in some soft-touch, grippy layer of any sort though so you can tell straight away that it is plastic.
The shape is unmistakably Samsung though. The rounded edge on the rectangular outline of the candybar form is indescribably Samsung in shape. The tapering and milling on the side part of the case is inextricably Samsung with the flat sides tapering off to more rounded, softer bottom and top. The back plate is even designed with holes for the camera module and its flash module, very much a design started by the original Samsung Galaxy S. There is no mistaking its identity then, this 5.2-inch display of a thing.
Despite all the glass up front and the metal sides the device still feels very plastic at some point. Not to say that it is a bad feeling though. The plastic used in this case to form the back plate and the interior of the device is the sort that you find on high-end devices of old; very sturdy, very robust sort of plastic. The sort of plastic that could handle a little bit of abuse. Unlike higher end devices fitted with glass and metal tapers then, this feels solid. It feels durable even if you have to abuse it, it feels a little on the indestructible side. Of course, we do not recommend you throwing it on a wall or deliberately dropping it on concrete from the first story of your house (or office); the glass might crack, the case breaks, you get the drift, it is no Nokia 3310. The point is, the device feels good; for what it is worth.
The fittings in this device is mediocre at best. With an entry-level Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor clocking in at 1.2GHz, some may even consider the device a little on the last generation side. The processor is fitted on plenty of devices though and still works well with Android in most cases. The memory modules on the device is also a little bit underwhelming but internal storage can be expanded up to 256GB via MicroSD card if you need it to be. If you pick up this device and compare it to other similar priced device spec-to-spec though you cannot be blamed in thinking that you are getting short-handed with the Samsung device. The truth is though this very mediocre device is right where it should be.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (4 Cores)
Quad-core 1.2 GHz
Expandable with MicroSD (Max. 256GB)
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||Adreno 306|
|Display||Super AMOLED panel
5.2-inch (~282 ppi)
720p HD (720 x 1280 pixels)
|Operating System||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with TouchWiz|
|Battery||Removeable 3100mAh Li-Ion|
Video recording at 1080p (30fps)
It sports Samsung’s latest TouchWiz on top of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. If you are coming in as a Samsung user, the interface is very familiar. It is not the best looking User Interface (UI) but it has been one of the most intuitive one in the market.The TouchWiz UI has come to a class of its own when it comes to Android. It is actually almost a complete overhaul of the Android OS, more like how Samsung feels an OS should be rather than how the Korean giant think Android should be.
Although you get a UI that is directly from the high-end device like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge you do not get plenty of features that more expensive devices from Samsung get at this price point and it shows. The TouchWiz, although feels pretty much the same, does feel dialed down. You do not even get Multi-Window that is so prominent on higher end Samsung Galaxy devices.
You do get S Bike mode though for when you are cycling. You also get to save your data with this phone through Ultra Data Saver. Very much like Ultra Power saver mode except that it is for data. One thing about Ultra Data Saver mode though, it could get a little intrusive especially when you use Whatsapp or any alternative instant messaging app as it could prevent background data when your screen is off. Which means you have to keep turning it on to receive messages. Of course, Ultra Data Saver also saves a little bit of power.
The UI does not feel any slower than the Galaxy A series but there are more stutters and lags that is noticeable. The stutters are expected though as TouchWiz is very memory intensive and will take up much quite a lot of the 2GB RAM. Especially when you start running multiple apps at the same time in the background. The lack of features did not bother us at all actually. It would be nice though if Samsung could optimise the TouchWiz UI on budget type devices like the Samsung Galaxy J5. The stuttering could be a source of annoyance, though not plenty.
By benchmark standards, the device does not actually impress anyway. It is not meant to anyway. As an entry-level device it does exactly what is expected of it on benchmarks. Of course, compared to flagships of 2012 it may be comparable. But at the same time, it is 2016 and you will have to expect more from flagships.
