Samsung is on a phone-releasing spree. It has just released its latest A-series handset called the Galaxy A8 in the Indian market for Rs 32,500 and this announcement came in with the launch of its Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy 6 Edge+ devices. Launched in China last month, the A8 will be the top of the line phone in Samsung’s A-series of metal frame phones. Samsung had launched the Galaxy A3 and Galaxy A5 earlier this year. Let us see what it has to offer.
Build and Design: 8/10
The Galaxy A8 is the slimmest phone from the Korean giant. Measuring just 5.9mm, it is indeed quite slim. However it is not the slimmest smartphone around as Oppo, Micromax, Gionee have phones slimmer that that. But the metal frame and some thoughtful tapering design on the sides, not only makes the phone look elegant but also helps with the grip. There are no sharp edges that will bother you when you hold the phone in your hand.
Although the press statement says that it is a metal unibody, we noticed that the non-removable rear-cover is plastic, although the transition from metallic frame to the plastic cover is really unnoticeable. On the front, you have the 5.7-inch display with a decent screen-to-body ratio.
The base has a physical button which also houses the finger-print sensor. This is surrounded by the back and multi-tasking soft buttons. On the right hand side, you have a power/standby button whereas on the left hand side you have two distinct volume buttons. The top edge is clean and at the base you get the microUSB charging/data transfer port along with the 3.5mm audio jack. Overall the A8 has an elegant design and will surely attract a second glance.
The Samsung Galaxy A8 features a 5.7-inch full HD Super AMOLED display which makes sure that the display looks vibrant. It comes with Android 5.1.1 OS along with the TouchWiz UI atop it. Along with Samsung’s proprietary UI, you also get some pre-installed apps such as Galaxy Apps, Smart Manager, WeChat and so on. On the left most home page, you have the Flipboard app.
Samsung uses its own chipset – the Exynos 5430 – for the Galaxy A8. It has an octa-core processor with one quad-core processor cluster clocked at 1.8GHz and the other cluster clocked at 1.3GHz. This is paired with 2GB of RAM and you get 32GB of storage. One of the SIM card slots can also house a microSD card which lets you expand the storage to 128GB.
The phone comes with a dual-nano SIM card slots on the left hand side. It can take in one 4G SIM card and one 3G SIM card. You can either have both SIM cards, or have one SIM card and use a microSD card on the other slot in case you want to increase the storage. The phone supports Wi-fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS and sensors such as fingerprint sensor, proximity sensor and so on.
Samsung Galaxy A8, just like its predecessors, comes with the TouchWiz UI atop the Android 5.1.1 OS. The TouchWiz UI brings its own flourishes such as a redesigned settings screen, Flipboard app as part of the homescreen, its own set of widgets and so on. TouchWiz UI has been notorious for adding in unncessary bloatware on your phones, but since the Galaxy Note 4, things have slimmed down. Of course, the stock Android experience may still be considered better than the TouchWiz.
The Galaxy A8 features a finger-print scanner on the home button, which is functional. There wasn't any random freezing of the phone when trying to unlock it via the fingerprint sensor. It is not the quickest finger print scanner around, which can be attributed to the fact that the button is more wider than taller. You have an app called Galaxy Apps, which is like Samsung’s proprietary app store. The camera app gives you access to a lot of camera specific apps which you can download such as Animated selfie, Sports shot and so on. But you will need to have a Samsung ID for downloading. The Smart Manager app lets you manage your phone's storage and RAM among other things.
The Samsung Galaxy A8 comes with 5.7-inch full HD SuperAMOLED display. Thanks to the SuperAMOLED display, things are quite vibrant with a slight warm tinge. However, while using it we noticed a slight tinge of colour when you tilt the phone slightly along both the horizontal as well as vertical planes. While you will not be using the phone at those angles and the colour shift is not dramatic, it is still noticeable. The display has Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection. Watching movies on the display is a joy thanks to the deep blacks.
The phone is quite responsive and there were barely any instances where we were left twiddling our thumbs as we waited for the apps to startup or animations to complete. The Exynos 5430 paired with 2GB of RAM ensures that things run smooth. Regular tasks such as surfing the web, calling, messaging, gaming, video streaming run without any hitches.
