A year ago, Samsung introduced the first Galaxy J5. Six months later, he does it again with a mobile, the J3 (2016), which is almost identical to the specifications of his elder brother. Recycling that even goes as far as the design of the device.
Last November, we introduced the Galaxy J5, a smartphone that’s quite capable in many situations, except maybe in video games, but with good intentions. Launched at around 200 euros, it is now trading below 160 euros. The J5 is naturally replaced this year by a new J5, vintage 2016. The latter features a slightly larger screen, a slightly more generous platform, a more powerful battery and a revised polycarbonate chassis.
Not necessarily all the attributes of the J of 2016
The J5 (2016) is accompanied by four other models, including a J3 (2016). This is a small novelty, since the J3 did not exist in 2015. It comes naturally to position itself between J2 and J5. And more precisely, it takes over the place of the J5 (2015) left vacant by the move up-market of the J5 (2016). We would even go so far as to say that Samsung’s marketing department was lacking inspiration since the J3 (2016) is almost identical to the J5 (2015) configuration, offering only small alterations that are not always inspired. Here’s a summary:
- dimensions: 142.3 x 71 x 7.9 mm
- weight: 138 grams
- screen to size ratio : 68,2 %
- Super Amoled 720p 5-inch Super Amoled screen (294 pixels per inch resolution)
- Spreadtrum SC8890 chipset with four 1.5 GHz Cortex-A7 cores
- GPU ARM Mali-400
- 1.5 GB RAM
- 16 GB internal storage (expandable via microSDXC)
- 2600 mAh battery (removable)
- compatible LTE category 4, WiFi n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS (Glonass), FM radio
- 8-megapixel photo sensor with f/2.2 lens, LED flash and autofocus, Full HD video compatibility
- 5 megapixel webcam with f/2.2 lens, 720p video compatible
- Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with Touchwiz overlay
As you can see, the smartphone is technically quite similar to its predecessor, with one big difference: the Snapdragon 410 is replaced by the Spreadtrum SC8830, a quad-core Cortex-A7 with a Mali-400 GPU. A difficult choice to defend in 2016. Especially since there is no lack of cost-effective, yet modern solutions at Qualcomm. Note that in some countries, the J3 (2016) has an even worse configuration. So let us consider ourselves lucky.
A 100% Samsung design
On the design side, Samsung didn’t go for originality either. As proof: the dimensions of the smartphone are particularly close to those of the J5 (2015): 0.2 mm less in height, 0.8 mm less in thickness (which we attribute to a change in the slice design) and the same thickness. The 5-inch Super Amoled screen is always enhanced with a physical button surrounded by two touch buttons for operating system navigation.
At the back, you find the exact same hull as the J5. The square photo sensor well centered. To its left is the LED for brightness boosting in dark environments. To his right is the mono speaker grille. A typical low-cost investment for Samsung. Just underneath, we find the manufacturer’s claw. This plastic shell is of course removable. As with the J5, the notch is located to the left of the LED flash. Once removed, you have access to the battery, as well as a dual slot for the SIM card and the microSDXC card. If the first cannot be inserted without removing the battery, the second is hot-swappable. However, be sure to close any applications that may be stored on it, to avoid any loss of data.
The slices of Galaxy J3 (2016), made of polycarbonate of course, are slightly different from Galaxy J5. While the latter was based on the design of the Galaxy A (inherited from the Galaxy S6), the J3 is more inspired by the Ax (2016), which was based on the Galaxy S7. Which has two consequences. For one thing, the plastic is less shiny. Then they are slightly better worked on the sides, with a less rounded appearance. This is in line with our impressions of the width difference between the two models. The arrangement of the few technical elements is identical: power on on the right, volume control on the left, microphone and USB microphone at the bottom, 3.5 mm jack at the top to connect an in-ear hands-free car kit.
An almost too classic grip
The handling of the J3 (2016) is very similar to that of a Galaxy J, or even any other low-cost 5-inch Galaxy. No real originality in this mobile, which benefits from a construction that is certainly very classical, but also rather good (that’s the good side of things). The motive doesn’t crack when we apply slight pressure to the hull. It’s good to see that Samsung is not neglecting this point in these entry-level mobiles. While the screen retains fingerprints fairly easily, the plastic shell at the back does so much less. That’s also a good point.
The screen, which should be the same as the J5’s, is not the best Samsung can offer. While the colours, viewing angles and contrast ratios are excellent (perhaps even a little sustained at times, going back to the old ways of Super Amoled technology), the average brightness is only good indoors. That’s probably why Samsung has included an “outside” mode in the backlight settings, which pushes the light to the maximum. It’s efficient, but far from being energy efficient. It is also difficult to praise the merits of the resolution of this screen, positioned at 294 pixels per inch.
A lighter Touchwiz interface
Once the screen is turned on, we find exactly the same interface as the Galaxy A3 (2016), i.e. a rather recent Touchwiz overlay (but less recent than the Galaxy S7 one, for example) applied to Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. We obviously find it a shame for Samsung to deliver in 2016, after the release of the S7, a smartphone, even entry-level, with a ROM based on an old version of Android.
