Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Samsung Galaxy A8

Samsung has come out with their thinnest phone yet in the A series , the Galaxy A8. In terms of specs , this phone is just below their flagship models the Note 5 and S6, and it falls in the phablet range. Let's just clarify Samsung's Smartphone categories for everyone whose confused. On the high end are their flagship models, the "Note" and "Edge" series. Then comes the "A" series. Then it's followed by the mid range "E" & "J" series. The budget range starts with "Grand", "Core" & "Star" models and goes right down to other non smartphones.


Design , Display & Hardware:


The one complaint I've always had with Samsung phones were the plastic feel in all their phones including the flagship ones. Only recently has Sammy decided to shed that image and realised the importance of a glass/leather and general non-plastic look. The A8 does pretty well in giving a dull metallic finish on the edges, and a thin bezel with a high quality matte plastic that you'd mistake for metal from a distance. The phone is very slim at 5.9mm and feels exceptional in the hands without making you uncomfortable considering that it's a 5.7" screen (thanks to the 73.8% screen to body ratio!).

The micro USB and 3.5mm ports are at the bottom, the SIM card slots and volume keys are along the left edge, and the power key is on the right edge. The top only has a microphone for the video camera and voice recorder. The speaker, rear camera and flash are next to each other in that order, which is right above a Samsung logo .The home button is still there in the front which is now also a fingerprint scanner with the Menu & Back buttons on left & right side of it respectively.

The screen is 5.7" 1080 x 1920 Super AMOLED display with 386ppi covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 4. In terms of hardware under the hood, 64-bit Snapdragon 615 chipset; octa-core CPU (quad A53 at 1.8GHz + quad A53 at 1.3GHz), Adreno 405 GPU  or Samsung's own 32-bit Exynos 5430 chipset; octa-core CPU (quad A15 at 1.8GHz + quad A7 at 1.3GHz), Mali-T628 MP6; 2GB of LPDDR4 RAM (the one I am reviewing). It's got a nano SIM / Micro SD card slot so you have to chose between a 2nd SIM or a Micro SD card (128GB supported) which is cool, but not everyone will like that option since 32GB is not enough for everyone. And if you use 2 SIMs one of them will work on 4G while the other one drops to 3G.


Software:


The phone runs out of the box on Android 5.1.1 with the TouchWiz UI layered on top (which I'm not a fan of). Though the UI is smooth, I hate the fact that it's not customisable and Samsung has done nothing to improve it .

There's a new Smart Manager app which is divided into 4 sections- Battery for estimated time left, any excessive usage apps, power saving mode etc. RAM section can close apps and free up RAM.  The Storage section can delete unnecessary files and free up some ROM. Finally the Device Security which has My KNOX, their own mash up of malware protection and security software for protection from unauthorised apps.  

S planner, S voice and usual apps make their way here but thankfully no other bloat ware. The new UI also has a "Briefing" pane, with your left most window on the home screen which is  basically a collection of news items from different sources.  Multi Window is a feature that lets you run 2 apps at once on the screen, one below the other which can be launched by long pressing the Menu/App switcher button and you can choose which open apps can be made Multi Window.
  

Camera:


16MP  rear camera has a f/1.9 aperture similar to the Note 5 but missing the OIS and has a 4:3 aspect ratio instead of 16:9. It takes pretty sharp photos in daylight and good ones even in low light with flash enabled. The Camera app is pretty easy to use and has all settings easily accessible, a neat feature they've put now is you can double tap the home button to start the camera even when the phone is locked in under a second! 

There's a PRO mode where you can adjust ISO, white balance and also some modes are available for download like the rear-cam selfie mode. Video recording is limited to 1080p @30fps and not even 60/120 fps which is very disappointing . The front camera is 5MP which allows for a wide angle shots and takes great pictures. 

Gaming & Multimedia:


With a battery life of 3050 mAh, it works great and this beauty can last over 12 hours on heavy usage. One of the most impressive battery performances I've seen on a phablet. Angry Birds 2 , Asphalt 8 and Dead Trigger 2 worked without any lags and you don't find any real loss of frames.
All music is taken care by the TouchWiz Music player which has improved a lot and has a variety  of options in terms of playback, streaming etc with support for 24 bit FLAC audio. Sound Alive option lets you control the Bass/ treble & Instrumental / Vocals. Sound Alive+ also has other equaliser options along with Smart Volume. AnTuTu benchmark scores an impressive 49850 which is higher than LG G4 but lower than the Note 5.


Conclusion:


The reason to buy this phone would be wanting a flagship feel at a lower price without compromising hugely on the performance. There are a few negatives like non removable battery, missing an IR port and no NFC but that is all debatable for the price.

I give the Samsung Galaxy A8 a 4/5.

★★★★☆


Pritesh Khilnani


Samsung Galaxy A8 at CeX


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