Segmentation is at its finest in the Samsung smartphone lineup. That's how we have the entire alphabet of series with a handful of models in each of them. Near the bottom of the food chain - which is in no way sorted alphabetically - the hugely successful J series is the place to get good value for money, and the Galaxy J5 (2017) is ready to oblige.
At 5.2 inches of screen diagonal, the Galaxy J5 (2017) fits between the 5-inch J3 (2017) and the 5.5-inch J7 (2017). From then on it takes some careful balancing between those two extremes to assemble a J5 that is that much better than the J3 without being as good as the J7. Perhaps most importantly, the J5 for this year gets the Exynos 7870 SoC - a proper 14nm chip with an octa-core CPU, as opposed to the quad-core Snapdragon 410 that powers the J5 (2016).
With only the J7 treated to full-HD, the J5 has a 720p screen - which is acceptable considering the smaller diagonal. Plus, the J7 (2016)'s sales figures didn't seem to be hurt by its own 720p display, a 5.5-inch diagonal there, not to mention that the Mali-T830MP2 GPU appreciates the lower load of fewer pixels. There's no always-on display on the J5, unlike the J7, and that's a bit of a waste of AMOLED.
The J7 (2017) comes with 3GB of RAM in all its incarnations, but the J5 only has 2 gigs, except for a Pro version that matches the big bro. Storage is less than generous too, with the international version getting just 16GB, though it's double that in some regions - remember, segmentation.
The cameras come from the J7, and not the J3, which is good, even if we weren't ecstatic about the J7's output. The overall body design is identical to the larger model's, which makes the J3 look like a member of a different family. Additionally, you do get a fingerprint reader with the J5 (2017); the basic J3 is denied that.
Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017) key features:
- Body: Aluminum unibody
- Screen: 5.2" 720p Super AMOLED screen (282ppi)
- OS: Android 7.0 Nougat; Samsung UX
- Chipset: Exynos 7870, 14nm: octa-core 1.6GHz Cortex-A53 CPU, Mali-T830MP2 GPU
- Memory: 2/3GB of RAM; 16/32GB storage, dedicated microSD slot for expansion
- Camera: Primary 13MP, f/1.7, LED flash; Secondary 13MP, f/1.9, LED flash
- Video: 1080p at 30fps
- Connectivity: nano SIM (dual SIM version available); LTE (Cat. 6); dual-band Wi-Fi ac; Bluetooth 4.2; FM Radio; microUSB; 3.5mm jack
- Battery: Li-Ion 3,000mAh, sealed
- Misc: Fingerprint reader, Samsung Pay
- Low base storage for the global version at 16GB
- microUSB port is getting outdated
- No quick charging
- No Always on display
There's no denying the usefulness of a dedicated microSD slot, and we've got nothing but praise for Samsung for going this route with the J-series. That said, it's no substitute for decent internal storage. The lack of quick charging is a nuisance but hardly a deal-breaker, and while microUSB is yesterday's interface, at least you'll probably have a use of legacy chargers and cables.
So, is the Galaxy J5 (2017) a J7 for big-screen haters, or is it the archetype of a full-featured droid on a budget? We'll find out on the following pages, starting with the hardware overview.
Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017) 360-degree spin
The Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017) measures 146.2x71.3x8mm - a whole millimeter narrower than the outgoing model, which is the metric that we've established to matter the most. Hence, the 0.1mm shaved off the thickness and the 0.4mm increase in height can be dismissed as irrelevant. The J5 (2017) is more compact than the J7, and that is likely one reason you'd go with the 5 and not the 7 (that, and price, of course).
Perhaps more importantly, however, the J5 (2017) is tangibly lighter than the J7 - at 160g, the smaller model will put less strain on your pocket than the 181g J7. If lighter is what you're after though, a Moto G5, an Xperia XA1, or a Huawei P10 lite might be viable options at around 145g. The dual-glass Galaxy A5 (2017) is 3g lighter than the J5 - unlikely to make a difference.
Once plastic phones true to the traditions of Samsung of old, the J-series have evolved to the more premium metal unibody designs we see today. The downside is no more removable batteries, but the number of people still insisting on swapping batteries seems to be dwindling, so we should just move on.
Having done just that, we can appreciate the smooth matte finish of the aluminum back that flows nicely into the rounded sides. The finish handles fingerprints well, as in it doesn't pick up too many to begin with, they're not readily visible, and are reasonably easy to clean. The J5 (2017) is decently grippy, though the old plastic build did allow a firmer hold.
