AT&T Samsung J3 2017 review: A basic phone on a budget

The Samsung J3 2017 doesn’t have all the flash and features of the Galaxy S8 or Note 8 models but it offers value at an affordable price. When it’s time to get a new phone some like to go for the latest and greatest, but not everyone has a need for that or can afford it. This is where the J3 2017 fits in the market, read on to see what else it offers besides an affordable price.  

Design

The Samsung J3 2017 uses a plastic body with a 5-inch 720p screen. The screen doesn’t have the best color saturation or contrast but it is super bright, making it easy to view in daylight. Despite the 720p resolution I was surprised text and graphics still look fairly sharp. The biggest downside I found on the display was the lack of an ambient light sensor. This requires you to manually adjust the brightness, which can be a bit of a pain.

Below the display, the J3 2017 features capacitive buttons for switching apps and the back button on either side of a physical home button. There is no fingerprint scanner in the home button and the capacitive buttons do not light up. Without a backlight, it can be a little difficult finding the capacitive buttons in low light, and since they are reversed from stock Android it takes a little getting used to.



The volume rocker is on the left side of the phone while the power button and speaker are on the right. Placing the speaker on the right side of the phone instead of the bottom seems like an odd choice but it works great. When the speaker is on the bottom of the phone it is easier to cover with your hand and muffle. Thanks to the speaker being on the right side this never becomes an issue and it was a smart choice from Samsung. I wish more of their phones used this layout.

Unfortunately, Samsung has opted for the old micro USB standard on the J3 2017. In my opinion, this port cannot be phased out quickly enough. Every new phone that is released without USB-C only delays the inevitable and keeps the inferior and more inconvenient micro USB port alive. On the plus side, Samsung still provides a headphone jack and I’m glad to see this standard not being phased out by them.

The back of the J3 2017 uses a nice accent silver strip near the top housing the camera and flash. Below this is the removable back that gives you access to the nano SIM, microSD card slot, and removable battery. One huge benefit on this phone over many of the more expensive models is a removable battery. As the battery ages and loses capacity or if you just need more power quickly a removable battery really comes in handy.

Software

Compared to some of Samsung’s more advanced and more expensive phones, the software on the J3 2017 lacks some features. Due to the slower internal specs, this is a good thing because even Samsung’s flagships phones are a little laggy from feature overload. The J3 2017 still offers some of the same features such as secure folders, themes, one handed mode, and a quick launch shortcut for the camera.

Performance

The Exynos 7 Quad 7570 1.4GHz processor from Samsung doesn’t pack a lot of power but it’s enough to do the basics. The J3 2017 can still run many popular apps and games but it will take more time for them to load. The 2GB of RAM is another limiting factor; often requiring apps to reload when switching which makes the phone feel slower. Occasionally, I had an issue launching larger games and had to reboot the phone just to get it to open.

Obviously, these are not the specs of a powerhouse phone meant for lots of gaming. Phones in this price range aren’t exactly built to run processor and memory intensive games. They are built to do the basics, so a hiccup here or there is not unexpected.

Camera

The 5MP camera on the back features a wide f/1.9 aperture which is impressive for a phone at this price. It still lacks many of the more advanced features like optical image stabilization and phase detection autofocus found on more expensive phones.

If you’re a photography enthusiast the stripped down camera app on the J3 2017 will disappoint you. It lacks HDR and even though it offers a Pro mode it lacks fine control over shutter speed. The photos themselves are also nothing to get too excited about. The J3 2017 lacks dynamic range, often blowing out highlights or crushing the blacks. The white balance does represent color fairly well but the saturation could use a bit more punch. 

One area the J3 2017 surprised me was in low light images. The results were much better than I expected and surely the f/1.9 aperture is helping here. Remember though, due to the lack of OIS, low light images can turn out blurry from any slight movement while taking the photos. Overall the camera isn’t the best but for under $200 it gets the job done and is perfectly acceptable for sharing with friends and family.

The front selfie camera is a 2MP shooter with an f/2.2 aperture. Samsung has added some helpful features such as a beauty mode that is also found on the back camera and a flash feature.

Battery Life

Battery life is one area where there are no complaints with the J3 2017. Using the 2600mAh battery, I was able to achieve over 5 hours of screen on time with juice to spare. With light to moderate usage, I was able to get two days worth of battery life from this phone. This is one area where this phone truly excels!

Final Thoughts

Despite the slower performance, at a $180 price tag the J3 2017 still provides some great features. The screen is super bright, it offers a replaceable battery, microSD expansion, and has fantastic battery life. When all you need is a phone that does the basics, why should you pay more? With the Samsung J3 2017, that’s exactly what you can expect: a phone that does the basics and won’t hurt your wallet in the process. If you’re interested in the Samsung J3 2017 you can find more information and purchase it from AT&T using the link below.

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