Samsung's alphabet soup is making less and less sense. Here we have the Galaxy J5 (2017) that's got a premium metal build, a frugal 14nm chipset, an excellent Super AMOLED display, and Samsung's latest software. How is that lower midrange?
Well, it is. And it just goes to show how far the budget segment has come. You will still need to step up to the A-series to get dust and water protection, a usable amount of internal storage, and a USB-C port. The J5 (2017) has also been denied the Always-on display, so there's diversity even inside the J-series - the J7 (2017) has it.
Those niceties aside, the J5 (2017) remains a great choice - perhaps it's the J phone that's highest on the bang-for-buck-o-meter this year, a spot the J7 (2016) comfortably occupied in, well, 2016.
Value isn't necessarily the universal top priority, and that means looking at some other options. If you're set on Samsung, the J7 (2017) will deliver a larger higher-res display, a few more hours on the web on a single charge, and some more RAM, though the J5 (2017)'s 720p display allows games to run smoother. The J7 is way more expensive, however, so you must really be after that display for the price difference to be justified.
For about the same price as the J7 (2017), you can opt for the A5 (2017). That will let you stay on the smaller 5.2-inch form factor, but with 1080p resolution and the newer GPU can actually handle that. The latest A5 is also IP68 rated, its 16MP primary cam is superior and it has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage over J5 (2017)'s 2GB/16GB. Did someone say segmentation?
The Huawei P10 lite seems to get mentioned in the same sentence as the J5 (2017) quite often. For a (not insignificant) sum of money on top of the J5's asking price, you'd be getting more RAM and storage, a sharper display, and arguably a superior camera. The J5 (2017) has longer battery life going for it, the price advantage, and possibly the Samsung software (at least to some).
A host of Moto G5 models are viable alternatives to the Galaxy J5 (2017). There are the old Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus, and then the brand new Moto G5S and Moto G5S Plus to choose from. The Moto G5S should probably top the list as it matches the J5 (2017)'s display size, and isn't that much more expensive. The Moto G5S's screen is sharper, and it's got more RAM and storage. The J5 (2017) can boast higher-res selfies and an AMOLED display, if you're into those sorts of things.
Another one slightly more expensive alternative to the Galaxy J5 (2017) is the Sony Xperia XA1. The Xperia's display is a little smaller and its battery life is inferior, but its primary cam is a winner, storage and RAM are more than on the J5, and the Helio P20 packs more oomph than the Exynos 7870.
The Galaxy J7 (2016) was the default phone to recommend last year for a complete package on a budget coming from one of the big names. With the Exynos 7870 made available to the 5 this season, and the metal build and design shared with the bigger brother, the J5 (2017) may as well be the standard for a no-frills all-rounder in 2017.