The Galaxy J series, which for the most part consists of mid-tier smartphones, has been pushed aside quite spectacularly in the past two years by the likes of Xiaomi and Honor. To be honest, it’s not hard to see why. Both of them offer great hardware for a very compelling price while Samsung tries to leverage its brand to sell the devices. But while writing this review, a particular device launched, that is most likely going to shake up this price segment at which the Galaxy J8 is selling at.
I am obviously talking about the Poco F1 by Xiaomi's sub-brand Pocophone. The device offers a Snapdragon 845 chipset, 6 GB LPDDR4X RAM, 4,000 mAh battery, 6.1-inch FHD+ display and other flagship grade hardware for Rs 20,999 (introductory offer of Rs 19,999). Then we have the Galaxy J8 with a Snapdragon 450 SoC, 4 GB RAM, priced at Rs 18,999. The difference is quite stark and frankly, it's a no-brainer which smartphone offers the most value for your money.
Leaving the Poco F1 aside, I tried very hard to find at least one instance where I would recommend the Galaxy J8 over competitors like the Mi A2 or the Honor Play, but I found none. Why Samsung would charge Rs 18,999 for a device such as the J8 is beyond me. This phone would have been my top recommendation if it had been priced under Rs 13,000. In essence, Samsung is offering low-end specs in a mid-range phone and expecting people to shell out a premium for the brand name in a market as price-sensitive as India. Is it any wonder then, that Xiaomi is making Samsung irrelevant in the sub Rs 20,000 category?
If you're still unconvinced, here's another 2,000 words on why you should skip this phone.
Build and Design: 6/10
Samsung reserves its premium build quality only for its top-tier smartphones. In a world that's fast filling up with sexy glass backs, the J8 offers up a plastic back, though at least the frame is made of metal. I don’t know if you’re a fan of plastic or not, but I certainly prefer a metallic or glass unibody design like the one seen on the Honor Play and Mi A2.
On the plus side, the plastic at least makes the phone non-slippery. The phone is also a bit thicker than the Mi A2 and Honor Play and thankfully, there's no camera bump.
On the back, there is the dual-camera setup along with the fingerprint reader sitting below it. On the left side, we have a volume rocker along with slots for the dual-SIM card and the microSD card. On the right-hand side we have the power button and on the bottom, we have the 3.5 mm headphone jack (thank god) and the micro-USB port.
One positive thing I found on the device was the lack of a notch, as Samsung is quite adamant not to copy Apple (in this particular regard) like the rest of the world.
The Samsung Galaxy J8 doesn’t have too many features to brag about, to be honest. It has a 6-inch Super AMOLED HD+ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. In the hardware department the phone sports a Snapdragon 450 chipset along with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. The storage can be expanded to 128 GB using a microSD card, which is a feature that is not available on the Mi A2. The back also houses the fingerprint sensor on the phone which sits below the camera.
In the camera department, we see a dual-camera setup with a 16 MP primary sensor with f/1.7 aperture and a 5 MP depth sensor with a f/1.9 aperture. The phone can shoot 1080p video at 30 fps. The front-facing camera has a 16 MP sensor with a f/1.9 aperture and fixed focus.
In terms of software, the J8 runs on Android 8.0 Oreo with the Samsung Experience UI overlaying it. Apart from that, the J8 has dual 4G VoLTE slots as connectivity options along with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, FM Radio, micro-USB 2.0 OTG port and a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
One thing that cannot be denied about Samsung is that it makes really beautiful displays. That fact is justified in the 6-inch Super AMOLED HD+ display on the Galaxy J8. The phone has an extremely vibrant display which is very colourful and sharp. More importantly, there is no notch on the top which should give the phone a big thumbs up from notch-haters
The phone gets sufficiently bright in sunny conditions, while in the dark its gets dim enough for night time reading. For extremely sunny conditions, the J8 also has an outdoor mode which boosts the maximum brightness even further. There’s also a blue light filter which reduces the strain on the eyes during sessions of continuous reading, watching videos or browsing the mobile web on the J8.
All that being said, I was positively shocked not to find Full HD support on the Galaxy J8. Yes, that is correct. The Rs 19,000 phone cannot playback 1080p videos when devices half its price are able to do so. For a phone with as good a display, it is disappointing that there is no FullHD support.
The Samsung Galaxy J8 is still running on Android 8.0 while most of the major smartphones released in 2018 already have Android 8.1. I’m not surprised in the least as Samsung has a history of being late with periodic updates.
The Samsung Experience UI, formerly known as TouchWiz, is not something I’m a fan of. This is one major reason why I would recommend the Mi A2 as it comes with a clean stock Android experience, free of unnecessary bloatware. Random widgets keep popping unexpectedly while browsing the phone and it took me some time to realise how to navigate through the phone.
What works in favour of the Galaxy J8 is that after getting the initial hang of the Experience UI, I found that it was quite fluid and responded instantly. Whether it was browsing or opening several apps at the same time, the phone delivered handsomely. However, I would really love if Samsung puts some kind of stock Android experience in at least one of its smartphone. Maybe that way it won’t get snubbed during the public beta testing of Android Q next year.