As smartphones go though, especially entry-level devices, benchmarks are not important at all. In fact if you do buy devices based on benchmarks only this device should not be in your radar anyway. The point of this smartphone is not to give killer scores on benchmark apps. Its emphasis is definitely more on practicality than benchmarking.
Then again, we always say the same thing about benchmarks. Benchmarks may not be a completely accurate representation of the experience that any device might offer. Despite a certain degree of accuracy as an insight to what you can expect from a device, you really have to use the phone to know whether or not you will like the device.
So what do you get from a MYR799 device with a Quad core processor clocked at 1.2GHz? Presumably, nothing much that you can tell the whole world from a mountain. The most impressive thing about the device I would say is from the battery itself. Though, at 3,100mAh it is not something you can celebrate it lasts up to 2 full days on a single charge, that is with GPS, WiFi, Data, Bluetooth, and Brightness turned up. Well, it is worth mentioning at this point that this has no auto-brightness as it does not have a light sensor; weirdly to save on cost or something like that.
Call Quality and Connectivity
Antennas on the device is very much what you would get on many other devices on the market today. You get the usual WiFi antenna, Bluetooth 4.1, LTE connectivity, HSPA+, EDGE, and all the other bells and whistles you would expect from a modern smartphone. But a modern smartphone is still a phone nevertheless, and all the antennas are there not just to receive data. The main purpose of a phone is obviously to make phone calls.
There is not a single complaint from this department though, despite its price point. Making calls are a pleasure with this device. Calls are very clear without any signs of distortion. This is also a Voice Over LTE phone which means calls can be made through 4G protocol. The benefit of that is crystal clear calls, much clearer than regular network calls. On VOLTE calls, voices from the other party (also on VOLTE) does not sound muted at all. Unlike normal calls where voices get distorted from time to time the calls made through VOLTE never had that issue and words can be made out very clearly without any difficulty at all.
We used both YES 4G networks and Maxis Hotlink prepaid lines (YES 4G is the only provider currently that is offers VOLTE connectivity. Because it is not a dual-SIM card device though we had to swap the SIM card after using the other one. Normal calls on the Hotlink network was crystal clear due to the dual microphone set up the device already has. On VOLTE though, it was on another level. The weakness on VOLTE though is that it relies entirely on whether or not you get 4G LTE signal. The device itself works very well but due to the nature of YES 4G’s spotty signal coverage, dropped VOLTE calls were not uncommon. On Maxis’ Hotlink line, network signals are full most of the time and 4G is as fast as intended. Dropped calls are pretty seldom on the Samsung Galaxy J5 as long as the device can pick any amount of network signal.
Speakers are not very loud though so you risk some missed calls in crowded areas or when your surroundings are noisy. That said, it is loud enough that you can pick up the sound of your ringtone in normal environments. Placing a phone call on the speakers is reasonably loud and clear. Not recommended in overly noisy situations though as ambient noise can easily drown out the speakers.
Clearing the memory and recent apps menu then becomes a habit with this device. Having plenty of tabs open on your browser will not help either (although I think I overload any devices’ browser with tabs anyway). With heavy processes running in the background as well, you start noticing that the operating system is slowing down and is struggling to keep up. Amazingly though heat is not an issue even when running the heaviest of processes.
It is not all that bad though. The device is actually pretty smooth when you keep most of the memory available. If you are the type that does not use apps heavier than, say Twitter it easily keeps up. Facebook runs smoothly most of the time as well. But the Facebook app does pose some issues with the device sometimes (seldom, but often enough to be noticeable in our test).
Gaming is definitely not one of its strong points. Obviously if you play games like Chess, or Sudoku you will not have any problems with it, guaranteed. But when you start running heavier games like Need For Speed Limits, Mortal Kombat, Hearthstone (pretty much unusable), or NOVA 3; good luck. They are still playable if you absolutely have to play them. There are the obvious and expected stutters and dropped frame rates though if you choose to play them. In short, not the best gaming device.
