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Samsung Galaxy J5 review: Samsung nails the budget handset

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Two products, separated by just a single letter: one is Samsung’s 2014 flagship, which still holds up pretty well today, and the other is the Samsung Galaxy J5 which is Samsung’s latest budget smartphone. True, you’d struggle to slip up and type the wrong one by accident, but it’s probably not too big a stretch to imagine someone buying one by accident, thinking the S5 Neo had been sold at a surprising discount.

What’s amazing is that anyone making that mistake wouldn’t be appalled by their accidental purchase, because the Samsung Galaxy J5 is a superb smartphone. That’s not always been true of Samsung’s previous efforts in this section of the market, but in this case, Samsung has got it just right.

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 1280×720 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, and in our tests proved to be an incredible contender for the price.

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%.

In fact, put the J5 alongside any other phone in that price range, and the screen crushes them all. Here’s a handy chart of its similarly priced rivals:

Samsung Galaxy J5

HTC Desire 530

Honor 4X

Moto G

Wileyfox Swift

Brightness

357.72cd/m2

319cd/m2

581cd/m2

339cd/m2

552cd/m2

sRGB gamut

100%

87.6%

79.6%

85.4%

79.2%

Contrast

1:1

1,029:1

1,240:1

1,061:1

961:1

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.

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