Metal-framed smartphones used to cost an absolute bomb, but ou used to have to fork out buckets of cash for a metal-framed smartphone, but this all changed when Samsung introduced its new mid-range A series last year. This brought Samsung’s top-class build quality to the masses, giving customers sturdy, metal-edged smartphones that had all the same hallmarks as its premium Galaxy S family without making your wallet bleed out in the process.
The trend continues with this year’s A series, so much so that the new Galaxy A3 2016 could almost be mistaken for a miniature Galaxy S6. It’s a stunning piece of design, and its smooth glass rear really does make it look and feel like a premium smartphone. Admittedly, that glass cladding doesn’t make it any less prone to picking up grubby fingerprints, but when its slim dimensions fit so perfectly in your hand, there’s no denying that this is one seriously desirable handset.
That beauty does come at a higher price this year, though, as its current SIM-free price of £269 is a long way from the initial £225 you had to pay for its plastic-backed forebear. In fact, it’s even more expensive than the OnePlus 2, which has a large 5.5in display and considerably faster components thanks to its top-end spec. Not everyone wants a massive smartphone, of course, but even the OnePlus X, which is a similar size to the 4.7in Galaxy A3 2016 and offers a similarly luxurious kind of build quality, only costs £199.
The A3 2016’s got some pretty tough competition, then, but it’s not a complete right-off before it’s even got out of the gate. In fact, the A3 2016’s quad-core 1.5GHz Exynos 7580 chip and 1.5GB of RAM put up a surprisingly good fight against the OnePlus X’s old Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM, as our benchmark results weren’t as far apart as you might expect.
If anything, the A3’s Exynos chip is more akin to Qualcomm’s current Snapdragon 615 chip, as its single core Geekbench 3 result of 701 puts it on a level playing field with the Moto X Play and Sony Xperia M4 Aqua. This is about 200 points slower than the OnePlus X, but Android 5.1.1 still felt lovely and smooth on the new A3 when flicking through its various menu screens.
The A3 also fell behind in the multicore test, but its score of 2,143 (up from 1,418 on last year’s A3) was still only 300 points behind the X. This is pretty good going considering the X’s Snapdragon 801 runs at a much faster clock speed of 2.3GHz, and in day-to-day use you’d be hard-pushed to see much of a difference.
Likewise, the A3’s web browsing Peacekeeper score of 677 was within 100 points of the OnePlus X, and it proved very capable indeed when it came to handling media-heavy web pages. Scrolling could still be a little stop-start in places, particularly while pages were loading, but its smooth touchscreen felt very responsive once everything was ready to view.
The only area where it really loses out to the OnePlus X is its gaming performance, as its rather pitiful 254 frames (around 4.1fps) in the offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test in GFX Bench GL isn’t that much better than an entry-level smartphone with a Snapdragon 410 inside it. It’s still perfectly adequate for simple games like Threes! but anyone looking to play more graphically-complex titles like Hearthstone should probably look elsewhere, as a quick round of Blizzard’s card-trading game ended up being just a bit too juddery for my liking.