Samsung has been keeping its focus in the higher league with the launch of smartphones like Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ and Note 5. While the company’s share in the Indian smartphone market decline, as quoted by a tech reports popping up. It was being stated that South Korean firm has been dethroned as the largest smartphone provider in India by Micromax. The Indian smartphone scene is all about the affordable smartphones offering impressive features. With companies like Xiaomi, Lenovo and Honor also making their moves to be number 1 in the country, it was about time that Samsung introduces their budget friendly devices that can offer premium-ish and decent specs to compete with others in the affordable mid-range of smartphones. That’s when the company decided to take measures and launch their latest ON Series of smartphones. We have had a chance to get along with Galaxy ON5 for quite a time, and this is our detailed review of the same.
Samsung has always been quite simple about their designing skills, not complicating their form factor; the brand mostly sticks with same design language in almost all the smartphones. Their smartphones mostly pack a physical home button and the capacitive buttons for recent menu and back button. You can’t argue with Samsung that these things don’t work because they do, even if it’s very simple and old form factor of company’s, they are still liked by many smartphone consumers. Trust me I have been there, the youths in our country might be ready to do experiment with their choices, but the middle-aged and upper-aged class tries to stick with the familiar products, or per say the elegant products.
When you’ll hold the device in your hands first that, it will give you a premium-ish feel, the device is pretty solid and even if it has a plastic back panel, you’ll like the rubberized texture provided for gripping, unlike the slippery plastic panels you see on most mid-range devices these days.
There is a slight curve to the right and left edges from the back, which allows the hand to reach easily from left to right. I haven’t been the fan of Samsung putting the volume rocker button on left edge while power button on the right edge. But the device is pretty compact and those curves on back help me to reach out to the other edge easily using one hand.
Talking about the ports, the bottom edge houses microUSB port, 3.5mm audio jack, and a microphone, whereas the top edge has been kept clean. The usual set of sensors has been placed alongside the earpiece on top, just above the display. The front facing camera is placed beside those set of sensors on the top bezel. I like the fact that side bezels don’t take much space in the front and thus giving room to the display. But it’s unlike what we see on the Xiaomi Mi 4i, which has almost no bezels on the left and right edges.
Moving on to the rear part of the device, what you have on the back side of the ON5 is a rear camera; on each of its side is the LED Flash and loudspeaker. Opening that back panel, you’ll see two SIM slot, one microSD card slot and the battery compartment where company have placed the 2600mAh battery. Overall, the design of ON5 smartphone is pretty sturdy and offers a clean and neat design with not many complications at all.
The manufacturer has been known for its AMOLED displays offering in a high-end smartphone, and Samsung Z3 is the only smartphone that offers Super AMOLED display in the budget range. The 5-inch display with 720p resolution is not AMOLED, but it’s still a good screen with pixel density of 294 PPI. Currently on the market you can get full HD display smartphones in the similar price range, but what Samsung has established even with a TFT display is amazing.
The Color reproduction on the screen is pretty stunning; you get true color outputs. I was surprised to see such quality on an HD display; we played YouTube Videos in same 720p resolution on two devices; Note 5 and the ON5, the human eye can hardly notice the difference between two of them. Apart from viewing angles, you can’t differentiate between these two displays when playing videos side-by-side. But the low pixel density is shown when you zoom in a picture on it, even if that’s a high-resolution image, it would give you a pixilated look. You can’t expect such sharpness and crispness from an HD display. Though, I would recommend the screen on ON5 for its colors output.
The display is a fingerprint magnet, and it affects the visual content on it. You’ll notice the fingerprint on it when the screen reflects, and that is almost all the time, since, it’s quite reflective. But I can’t argue enough that the 720p screen on Galaxy ON5 is on par with other display’s, or it might be better than some affordable Full HD display smartphones.
The interface war is a real thing; every mobile brand is introducing their Android skins rather than using the Stock Android. It is a good thing as well as bad. Good because consumers would get to try and experience some new stuff, other than the mainstream interface. The bad part is that system efficiency and performance degrades unless the company has optimized the UI accordingly.
