Samsung has been experimenting a lot in its mid-range segment when it comes to offering premium experience in the mid-range of smartphones. Though, it all started when Samsung launched a unibody device sporting a metal body in the form of Galaxy Alpha. It might not have been the greatest mid-range smartphone, but we like the premium feel it gave and moreover, we even explored it in full detail that why it was a new leap in design for the South Korean company.
The metal usage later expanded to the A-series, which was introduced earlier this year with A5 and A7. Now that company has dropped this new release, the Galaxy A8, we feel it has the potential to be an ultimate mid-range smartphone. But has any smartphone been ever perfect? So, let’s find out what are good and bad things about this device in our detailed review of the same.
Trying to offer premium build has always been company’s priority, which can be seen in its latest handsets. The Galaxy A series was specially designed to offer unibody smartphones, and the A8 is not different than its little siblings, which also means the battery is non-removable. With chamfered edges all over the body, as well as the rounded corners on the device looks quite stylish. The thickness is of only 5.9mm making it the slimmest Samsung device ever. Moreover, it is quite lightweight for a metal construction at 151 grams.
The thin bezels on the Galaxy A8 make one-handed usage very manageable, despite being a very large size device. You know the metal build and sleek design are the killer combination for the current scenario among smartphones. Now that we have said some good stuff about its design let us inform you about some bad. Even after knowing that it feels solid in hands, you can’t ignore the fact that it can still be cumbersome at times, because of the large display size and slippery metal back.
The buttons and ports placements are similar to what we saw on the other Galaxy A series of handsets. The power button is placed on the right while the volume rocker keys can be found on the left edge. These buttons are within the comfortable reach. The 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB port can be found on the bottom edge. There is a physical home button, and capacitive back and recent menu buttons on the front bottom while you can see branding, earpiece and some sensors on the front top. On the left edge is the dual-SIM card slot, where the second slot acts as a microSD card slot too.
The Galaxy A8 comes with a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with full HD resolution resulting in a pixel density of around 386 PPI, which is as good as it gets for a mid-range device. The large size devices have always been good for media consumption, such as watching videos, playing games, and even for browsing. And that’s what I liked about the display.
It has got everything that we have loved on Samsung’s display on premium devices. The Super AMOLED display on A8 is pretty amazing, and it’s one of the best qualities that we liked on the device. The viewing angles, brightness levels, outdoor legibility and color vibrancy are amazing on its screen.
Though, it’s no Quad HD quality that we loved on Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, but it isn’t a high-end smartphone either to pack such beauty. The 1080p display resolution is more than enough when you get an AMOLED display, on a mid-range smartphone. Considering the resolution, the display has good sharpness, which allows fantastic display experience while reading the text and doing other things on the device.
Samsung has been offering the TouchWiz Interface since it launched the first Galaxy device. Improving with time, we finally see the TouchWiz live up to the mark of a better Android skin. Obviously it’s not stock Android but there are many performance improvements on the TouchWiz since the Galaxy S6 introduction. There is a lot less bloatware and unnecessary features on the UI, compared to earlier Galaxy devices.
Though, the overall design language of the interface remains the same. By default, you get the Flipboard magazine feature named Briefing, which can be accessed by left swipe. You get the same app drawer, where you can access all the apps. The company has pre-installed quite the number of apps, but this time it was only the useful ones, leaving out the unnecessary parts.
There is a folder of Microsoft Apps pre-installed on the device, which is the result of the partnership between both companies, but we thought they were quite resourceful at times. Then there is a Smart Manager, which allows you to manage battery, storage, RAM and security details. You can tap on Clean All button and be done with basic optimization of all four features at once. There are some additional tools like S Planner, Kids mode, File Manager to help you in various needs over the day. If that is not enough for you, and you’re missing other Samsung apps, then you can surely go to the Samsung Galaxy Apps store to get the required apps.
Since, this device is quite large at 5.7-inch, the Multi-Window feature makes sense on this device, and we liked that about it. There are many smart features on this device including the special gestures like a palm swipe to capture a screenshot, or even flipping over the phone to mute the phone calls and messages.
The theme engine that was introduced in S6 is also present on the A8, which would allow you to change the theme according to your needs. Now if you’re not a fan of default blue and green TouchWiz color scheme, then you can surely change it to something more appealing and attractive. Earlier there use to be very limited themes, but the company now understands the need for users to personalize their devices. So, you will notice a lot of more themes in the coming time on the Samsung Galaxy App store.
