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Samsung Galaxy A3 review: Another corking smartphone from Samsung

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Samsung Galaxy A3 review

In recent years, Samsung’s flagship phones have been undeniably good, but its mid-range and low-end phones have appeared to be something of an afterthought. An uncharitable reading would be that they’re riding on the popularity of the flagships. Imitations that look like the must-have handset at a distance, but fall apart under any real scrutiny.

In 2016, that picture has completely changed. I was blown away by the Samsung Galaxy J5 when I reviewed it, declaring it a better bet than the mighty Motorola Moto G, and Jon seemed equally impressed with the slightly cheaper Galaxy J3. Does the same improvement apply to the mid-range handsets and the latest Samsung Galaxy A3?

Samsung Galaxy A3: Design

The confusing naming convention of handsets aside, there’s no question that you’re looking at a more expensive product than the Galaxy J5. In fact, picking up the Samsung Galaxy A3 for the first time, I was struck by just how much this feels like a flagship phone, albeit the kind of flagship you got a couple of years ago when 4.7in smartphones were all the rage.

Gone is the plastic back of the J5, and in its place, a smooth metal frame with a Gorilla Glass front and back. There are flashes of Samsung’s current flagships in its look and feel, but it’s dinky by comparison. The design is minimalist, with rounded edges softening an otherwise smooth, glassy rectangle, and the square camera housing protrudes a couple of millimetres from the back.

It’s a touch slippery, perhaps, but undoubtedly a premium design. If you were getting this phone as an upgrade from a 2014 flagship, you’d probably be blissfully unaware that it only retailed for £229. A very solid start.

Samsung Galaxy A3: Screen

Switching it on for the first time would give you your first clue, however. Unlike current top dogs in the space, the Samsung Galaxy A3’s resolution is set at a miserly sounding 720 x 1,280. When you consider that Full HD screens have been the default for high-end smartphones for two to three years now (and many flagships routinely offer Quad HD and 4K panels), that does sound disappointing, until you consider that resolution isn’t the only trend the A3 has bucked.

Remember, that it’s just 4.7in. On such a small display 720p is actually pretty darn sharp, and the pixel density is actually a respectable 312 pixels per inch. To put that in perspective, that’s just a little shy of Apple’s retina resolution: the iPhone 6s and iPhone SE displays put out 326 pixels per inch.

If you’re happy with that, and it’s really not that big a deal on a small screen, you’ll find the display is a sterling performer. It’s an AMOLED panel, as with Samsung’s flagship devices, and the numbers it puts out in our tests make it a very good match for similarly priced rivals. Here, I’ve lined it up against the Nexus 5X (£339),  Wileyfox Storm (£200), Sony Xperia M5 (£299) and OnePlus 2 (£249). Remember, the Samsung Galaxy A3 retails at less than all these phones: it’s £229 SIM free.

Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy A3 Infinity:1
Sony Xperia M5 840:1
OnePlus Two 2039:1
Wileyfox Storm 754:1
Google Nexus 5X 1309:1

In short, despite its resolution, the screen is top notch with even peak brightness reaching an impressive 480cd/m2 (although only if you leave auto brightness turned on). It’s a great performance from the A3 and the fact that it comfortably outperforms phones that are both more and less expensive than it is a very good sign indeed.

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