Samsung has been sticking with its TouchWiz this year too, but unlike previous generations when a brand has been criticized about their custom Android skin for being too slow and having low stability is not the case now. Earlier we use to see tons of bloatware, and this year company has not only cut short in pre-loaded apps but has also optimized the UI for performance and snappy experience.
The new TouchWiz is based on the Android Lollipop 5.1.1, which is the latest version of the Lollipop OS. The internal storage on the device out of the box is around 4.27 GB while the remaining is distributed as system memory, which accounts for 3.48 GB. Though, you can always add a microSD card to increase the storage space on your device. Additionally, you can also attach and OTG drive since it is supported by the device. We have tested the claim by the company, and it does detect the OTG drive as soon as we attach one to the microUSB port on the device.
Coming to the talk of personalization, you don’t have a separate themes app, but you can have some personalization tools from the Galaxy Apps installed like wallpapers set, icon pack, lock screen, or you could even find third party themes to change the look of your device on one-tap.
The device is not much big in size that it would have features like Multi-window functionality or one-hand modes. Although, we would have liked some smart gesture options in the interface to wake up some apps like camera, battery manager or something. But fortunately, there is a quick camera launch feature where you can double tap the home button quickly to launch the camera app. Regarding security options, there is no fingerprint sensor for obvious reasons, but you do get stock Samsung services like Find My Mobile, which can help you in locating and controlling your device remotely using your Samsung account. That’s when you have lost your phone. Some measures that should be must for all smartphones user.
Coming back to the talk of why should you give a chance to the new and improved TouchWiz UI, well one of those reasons to stick with professional skin such as TouchWiz is the reliability they offer. There might be no frequent updates such as MIUI or Cyanogen Mod offers, well because those interfaces are not much stable like Samsung’s UI. I can vouch for that.
Hardware & Performance
The South Koran giant has been using their homegrown processors for quite a while now, but they haven’t used a lot in their mainstream mid-range products. Now the focus has been shifted to using the Exynos series chipsets in such range of products. It started with Galaxy J2 in India when the company launched the device a month ago in the country, which is followed by the launch of ON5.
The Exynos 3475 is the quad core chipset that is powering the mid-ranger we have been using for quite a while. Clocking at 1.3GHz the new processor is not the snappiest since it is designed for the usage of budget friendly devices, but it does offer good performance. Means, it is comparable to the Snapdragon 410 chipset in terms of the gaming as well as loading heavy animations in UI and apps. It’s pretty smooth that you can trust it with some heavy apps, but I wouldn’t quite recommend it for the multitasking since the RAM is very limited on this device and not in par with the current mid-range standard. Out of 1.5 GB of RAM that is being installed on the device you get around 534 MB RAM free, other 681 MB is used by the system while some default apps are running in background were using around 184 MB of RAM.
Talking more about the gaming part, we loved what we played, there was no lag/ frame drop while playing games like Riptide GP2 or even the Dead Trigger 2. Both of these games are heavy; especially Dead Trigger 2, which has some heavy graphics intense scenes while racing games like Riptide GP2 are graphic intensive as well. All thanks to the HD display and Mali T720 GPU to give more than what one could expect from such average joe chipset.
We did benchmarks test on the device that included the popular apps like Antutu and Vellamo. The score for Antutu was 19805, which is not the best among the mid-range smartphones. For Vellamo app, the device scored around 1226 for Multicore performance while for Metal it was 831 and Chrome Browser test in Vellamo resulted in a score of 1721. But considering the performance it gives you don’t have to worry about these scores. We are just comparing it to check how they pan out on paper with other mid-range devices.
While talking about the heating part, the device was pretty cool almost all the time; there was some increase in heat during gameplay of more than 20 minutes. But that was around 36 degrees, which is not even considered hot these days. We also tested the browsing on the device and was pretty satisfied with the experience it gave us, although, the screen is not big for browsing heavy sites, but you do get responsive Zoom-in and Zoom-out features.
The rear camera on the Galaxy ON5 is of 8-megapixel resolution along with LED flash support. For the price this device comes, there are ton of other options with 8MP camera. The Indian smartphone scenario has drastically changed a lot in past two years. I wouldn’t recommend any other brand’s smartphone with this resolution, except for a couple of selected devices.