We understand that some smaller players (such as Danew) still have to make do with this version. But we already accept less for Samsung. One of the possible reasons for the appearance of Lollipop here is the inclusion of a Spreadtrum chipset, a melter who must surely be waiting for his version of Marshmallow like the others. Another explanation would be the small size of the platform. A final option would be the lack of involvement of the manufacturer. This would logically lead to a failure on the updates to Marshmallow. As always, whether with a big brand or a smaller one, the entry-level segment is never well off.
However, let’s postpone this bad point: it hardly changes the use. Marshmallow’s new features may be absent from the operating system, but they are offset by Samsung’s additions with its Touchwiz overlay, which once again looks like the Galaxy Ax (2016), minus the wallpaper. You will also notice the absence of the 2016 J range wallpapers (coloured light lines on a black background) inspired by those of the A range and which illustrate all the institutional visuals, like our product sheet. Instead, we have all the funds in the 2015 range.
A surprise that continues in the choice of pre-installed applications. If we find the Office suite from Microsoft (commercial partnership obliges) as well as a good dozen Google services, we also see the return of Samsung Video, recently hidden in Touchwiz to reduce the impression of clutter in the menu of applications. On the other hand Upday, the news feed that replaces Briefing / UX Magazine is not present by default. You have to go to the Galaxy App to install and activate it. Samsung’s tools also include S Planner, Smart Manager, Gallery, Radio, Memo, Browser and more. But point of Meteo, accessible only by clicking on the dedicated widget.
The entire operating system weighs 3.21 GB, or just over a third of the phone’s pre-installed memory. This implies that the installation of a memory card is highly recommended with this mobile phone. With this version of Touchwiz and a technical configuration “close to the packets”, Android Lollipop is not particularly fluid, especially when it comes to displaying items on the screen. A few snags when moving icons or opening a menu. Some slowdowns in launching applications. Note, however, that the small size of the platform also significantly reduces energy consumption (and some uses are de facto eliminated). The mobile phone therefore has a good autonomy.
This is confirmed by the different scores obtained with current benchmarking tools. Basemark OS II is the most eloquent here: out of the ten or so runs made with the application, the Galaxy J3 (2016) offers good performance in OS management (thanks to adjustments made by Samsung), but shows a great weakness at the GPU level with only 160 points in this theme. The overall score reaches a maximum of 432 points. The AnTuTu score coincides with this observation: the mobile reaches 881 points in 3D, a very low score that lowers the overall average of the phone: 26507 points.
Of the other tools used, the Galaxy J3 (2016) reaches 404 points in single-core and 1279 points multi-core on Geekbench and 3704 points on Ice Storm Unlimited, the latter confirming the impression left by the previous benchmarks. A score surpassed by all Qualcomm chipsets, even two years old, such as the Snapdragon 410 which powers phones sold at half the price (because the J5 (2016) is still sold for 189 euros in all good creameries).
An unbalanced multimedia platform
This lack of graphic power is obviously felt during the game with Madfinger’s Dead Trigger 2. Recently, the studio updated its application, preventing users (and testers) from forcing the switch to the finest graphics if the smartphone is really unable to support it. And this is the case here: we have not been able to go beyond average quality. And even so, we’ve seen such slowdowns that the game is virtually unplayable. Which is a shame, because the smartphone has a good grip for its size. But that is not enough to provide a good experience.
On the other hand, in video, the Galaxy J3 (2016) proves to be an amazing little video player, capable of decoding Full HD and even closed captioning. As always with Samsung, the video player is a very positive aspect of the Touchwiz interface. So let’s not deny ourselves the pleasure, as this is one of the only multimedia uses where the J3 (2016) shines more brightly than other phones in the same price category. The better the quality of the screen, the better the experience. Note that the location of the mono speaker is not ideal, as it is often obstructed by a finger.
Not quite the best Samsungsensor
Finally, in photography, the 8 megapixel sensor doesn’t sparkle, especially since it is accompanied here by a version of the native Touchwiz photo application with a professional mode lightened by a few settings (when compared to the versions included in Galaxy A, for example). You can correct the white balance, sensitivity, and adjust the type of light. That’s not bad enough, since other manufacturers don’t go that far. But from Samsung, it’s slightly disappointing.
When in use, the Galaxy J3 (2016) produces slightly dark shots with a lot of grain. It is therefore difficult to zoom in to bring out a detail, or even to rework the images in order to print them, without you being disappointed with the result. In spite of this lack of pep, finesse and contrast, the photos taken are generally well balanced, with no areas that are too dark or too bright. But that’s a small consolation: this little smartphone won’t replace your compact camera during your holidays (but it will certainly help you to share your good times with your friends and family on the go).
Photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
An entry-level product that lacks scope
In conclusion, the Galaxy J3 (2016) is based on a very classic design and very much in the paw of the Korean manufacturer. Without extravagance, without originality, without taking risks, Samsung takes back its old J5 to create a new J3 (2016), of which it takes almost all the components, while achieving some economies of scale “neither seen nor known” at the level of the chipset and the photo sensor. A drop in quality that is difficult to understand nowadays, as competition is so strong at the entry level. Sold for 189 euros in Samsung’s official store, the J3 (2016) is competing with phones that are better equipped, more powerful, bigger, cheaper and sometimes all at the same time.