Overview
Introduction
Design
Display
Hardware
Software
Camera
Audio & video
Performance
Battery
Conclusion
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Samsung Galaxy J5 Review

A surprisingly worthy competitor to the Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen) from Samsung’s stable
By Ershad Kaleebullah on 2015-09-02
Key Features
  • 5-inch Super AMOLED display
  • 13-megapixel rear camera
  • Support for 128GB microSD card
  • 2600mAh battery
What we like
  • Great display
  • Superb battery life
  • Stable day-to-day performance  
  • Well-optimised TouchWiz UI
What we don't like
  • Low internal storage space
  • No scratch protective glass
  • Cameras could have been better
7.5
Our Score
Introduction

Only a few years ago, Samsung had been ruling the roost in the Indian smartphone market with its Galaxy range of Android phones, so much so that it had a monopoly of sorts. However, things have changed rapidly since then, and the Korean brand has been facing some stiff competition from all quarters; especially from the likes of Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Gionee, Micromax, Karbonn, Huawei and Motorola. Phones from these brands have caught the imagination of buyers thanks to their bargain-basement pricing and an impressive list of specifications. 

Samsung Galaxy J5-Look

The sub-15,000 price segment has seen phones like the Motorola’s Moto G series, the Xiaomi Mi 3, and the Xiaomi Mi 4i taking centerstage in the past two years. To make matters worse, during the same period, Samsung has been consistently struggling to engineer a smartphone in this price segment which could capture the fancy of buyers. 

That said, it looks like the company finally intends to change all this with the newly launched Samsung Galaxy J5. This phone comes with a fairly impressive set of specifications and looks poised to grab our attention. 

Read on to find out if Samsung has managed to achieve that feat.

Design
7

The Samsung Galaxy J5’s design feels familiar. It looks like most of Samsung’s low-end and mid-range Galaxy devices. That apart, design-wise there is nothing that stands out with the J5. It has the same all-plastic body with faux aluminium trim running along the edges, that looks shiny and attractive. However, it is common knowledge that this trim is notorious for losing its metallic paint over prolonged use. The phone’s dimensions of 142.1x71.8x7.9mm,  along with its matte rear, make the device comfortable to hold and use single-handedly. Our review unit was black, but the phone is also available in white and gold colour options. 

The front of the J5 is dominated by a 5-inch screen. Above the display one can find an earpiece, a front camera with an LED flash, and an ambient light sensor. A Samsung logo sits right beneath the earpiece. Below the display, you can find Samsung’s trademark rectangular home button. And, on either side of this button lie two capacitive keys - one for ‘back’ function and the other for multitasking. 

Samsung Galaxy J5-view

The power button lies on the right edge, whereas the volume rocker keys lie on the left edge. Both these buttons make a distinctive sound when clicked. The tactile feedback of these buttons is pretty good as well. The bottom edge of the Galaxy J5 houses a Micro-USB slot, a 3.5mm audio port, and a microphone. 

Samsung Galaxy J5-Design1

The Galaxy J5 has a removable rear panel. Underneath this panel you can find the battery compartment, two Micro-SIM card slots, and a microSD card slot that lies above one of the SIM card slots. Also present at the back are the rear camera with LED flash, and the loudspeaker. 

Samsung Galaxy J5-view

Display
7

The 5-inch Super AMOLED display has a resolution of 720x1280, which translates to a pixel density of 294 PPI. This display is highly saturated and pops colours just like any other Super AMOLED screen. While we aren’t fans of such vibrant screens, this display is bound to attract the attention of quite a few people. 

The blacks are really deep, as is the case with most Super AMOLED displays. Moreover, the display can also get really bright. The lack of an auto-brightness option for the display is a big letdown, but Samsung does provide a checkbox called outdoor, which cranks up the brightness even more. The sunlight legibility of the J5’s display is undoubtedly really good. That said, the lack of a scratch protective glass means that you have to use a screen guard.

Samsung Galaxy J5-Display

Hardware
8

The Samsung Galaxy J5 uses a quad-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC, which has four cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.2GHz each. Also present in this SoC is the Adreno 306 GPU for graphics. Samsung provides an insignificant 8GB of internal storage, out of which only 4.65GB is available for use. However, the storage space can be further expanded up to 128GB using a microSD card. The phone provides 1.5GB of RAM for running applications and services, which was low when compared to much cheaper devices nowadays that provide 2GB of RAM. We’ll find out later if this actually affects the performance. 

The Galaxy J5 has two cameras - a 13-megapixel primary camera and a 5-megapixel secondary camera. Both these cameras use an LED flash for low light situations. The phone can connect to 4G networks including the TD-LTE 2300MHz frequency band. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, and Bluetooth v4.1 with A2DP. The Galaxy J5 also offers a GPS module with A-GPS and GLONASS. The phone also comes with an accelerometer, proximity sensor and an ambient light sensor. The lack of a gyroscope is a bit of a letdown especially since the Galaxy J5 is being marketed as a gaming phone for the masses.

Samsung Galaxy J5-Hardware

Software
8

The Galaxy J5 runs the latest version of Android, Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, with an extra layer of Samsung’s proprietary TouchWiz UI. This is the same version of TouchWiz that has been used on flagship devices like the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge. It is lean and is well-optimised to work smoothly with the hardware. We didn’t faced any lag during our time with the device. The TouchWiz UI looks very little like stock Android; the only commonality between vanilla Android OS and TouchWiz being the multitasking carousel. 

