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Samsung Galaxy J3 review

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Summary

Our Score:

6

Pros

  • Neat S7-a-like design
  • Punchy screen

Cons

  • Mediocre performance
  • Unremarkable camera
  • Annoying manual brightness screen

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Key Features

  • 8-megapixel rear camera with flash
  • 5-inch 720p OLED screen
  • Android 5.0.1 with TouchWiz
  • 8GB storage
  • Spreadtrum SC8830 quad-core CPU
  • 1.5GB RAM
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £149.00

What is the Samsung Galaxy J3?

The Samsung Galaxy J3 is an affordable phone, the sort of handset you might buy outright to avoid signing up for a contract lasting longer than some marriages. It can be had for less than £150, but still includes a few higher-end features such as an OLED screen.

The problem is that it neglects some of the basics, resulting in a patchwork of the rather good and really quite bad. The Motorola Moto G offers a far more consistent experience for similar money.

Read also: iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus

Video: Trusted Explains: Buying a new smartphone

Samsung Galaxy J3 – Design

The Samsung Galaxy J3 is what you’d get if you set out to make a Samsung Galaxy S7 with about a third of the budget. Where an expensive handset might use glass or metal, here you'll find plastic.

The J3 isn't flashy, and the thin plastic battery cover feels like a trip down memory lane: Samsung used to use these in almost all of its phones, even the pricey ones. None of this matters when we’re talking about a £150 handset, however; a cheap phone feeling a little cheap is no disaster.

However, there are several strong parts to the Samsung Galaxy J3 design too. It’s slim, light, and its footprint is similar to that of the Samsung Galaxy S7. This is a comfortable and practical shape and size.

Related: Best budget smartphones

Samsung Galaxy J3 11

Samsung has directed some extra pennies towards making the central select button feel good too. It’s one of the few metal parts on the device, and shares the ultra-pronounced click experienced on Samsung’s top-end phones.

Also a standout feature is the inclusion of NFC, although this could easily have been omitted from the phone without the budget audience even noticing.

There’s only 8GB storage, however, which is already strained by the preinstalled Office suite. Within only a few days, I had run out of storage. I’d much rather have 16GB storage than NFC in a phone of this price, and as we’ll see, questionable priorities are a theme of the Samsung Galaxy J3.

Note that the phone does feature a microSD slot beneath the back cover, so limited memory isn’t a reason to dismiss the J3 altogether.

Related: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Samsung Galaxy J3 13

If you don't attach all the back panel clips, it will lead to a bumpy exterior such as this

Buy Now: Samsung Galaxy J3 at Amazon.com from $119.99

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Samsung Galaxy J3 – Screen

The most annoying hardware omission is an ambient light sensor; almost every phone has one of these nowadays. It sits above the display, providing the phone with information on the ambient light level, so it can boost or dim the screen backlight accordingly. Without one you have to flick up the brightness as you head outdoors, then manually dial it down once indoors again.

Galaxy J3 11

What the Samsung Galaxy J3 offers instead is an "outdoors" mode, which sits where you might normally see the Auto brightness button. This boosts the display to let it deal with super-bright days – and it works brilliantly. I’ve been using the phone alongside the LG G5, and this handset is far better at dealing with bright, direct sunlight.

It’s all down to four little letters: OLED. Almost all phones costing less than £200 include LCD panels, but the Samsung Galaxy J3 has an OLED one. These screens feature emissive pixels and tend to provide richer colour, always delivering better contrast than LCD panels.

Galaxy J3 3

Samsung is a master maker of OLED phone panels, so it’s no surprise to see such an addition in its pocket money handset. Specs-wise, though, the Samsung Galaxy J3 screen is fairly ordinary.

It’s a 5-inch 720p-resolution display, matching the Motorola Moto G. Since it uses a PenTile architecture, there’s a certain fuzziness to the screen that isn’t apparent in a rival LCD. My eyes became accustomed to this fairly quickly, though.

The J3's display is pretty decent when it comes to performance. Colours have a pop that you don't often see on budget devices, and while they're oversaturated to begin, the Samsung Galaxy J3 includes the same set of screen customisation modes seen in top-end Galaxy models.

Switch to "Basic" and you'll achieve a relatively natural colour tone, although calibration doesn’t have the accuracy of a Note 5 or Galaxy S7.

Galaxy J3 9

Contrast is excellent, and since it’s an OLED panel, the Samsung Galaxy J3 will look great in dark rooms, which tend to show off the limited blacks of all but the best LCDs.