The Samsung Galaxy J8 is no performance beast and it is not being marketed as one anyway. However, the inclusion of a Snapdragon 450 chipset still befuddles me. For those who are not aware, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 series is primarily reserved for entry-level to budget phones. The Galaxy J8 is neither. Pricing it at Rs 19,000 makes it a mid-range smartphone. At the very least, it deserves to have a Snapdragon 630 chipset or a Mediatek Helio P60.
The lack of a powerful chipset shows in the benchmarking results between the Mi A2, Honor Play, Vivo V9 and Oppo F7. It also showed during biometric authentication, as the face unlock and fingerprint sensors are both painfully slow. Obviously, as the chipset is not the best, graphics-intensive gaming is out of the question. Asphalt 9 and PUBG for mobile ran with some lag on the lowest settings, while not-so-graphic-intensive games such as Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds ran fine.
The Poco F1 is not being mentioned here because the Snapdragon 845 chipset, 6 GB RAM LPDDR4X RAM and 64 GB of UFS 2.1 storage on the device is simply going to blow the benchmarking roof.
If you are not a heavy duty user and only require the phone for basic usages such as browsing the internet, watching videos, making calls and moderate multi-tasking, then the J8 makes sense. Although with prolonged use, as is the case with all Samsung phones, the J8 will probably become a lot slower.
In the audio department, as mentioned before, the device has a 3.5 mm headphone jack which is always nice to see. The phone has Dolby Atmos surround sound which sounds super awesome but the downside is that you cannot use some of the EQ features when Dolby Atmos is on. Not that it matters anyway because the EQ settings hardly made any significant difference. The mono speaker on the side is loud and crisp, and the earpiece and mic delivered as expected and such the call quality on the J8 is good as well.
I had expected the camera on the J8 to be a saving grace and to some extent, you might say it is. While the J8 does take excellent photos during daytime, at night it is a different story.
Let’s get to daytime photos first. All photos clicked by the J8 have the Samsung-touch to them, wherein all of them appear to be a bit warm and saturated due to Samsung’s post-processing. But even so, the 16 MP primary camera is able to maintain a lot of detail and churns out crisp images during the day. The Live Focus feature (bokeh effect) uses the secondary depth sensing 5 MP camera and I have to say that the background separation was quite decent.
We have to give Samsung credit for making great camera phones and when I compared the device with competitors such as the Xiaomi Mi A2, the J8 had better quality hands down. The selfie camera on the J8 also is up to the mark. The front-facing live focus feature or the portrait mode seems to do the job well, but sometimes when there is too much light coming from behind, the camera does not blur the background properly. But to its merit, the J8 does have a good selfie camera and in my opinion better than the Mi A2. In my Honor Play review, I had compared its camera with the J8 camera and found that the J8 was better in all situations, hence the following photo comparison is between the Mi A2 and Galaxy J8.
The nighttime photography on the device is a big problem. Although I did not expect great things from a smartphone costing Rs 18,000, the results were nevertheless quite disappointing indeed. Photos appeared quite grainy and noisy while exposure calibration is off.
Bottomline: The Samsung Galaxy J8 is just not meant to do any kind of night photography, while in the day you are getting your money's worth.
The Samsung J8 does not blow the battery benchmarks either, despite having a low power SoC and HD+ display. The phone’s 3500 mAh Li-ion battery barely lasted me the entire day since I started using it and that too when I’m wasn't playing any games on it.
The standard PC Mark 2.0 test showed that the battery lasted 6 hr 55 min, which seems pretty abysmal to me considering the price the device is selling at. The phone also charges at a snail’s pace and charging the phone from 0-100 would take more than 2 hours. However, as mentioned before this device is not meant for heavy usage. Messaging, video playback (on Wi-Fi), calling and light internet browsing will give you enough battery to last a day.
Verdict and Price in India
Here’s why you should buy the Galaxy J8
- Amazing display
- Dolby Atmos surround sound
- Great daylight photography
Here’s why you shouldn’t buy the Galaxy J8
- Entry level specs are mid-rang price points
- Plastic construction
- Average battery life
The Samsung Galaxy J8 just doesn’t feel like a device that offers concrete competition to the likes of the Honor Play, Mi A2 and even the recently launched Nokia 6.1 Plus. Samsung really needs to stop charging a premium on mid-range and budget devices simply because they sport the Samsung logo.
The competition has moved leaps and bounds ahead of Samsung, and while in the premium flagship segment the South Korean giant was once unrivalled, the likes of OnePlus and Asus have come ahead to steal the thunder there too.
Except for the start, I haven't mentioned the Poco F1 at all in this review and the reason is that we haven't really tested the device. But unless there is something fundamentally flawed with the design, display, performance or camera (from our first impressions, it looks like Poco F1 will disrupt the market), the Poco F1 is the smartphone to buy if you have Rs 20,000-Rs 21,000 budget.
The Samsung Galaxy J8 is available on Amazon India’s online store as well as Samsung India’s online store for a price of Rs 18,990, but in my opinion, you can really skip this smartphone unless you are a diehard Samsung fan.