The Galaxy J5 can’t be faulted on aesthetics. At first glance, it looks a lot like Samsung phones of old, right down to the button placement and the home button in the centre – which now does double duties as a fingerprint reader.
Flip it over however and you’ll notice some changes. Samsung has managed to get rid of the chunky camera bump of last year’s model, so the rear camera now sits flush with the case. Good on them: it now sits nice and flat on your desk, and there’s less of a risk of scratching the lens.
The J5 also now has an all-metal unibody design; this feels much nicer in the hand than the plastic casing of its predecessor, with rounded, chamfered edges helping it to sit snug in the palm. It’s exactly what you’d want: a flagship feel at a fraction of the price.
Alas, if you were hoping for USB-C quick charging, you’d best look elsewhere. A traditional micro-USB socket is located on the bottom edge, to the left of the (thankfully still present) 3.5mm headset jack. On the left edge you’ll spot the volume rocker and on the right, the power button underneath the solitary speaker grille.
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Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017) review: Display
The Galaxy J5’s 1,280 x 720 display sets it apart from other low-cost phones. That sub-Full HD resolution might sound low for a 5in screen, but what it lacks in detail it more than makes up for in vibrance: it uses Samsung’s excellent Super AMOLED panel, and it’s an incredible screen for the price.
As usual with OLED, the contrast ratio is perfect and colours look amazingly rich. The panel covers 98.5% of the sRGB colour gamut, which places it well in front of its budget rivals – especially Motorola’s Moto G5 Plus, which only managed a paltry 73.4%.
Maximum brightness isn’t quite as dazzling as some other phones, topping out at just under 300cd/m2. But, so long as you’re not trying to use it in direct sunlight, you won’t be squinting at your Facebook feed too often.
Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017) review: Camera
The camera is another area that often suffers in cheap phones. Last year’s J5 was let down by a tendency to overexpose most images, and on paper this year’s model doesn’t look much better, featuring a similar 13-megapixel resolution with only a slight aperture bump to f/1.7. In use, though, it turns out to be a marked improvement over the old model.
Images are clear and well-defined, with outstanding colour reproduction and very little visible noise. Low-light situations were handled very well, while daylight shots were packed with detail. Even tricky subjects such as foliage were captured with outstanding clarity. No doubt about it, this is a much more versatile camera than you’d expect for the price.