The mid-range smartphone segment is no longer Samsung’s forte as it was before the rise of Xiaomi, Oppo, Realme and more. In recent times Samsung has produced less than ideal devices for an unusually high price tag. Case in point being the Galaxy J8 (review) which for the life of me I couldn’t understand as to why it was priced at Rs 19,000.
Dwindling sales have made Samsung realise that to stay in the incredibly competitive mid-range smartphone space, it has to offer more for less money. But after so many misses, things could be looking up for Samsung. This is because the recently unveiled Galaxy A50 seems to be a step in the right direction.
For a price of Rs 19,990, the phone does offer two quite remarkable things, a good camera, a great display. You can also add design to that list, which is quite subjective, but given the smaller notch and the slimmer profile, I'd pick the Samsung over the Poco. If these are the two qualities (three if you add design) you desire in a smartphone then Samsung has provided you with the perfect smartphone. If performance is what you seek, you will be well suited with the Poco F1 (Review). Let’s find out more about the device.
The best display on a mid-range smartphone?
I will go out on a limb here and declare the A50 as one of the finest displays under Rs 20,000 that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. The colour accuracy on the display is certainly much better than the Poco F1. I guess it can be expected out of Samsung given that it pretty much makes flaw-less OLED panels and the 6.4-inch AMOLED display on the A50 is one of the finest you can get.
Viewing photos clicked on both photos showed that the Poco F1 showed a maroonish colour of bright red images and a slightly yellowish tinge on a white backdrop, which was not the case in the A50. The phone has several display modes such as the adaptive display, AMOLED cinema, AMOLED photo, and Basic. I recommend the Adaptive display mode since it gives more realistic looking colours. I will say this that I did see a very slight bluish tone to the display but it was nothing that should be concerning.
The brightness on the phone was quite remarkable indeed. I could read everything legibly on my phone even in glaring sunlight. At night the screen also managed to dim down quite a lot although at one point it can get too dim, so I recommend keeping the brightness at about 25 percent when reading at night. Samsung has also thrown in the blue-light filter for ease of reading at night.
Talking about the drop-notch on the top or as Samsung calls it, the Infinity U display, I think Samsung has done well to embrace the notch as it makes for a larger viewing experience. This happens to be the very first notched smartphone from Samsung I’ve reviewed and I do believe that the company has done a great job. You can hide the notch if you want to as well.
Triple-cameras are great but not perfect
Another thing that should draw people to this device is the fact that it has a triple-camera system. This is not something that can be found in a phone under Rs 20,000. The most exciting thing about the camera is the inclusion of the wide-angle lens which I was very eager to try out.
The Galaxy A50's triple-camera setup includes a 25 MP low-light shooter, an 8 MP ultra-wide lens and a 5 MP depth sensor. The ultra-wide lens on the phone offers a 123-degree field of view which crams in more into the frame from the exact same spot. Although the ultra-wide sensor is great, the image gets distorted at the edges giving the final picture a spherical bend on the sides. Even still it is cool how much of a bigger field of view the ultra-wide sensor brings over the regular one.
The 25 MP primary lens has been touted as a low light sensor and I would have to say that I was not disappointed for the most part. The phone does not have a dedicated night mode in the camera options but the ‘Scene Optimiser’ recognises low light conditions and adjusts accordingly. The camera also had good noise reduction which is not what I can say for the Poco F1. However, there were instances when the camera failed to recognise low-light scenes and produced a dull image lacking in exposure and detail. Apart from that, the Poco F1 had more details and better exposure calibration as compared to the Galaxy A50.
Low light performance aside, the phone captures highly colourful images in daylight scenes and also showcases a wide dynamic range. The Poco F1 does not click the most colour accurate photos nor does it have the most dynamic range, but it does get more details in the image. For most people that is not a deal breaker as vibrant and colourful photos are the in fashion. The third lens is a depth sensor which is used for live bokeh shots.
The bokeh effect or Live Focus also works well, with background separation working more times than not. The front camera also has a 25 MP sensor which captures good images but Samsung’s facial sharpening is quite visible even though beauty mode is turned off.
In terms of video, the phone takes good stable videos which can be attributed to the EIS on the device. Apart from that at night, the videos look to be decent, but the secondary ultra-wide sensor does a very botched job. The phone can also record videos in slow motion at 720p @480 fps.
Software is redesigned
OneUI is something that I was interested in since I got the A50 for review and I have to say that I’m impressed with what Samsung has done. I had only ever experienced the loathsome TouchWiz or its rebranded version called the Experience UI which in my humble opinion was a package of useless features and bloatware bundled up to call an Android experience. With OneUI, which runs on Android 9.0 Pie, Samsung has done things a bit differently and tried to make the experience a lot more stock Android-like.
