Samsung ups mid-range ante with A7 upgrade

The new Samsung Galaxy A7 boasts some premium features, such as a fingerprint sensor and improved optical image stabilisation for its camera. It also scores in the looks department. But the phone costs more than its competitors such as the Sony Xprer
The new Samsung Galaxy A7 boasts some premium features, such as a fingerprint sensor and improved optical image stabilisation for its camera. It also scores in the looks department. But the phone costs more than its competitors such as the Sony Xpreria M4 Aqua.PHOTO: SAMSUNG

The Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) is the South Korean company's bid at conquering the mid-range phone market, which is chock-full of serious, competitively priced contenders like the Oppo R7s and the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua.

At $698, it hovers at the higher end of the price spectrum. The R7s and the Xperia M4 Aqua - which both use the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor as the Galaxy A7 - cost $599 and $498 respectively.

But what that extra hundred dollars or two gets you is a handful of premium features, like a fingerprint sensor and improved optical image stabilisation for its camera.

The new Galaxy A7 is a definite upgrade over the 2015 model, released at the beginning of last year.

While the phones look similar, with a 5.5-inch screen and a glass-and-metal body, the 2016 version has a fingerprint sensor, more RAM and support for the Samsung Pay mobile payment service.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $698

    PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core 1.6GHz

    DISPLAY: 5.5-inch, 1,080-by-1,920 pixels

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android OS v5.1.1

    CAMERA: 13-megapixel, f/1.9, 28mm (rear) and 5-megapixel, f/1.9, 24mm (front)

    MEMORY: 16GB of internal storage (expandable up to 128GB), 3GB RAM

    BATTERY: 3,300 mAh

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

It also comes with dual-SIM card slots, and battery life has been beefed up from 2,600 mAh to 3,300 mAh, which has upped the weight of the phone, from 141g to a still-manageable 172g.

In the performance department, the Galaxy A7 holds up well with a solid mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 615, a 1.6GHz octa-core processor, at its core.

It will not be winning benchmark tests any time soon, but it is more than enough to make daily tasks buttery smooth, with no noticeable lag when running multiple apps. Barring hardcore mobile gamers, it will be more than enough for most users.

The 13-megapixel primary camera benefits from an optical image stabilisation system, which compensated well for my shaky hands. The camera also handles distortions at the edges of the frame competently, with little warping, and has accurate colour reproduction.

It does not have the widest field of view compared to a phone like the Galaxy S7, and I find myself having to step back more than normal to fit everything into the frame.

The body of the phone has a premium look, with very narrow bezels and gently bevelled edges. In some ways, it feels better in the hand than Samsung's flagship Galaxy S7 phone, as the A7 has a bigger screen and a thinner body: 5.5-inch and 7.3mm, versus the S7's 5.1-inch and 7.9mm.

Because of the bigger screen, though, it has a pixel density of only 401 ppi, compared to the 577 ppi of the S7.

This is not very obvious when watching videos. But when reading crisp text, it is clear that the A7's screen is not as high-end.

Lisabel Ting

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Samsung ups mid-range ante with A7 upgrade'. Print Edition | Subscribe