Moreover, you get the support of USB OTG drive to extend the media consumption, as OTG drives are very small, and easy to carry around. So, just attach the drive to microUSB port and get going with data storage wherever you want.
Hardware & Performance
The device is powered a 64-bit Octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor, clocking at 1.5GHz, alongside the 405 GPU and 2GB of RAM. That is the configuration you will be getting if you’re not living in Korea, as the company is offering a different variant of this device in their home country. The Korean variant of the device is powered by an Exynos 5430 chipset offering the 2GB RAM support. There might be minor performance differences based on that chipsets are different, but more or less it would be relatively same.
It comes with 32GB internal storage, out of which around 25GB is available to users, which is fair space, considering it can also be expanded up to 128GB via microSD card expansion. Though you can either use the dual-SIM connectivity or add one microSD card for storage expansion, the choice has to be yours.
Talking about the everyday performance of A8, we thought it did more than enough on what can be expected from a mid-range smartphone. It has been heard as a fact that SD615 chipset tends to heat up a lot, but that doesn’t quite really stand on this device. As during heavy gaming it didn’t heat up too much, at least it can’t be considered as extensive heating.
The game play on the device was quite up to the mark considering it is a 64-bit Octa-core processor. Moreover, we had a great experience while playing heavy graphic-intense games. Although, switching between games did break the RAM allocation, but that is a task for a flagship device with 4GB RAM, but not for a device with 2GB RAM.
Talking about the fingerprint scanner on the device, it is as accurate as what we saw in the Samsung Galaxy S6. So there’s this functionality, which is hardly seen on a mid-range smartphone let alone on a high-end Android smartphone. But since we are talking about the Samsung device here, who likes to offer certain features to its consumers on their devices, and we appreciate that.
We did benchmark tests on the device just for the sake to know what would be the scores. For Antutu, the device scored around 49000, which is quite a good number compared to other mid-range smartphones in the category.
The browsing test revealed that it has quite a responsive touch screen, which performs quite well. The pinch zoom in and zoom out is done without any hassle while browsing on the device. Moving around on the window while browsing desktop websites is quite easy on the large screen. Talking about the browsing score from Vellamo benchmark app, the app tested the device to measure some stats about browsing. The default browser scored 3961 while the Google Chrome was at 3152. Anything greater than 3000 makes a good number. Though, at the end of the day these are just a number, the real performance of the device is measured when you use the device as a daily driver, and that’s what we did.
The rear camera on A8 is of 16MP packing a f/1.9 aperture sensor, which is exactly similar to what we saw in the Samsung Galaxy S6. It is very unusual of any big mobile brands to offer the same camera module on their mid-range smartphone that was used on their flagship device. It is possibly the best thing done by Samsung on the A8.
The captures from rear camera comes out to be very amazing, as we were amazed at S6 captures, there is no other possible explanation needed on why the camera on Galaxy A8 is excellent. Though, continuing with talk about the camera for those who haven’t read our Samsung Galaxy S6 Review or the Specific Camera Review of the same.
Moving to the saturation levels on the captures, the A8 camera shows the excellent results and lit up the pictures with colors. Note that at sometimes the images came out to be white washed, again it all depends upon your abilities to take photograph too. So, if you want to be aware of some photography skills using Smartphone, then we have some smartphone photography guides for you.
Talking about the low light capabilities of the rear camera, there is no way you’ll find a better camera than this in terms of the low light captures. Even though, there are plenty of devices in the same price range now that offers more megapixel count than A8’s camera, such as Meizu MX5. But it’s not all about the megapixel count when it comes to the low light captures; the f-number helps a lot in capturing the maximum light reflected from the object. And that is quite good on A8. It can only be beaten by LG G4‘s camera, which is again a flagship device when compared with this mid-range smartphone.
The camera app experience is quite good on A8, and if you’re familiar with Samsung Galaxy devices, then it would be a piece of cake for you to understand your way into the improved app. When you hold the device in landscape mode, on the right side you’ll find shutter button at center, alongside is the video and mode icons, those buttons are to start the video recording and change capture modes into HDR, Pro, Night, etc. There are two more buttons; once allows you to access the gallery while the second is to switch between rear and front cameras.
The HDR mode with Rich color tone is pretty much the best mode out of all, but only if you have a good judgment of when to use such mode. Otherwise, the Auto mode is a perfect selection to capture great photos.
I was skeptical about whether or not the Camera app would load fast, but apparently I was surprised to the fact it is a mid-range smartphone. And there’s no way that it would take less than a second to use that Double tap home button functionality to launch the Camera app. Its performance was similar to what we saw in S6. So, there’s that; you get a flagship performer on a mid-ranger.
