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Forget the Pixel 8a. This $399 Samsung phone is a force to be reckoned with

The Galaxy A35 5G isn't perfect, but with a two-day battery life and gorgeous display, it's hard to ignore how good it is for the price.
Written by Max Buondonno, Contributing Writer
Samsung Galaxy A35 5G home screen on a wooden bench.
Max Buondonno/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • Samsung's Galaxy A35 5G is a well-rounded smartphone for $400. 
  • You'll love the two-day battery life, amazing screen quality, and four years of software updates.
  • The biggest issue? Performance, which tends to vary from day-to-day and can lead to overheating.

I'm actually surprised how much I enjoy using the Samsung Galaxy A35 5G. The newest $400 phone in Samsung's lineup isn't necessarily anything special -- it looks like any other Galaxy phone from recent years, and there aren't any flashy features. Still, the mission of mid-range phones is not to make waves, it's to provide a balance between performance, quality, and price. This phone does that well.

Also: Why Samsung's $399 Galaxy A35 is the mid-ranger to beat in 2024

This might not be the best $400 phone on the market, but it's certainly one of them, and the screen is one of the reasons why. The Galaxy A35 5G includes one of Samsung's signature Super AMOLED displays, measuring 6.6 inches diagonally. The display comes with a Full HD+ resolution, a 120Hz refresh rate so everything feels smooth, and 1,000 nits of brightness that makes it easy to see in direct sunlight. Plus, it's protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+, which is a nice perk.

View at Samsung

One of the best perks of the Galaxy A35 is the battery. Clocking in at 5,000mAh, this thing can easily last two days on a full charge. During my testing, I only plugged in the phone three times, and that was with moderate use. Unfortunately, there are no wireless charging capabilities, and the charging speed is capped at 25W, so it might take some time to get to 100%. Still, it's always nice having multi-day battery life on any smartphone, let alone one that costs $400.

Also: The $400 OnePlus 12R may be the best-value Android phone this year

Another thing I wasn't expecting to say after spending some time with the A35: the cameras aren't that bad. In fact, I'd go as far to say that at least two of them are good, which is almost impossible to say for most sub-$500 Android phones.

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G 50MP camera sample
Max Buondonno/ZDNET

The main 50MP camera is perfectly capable of taking some nice pictures. Colors aren't overdone as much as they are on older Samsung phones, while contrast and exposure remains generally on point. You can tell that the A35 is okay with maintaining shadows, for better or for worse, while photo quality generally takes a dip when the lights get low; it's not terrible by any means, but extra grain and noise is hard to avoid unless there's a ton of external or natural light in the frame.

I'll also give some credit to the 13MP selfie camera, which is perfectly suited for selfies for Snapchat or your Instagram Stories. The other cameras on the back of the device, however, are disappointing. The 8MP may be ultra-wide thanks to its 123-degree field of view, but it's grainy and low-quality in almost every lighting condition. Meanwhile, the 5MP macro camera is washed out, and next to impossible to capture anything usable outside of broad daylight.

You can't buy the Galaxy A35 5G expecting Spielberg-quality videos, but at least you have the option to shoot in 4K, albeit at 30 frames per second. In addition, I really like Samsung's camera app, which is well-optimized and easy to navigate.

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G About phone.
Max Buondonno/ZDNET

Some other notable features include the fast and reliable in-display fingerprint scanner, the IP67 certification for water and dust resistance, the Gorilla Glass Victus+ on the back, and the microSD card slot so you can expand your storage whenever you want.

The A35 stumbles, however, in its performance. The phone isn't particularly slow, but it's not always fast, either. It's equipped with an Exynos 1380 octa-core processor that's fast enough for everyday use, but during my testing, the phone would sometimes slow down so much that it would take a number of seconds to open an app or jump into multitasking. 

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G back glass.
Max Buondonno/ZDNET

It would also sometimes get inexplicably hot during regular use; For example, on one instance I was just scrolling through an article with Spotify playing in the background, and the A35 became hot enough that I had to put it down. 

Also: Snap wants to help you identify Snapchat's AI-generated images using watermarks

This is a known issue with Samsung's Exynos chips, which have historically fallen behind Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors when it comes to performance and efficiency. Luckily, you can rig the A35 with 6GB, 8GB, or 12GB of RAM so you won't run out of memory during your usage -- just don't push the phone too hard.

ZDNET's buying advice

It's hard to find a mid-range device that balances the smartphone experience well, but the Samsung Galaxy A35 5G does a pretty good job. While performance and camera quality fall behind in some areas, the rest of the phone is really good (especially that gorgeous screen) for the price.

Of course, if you're going to buy this phone, you're probably also looking at phones like the Pixel 7A or the excellent OnePlus 12R, which hover around the same price. The screen quality on either definitely isn't as nice as the A35, and you also won't get two-day battery life. The cameras are comparable (besides the Pixel 7A, which knocks the socks off the A35 and the 12R). All in all, I think the A35 is a good pickup. It's not perfect, but if you can live with its quirks, I think you'll dig it.

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