Samsung Galaxy A6
Price: £259 inc VAT from fave.co/2v610Jt
Samsung’s A range of more affordable phones has been a big success for the firm. The latest to join the family is the Galaxy A6, bringing flagshipesque features at an almost budget level price.
From the front, the A6 looks very similar to its bigger brother – the A8 (£449 from fave.co/2v1OKJV). That is to say it’s plain-looking. It doesn’t even have a Samsung logo, so it’s not instantly recognizable as a Galaxy phone. Switch the display on and this resemblance is even more apparent, as are the
small bezels that run around the display. They are similar in size to the A8 and mean that the device is comfortable to hold yet has a decent amount of real estate. The bezels are not like the S9, of course, but this is to be expected at this price. A screen-to-body ratio of 75 percent is good and the 2.5D glass has very subtle curves at the edge.
The rear of the A6 is not like other Samsung phones as it doesn’t have a glass rear cover. Instead, metal greets you with a matte finish and clear antenna lines. This design is nice, but seems dated to some with glass on so many current phones – it reminds us of the HTC One A9 from 2015.
The camera lens sticks out marginally and has the fingerprint scanner below where it’s easy to reach, similar to the Galaxy S9 after Samsung misguidedly put it to the side on the S8. If you’re looking for a thin and lightweight phone, then the A6 will suit – it’s just 7.7mm and 162g. Our review unit was the black model, but the A6 is also available in gold and, if you’re feeling adventurous, lavender.
The Galaxy A6’s screen is one of the key features. Like the A8, it’s 5.6in on the diagonal and uses Samsung’s preferred Super AMOLED technology. It also has a modern 18.6:9 aspect ratio but has a lower resolution of 1,480x720, so the pixel density is 294ppi compared to the A8’s 441ppi. This is by no means terrible to look at and is perfectly fine. The AMOLED display, as you would expect, provides good contrast and colours that pop. You can, however,
get 2,160x1,080 (424ppi) on the 5.7in Moto G6 (£219 from fave.co/2M8FTfY) if price is an issue.
Like the A8 there’s also a ‘+’ version of the A6. So if 5.6in isn’t big enough, you can get a model with a 6in display instead. It has a higher resolution of 2,220x1,080, but is harder to find on sale in the UK.
Processor, memory and storage
It’s understandable that the A6 has a lower grade processor to the A8. It’s powered by an Exynos 7870 chip, which is still octa-core but has lower clock speeds at 1.6GHz. It has a Mali-T830 MP1 GPU.
Our review unit came with 3GB of memory and 32GB of storage, although if you’re lucky you might find a model with 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage. There’s a microSD card slot should you need to
add more storage, which can handle up to 256GB. Performance is similar to the Moto G6, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450. The vast majority of the time, the phone is responsive and slick to navigate around. Only occasionally is there a bit of lag when opening an app or doing something demanding.
Connectivity, audio and biometrics
There are more downgrades when compared to the A8. The A6 has dual-band Wi-Fi, though it doesn’t include 11ac. Bluetooth is version 4.2 and there’s the older Micro-USB port instead of the modern reversible USB-C. Samsung does at least offer a headphone port and the A6 has NFC, too. Oddly, the single speaker is placed above the power key on the side like the
A8. The sound quality is lacking, mainly in the bass department, but you can turn it up loud.
The fingerprint scanner works well and can also be used to open and close the notification pane. Although you have to swipe up to open it and down to close, which is backwards to us.
There’s also the option to use facial unlock, which isn’t as quick but doesn’t require finding the sensor. You can also choose for it to work quicker, at the cost of the security level. Even at the faster setting we sometimes found it a little slow.
The camera technology available in mid-range and even budget phones has improved dramatically in the past year or so. Many more affordable devices have dual rear cameras, with some even having two at the front as well. This isn’t the case here though, which just has your traditional two cameras. They are, however, very good – quality over quantity here.
On the back is a 16Mp camera with an impressive S8 matching f/1.7 aperture. It has auto focus, but no optical image stabilization. The camera has the same set of specifications as the Galaxy A8, although that has dual front cameras.
When you consider the price, the results are better than you might expect. As you can see from our examples overleaf, photos in decent lighting conditions are colourful and detailed, and the A6 copes pretty well in low light, too.
The phone also has an 16Mp at the front, although with an aperture of f/1.9 this time. Interestingly there’s
an LED flash with three levels of brightness you can control. We’d rather not have to use a flash, but overall the front camera is decent for this price.
Like many other phones, the Galaxy A6 has a 3,000mAh battery. With its comparatively low resolution display and modest processor combination, the phone lasted a decent eight hours, 22 minutes. That’s almost double the A8 and not far off the Moto G6. It should last the day. Bear in mind that the A6 has a older Micro-USB port and doesn’t offer fast charging, which the Moto G6 does. That phone can charge from zero charge to around half in 30 minutes.
It’s good to see the Galaxy A6 doesn’t ship with the older Android 7.1 Nougat software. Instead, it has the more up to date 8.0 Oreo.
Samsung’s interface is put over the top and these days it’s one of our favourites, being much more clean and simple than it was before. It looks slick and is easy top operate, yet there are plenty of features to explore in the settings menu if you like.
You can make use of the Games Launcher, Multi Window and various other Samsung offerings. There are a number of pre-installed apps from Samsung, Google and Microsoft. An interesting feature called Dual Messenger lets you use two accounts for apps such as Facebook and switch between them. This is handy if you use the same service with accounts for you personal life and work.
There’s no dedicated physical button for Bixby, but you can summon it with a single swipe from the main home screen. We still prefer the Google Assistant, but it’s worth a try to see what you think.
The Galaxy A6 is a very attractive mid-range phone offering a similar package to the A8 but at a much lower price point. We like the design and build quality, with the main features being the tall screen with small bezels and decent cameras. It won’t knock your socks off, but this is a decent phone for not much money. Just bear in mind that the Moto G6 is cheaper and offers a higher resolution screen, more memory and greater storage. Chris Martin
• 5.6in (1,480x720; 294ppi) Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen
• Android 8.0 Oreo
• Exynos 7870 Octa processor
• Octa-core 1.6GHz Cortex-A53 CPU
• Mali-T830 MP1 GPU
• 3/4GB RAM
• 32/ 64GB storage (microSD up to 256GB)
• Rear-facing camera: 16Mp, f/1.7, 26mm, PDAF, LED flash, panorama, HDR
• Front camera: 16Mp, f/1.9, 26mm, LED flash • 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
• Bluetooth 4.2
• A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
• Fingerprint sensor (rear mounted)
• Headphone jack
• Micro-USB 2.0
• Non-removable 2,000mAh lithium-ion battery