The antenna band styling is quite refreshing - instead of trying to mask the strips, Samsung's designers have made them stick out. Not a new approach, strictly speaking, but it does work on the J5 and J7 for 2017. The camera and flash are positioned alongside the central axis, and the assembly doesn't stick out from the back - if anything, it's marginally recessed.
It's classic Samsung on the front - a Super AMOLED display takes center stage with the good old hardware Home button under it, as is the case with Samsung's phones with finite displays (as opposed to the Infinity Galaxy S8). There's a fingerprint sensor embedded in the Home button, so it's not merely a button.
The capacitive Recent tasks key is to the left of Home, and the Back key is on the other side. They're not illuminated, but the contrasting markings are decently visible.
Above the display next to the earpiece is one major upgrade the 2017 model brings over last year's: a 13MP selfie cam, compared to the 5MP front-facer of 2016's J5. There's an ambient light sensor too. What's missing is a notification LED, which is fine on the J7 with its Always-on display, but since the J5 omits that feature an LED would have been appreciated. Well, there is an LED, but it's the front flash - it's something.
The power button is (where it should be) on the right side, and next to it you'll find the single loudspeaker. Introduced with this year's A-series, this alternative placement makes sense, particularly for landscape use. You're unlikely to block it, and it fires towards you.
On the left side there are the volume controls - two separate buttons instead of a rocker. Two separate card slots allow you to insert up to three cards - two nano SIMs and a microSD. That's for the dual-SIM version though; our single-SIM variant will obviously only take one SIM.
The J-series don't get a USB-C interface - it's the microUSB 2.0 port that you'll find on the bottom of the J5 (2017). To its right there's a 3.5mm jack, and on the other side a pinhole reveals the location of the microphone.
The way the J5 (2017) fits in your hand is no small part of the reason why people will chose it over the J7. It's more compact, and reasonably comfortable for single-handed use.
Technology: GSM / HSPA / LTE
2G bands: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 - SIM 1 & SIM 2 (dual-SIM model only)
3G bands: HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700(AWS) / 1900 / 2100
4G bands: LTE band 1(2100), 3(1800), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 20(800), 40(2300)
Speed: HSPA 42.2/5.76 Mbps, LTE-A (2CA) Cat6 300/50 Mbps
Announced: 2017, June
Status: Available. Released 2017, June
Dimensions: 146.2 x 71.3 x 8 mm (5.76 x 2.81 x 0.31 in)
Weight: 160 g (5.64 oz)
SIM: Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
Type: Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size: 5.2 inches, 74.5 cm2 (~71.5% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution: 720 x 1280 pixels, 16:9 ratio (~282 ppi density)
OS: Android 7.0 (Nougat)
Chipset: Exynos 7870 Octa
CPU: Octa-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A53
GPU: Mali-T830 MP1
Card slot: microSD, up to 256 GB (dedicated slot)
Internal: 16 GB, 2 GB RAM - Global
32 GB, 2 GB RAM - LATAM, SEA
32 GB, 3 GB RAM - Pro edition
Primary: 13 MP, f/1.7, autofocus, LED flash, check quality
Features: Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, panorama, HDR
Video: 1080p@30fps, check quality
Secondary: 13 MP, f/1.9
Alert types: Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
3.5mm jack: Yes
WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth: 4.1, A2DP
GPS: Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
Radio: FM radio
USB: microUSB 2.0
Sensors: Fingerprint (front-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Messaging: SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM
- ANT+ support
- MP4/WMV/H.264 player
- MP3/WAV/WMA/eAAC+/FLAC player
- Photo/video editor
- Document viewer
Non-removable Li-Ion 3000 mAh battery
Talk time: Up to 21 h (3G)
Music play: Up to 83 h
Colors: Silver, Pink, Gold, Black
SAR EU: 0.35 W/kg (head) 1.36 W/kg (body)
Performance: Basemark OS II: 1154 / Basemark OS II 2.0: 1038
Basemark X: 5258
Display: Contrast ratio: Infinite (nominal), 3.599 (sunlight)
Camera: Photo / Video
Loudspeaker: Voice 68dB / Noise 70dB / Ring 82dB
Audio quality: Noise -85.0dB / Crosstalk -90.3dB
Battery life: Endurance rating 97h