The drop-down menu is now quite accessible. Pulling down on the notifications tray covers the entire screen with icons making them easier to reach out to using just your thumb. In general, all icons are now big (they can be scaled down) and there is less information cramped in the menus than before. Apart from that, the software is quite customisable with different themes and skins. It appears that Samsung has kept in mind users with smaller hands, those who are tired of using the search option for finding basic settings, while designing OneUI.
There is still the question of bloatware such as the duplicate apps for the gallery, browser, and also the Galaxy Store, which take up space on the home screen and are non-removable but they don't seem to slow down the UI. The digital wellbeing feature was a nice addition however, telling you how many times you have unlocked your phone is the only benefit I could get from it. I hope that Samsung builds on this UI to perfect it even more and give its fanbase the proper Android experience.
Design seems good
The Galaxy A50 is a sturdy phone and also appears to be fancy at the same time. While it certainly doesn’t have the triple gradient back of the Oppo F11 Pro (review) but it does have a refracting polycarbonate back. We received the Blue coloured variant which does look eye-catching indeed. The triple-camera setup is placed to the right as we saw on the Galaxy A7 (Review) along with the flash underneath it.
On the bottom of the phone, there is a type-C charging port, along with a single speaker unit and a headphone jack. The left side of the phone is flat save for the hybrid dual-SIM card slot. On the right, there are the volume rocker buttons and the power switch. The device has no physical fingerprint scanner as Samsung has decided to adopt an in-display fingerprint sensor.
On the front, we have an Infinity U display which is just a fancy way of saying a drop-notch display and there is a chin which is just as big as the one on the Poco F1. The device has a subtle elegant finish to it and feels quite balanced and slim to hold which makes it better than the Poco in terms of design.
Performance is dicey
Unfortunately, performance has never the forte for Samsung in its mid-range smartphones, or at least performance worth the money. Not since Xiaomi came to the party anyways. The Exynos 9610 chipset isn’t the fastest in the market but it will get the job done. The phone does give you 6 GB RAM + 64 GB storage but devices such as the Redmi Note 7 Pro undermine that by giving 128 GB of storage, while offering a more capable processor at a price which is Rs 3,000 less.
Benchmarks don't tell the whole story but it does point us in the general direction regarding the performance of the device. It doesn’t take a tech genius to figure that Poco F1 has the lead on all the smartphones in the below Rs 20,000 category and also on many above that price. There’s simply no competing with Poco right now but that isn’t to say that the A50 isn’t good on its own.
While the phone isn’t blazing fast, normal users whose day-to-day job consists of checking emails, opening heavy apps such as Facebook, Instagram, playing music, switching between apps and more, shouldn’t have a problem with the device.
Speaking to PUBG Mobile lovers, the A50 does a decent job of running the game at medium settings with very high framerate. You will definitely be better off with the Poco F1 to play the game at high settings and extreme framerate.
The in-display fingerprint sensor is an area of issue for me. It does not act as accurately as I have come to expect from optical scanners. There is no illumination of the spot where I have to place my finger often forcing me to guess (this is with the AOD switched on). Face unlock works better but has an added caveat of having to swipe the screen after the phone has been authenticated. A normal capacitive fingerprint sensor at the back or even at the side like the S10 E would’ve solved the problem.
Audio on the device is quite good and so is the single speaker unit, which is not quite loud but is crisp and has better quality than most speakers in its category. The call quality and the earpiece are also as good as I had expected.
A great battery to go with it!
While it isn't quite the humongous 5,000 mAh battery offered on the Galaxy M30, the A50 still has a lot of juice in it. The phone comes with a 4,000 mAh battery which has lasted me for more than an entire day of normal usage which includes streaming 6 episodes of Made In Heaven having a runtime of nearly 330 minutes. Granted it was on Wi-Fi rather than mobile data, but I still believe that the A50 has ample battery for normal users of the phone. Of course, gaming drains the battery quicker and I saw the phone go down from 100 percent to 45 percent after an hour of PUBG Mobile.
Is the Galaxy A50 a great smartphone for its price? In some cases definitely and in some cases not so much. The phone's display, camera, and battery are the highlights with OneUI coming as a welcome change. Performance is something that still leaves a lot to be desired, at least if Samsung plans to compete in the same space as Poco.
Overall, the phone is great for someone who is interested in taking photos and consuming video content but not so much for someone who likes to game. Could Samsung improve the performance in its mid-tier segment? Considering the Snapdragon 425 it was offering last year for Rs 18,000 on the J8 and now shifting to the much faster Exynos 9610 SoC on the A50, I'd say Samsung is moving in the right direction.
At Rs 19,990, I'd recommend the Samsung Galaxy A50 if you are looking for smartphone with a slimmer profile with a focus on design, a smaller notch, a great AMOLED display, decent camera and good battery life. If performance is all you seek, then the Poco F1 is defintely a better choice.
Images: Sachin Gokhale
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