When the Samsung A8 2018 was released, I knew I had to get it. The A5 2017 and A7 2017 that I reviewed last year was really good, so naturally I have the same expectations with the A8 2018. There are 2 variants, A8 and A8+. The difference is mainly display size and battery capacity. I prefer bigger screen so what I have here is the Samsung A8+. It’s powered by Exynos 7885 CPU, Mali-G71 GPU, a 6 inch 1080×2220 resolution with 18:9 ratio, IP68 rating and a 3500mAh battery.
Design and Build Quality
The front and back is made of glass and are held together by a metal frame. Fingerprints and smudges are a daily affair and it’s kind of tough keeping it spotless. They also included a plastic case but it also attracts lots of smudges, so I used the phone naked instead. The glass feels much better on the hands but using it naked has its consequences. There were some paint chips at the corner and I have no idea where I got it from. For those that want to protect your phone, please get a good quality case.
The fingerprint sensor is on the back, just below the camera. I feel that it’s placed too close and my finger touches the camera most of the time. But after days of using it, I tend to slide my finger upwards to the sensor and it works pretty well. The sensor also supports gestures where you can slide up or down to open the notification panel. If you prefer, there is also face recognition for unlocking the phone, works pretty well too.
Power button is placed nicely where the thumb can reach but the volume rockers are way too high in my opinion. The display will be impossible to use with one hand but One Handed mode is there if you decide to use it.
There is a small speaker above the power button, although I’m sure most of us would prefer stereo speakers but I have to say it’s pretty loud at the maximum. It’s not easy to muffle the speakers at any orientation as well. With the growing trend of removing the headphone jack, it’s great to see that the Samsung A8+ retains it. There is the sound quality settings you can change and it sounds pretty good.
Even with Always-On display, there is still a LED light which is pretty nice. Always-On shows the time, information and notifications when the display is off. Double tap on the icon to interact with the app.
Hardware and Display
At the front, the Samsung A8+ features a 6 inch 1080×2220 resolution display at 411 PPI, no issues with sharpness there. Samsung has always been known for the vibrant colors and the Samsung A8+ is no exception. If somehow you do not like it, the Screen Mode allows you to do some changes.
Brightness on the other hand is more than sufficient for use under the sun. Viewing angles are also great with little loss of detail.
The Samsung A8+ supports dual SIM and micro SD card but it’s located on 2 different card trays. One at the top for SIM slot 2 with micro SD card up to 256GB and the other on the left which houses SIM slot 1. Talking about dual SIM, the SIM Card Manager allows you to change the preferred card for calls, SMS and data. Reception was around max most of the time depending on location and there wasn’t any dropped calls during my usage.
My set has 64GB of storage and 6GB of RAM. There is also a smaller version with 32GB storage and 4GB of RAM. Good news is that it supports Adoptable Storage where it turns your SD card to be part of the internal storage. As for OTG, you can’t use a micro USB with the adapter, it won’t be able to detect. You will need to use a normal Type C thumb drive.
Other specs are WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, FM Radio, Compass and Barometer. It’s also IP68 certified so it’s dust proof and resistant to water at a maximum depth of 1.5m for up to 30mins.
Software and Performance
Benchmarks are pretty good for the Exynos 7885 on both Antutu and Geekbench. Playing games like Rules of Survival on maximum graphics was pretty smooth but it does lag a little when loading the first time if there are lots of objects to be rendered. The phone does get a little warm when playing for longer durations. Game launcher keeps all your games in one convenient folder where you can change performance and alerts right there. When playing a game, a controller icon will be on the navigation bar for features like gameplay recording and screenshot.
Daily usage was generally good and multiple apps can be kept open thanks to the 6GB of RAM. Phone UI is butter smooth and launching of apps is pretty quick in general but occasionally it does lag here and there. Samsung Experience 8.5 sits on top of Android 7.1.1 and it bears lots of similarities to the Grace UX on the A5 and A7.
Download booster is using Wifi and LTE networks for downloading big files but it may result in additional charges. Separate App Sound is playing media sound on another audio device like Bluetooth speakers while playing another sound on the phone audio output.
At the home screen, there is the usual tap and hold to add widgets, wallpapers and also use Samsung Themes to change how the UI looks. You can also tap and hold on the icon to show additional menu. The Navigation Bar can hidden or shown, and the layout can also be changed. If an elderly for example wishes for a more user friendly UI, the Easy Mode enables you to do that.
For multitasking people, Multi Windows allows to have 2 apps opened in split view. You can also make an app as a popup window and also reduce it to be a floating icon for later access. One very useful feature is the Dual Messenger. It’s built in the OS that allows you to have 2 separate accounts for the same app. For compatible apps, it will create a 2nd app with an icon on the bottom right.
Device maintenance is the place for housekeeping where you can monitor your device storage and RAM. Security is partnered with McAfee that scans your phone for threats and malware. Secure Folder is a standard feature that keeps your data safe. Powered by Samsung KNOX and it’s protected by authentication. Files and Apps can be added to this folder but apps will be a separate instance outside the folder. Best is to install PlayStore inside and download apps from there to solve any problems.
Other useful features are Do Not Disturb, Notifications settings and Blue light filter. Lastly there is a User Manual if you do need more information about the phone.
Battery life was a hit and miss for the Samsung A8+. On standby, it drains about 1% every hour and when playing games, it drains about 7%-10% for 30 mins. With Always-On display turned on, my usage is about 12 – 15 hours unplugged and by the end of the day, I would have around 15%-30% battery left. This will last a full day of use but will be difficult if you do play lots of games.
Using the Adaptive Fast Charger, it took around 1 hour 30 mins to 1 hour 50 mins to charge from 0% – 100%. There is the battery menu for power saving mode, monitor apps that use too much power and also remove restrictions to allow apps to use as much power as they need.
A 16 MP camera with auto focus has some common modes like Panorama, Hyperlapse and you can download more modes from the store. Swipe left to access camera modes and right for the camera filters. Food mode has a circle of focus to keep the background blurry while keeping the attention on the food. There is the expanded view that takes advantage of the 18:9 screen but photos will be cropped to fit the display.
Manual and auto focus works pretty good in general and of course low light will take a little longer to focus. Macro shots also provides a nice level of detail and is able to take photos of the object at around 10-15cm.
In Auto mode, photos turned out great in daytime and never had any problems with it. Night photos with Auto mode and the dedicated Night mode works pretty fine too and Night mode does generally make the scene brighter. Looking at the viewfinder in the night, the area where there are shadows tend to flicker. I don’t see this happening in other phones I have used but the outcome doesn’t seem to be affected.
In Pro mode, you can adjust Exposure, ISO and White Balance. Dual 16MP front facing camera ensures that your selfies are as good as photos from the rear camera. It’s for the portrait like photos and there is also the live focus to choose how blurry the background is. There is also the Beauty mode to make your face sharper or eyes bigger.
Bixby Vision is kind of like Google Lens, using the camera to scan text or items and does a search using various partners and displays the results.
To be honest, it doesn’t wow me as much as the A5 and A7 does. Apart from the better looking phone and bigger display, there are some factors that didn’t quite make the mark. Battery life was a little disappointing, wasn’t as good as the A5 and A7. The performance could be a little better, not saying that it wasn’t good. Just that for the price of the phone, I was expecting near smooth experience or at least really minimal lags. Hopefully future OS updates will make it much better. If you ask me, I will wait for the price to be a little lower or even consider the previous A5 and A7 which should be cheaper by now.
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