Samsung Galaxy On5 Review: There Are Way Better Budget Phones

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Every budget phone involves some form of compromise. And regarding the $129 Galaxy On5 (which you can get unlocked, or for as low as $29 at MetroPCS), there are just too many trade-offs to justify spending even this small amount on a handset running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

The 5-inch display is serviceable, but the On5 comes with a pitiful amount of storage, and the sluggish performance and short battery life don't help, either. I'd almost rather give someone a flip phone than hand them this.

Editors' Note: The On5 was released in November 2015, but it's still among the top sellers on Amazon and is still available for sale on MetroPCS' website. If you're looking for a low-cost device, we suggest buying one of our recommended best cheap phones instead.

Samsung Galaxy On5 Specs

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Price $82.79 unlocked/$29 at MetroPCS
OSAndroid 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Display5 inches (1280 x 720)
CPU1.3-GHz Exynos 3475
microSDUp to 128GB
Cameras (Rear/Front)5 MP/ 2MP
Battery Life7:51
Size 5.6 x 2.8 0.33 inches
Weight5.3 ounces

Design: Throwback basic

The Galaxy On5 looks and feels like a throwback phone, complete with a physical Home button beneath the display, a plastic back and a microUSB port for charging.

There are also pretty thick bezels around the screen, though that's to be expected in this price range.

It is good to see a phone that still features a user-replaceable battery in 2018. You just slip your fingertip under the cutout on the back left side, and pop off the cover.

The On5 has only 8GB of storage, 4.1GB of which is already taken up for system before you take the phone out of the box.

From there you can swap out the battery, as well as access the SIM Card slot and microSD card slot, both of which sit above the battery compartment.

Another plus: the On5's back has a slightly gritty texture that prevents the handset from slipping out of your hands. The bottom edge of the phone houses a headphone jack next to the microUSB.

Storage: 8GB just doesn't cut it

I hit a brick wall with the Galaxy On5 almost as soon as I started using it. After downloading a few benchmark apps to test the device, the On5 couldn't download Rules of Survival, one of the top games on the Google Play store. Only after I deleted the benchmarks could I get the game on this device, and even then it couldn't completely download all the latest updates so I could start playing.

MORE: Best Cheap Unlocked Smartphones

The reason? The On5 has only 8GB of storage, 4.1GB of which is already taken up for system before you take the phone out of the box. I scaled back my ambitions and downloaded the small and more casual Sausage Run instead (155 MB).

The No. 1 reason not to get the Samsung On5, other than the measly storage, is the sluggish performance.

The good news is that the On5 supports microSD cards up to 128GB, and you can pick one up for $41. Or you could snag a 64GB card for $19.99. However, spending just a bit more up front can get you a better all-around phone, like the Moto G5 Plus ($184 for Prime members), which comes with 64GB of storage built in, or the Honor 7X ($199 for 32GB).

Display: Colorful but not sharp

The 5-inch display on the On5 has a low resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, whereas spending just a bit more will get you a full-HD screen on other handsets. When watching the trailer for Black Panther, Angela Bassett's white dress with yellow accents looked dingy on this screen, and it was very hard to make out Chadwick Boseman's outfit, which got totally lost in the shadows.

At least the panel is fairly colorful, registering 106.9 percent of the color gamut. It's not very bright, though, at 357 nits. The ZTE Blade Z Max, which costs $119 through MetroPCS, offers a much brighter screen at 510 nits and 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Performance: Lag aplenty

The No. 1 reason not to get the Samsung On5, other than the measly storage, is the sluggish performance.

After rebooting the phone I tried launching the camera, and it took 6 seconds for the app to fully load. Incredulous, I closed the app and started it again. This time it took 2.5 seconds, which is better but still terrible.

There are instances of lag all over the place with the On5. I noticed a significant delay when launching the keyboard just to type a URL, and when closing apps.

The On5 packs a 1.3-GHz Exynos 3475 processor and just 1.5GB of RAM, and it showed on the Geekbench 4 benchmark, which measures overall performance. This Samsung turned in a score of 1,237, which is less than half the score from the ZTE Blade Z Max and its Snapdragon 435 processor and 2GB of RAM.


With a 5-megapixel shooter in back with LED flash and a 2-MP camera up front, you should expect very little from On5 when it comes to imaging prowess. 

A photo taken of my golden retriever exhibited a decent amount of detail, but it came out quite dark.

Another shot I took of a decorative shelf with flowers and other knickknacks looked very grainy, even without zooming in much.

A selfie I took in my office looked brighter, thanks to the powerful overhead lights, and my blue-and-white checkered shirt had accurate color.

Battery Life

The Galaxy On5 doesn't offer very good endurance. On the Tom's Guide Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over LTE, the phone lasted just 7 hours and 51 minutes. That's nearly 2 hours less than the smartphone average, and way behind the ZTE Blade Z Max (11:23) and the Moto G5 Plus (11:43). Neither of those phones break the bank, so it's not as if battery life is an area where budget shoppers need to compromise.

MORE: Smartphones with the Longest Battery Life

Bottom Line

Don't be tempted by the Galaxy On5's low sticker price. MetroPCS sells much better budget phones, such as the ZTE Blade Z Max, which offers a sharper and bigger display, a better metal design, stronger performance and much longer battery life. Plus, it runs the newer Android 7.1, compared with the older Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow on the On5, and comes with 32GB of storage.

If you're going the unlocked route, take a good look at the Moto G5 Plus, which offers many of the same benefits as the Blade Z Max and works on all major carriers. It may seem unfair to compare the much older Galaxy On5 to these newer phones, but Samsung is still selling it. And it should probably stop now.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.