Samsung Galaxy A8
Price: £449 inc VAT from fave.co/2xzyuDC ★★★★☆
The Galaxy A range of devices has come a long way in a relatively short space of time and now effectively offers a cheaper and slightly lower spec version of the flagship S range, while keeping some of the key features and design traits. Here we look at the A8.
Samsung ditched plastic in favour for a combination of glass and metal on the A range back in 2016 and that
hasn’t changed here. The Galaxy A8 is really not far off the S8 in terms of look and feel. In fact, it’s easy to confuse the A8 with its premium brother, though there are a few small differences. The display, for example, doesn’t have the curved dual edge, but does have small bezels, so most of the front is taken up by the screen. It has a 75 percent screen-to-body ration compared to the S8’s 83 percent.
This means that, like the S8, the home button has been removed and the fingerprint scanner is now located on the rear of the phone – it’s situated underneath the camera.
A small difference compared to the S8/S9 is that there’s no dedicated Bixby button on the side. We’re not particularly fussed about this, though.
It is a little thicker than both the S8 and last year’s A7 at 8.4mm, though it doesn’t feel chunky at all. It’s not the lightest phone at 172g, but again this isn’t a handset that gives a sense of being overly heavy.
Samsung continues to do a good job by offering IP68 waterproofing (up to 1.5m of fresh water for up to 30 minutes) and a headphone jack. There’s no wireless charging despite the glass rear cover that, like most, is a little slippery.
The A8 will be available in black, gold and orchid grey colours.
The display is the main upgrade since the Galaxy A7 because Samsung has, for the first time, brought the Infinity Display to the A range. The A8 has an on-trend 5.6in 18:9 screen. It looks great and
somewhat helps justify the inflated price. It might not have the dual edge feature of the S8, but Samsung has to keep something for the flagship. Also, the resolution is slightly lower at 2,220x1,080, though that’s still an impressive 441ppi. It’s also brighter than average at a maximum of 355cd/m2.
You don’t get the edge panel, but you do get attractive rounded corners and the always-on feature. So the A8 displays some information (there are a few different layouts to choose from) even when the phone is locked – without using much power.
Processor, memory and storage
Inside the Galaxy A8 is Samsung’s own Exynos 7885 processor. It’s a small upgrade on the 7880 found in the A7, still with eight cores but at higher clock speeds. It also has the Mali-G71 GPU found in the Galaxy S8.
As previously, there’s 32GB of storage and a microSD card slot for adding up to 256GB more. However, there’s now 4GB of RAM instead of 3GB which is welcome.
In our benchmarks, the Galaxy A8 doesn’t perform as well as we expected. Rather than putting up numbers similar to phones of a similar price, such as the Nokia 8 and Honor View 10, it’s around the same level as devices a lot cheaper. That said, this is a case of the phone performing differently in benchmarks to real life. We’ve found it suitably responsive and smooth during our time with it. The main improvement from the A7 is in the graphics department.
Connectivity and audio
The Galaxy A8 has the usual array of features, including Bluetooth 5.0, dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC and offers Cat 11 LTE.
As you’d expect, the phone has USB-C but retains the headphone port, which is good to see. Oddly, the single speaker is placed on the side of the phone above the power button. It doesn’t make a huge difference compared to the normal position next to the USB port. The speaker itself sounds pretty average.
When it comes to photography, the A8 is doing things backwards to most other phones. Instead of having dual rear cameras and a single at the front it has the reverse, so on the front are 16- and 8Mp cameras, both f/1.9. One of the main reasons for this is so that you can use Live Focus. This gives you a bokeh effect
blurring the background and you can adjust the amount of blur afterwards. It works pretty well and is unusual to find on a front camera. You can also switch between them to ‘take the type of selfie you want’ – either blurred background or not, but really they are pretty similar in terms of how much you can fit in the frame (76- and 85 degrees), so you’ll probably stick with the 16Mp option for the better detail.
Sadly they don’t offer autofocus and are limited to 1080p video recording, but you do get Auto HDR. You can also play with the beauty mode if you care and there’s a ‘wefie’ option to fit more people in – it’s essentially a panorama with the front cameras.
At the back is a lone 16Mp with a Galaxy S8 matching f/1.7 aperture. It offers phase detection autofocus and a single LED flash. We’d like to see optical image stabilization and video recording higher than 1080p at 30fps, but, again, Samsung needs to separate the flagship level.
Overall, we’re impressed with the cameras on offer here. The rear camera offers detailed and colourful shots and also works well in low light. It’s at the front where the A8 stands out with lots of features you don’t find elsewhere for selfie lovers.
The A8 has a 3,000mAh battery, which is average for smartphones these days. In our Geekbench 4 battery test, the phone managed a disappointing four hours, 30 minutes, with an efficiency score of 2700. For context, the Moto G6 was able to go twice as long and scored 3516. Like the performance benchmarks, this is something of an anomaly as we’ve not had any issues with the A8 lasting through a day of normal usage.
When it comes to charging, the supplied USB-C charger offers Fast Charging. Starting from zero, and you can get 39 percent from a 30-minute charge.
The A8 doesn’t ship with the latest version of Android but comes with 7.1 Nougat, which is a shame. The interface is simple and clean, and while there’s no dedicated Bixby button on the side as there is on the S8 and S9, it’s only a swipe away from the main home screen – this is instead of Google Assistant. You can still use Google Assistant via the app and we still think it’s better than Bixby, but there’s nothing stopping you from using both.
Overall, it’s a very similar experience to the Galaxy S range as you get pre-installed apps from Samsung, Microsoft and Google. You also get features such as Multi-Window and Samsung Pay, and it’s the first A phone to support the Gear VR headset.
The Galaxy A8 is by far the best A-range device to date and effectively the S8 mini we always wanted.
The S9 is here now, but that’s not too different so it’s a similar situation. If you’re looking for that Samsung style in a cheaper form, then the A8 is the right choice for you. There are, however, some excellent phones in the mid-range that offer a similar experience for less money such as the Honor 10. Chris Martin
• 5.6in (2,220x1,080, 441ppi) Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen
• Android 7.1.1 (Nougat)
• Exynos 7885 Octa processor
• Octa-core (2x 2.2GHz Cortex-A73, 6x 1.6GHz Cortex-A53) CPU
• Mali-G71 GPU
• 4GB RAM
• 32/64GB storage, microSD up to 256GB
• Fingerprint scanner
• Rear-facing camera: (f/1.7, 1/2.8in, 1.12μm), phase detection autofocus, LED flash • Dual front-facing cameras: 16Mp (f/1.9, 1/3.1in, 1.0μm); 8Mp (f/1.9, 1/4in, 1.12μm), 1080p
• 802.11ac Wi-Fi
• Bluetooth 5.0
• A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
• USB 2.0 Type-C 1.0
The A8’s Infinity Display looks great
Low light shot
Portrait using the 8Mp lens Portrait using the 16Mp lens