The heating issue does crop up while using heavy apps though. Gaming or browsing image heavy websites or watching high bit-rate videos for longer periods of time makes the phone warm. When you are outdoors on a sunny day, the heat is particularly noticeable. However, it does not get as hot as the Sony Xperia Z3+, but the heating issue is present.
In terms of benchmark scores, the Galaxy A8 certainly gives scores higher than the ones we have seen with Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 SoC sporting phones such as Xiaomi Mi4i, Oppo R5, Canvas Knight 2 and so on. In some instances, it gave scores at par with the Snapdragon 801 SoC sporting OnePlus One as well.
Call quality is good with the earpiece speaker being loud enough. But the placement of the audio speaker on the rear side is strange. Unless you hold the phone such that your palm is directly opposite the speaker, the audio gets lost in the air. We found ourselves turning up the volume to maximum levels on several occasions. There wasn’t any sound distortion, but the placement towards the lower portion, where you naturally hold the phone would have been much helpful. Speaker placement is a major irritant if you don't have earphones on you.
Gaming was smooth and playing heavy games such as Dead Trigger 2, Modern Combat 5 on medium settings did not give any issues. Maximum settings does slow things down a bit on both games.
It houses a 16MP rear camera with an f/1.9 aperture which is quite impressive. On the front, you have a 5MP camera. Apart from the Auto mode, you get the Pro mode, Panorama mode, Continuous shot, HDR mode and night mode. You can also download many other camera specific features such as Sports shot, sound and shot, and so on. The 5MP front camera comes with the Beauty mode and also lets you shoot using gestures.
PS: Please click on images below to see them in full resolution
Outdoor shots were packed with details and the AF speed is quick. The f/1.9 aperture gives you good shallow depth of field. The chromatic aberrations were under control. The HDR mode isn’t as impressive as we had seen with the Xiaomi Mi 4 / Mi 4i although you do get a lot of manual control options. We shot a couple of indoor shots and although the noise is noticeable, it is well controlled. Low light photographs came out surprisingly well. Sure, not as impressive as the iPhone 6 or the Huawei Honor 6 Plus, but certainly better than the others. The low light AF speed isn’t that great and in terms of quality one can say that the OnePlus 2 and the Galaxy A8 are at par. The video camera lets you shoot full HD videos which are decent enough for casual use.
Battery Life: 8/10
The Samsung Galaxy A8 houses a non-removable 3,050mAh battery. Just like its siblings from the Galaxy S series, the Galaxy A8 also has an ultra-power saving mode which only gives you access to phone, messaging, internet and apps such as calculator, clock, memo and voice recorder.
In our daily use case scenarios, the Samsung Galaxy A8 lasted easily over a day on usage involving surfing the web, messaging, uploading pictures, watching videos apart from calling and messaging. In the PC Mark for Android test, it gave a good score of 10 hours 2 mins. Turn on the ultra power saving mode and you could easily go over a day and a half on a single charge.
Verdict and Price in India
This slimmest phone from Samsung manages to impress on most fronts, specially the build quality, camera and battery performance. For a 5.7-inch phone, the Galaxy A8 does not feel that bulky thanks to the slim form factor, light weight and thinner bezels. It certainly performs faster than competing Snapdragon 615 SoC sporting phones we have seen in the past. The option to expand the storage will certainly appeal to a lot of users. But heating issues do crop up once in a while, although we did not notice apps randomly shut down due to overheating.
But at Rs 32,500, the phone’s biggest competitor is the OnePlus 2 which is almost Rs 7,000 lower, while offering a superior feature set. The Samsung Galaxy A8 is a great mid-range phone, no doubt about that. But we felt the price should have reflected that. Something closer to Rs 25,000 rather than over Rs 30,000 would be preferable. The only advantage Galaxy A8 has over the OnePlus 2 is the fact that you do not have to wait for invites to buy the A8. Going by the price point experience of Samsung devices, we wouldn’t be surprised if the price indeed comes down within a couple of months. So right now we would suggest you wait it out, till the price drops, if you are really keen on getting this elegant large-screen phone.
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