Although some features like the Smart Stay and Smart Pause are missing from the Galaxy J5, the OS is still packed to the hilt with features. One can use Theme Store to customise the look of the OS according to their preference, which works well. It also has a few basic accessibility options, such as hitting the power button to end calls and hitting the home button to answer calls. One can also dismiss a few predefined notifications with a single tap. The OS also offers a SIM Manager with a Smart Dual SIM feature, which claims to receive calls on both the SIM cards, even when you are already in a call. Basically this feature forwards calls from one SIM to the other. 

Samsung Galaxy J5-Software

Apart from the regular suite of Google apps (which are bunched neatly inside a single folder), the Galaxy J5 also comes bundled with a few Microsoft apps such as OneDrive, OneNote, and Skype. A Smart Manager app can be used to quickly glance at the remaining battery life, and the available storage space and the RAM.  This app also acts as a portal to Samsung’s Knox security feature. There are also a couple games that are preinstalled on the phone, such as Bubble Bash 3, Midnight Pool 2, Prince of Persia, and Zombie Infection 2. All these games are just the Java counterparts of many of the games on the Play Store. A Game Zone app available on the Galaxy J5 essentially opens up a web page listing a few pre-selected Gameloft games. Samsung provides Rs.3,200 worth of cash for in-app purchases for these games as well.

Camera
6

Samsung Galaxy J5-sample1

The primary 13-megapixel camera uses a CMOS sensor with F1.9 aperture. The camera captures photographs in a snap and the ‘tap to focus’ feature works really well too. However, the images captured by this camera left us wanting more. Most of the images we captured in daylight were overexposed at the edges. Moreover, the camera didn’t focus right on multiple occasions. 

Samsung Galaxy j5-sample2

The Auto White Balance works decently though, and thanks to the F1.9 aperture, you can achieve decent Depth of Field as well. Additionally, our sample images were oversaturated, especially the reds. The images had decent amount of details, but we still think that 13-megapixel cameras on other phones like the Xiaomi Mi 4i, Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen), and Lenovo K3 Note are better. The low light performance of this camera was not good either. 

Samsung Galaxy J5-Sample3

The 5-megapixel front-facing camera is not up to the task either. In our selfies, the focus was soft and there were very little details. The primary camera didn’t lose focus when we captured 1080p video and shifting focus was also easy. The sound captured was pretty decent too. However, some details were missing and certain areas were overexposed.

Audio & video
8

The Galaxy J5 has a default player for video, but depends on the Google Play Music app for audio playback. There is a radio app as well, which also supports recording for music. We faced no issue with transmission and the audio was crystal clear.

While the default player failed to play our highly encoded 40mbps file, the MX Player played it fine without any stutter. The Google Play Music app played all the audio file formats that we threw at it, including FLAC.  The sound quality from the bundled earphones was strictly okay, but when paired with a Brainwavz Delta and Shure SE215, the sound quality improved drastically. The loudspeaker sounds really tinny and crackles at high volume. This means that ringtones sound soft and unclear.

Samsung Galaxy J5-Sound

Performance
7

In daily usage, the Snapdragon 410 SoC coupled with the nifty performance of the TouchWiz UI works really well. We didn’t face any stutters despite installing multiple apps. You could also multitask with ease, despite the 1.5GB of RAM present on the phone. However, the low 8GB of available internal storage space is constricting and we could only install one large game at a time.

Talking about games, despite Samsung’s claims of the Galaxy J5 being a gaming phone, the performance of high-end games like Asphalt 8 and Mortal Kombat was far from ideal. That said, the phone runs games like Temple Run 2 just fine. Even the GFXBench score of 9.3fps corroborates our claims. In benchmark tests, such as AnTuTu and Geekbench (multi-core), the Galaxy J5 scored 21,464 and 1,402 respectively. 

We used an Airtel and a Tata Docomo card in the SIM slots, and both the networks worked well in tandem. We used 4G on Airtel’s network, which worked impeccably most of the times. Even the call quality on both these networks was pretty good. We have no complaints whatsoever.

Battery
9

One particular area where the Samsung Galaxy J5 trumps most other phones in its price range is its stellar battery life. The 2600mAh battery inside the Galaxy J5 can easily last two days on moderate usage. Even on heavy usage of two hours of gaming, three odd hours of video viewing, constantly being connected to the internet over 4G data/Wi-Fi pinging and approximately an hours’ worth of phone calls, the battery life lasted us a good day and a half. The screen-on time during this period was around 5 hours, which is really great. 

In standby mode, through the night, the battery just lost around two percent charge. The only caveat in terms of battery life, is that the battery takes almost three hours to charge, which is really long. However, since the battery is replaceable you can buy and use a spare for emergency situations.

Samsung Galaxy J5-Battery

Conclusion

During the time that we spent with the Samsung Galaxy J5, it managed to impress us. While the Galaxy J5 may not be the best that one can buy for Rs. 11,999, it is still a pretty good device. It is difficult to find devices that give such stable performance in its price range, and despite its generic looks, the Galaxy J5 comes as a whiff of fresh air. The phone performs admirably well and TouchWiz is also really well-optimised. 

However, do take note that the phone is not without caveats : the camera could have been better and Samsung should ideally have provided more internal storage space. 

Other alternatives to the Galaxy J5 include the Motorola Moto (3rd Gen) and the Xiaomi Mi 4i. Both are really great devices in their own right. Having said that, the fact that a Samsung phone can manage to hold its own amongst stalwarts like the aforementioned devices is a crowning glory for the Korean company. We hope to see the Galaxy J series of phones evolve into formidable sub-brands of their own accord in the near future.

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