Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Samsung’s own flagship beater?
You’d be forgiven for thinking the Samsung Galaxy A8 is the successor to the Galaxy A7. The Galaxy S series follows a straightforward sequential pattern, where S9 follows S8, and so on – but unfortunately the A series is not quite as simple as that.
We’ve struggled to make sense of Samsung’s naming strategy of late because, until now, the A7 existed alongside the A5 and the A3 in Samsung’s line of mid-range phones, and all of these models received incremental annual updates. However, At CES 2018, there was no new A3 or A5, only the Galaxy A8.
Is it possible that Samsung is simply consolidating its mid-range Galaxy A series as prospective customers increasingly seek phones with premium looks and build quality without the sky-high prices? It would certainly appear that way, not least because the Galaxy A8 costs almost exactly the same as the new OnePlus 6, which has already proved to be a belter of a phone (read our full review here).
[gallery:3]The question is, has the Galaxy A8 got what it takes to beat the manufacturer that’s held onto the “flagship beater” title since it first came on the scene in 2014?
Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Design and display
The first sign that the Samsung Galaxy A8 is taking on the OnePlus 6 for the tile of “flagship killer” is its design. Equipped with a 5.6in, 2,220 x 1,080 resolution display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio, the A8 is the first mid-range all-screen phone we’ve seen from Samsung.
Its bezels are noticeably chunkier than they are on the latest S series and Note devices, but at a glance the Galaxy A8 could easily be mistaken for the Galaxy S9. This is especially true when looking at the back of the phone, where you’ll find a characteristically square camera with a rectangular fingerprint scanner situated immediately below it.
[gallery:7]Elsewhere, everything else is standard fare. There’s a volume rocker on the left edge of the phone above the SIM and microSD card tray, and the power/wake button is on the right, where it can easily be found with your thumb. Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging is supported via the USB-C port and there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Like Samsung’s flagships, the Galaxy A8 is protected from everyday scuffs by Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and back, which feels great in the hand but can attract fingerprints. Impressively, Samsung’s latest mid-range phone is also IP68 dust- and water-resistant, meaning it can be submerged by 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. This sinks the OnePlus 6’s superficial water-resistant coating.
Returning to the display, the Galaxy A8 features Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen technology, which offers excellent contrast levels and image quality out of the box. This was confirmed by our X-Rite colorimeter, which recorded a perfect Infinity:1 contrast ratio on the phone’s “basic” display profile and an sRGB colour gamut coverage of 98%. You won’t struggle to see the screen in the sun either, with brightness reaching a peak of 338cd/m2 on manual mode and a dazzling 810cd/m2 when set to auto-brightness.
[gallery:6]A sign of how good the screen is, is that the Galaxy A8 is the first mid-range Samsung to support the company’s Gear VR headset – although you shouldn’t expect images to look as sharp as they do with Samsung’s flagship phones.
Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Performance and battery life
Unfortunately, we’ll have to put the plaudits on hold temporarily to discuss the Galaxy A8’s performance. Backed up by 4GB of RAM, the phone’s octa-core 2.2GHz Exynos 7885 processor didn’t fare quite as well as 2018’s other mid-range devices. When running the Geekbench 4 multi- and single-core tests, for example, the phone scored only 1,526 and 4,348 respectively, which is several furlongs behind both the OnePlus 6 and the Honor 10.
Gaming performance wasn’t much better, either. An average 15fps in the GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 on-screen test shows that this shouldn’t be your go-to phone if you want to play graphically intensive games such as Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite. Conversely, the OnePlus 6 and Honor 10, which cost £579 and £399 respectively, can comfortably handle any game you throw at them.
The sweetener for average performance is extended battery life. Its 3,000mAh battery ran for 17hrs and 33mins in our continuous video playback test before switching off, making it every bit as long-lasting as the OnePlus 6 and a long way ahead of the Honor 10.
Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Camera
Samsung has a reputation for making phones with excellent cameras and the Galaxy A8 is no different, at least in terms of its specifications. The company’s latest mid-range phone features a 16-megapixel f/1.7 sensor complete with phase-detect autofocus and a single LED flash. Unfortunately, it lacks optical stabilisation, which is disappointing when this has been a staple of the S series since the Galaxy S6. There’s no dual camera arrangement on the back like the OnePlus 6, either, but there is on the front. This works in much the same way as the Sony’s Xperia XA2, with the main 16-megapixel f/1.7 sensor being supplemented by an 8-megapixel camera to enable you to live-preview a selfie with a portrait, bokeh effect.[gallery:8]
Overall, the rear camera performed very well in our tests, capturing images with plenty of detail and accurate, natural colours provided there was plenty of daylight.
In lower light, however, things weren’t so hot. Images were filled with grain and were generally over-processed, as you can see from the stuffed bear in our test shots. This was particularly disappointing when the OnePlus 6’s snapper performs so well in low-light conditions.
4K video is also a no-no, with the maximum resolution capped at the screen’s native 2,220 x 1,080. If you’re the sort of person who always captures shaky footage, you’ll benefit from the camera’s electronic image stabilisation (EIS).
Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Verdict
With flagship phones costing more than ever – take the £1,000 iPhone X, for example – there’s never been more pressure on manufacturers such as Samsung to deliver excellent “mid-range” phones at competitive prices.
The Samsung Galaxy A8 is a great-looking handset, but unfortunately it comes up short compared to its main rivals in most other areas. It scored significantly worse than the OnePlus 6 and Honor 10 on CPU and graphics benchmarks, and its camera produced disappointing results when not being used in perfectly lit scenarios.
The outstanding screen, IP68 dust- and water-resistance and solid battery life do go some way to redeeming the Galaxy A8, but would we recommend it? Sadly not. It’s not even the second best phone under £500 and it certainly can’t lay claim the “flagship killer” title.