On the downside, however, the panel isn't made of Gorilla Glass, as seen in the Motorola Moto G. This is a tough, scratch-resistant glass that is increasingly commonplace in handsets these days. Although Samsung's cheaper alternative seems adequate; I haven't managed to scratch the panel too badly yet.

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Alka Ahir

June 1, 2016, 1:05 pm

“No Miniature Mistakes”

When we analyze something we can see mistakes. But there are few things that are with no miniature. I really feel it worth to have the phone with nil miniature mistakes. It took almost 3 months for me to analyze which phone is the best. At the end found out Oppo F1 plus and vivo v3 max. But there was even minute mistake in vivo v3 max of the camera. Camera works really awesome in Oppo F1 plus.

wilks

September 8, 2016, 5:41 am

It's not true that the phone has inferior glass protection- I emailed Samsung UK & asked them what the screen is made of, & they assured me it is Ahasi Dragontrail glass, which is just as good as Gorilla glass.

James Oneill

September 11, 2016, 3:36 am

Not a single mention of it serving as a "PHONE". This is where this device will come thru, especially as it is priced at least 5 to 7 times less than some manufacturer's premium phones. If you're looking for an ultra fast pocket computer with "calling capabilities, this device is definitely not it, now if you are perfectly ok with not spending 500 to 700 on a pocket computer with calling capabilities, a feature most likely to be used the least; a Samsung J3 or similar makes sense. Use it as a cell PHONE and leave the computing to your notebooks or desktops and save hundreds every year or so, as one should become impervious to the marketing schemes of major smartphone manufacturers, who successfully convince many to upgrade to the latest and greatest.

Soooo, do you really need a multi-core processor with 4+ GB RAM and 32-128GB internal storage, a 12+ megapixel camera with image stabilization and 4k recording capabilities, an ultra High definition screen, multi-tasking capabilities, heart rate sensors, altimeters to make a phone call? If not, then look no further, this phone is it.

Joanna

September 12, 2016, 5:41 am

Samsung Galaxy phones are now on sale only at NewSmartphoneDeals;com

coldspring22 .

September 21, 2016, 8:22 pm

Samsung is not competitive at the low end. These days phones like ZTE ZMAX pro is going for just $99 (on metropcs)! This is very premium looking phone with 6" screen, 13MP rear/ 5MP front camera and 3500mah battery. It handles great, and looks like phone costing much much more. And even has gorilla glass 3 for screen protection!

Agnes Stewart

September 29, 2016, 5:44 pm

My colleagues Uhans A101. reliable smartphone, all modern and nothing more

Josi Roshen

October 3, 2016, 4:29 pm

Smartphone good. But you can buy much cheaper than the other. The quality is also very good

Agnes Stewart

October 7, 2016, 5:24 pm

This is a very good indicator for a budget smartphone

Agnes Stewart

October 22, 2016, 5:00 pm

There are analogues, which are twice cheaper. And these bells and whistles I do not need

Czarl Ke

October 25, 2016, 5:10 pm

Video when shooting moving objects get blurred, clearly lacking the volume when playing audio files

Den List

October 26, 2016, 4:13 pm

And you believe this answer? This publicity stunt

Swati Gambhir

October 27, 2016, 5:44 am

Here, I am facing lots of issues with this phone, first of all the sound. I bought this phone in Jul'16 and within 1 month, lots of problems started. I can't hear the other person on the call, neither can they hear me. The phone keeps hanging (CCE adviced me to free some space and I did that, but issue didnt resolve :( ). More than this, I call at one number from my contact list and it goes to someone else. As this was not all, today in the morning, i had a major disaster, when few calls were ringing on my phone and i was unable to pick or answer the call, the option of rejecting the call was available though. I was facing few issues with Samsung mid range (8000 to 15000) smart phones previously, but this time, I thought, it might have improved, but the problem is still there. Please advice if someone else is facing any of these issues with Galaxy J3.

Mary O Sullivan

November 8, 2016, 7:13 pm

Good phone if you have a Brewsters Millions type challenge to throw your money away in as efficient a way as possible.

I bought this phone and got many many long...days of use...precisely 18
in point of fact.
Battery ran low in work and ran out before I could charge it. I thought
no problem and used my car charger, this was a no go.
Went home at the end of the day and used my two main chargers in
succession, this also did nothing.

I took off the Otterbox I bought with the phone and removed the battery
and ensured all was clear and bright and charged, no go.
Tried another battery from someone I know with the exact same phone, no
go. Brought to the shop, all dead. Nothing they could do.

Refused to honour the warranty as I managed to drop the phone and crack
the screen while trying to get off the too tight back.

10/10 for regret, not the phone for Édith Piaf

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