Samsung’s going to sell a buttload of these


Samsung’s one of the biggest smartphone players around, and while we drool over cutting-edge devices like the Note20 or Fold2, these luxury handsets are hardly its primary business. When it comes to sheer numbers, the company’s more conservative phones drive the lion’s share of sales, and for good reason — these models strike a balance between flagship-level features and budget-friendly pricing. Even here, phones run the gamut from the super-cheap A21 to what we’re looking at today, the beefiest of Samsung’s mid-rangers, the Galaxy A71 5G. With a big 6.7-inch screen, 5G connectivity, and a 64MP-headlining quad-camera array, is this the A-series phone to finally get you asking, “who needs a flagship?”

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

I love a nice, clean, utilitarian-looking phone, and to a large extent, the Galaxy A71 5G really delivers. There’s no silly curved-edge screen, or a Bixby button you’re never going to use — just a straightforward, big-screen slab. And make no mistake — this is a large phone.

Personally, it’s pushing the limits of what’s comfortable for one-handed operation, but I still have to credit Samsung for making the most of the space here. The expansive 6.7-inch display has minimal bezels, and using a hole-punch selfie cam helps optimize things further.

The panel is bright, bold, and everything you’d expect from a Samsung AMOLED screen, and that you get so much of it here is a treat. The only downside is that we don’t get the kind of high-refresh-rate support present on many Galaxy flagships. That it’s absent on a mid-ranger isn’t a deal-breaker, but I can always dream.

Looking at the external hardware, we’ve got the combo SIM/microSD tray up top, power and volume controls on the right edge (nothing on the left), and our speaker, USB Type-C port, and analog headphone jack down below. While I always love the ability to use my headphones, the speaker here is pretty anemic. Around back is the increasingly familiar Samsung camera rectangle, equipped with three proper cameras and one depth sensor.

Cool-looking, and utterly impossible to keep clean.

The back panel’s handsome enough, with an interesting light-catching pattern of stripes, but it’s got two things going against it. First, it’s plastic, which neither feels great nor gives me much confidence in the handset’s ability to resist wear (I’m already finding scratches). And then there’s the matter of the A71 5G only being available in a single Prism Cube Black color option, which just turns the phone into a fingerprint magnet.

Samsung includes a very speedy 25W charger with the A71 5G, but that’s about it so far as in-box accessories go. Honestly, that’s still pretty impressive — not only can you top off your battery in a matter of minutes, but it’s the same solution Samsung’s using with the much-more-expensive Note20 Ultra. And while we do get that headphone jack, there are no included earbuds — hopefully you have plenty of your own by now.

Software, performance, and battery life

The Galaxy A71 5G arrives running Android 10 with Samsung’s One UI 2.1 on top. We might see an official upgrade to 2.5 at some point, but Samsung has yet to make a formal commitment. At the very least, we have been seeing individual features ported from Samsung’s flagship range, which is cause to be optimistic.

Powered by a Snapdragon 765G equipped with 6GB of RAM (8GB at Verizon), we’re looking at some solid performance from a mid-ranger. While you’re not going to get the sort of impressive experience you see with phones sporting high-refresh-rate screens, operation is still decently smooth here, and most users should be satisfied.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: You should absolutely pay no heed whatsoever to claims of 5G support when shopping for a new phone — it’s just not important at this moment in time. If it makes you feel better to have the latest and greatest connectivity options around, the A71 5G has  you covered, supporting both mmWave and sub-6 bands. But if you’re already happy with a late-model LTE phone, don’t feel compelled to upgrade for 5G alone.

One of my least-favorite trends in modern phone design is the move to in-screen fingerprint scanners, largely because they just kind of suck. The A71’s is slightly better than most, but what I really enjoyed was the phone’s face-unlock performance — it can be almost instantaneous, even though it often struggles in low light.

I mentioned the lack of a Bixby button earlier — while that’s good, Samsung can’t quite say “goodbye,” and so instead co-ops the phone’s power button such that a long press defaults to pulling up Bixby. Luckily that’s fully customizable, and you can just set it back to regular power-menu functionality.

Mid-range SoCs and large batteries are a match made in smartphone heaven, and the pairing here works just as well as you’d think. Even with a screen this big, you’re not going to be sweating day-long operation. I still wish I could easily pop the A71 on a wireless charger and stretch things even further, but even needing a wired charger you’re not going to run into any problems.

Cameras

For a mid-ranger, the A71 5G is not hurting for camera options. Looking at the main rear camera package, from top to bottom we’ve got the 5MP depth camera, the main 64MP cam, the 12MP wide-angle, and to its right a 5MP macro cam. Most of the time you’ll probably be shooting in the 4:3 16MP binned mode, trading some of that 64MP sensor’s resolution for improved light sensitivity. It’s the most versatile option here, and the easiest for getting consistently good pics.

Taken in all at once, that camera setup’s not bad. The lenses give you a lot of flexibility, and performance is generally pretty decent. I feel like the wide-angle is a little less useful than something like a telephoto lens might be, but it has its moments. We’ve been critical of the macro lens on A-series phones before, and while it still has some major shortcomings (fixed-focus primary among those), I was finally able to take some nice shots after spending more time with it.

Nighttime photography is passable — it doesn’t come close to achieving Pixel magic, and can get overly noisy, but I’ve seen much worse. Of the various software features being offered here, probably the one getting the most attention is the Super Steady video stabilization. That in itself is nothing new for Samsung, and while it works well enough here (though I find the effect a bit unnerving) it’s not worth seeking the A71 out for.

Should you buy it?

Samsung Galaxy A71 5G

8/10

Yes. Samsung’s A-series phones are  among the best-selling on the planet, and there’s a reason for that: They give users a taste of premium Galaxy S features and performance while being much more practical to own. And while that means the A71 5G is making sacrifices all around, the sum of those cuts really isn’t enough to make this handset a regrettable purchase.

Sure, I absolutely wish it supported wireless charging or had even a hint of ruggedization, but for what it is, I think the A71 5G is largely successful. Its $600 price point ($650 at Verizon) is a little on the high for mid-range phones but I think a lot of shoppers will feel justified, if only because the size of this model makes it feel a bit more impressive than its siblings. But I would be shocked if this does not prove to be another wildly successful model from Samsung.

Buy it if:

  • You like Samsung’s vast, customizable One UI but don’t have the cash for a flagship.
  • You’re a fan of big, face-filling screens.

Don’t buy it if:

  • You’re not planning to use a case and need a more robust phone.
  • You give a hoot about speaker quality.

Where to buy:

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