Samsung smartphones underwent a major reboot earlier this year with the launch of Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, which was on top of the design rethink the company’s mobile portfolio went with last year with Galaxy A. This reboot of the mobile strategy has continued since, across various price points, from the budget Galaxy J series to the almost-flagship Galaxy A series.
The latest in the Galaxy A lineup is Samsung Galaxy A8 worth Rs 32,500, which is the company’s slimmest smartphone. But that’s not the only noteworthy feature of the phone, which has a huge 5.7-inch screen, a big battery, and 16MP camera for starters. In our Samsung Galaxy A8 review, we take an in-depth look at the smartphone to see if it is the best phablet you can buy under Rs 35,000.
Design that turns heads
Last year’s Galaxy Alpha was the first truly beautiful smartphone by Samsung, and the Galaxy A series has kept the momentum going since. Galaxy A8 is no exception, in fact it is among the best looking smartphones made by the company.
The smartphone balances the Samsung design language of 2012/2013 with the new look that the company is experimenting with this year. The body uses matte-finish plastic on the back, while the frame on the sides is metal. The metallic edges on the left and right are slightly bevelled, instead of the flat sides you usually see. Samsung has machined the Power and Volume buttons off metal too.
Plastic is, of course, not the most desirable material of construction in the smartphone industry, but the plastic used here is of good quality. Overall, the plastic-and-metal design works well for the Samsung Galaxy A8.
Below the display panel is Samsung Galaxy A8’s fingerprint sensor, which is integrated into the hardware Home button. Flanking this physical key on both sides are the Task Switcher and Back soft-touch keys. You will find the 5MP camera, the speaker grille and the usual array of sensors above the display panel.
On the back are the 16MP camera, LED flash and the loudspeaker, which are arranged horizontally, a design choice we have seen in few Samsung phones since Galaxy S3. You get the usual branding on the back as well as the front of the smartphone. The left edge holds the housing for the sim card/microSD card slots.
Samsung Galaxy A8 holds the distinction of being the company’s thinnest smartphone yet at 5.9mm; the handset weighs 151 grams. These make Galaxy A8 among the thinnest lightest and phablets you can find in the market right now, and a far cry from the company’s mammoth Mega phablets.
In fact, Samsung Galaxy A8’s design and dimensions betray the fact that it has a 5.7-inch screen. In fact, the smartphone is small enough to operate with one hand for most people.
An excellent display
Samsung Galaxy A8 has a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED screen with Full HD (1080x1920p) resolution, which may seem a little pale compared to the QHD (1440x2560p) resolution. However, we found Galaxy A8 to have among the best displays we have seen in the market recently. The Super AMOLED screen ensures that the contrast levels are great, though colours may seem a tad oversaturated.
The Samsung Galaxy A8 display panel is among the brightest we have seen, which is remarkable considering its price bracket. Even under direct sunlight you get excellent clarity – at just 50% brightness.
Hardware fails to dazzle
The India variant of Samsung Galaxy A8 is powered by the company’s Exynos 5430 chipset, which has four high-power cores running at 1.8GHz and four low-power cores clocking a maximum of 1.3GHz. This chipset is designed on the 32-bit architecture, whereas the international model is powered by the 64-bit Snapdragon 615 chip.
Samsung Galaxy A8 packs 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. If you want to expand the storage, you can slip microSD card of up to 128GB capacity. However, there is a trade-off in this case: though the smartphone supports dual-sim, it can either hold a sim card or a microSD card on the second sim slot since Samsung has opted for the hybrid sim setup.
If you choose to forego the microSD card, you get access to two sim cards. Samsung Galaxy A8 can tap 4G speeds on both sim cards, but not at the same time; if one sim uses 4G, the second sim can only use 2G and 3G networks.
The rear camera of Samsung Galaxy A8 has 16MP resolution, whereas the front camera’s sensor is rated at 5MP. Its battery capacity is 3,050mAh.
Samsung has adopted a cleaner, trimmer UI since the launch of Galaxy S6 Edge and S6 smartphones. This same software skin is used in Samsung Galaxy A8, this time based on Android 5.1 (Lollipop). So you get Google’s set of apps, Microsoft’s OneDrive, OneNote and Skype apps, along with the manufacturer’s own S Voice, Galaxy Apps, and Music as well as a few utility apps.
Overall, the software is very light and the small number of preload apps makes it a breeze to use. You can enable Knox security via Settings in order to ensure greater security of the smartphone.
Though the Galaxy A8 smartphone is not too big to hold, Samsung has given provision for one-hand operation in settings, along with gesture control that work without a hitch. For example, you can double-tap the Home button to open the Camera app even if the phone is not in active use. Similarly, tapping the Home key in quick succession will turn on the one-hand mode.
Like most big-screen Samsung devices, Galaxy A8 can open two apps at the same time.
One thing we found missing in Samsung Galaxy A8 on the software side was the S Health fitness tracking app, which has been excluded since the smartphone does not have a pedometer.
For battery saving, Samsung Galaxy A8 has the ultra power saving mode that disables all functions in order to ensure that the battery lasts for a few extra hours even if the battery capacity is under 10%.
A decent performer
Samsung Galaxy A8’s Exynos 5430 processor with 2GB RAM is consistent performer, though not the best you can get at this price range. Asus Zenfone Selfie and Zenfone 2 are definitely as fast Galaxy A8, and OnePlus 2 is a lot faster – and all three cost a lot less!
The Galaxy A8 user experience is very smooth, though we did notice some lag in opening apps from time to time. All the apps we used on the smartphone ran without a hitch, as did the resource-consuming Asphalt 8: Airborne. However, we did notice that the smartphone heats up a little when we use the internet for long or play games close to an hour.
Samsung Galaxy A8’s fingerprint sensor can be used to unlock the smartphone, as well as to authenticate payments (though the feature has not been rolled out yet). Though you need to press the hardware button in order to wake up the smartphone from sleep, the phone is unlocked as soon as you place your thumb to unlock it.
One of the best features of Samsung Galaxy A8 is its battery life. The 3,050mAh battery lasts as long as 2 days with moderate usage. Even with high usage, you can eke out 1.25 days of battery life on one charge. Though the smartphone does not support fast-charging, the bundled charger can charge Galaxy A8 from naught to full in about 1 hour 20 minutes.
We had no issue with call reception quality as well as 4G speeds with Galaxy A8 smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy A8’s excellent screen and great sound make for an excellent multimedia device. However, we would have appreciated a louder speaker as well as a change in its placement, since the speakers gets muffled easily.
Samsung Galaxy A8 has a 16MP rear camera that captures a lot of details and delivers images with accurate colour reproduction and white balance. However, we noticed that the images did not come out as sharp as we have seen in the Galaxy S6’s 16MP camera.
The camera has four key shooting modes: Auto, Pro, HDR and Night. You will be hard pressed to find the difference between the quality of images delivered by Auto and Pro modes.
Samsung Galaxy A8 is a good smartphone that offers great looks, an excellent display, great battery life and a decent camera, though the average performance and lack of a pedometer do not justify the price. A strong rival to the smartphone is HTC’s One E9, which has similar features but has 3GB RAM, better audio and faster performance, and costs about the same.
All in all, Samsung Galaxy A8 is a good buy if you want a smartphone that looks great and are ready to settle for a decent performer, though not a trailblazer, especially considering Samsung’s Galaxy S6 is available in the market for just Rs 6,000 extra.