Here Samsung has established something commendable even with low resolution. The 8MP is now the new 5MP standard that we had until last year. These days you have so many options if you’re in the market for a camera phone under budget range. I wouldn’t go into detail here, but brands like Xiaomi, Lenovo and Honor offer more megapixel resolution sensor around the same price. Though, it isn’t about the camera resolution but how well the image turns out in terms of color reproduction, white balance and saturation.
The camera module outperforms any 8MP module in terms of offering impressive artificial light captures, with enough light around you, the ON5 rear camera does an incredible job. Color reproduction is something of good value here, as well as the white balance, but I did notice oversaturation in some outputs taken in broad daylight.
The camera app is quite simple on the device, if you’re familiar with Samsung devices, then you’ll know what you’re doing on the first go. If you aren’t familiar, then I suggest you spent some quality time with camera app on this device, and you’ll be the master of it. The interface is pretty neat; you get modes like Auto, Manual, Panorama and Continous Shot to capture according to need and situation.
Talking about the video capabilities, the rear camera is capable of recording up to 1080p video, it is not the best in terms of quality, but you do get some stabilization from shakes, thanks to software optimization by Samsung. Moving on to the front facing snapper, which is of 5-megapixel and is actually on par with other mid-range devices. You get options like Wide-Selfie and Interval Shots to have fun while taking selfies and enjoying the fullest of features. You can learn more about the camera capabilities of the camera in our dedicated camera review of the Galaxy ON5.
Samsung couldn’t have packed larger battery than 2600mAh on the ON5. It’s around perfect for size and display it comes, with Exynos chipset being optimized for the battery usage, there are tons of things you could do with the device and still get away with a battery of more than a day. Within 8.5mm frame size, the 2600mAh battery might be small, but in real world usage, we didn’t come shorthand for the battery life.
Moreover, whenever we could have required the device to last longer, there are two power saving modes; normal and ultra, which were always there for our rescue. I would recommend using the normal power saving mode almost all the time, except when you want to play games. But the ultra power saving mode is for true emergencies like you don’t have a charger around and need a battery to last quite a while. In this mode, you’ll only able to make calls, texts and see the clock, that’s about it for the power modes.
Overall, the battery might have a good standby time, as the percentage drop was around 2% during the idle stage of 7 hours or so. Remember that is when we haven’t enabled the normal power saving mode. But if you could manage the apps permission pretty well, then this would easily offer the best battery life among mid-range with similar capacity.
The Galaxy ON5 comes with dual SIM connectivity, which has become a must for the mid-range smartphones. Checking one tick isn’t enough in connectivity, as these days 4G LTE smartphones can be purchased for as minimum as Rs 5K. So, it was obvious that company gave support for the 4G LTE connections as well.
We tested the 4G speed, and it was on par with other 4G enabled handsets in the similar range. There was no fluctuation in the network strength, which is a good thing. There are two separate slots for the SIM, unlike the Galaxy A7, which holds either one SIM and microSD card or dual SIM at a time. So, you can enjoy the dual network on one phone.
Additionally, the dual standby setup allows you to talk on the phone using one SIM while gives you the freedom to take calls on the other SIM at the same time. We already establish that it has OTG support in the software section. Another set of connectivity options includes GPS, GLONASS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.
The Samsung Galaxy ON5 is not your ideal budget friendly smartphone, but is the only Tier-1 brand that offers commendable products in this price range, if you look at HTC and LG; they are not offering such products in India, well not anymore, since no line-up has been introduced for this year.
Now for the less pricing you can get better products from brands like Honor, Lenovo, and Xiaomi. Particularly, there Honor Holly, Lenovo A6000 Plus and Xiaomi Redmi 2 Prime would be a better deal. You get almost similar specifications, may be even better in some cases at the remarkably lower price point. The only reason we recommend Galaxy ON5 is that it would be a good daily companion if you’re looking for just average usage like making calls and accessing data on 4G, casual media, and camera usage.