Hands-on: The slightly less interesting Galaxy A-series entrant for 2017 still looks to be a big improvement

  • Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) Price: Around £299
  • Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017): Release date: January 2017

Samsung announced some seriously interesting bits of tech at CES 2017. There are gorgeous new televisions, a Chromebook designed for Android apps and, well, the less said about that gaudy gaming laptop the better. But it didn’t unveil a new flagship phone.

Instead we got a duo of mid-range phones, both of which take inspiration from their loftier siblings. The Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) is the higher-end mid-ranger, while the A3 (2017) I am looking at here will be more affordable.

Even though it’s one of Samsung’s cheaper phones, it still looks good. 2.5D glass is used to give it smooth edges, and rather than having a plastic rim like the Galaxy A3 from last year, it has a metal one. Along with it adding a more rigid structure, it just feels much nicer holding a _phone_ that’s properly made from metal rather than flimsy plastic.

Related: Best budget Android phones

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You’ll be able to pick the Galaxy A3 (2017) up in one of four colours, each of which is surprisingly tasteful. The soft pink isn’t at all gaudy, while the deep black is inky and stealthy. Gold and blue options are available too, though these will vary by region.

The bezel around the display has been shrunk and the camera bump almost completely ditched, and it does feel a very nice _phone_ to hold. Oh, and it’s water-resistant too – something rare at this price.

Even though this is the cheaper version of the Galaxy A5, a lot of the headline features from that phone are still here. There’s a fingerprint sensor tucked beneath the physical home button and the microSD slot can expand the fairly poor 16GB internal storage. That amount simply isn’t enough – a base of 32GB would be much better.

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On the back is a 13-megapixel camera – Samsung wouldn’t disclose the type of sensor – and there’s an 8-megapixel snapper on the front for selfies. Both of these have a fast f/1.9 lens which should let enough light through to take decent night time shots.

Powering the Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) is an Exynos 7870 CPU, plus 2GB of RAM. That amount of memory is always a bit dodgy on modern Android phones if you’re big into apps, but Samsung tends to be good at optimisation, so hopefully that won’t be an issue. There’s also no Android 7, so you’re stuck with the older Marshmallow version until Samsung gets an update out.

I wasn’t blown away by the 4.7-inch 720p screen, and with phones like the Honor 6X costing less and still packing a 1080p panel it seems as though Samsung is cutting back in areas it shouldn’t. It’s an AMOLED screen, so colours and vibrancy aren't an issue, but I couldn’t help but notice jagged pixels sticking out of icons.

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USB-C is starting to be the norm and it’s good to see it here, but the 2,350mAh battery lacks any sort of fast-charging, so it could take a while to juice it up when it dies. Hopefully it should comfortably make it through the day, though, as the small, lower-resolution screen won't use as much power.

Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017): Early Verdict

Samsung says the Galaxy A3 will retail around the £299 mark. That price point is a tough nut to crack – Wileyfox, Motorola, Honor and others are doing great stuff and arguably offering better value for money than Samsung.

But at least Samsung is bringing nice additions such as a fingerprint scanner, water-resistance and USB-C to its wider phone portfolio.