Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016) and J7 (2016) first impressions: refined design, decent specs and attractive pricing

“The 2016 editions of Samsung’s popular budget smartphones bring forth good hardware and useful features like Ultra-data saving and S Bike mode”

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While the ASUS ZenFone 2 (review | FAQs) and Lenovo K3 Note (review | FAQs) created a lot of buzz in 2015 thanks to their power-packed hardware, Samsung’s budget offerings, the Galaxy J5 (review) and J7 (first impressions) proved to be sleeper hits. In fact, in terms of popularity in the Rs 10,000 to 20,000 segment, both the smartphones bagged the first and second spots respectively. The Chaebol is now aiming to carry forward its success streak with their successors, aptly named as Galaxy J5 (2016) and Galaxy J7 (2016).

The devices were launched today at an event in New Delhi and are priced quite competitively. While our reviews will be able to evaluate if the new duo is able to recreate the magic for the brand, for now, let’s check out what they bring to the table, based on our initial impressions.

The Galaxy J5 (2016) is built around a screen measuring 5.2-inches while Samsung has kept the screen size the same for the J7 (2016) as its predecessor – 5.5-inches, bringing it in the phablet cadre. The smartphones also feature a revamped design. Unlike their predecessors which offered plasticky builds, the pair comes with metallic frames around the edges. The metal has a diamond cut, which adds a class to the devices and also lends them a stylish look.

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The fascia is traditionally Samsung-like, with the display panel being flanked by the brand’s logo, an earpiece, a couple of sensors, a secondary shooter and an LED flash above and a row of navigation keys below. The keys also follow the usual format – the physical home buttons sandwiched between overview and return keys.

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Both the Galaxy J5 (2016) and J7 (2016) offer power toggles towards the right, whereas the volume keys are placed on the left spines. At the base, the microphones, 3.5mm audio interfaces, and micro-USB ports can be found. The antenna lines have been placed on the top and bottom edges to maintain the uniformity of the design language.

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The duo is available in multiple colour options, including white, black or gold. The rear panels of the Galaxy J5 (2016) and Galaxy J7 (2016) sports matte textures. Here you’ll find the primary cameras that jut out slightly and are placed between speaker grilles and the LED flash strobes. The back plates can be pried upon to reveal the user-replaceable batteries, a pair of micro-SIM slots each and expansion slots.

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Interestingly, the Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) is slimmer than its smaller sibling (7.8mm vs 8.1mm). They aren’t the lightest devices around, with the J5 (2016) weighing 159g and the J7 (2016) tipping the scale at 170g, but their weight has been distributed well and they don’t feel bulky when held in the hand. The J5 (2016) can be operated comfortably with a single hand while the J7 (2016) requires two hands for most actions.

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While we appreciate the design upgrade, we are bewildered by the fact that the Korean giant has continued with 720p screen resolution for both the Galaxy J5 (2016) and J7 (2016). With the Super AMOLED tech, the screens offer vivid colours and sharpness levels are also decent, but the competition in this range offers full HD resolution, which without a doubt, would be crisper in comparison. Brightness seems to sufficient and the displays could be seen from wide viewing angles. Another baffling thing is the fact that the phones miss out on ambient light sensors, which means that you’d need to adjust the brightness manually.

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Similar to Samsung’s latest flagships, the 2016 models of the J5 and J7 offer Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The TouchWiz customisation offers the usual features – a dedicated left screen called Briefing, an app menu, ability to change themes, etc. The preloaded apps are kept to the bare minimum, with a few installed apps from Microsoft such as OneDrive and Skype.

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The new devices in the J series also come with Samsung’s made-for-India innovation – the S Bike mode, which debuted with the Galaxy J3 (first impressions). For this reason, the pair also features NFC connectivity, so that the mode can be enabled by simply tapping the bundled NFC tag, which can be stuck to the bike or the helmet. Other connectivity options remain standard – 4G support (on the primary SIM), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 and GPS.

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The phones also offer useful features such as the Ultra Data saving mode. While earlier, the mode only worked for cellular connections, now it’ll also work for Wi-Fi networks. The mode will also conserve data while using streaming apps like Saavn.

Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016) features the same processor as its predecessor i.e., Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chip clocked at 1.2GHz. The RAM capacity does get an upgrade though, as it stands at 2GB in comparison to 1.5GB available earlier. The combination seems decent, and should be able to handle most tasks with ease. During our brief session, the device didn’t show any trace of lag, but of course, it remains to be seen if it performs the same during duress.

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The Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) comes powered by a 1.6GHz octa-core processor, which is mated to 2 gigs of RAM. This device performed well during our time with it, and there was no lag during navigation or opening and closing of apps.

As compared to the paltry 8GB storage available in the Galaxy J5, the 2016 edition comes with 16GB of memory on board. The Galaxy J7 (2016) also features the same storage capacity, and both handsets offer around 10.8GB to the end user. With the use of a microSD card, the storage can be topped up further up to 128GB.

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On the camera front, the 2016 editions of the Galaxy J5 and J7 flaunt 13-megapixel sensors at the back. For selfies, they have 5MP cameras at the front. Both the cameras get an LED flash to assist shooting in poorly-lit environments. The camera interface is similar to other Samsung offerings and offers various effects and modes such as Pro setting, which lets you control the ISO levels and white balance.

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The smartphones seem to have received serious upgrades in the battery department. The Galaxy J5 (2016) sips juice from a 3,100mAh unit, whereas its sibling is fuelled by a 3,300mAh pack. Both the phones should easily last a day with moderate usage.

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Just like their predecessors, the mobiles will go on sale exclusively on Flipkart. The Galaxy J5 (2016) carries a price tag of Rs 13,990, and will be up against the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (review) and Lenovo Vibe S1 (review). The J7 (2016) on the other hand, will be available for Rs 15,990 and will compete with the ASUS ZenFone 2 and Lenovo Vibe P1 (review). If you are wondering how the two siblings stack up against each other, then you can watch our comparison overview embedded below.

Overall, the devices seem to be priced quite well, and while they can’t compete with the rivals head on, at least in terms of specs, they distinguish themselves with brand equity and software features. We will be bringing you our reviews soon to give a comprehensive lowdown of their capabilities.

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