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Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) review: Cheap, and surprisingly likable

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The Good The inexpensive Samsung Galaxy J3 runs the current version of Android and takes nice daylight photos. It has a long-lasting, removable battery and the camera app launches with a double-click of the home button.

The Bad Its underpowered processor makes the photo-capture slow enough to miss action shots.

The Bottom Line Light users will do fine with Samsung's entry-level Galaxy J3, but you'll want a higher-powered phone if you plan to keep it around for two years or more.

6.8 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6
  • Camera 6
  • Battery 9

There aren't many new phones you can compare to the 5-inch Samsung Galaxy J3. An extremely inexpensive device with parts to match, the phone nevertheless performed better than I expected, but never stellar. Battery life was strong, it ships with the current version of Android (6.0.1) and its daylight photography is good enough to post online despite the camera's low 5-megapixel resolution (selfies, low-light shots, and indoor photos aren't quite as good).

At $110 to $180 in the US (pricing varies by carrier), £140 in the UK (for the 8GB version, from Carphone Warehouse) and AU$329 in Australia, the J3 also earns points for its immediate global availability. In the notoriously carrier-controlled US, for example, it sells on five networks (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile).

The J3 is likable enough in its looks and feel, and its battery kept going long after I expected the phone to conk out -- it lasted 15 hours in CNET's looping video drain test. Phone calls were also problem-free on the AT&T model I tested in San Francisco on medium-high volume. There's plenty of room to expand storage (up to 128GB with a microSD card) and you can replace the battery if that's your jam. Where the J3 falters is mainly in its quad-core processor, which makes gaming slightly less smooth and the camera a half-beat late to capture and process photos.

In the short term, the J3 will serve wallet-watchers well enough, especially if you plan to use the phone lightly. But if you have the cash to spare, jumping up to the next price bracket will get you a phone that will wear better with time, as we expect the Motorola Moto G4 to. This J3, by contrast, leaves you with a slower processor, photos that suffer in larger formats and less on-board storage for photos. (See the specs comparison chart below.)

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