It does work though for everyday uses. It is still as reliable as the more expensive Galaxy A phones, or even the Galaxy S phones. If all you need on a phone is to make calls, to message you friends and family from time to time, use basic social media apps; this is the phone for you. It is a working, reliable phone that you can use as basically as possible. With making those important business calls, and heartwarming family check ups you still have the option to use the 13-megapixel camera when you need it. You have the option of using a navigation app as well with that.
As mentioned earlier, the battery is pretty much the most amazing part of the device. We ran apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on it the most. We obviously used the cameras occasionally as well. Of course we made calls and looked at some messages with the device as well. Even with all the sensors, and antennas on we still could get two full days worth of battery with a little more to spare.
Of course if you use it to do more than that you can bring down the battery life to about one day, but that means that your device has to be turned on for most of the day. The least amount of battery life we could extract out of the device was one-and-a-half day at worst. Considering that we used it to make several calls throughout that use with some light gaming, video watching, quite a fair bit of YouTube, text messaging, and browsing. We recon that the battery life on this was on the good side.
The Samsung Galaxy J5 comes with a 5.2-inch display sporting 720 by 1280 pixels making it an HD 720p display. There are of course devices that offers 1080p Full HD display in the same price range as the J5. But most of the competition does not offer Super AMOLED; and that in itself is worth something. If I am nitpicking, the 720p display panel is not the best display you can get for your money. Its resolution is lower than the market standard these days. Question is, can you really tell that there are less pixels in this device though? For the keen-eyed user, maybe. But for most of us, it does not make too much of a difference. Of course with Full HD you get more picture details in a single viewing. But with a screen this small it hardly makes a difference.
Then there is the Super AMOLED. Samsung’s trademark AMOLED panel is known to boast very bright colours and are very vivid. To some LCD purist, they will say that the colours turn out to0 saturated and makes things look unreal. But it makes things look good. Colours really pop and the display is crystal clear that way. Blacks on AMOLED displays are usually deep, on the Super AMOLED even deeper. It makes everything look more interesting and highlights details that you do not usually see on regular LCD panels. The J5 display benefits from this panel in that sense. The TouchWiz UI looks fresh all the time with the AMOLED display. Even the most plain things look good. Which brings us back to the resolution, it makes very little difference to cram more pixels into this device.
Of course, you cannot compare the display of this device to, say a Galaxy S7 Edge or even a regular Galaxy S7. With more pixels, of course you get better viewing experience with more colour popping details on that single 5.2-inch display. But with higher pixels you get a higher price tag. That is the only drawback, we think of AMOLED panels; its higher price point.
As usual you get a front-facing camera and a main rear camera set up with the Galaxy J5. The front camera is really nothing to shout about at 5-megapixels. It works, and takes some selfies. We cannot actually say that it is the best out there, because it really is not. It is half decent though and still usable.
The rear camera is the one that you would be using more often than not. It is a 13-megapixel CMOS sensor hailing from Sony. The 13-megapixel is not a dual-pixel sort of camera with software trickery like the ones from higher end devices of course. It is plain good old 13-megapixel single sensor laid behind the device. The images that you get from this camera is better than average though. Of course Samsung’s know how in camera tweaking and software comes into play here. The results speak volumes though. The images produced by the 13-megapixel camera is plenty detailed and clear in good lighting. Colours do not come out as washed out or stale. There is however a slight yellow tint on the images that makes them warmer than usual. Indoor photos have no noticeable noise which means that the camera still performs very well.
Having an aperture as large as f/1.9 is supposed to help the device with some low light photos. In fact both the cameras fitted on the device has the same sort of aperture. Low light photos are actually quite impressive. Though we did not take any selfies under low-light at the time of use with the device. We could not show you the photos taken under low light as well but we can assure you that the footage is usable. That is as long as there is some light hitting the subject. If you are using it indoors with minimal to no lighting though (i.e. clubs) you might want to turn the flash on the device on.