The Front facing camera on Galaxy A8 is easily one of the best we have tried on any Android smartphone. In the recently tested devices, the OnePlus 2, and Meizu MX5, there is no competition to the Galaxy A8 selfie captures. There is a beautify feature for selfie lovers, which basically does your virtual makeup, and it’s quite useful at times. But I would recommend avoid using it so that you get natural captures, as photos look washed with high beauty levels. Overall, the cameras on the Galaxy A8 are marvelous package and are ready for you to do some amazing stuff.
The 3050 mAh capacity battery is something we were appreciative of, as the large screen size and SD615 combo would need more capacity to last for the day. And to our experience of using the device, it was quite good compared to the flagship devices of the company.
The one thing that we didn’t like about the battery is that there was a considerable drop in battery juice during the standby time of the device. I kept it in idle position for at least 7 hours, and the battery went from 22% to 16% over the period, a drop of 6%. Though, it’s not an alarming thing to say about the battery life on A8, but there should be better management of battery on Android smartphones. Nonetheless, it was not a pain to handle the battery juice on A8, not like S6 at least.
Talking about the Screen-on-time (SOT), you can probably get more SOT than what we got for the day’s usage. In between the period of discharging and charging, the display was turned ON for around 8 hours 30 minutes. This all included the average gaming, heavy social apps, moderate camera app usage and continuous Wi-Fi connectivity as well. Over the 24 hours of time since its last charge, the battery was still around 30% available to last few more hours. Though, understand that we kept the brightness at almost minimum levels that was visible for us.
There are power saving modes on the device that would be quite helpful when you want to save the juice for the long traveling you have planned on. Two power saving modes are available on the device; the first one would limit the CPU performance, decrease brightness levels, frame rate, and vibration ring.
Turning ON the Normal power saving mode would buy you only couple of minutes according to the company stats against the standard mode. But its not true, you will get much more saving with normal mode rather than using it on the same standard mode with half level brightness.
But if you’re looking to get more life out of the remaining battery juice, then the Super power saving mode is the requirement to your need. You can get as much as two times more battery life using Super power saving mode. In this mode, you’ll only able to access certain necessary services like calls, messages, etc. No Mobile data and No Wi-Fi access would be offered in this mode. The color would be changed to grayscale, and you’ll notice a different UI with large icons. Though, you can set which apps you want to restrict or not,
Unfortunately the Galaxy A8 doesn’t support faster charging, unlike its flagship siblings, so you won’t be to juice it up as quickly as S6, but it takes less than 90 minutes for the device to full charge from 10% to 100%. It is more than you can ask from a mid-range smartphone. So, if you want about 12 hours of charging out of this phone and around 6 hours of screen on time, then it would be possible with average usage and minimum visible brightness levels.
Talking about the connectivity, the device packs great options ranging from 4G LTE support – thanks to 64-bit chipset – to offering MirrirLink capability. The A8 packs a lot of features in terms of connectivity that you’ll find resourceful. You can setup a service to directly print from your device using Samsung Print Service Plugin pre-installed, as well as can download other services too. Like Cloud Print from Google, HP Print from Hewlett-Packard Company, etc.
In the SIM card manager, you can opt to call for action from any specific SIM card. There is also a smart dual SIM mode that allows the network to be active during the calls, meaning you can receive call from SIM 2 if the SIM 1 is already on the call, it will just automatically put SIM 1 on hold.
With Galaxy A8 being priced at around $500 in international market, which surprisingly excludes the United States, there is a rough chance that it might do great in number of sale in the countries (China, India, and South Korea so far) where the device is selling. So, I suggest this is a good device if you don’t want to go overboard with high-end specs and want a smartphone with specs powerful enough to get your tasks completed without hassle. And of course, the battery life is quite good on it.
So, this is it! You had the detailed look at the Samsung Galaxy A8. A solid mid-ranger from the South Korean giant is the best thing happen to the company in the mid-range since quite a time. Though, the pricing model of the device isn’t exactly on par with a current smartphone, where you can get a Snapdragon 810 chipset powered device for less than $400 in the form of OnePlus 2. As well as there is a Meizu MX5 priced in the same range, powered by MediaTek’s premium Helios X10 processor. You’ll have hard time making the choice between them, but if you want a smartphone with metal design, great cameras and battery life, then Galaxy A8 holds the advantage over other devices in the same price range.