When a Samsung Galaxy landed on my desk, I thought it must be a high-end model. Its size, style and “gold sand” colour all screamed premium phone. Then I saw it was the A7. The A-series phones are Samsung’s “mid-range” offerings, which traditionally have less power and style than its flagship S series. Does this phone have an identity crisis?
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I put the A7 through its paces and it’s clear Samsung didn’t skimp on processing power. It didn’t lag or slow down, even when playing games and videos. It also has a fingerprint sensor built in to the home button. Connecting to this phone isn’t a problem with WiFi, 4G, Bluetooth 4.2 and near field communication (NFC). As a bonus the charger is USB-C, which means no fiddling in the dark trying to figure out which way to insert the cable.
The A7’s body is a stylish combination of metal and glass. The back is smooth ... possibly too much, as the phone slipped out of my hold a few times. Fingerprints were a problem as they showed up, front and back, as clear as a footprint in wet sand. The A7 has an IP68 rating, which means it’s waterproof, but you shouldn’t purposely immerse it.
While the screen is large, its resolution isn’t great. Bigger screens need a higher resolution to stop them looking fuzzy. The A7 only has 1920x1080 resolution (in comparison, the similarly sized Note 5 has 2560x1440). It’s bright enough to easily use outside and has an “always-on” display, meaning it constantly shows the time and notifications. I found the 5.7-inch screen could be awkward to use one-handed (though I do have small hands).
The A7 claims up to 23 hours’ talk time. While I don’t talk on the phone for hours, the battery never dropped below 30% before I would charge it overnight — and I live with my phone in my hand.
It has the same camera on the front and back, a 16MP CMOS. It also comes with a good assortment of camera filters and functions. To manage the camera settings, swipe left. Swipe right to pick another camera mode. The image quality is good and I had no problems with focus or brightness. The high-resolution front-facing camera is a selfie taker’s dream.
It’s also handy as a makeshift mirror — just remember to turn the beauty filter off.
The video quality, while OK, isn’t anything to sing about and it was sensitive to movement.
I had hoped the A7 would have Nougat, Android’s latest operating system (OS), but it was still running Marshmallow. Considering Samsung’s history in deploying updates, I’m not holding my breath for this to happen anytime soon.
My only gripe with sound was when I put a call to speakerphone, I could hear an annoying crackling. But when playing music and having regular conversations, the sound was great and full of body and depth.
While it’s not exactly “budget”, the A7 has the look and feel of a high-end phone, with enough features and power to make it a good choice for the average user.
H x W x D: 156.8 x 77.6 x 7.9mm
Display: 5.7”, 1920x1080
CPU: 64 bit octa-core
Memory: 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM
Processor: 64 bit octa-core
IP rating: IP68
Back & front camera: 16MP CMOS
First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons. Our writer received a Samsung Galaxy A7 on loan for this First Look.
By Erin Bennett