Samsung kicks off 2018 with a brand new mid-class car: the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018). He looks sleek and stylish, but can he also measure himself with other devices from the middle segment? And is he worth his price of 499 euros? In this review we answer these and other questions.
The Samsung Galaxy A series is immensely popular. It is not that strange, because Samsung offers very solid specifications for a competitive price. No wonder, then, that the Korean smartphone maker is also launching a new device in this series at the beginning of this year. Unlike last year, Samsung only brings one device to our country this time. That is the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018). Previous years we were allowed to meet several aircraft in the A-series. This year, Samsung is therefore limited to the Galaxy A8 (2018).
You may think that the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) is the successor of the Samsung Galaxy A8. Nothing could be further from the truth. The very first Galaxy A8 dates back to 2015. In 2016 he received a successor, but it never appeared in our country. Last year the Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) and Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) found their way to the Netherlands. The Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) is actually the successor of the Galaxy A5 (2017), even if you might not say that when you look at the outside.
The Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) is a mid-engine, but has several premium features. That is probably the reason that Samsung has significantly bolted the recommended price. The Galaxy A5 (2017) cost 429 euros at launch. Samsung’s newest acquisition has a price tag of no less than 499 euros. That is a lot of money for a middle class. That creates high expectations. Can Samsung also make it happen? We took the test.
When you first take a look at the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018), you might think you are looking at the Samsung Galaxy S8. The similarities are evident. Both appliances have a glass plate on the front and back and the frame is made of aluminum. We will also see the ergonomic design of the flagship of last year coming back this year. And that’s a good thing, because that’s why he feels good about it. And they also have features such as USB-C connection and IP68 certification.
Yet there are indeed a number of major differences between the two devices. To begin with, the Galaxy A8 (2018) does not have a Bixby button. The digital assistant from Samsung is indeed present on the device, but can be reached from the start screen. That saves an annoying button that you accidentally pressed every turn, or simply got in the way if you did not use Bixby (programming for another function was not possible). Samsung has also moved a number of components. So we no longer find the speaker at the bottom, but on the right-hand side. The advantage of this is that the speaker is never covered by your hand by your hand, whether you hold it in landscape or portrait mode. The SIM card slot has been moved from the left side to the right. We still find the slot for the second SIM card and microSD card on the top. We see the most important change behind. The fingerprint sensor was on the right of the main camera at the Galaxy S8. That was not really useful if you wanted to quickly get your device out of sleep. This time, Samsung happily placed him in a decent place: just under the camera.
As soon as you grab the Galaxy A8 (2018) you immediately notice that it is not Samsung’s flagship. The mid-engine is longer, wider, thicker and heavier than its high-end counterpart. It is admittedly less than 20 grams, but you will notice it in daily use. The Galaxy A8 (2018) feels a bit bulky in the hand compared to the flagship. In contrast, it is made of the same premium materials and is dust and waterproof thanks to the IP68 certification. And as you will hear more often in this review, he has many more premium features.
Another example is the screen. The Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) has an Infinity Display just like the Galaxy S8. You soon notice that it is not the same screen as his brother at the top of the market. For starters, it is slightly smaller (5.6 inches instead of 5.8 inches) and has thicker edges on the sides. The screen-to-body ratio – the ratio between the screen and the total surface that it covers at the front – is therefore considerably lower compared to the Galaxy S8: to be exactly 75 percent compared to 84 percent.
The 18.5: 9 aspect ratio, on the other hand, has been adopted one-to-one. That has its advantages and disadvantages. Such an aspect ratio is nice if you want to run several apps simultaneously on the screen, or if you write long messages on your smartphone. And if you surf the internet, you do not have to scroll up and down as often. The main downside is that not all apps for this ratio have been optimized yet. Although you can specify which apps should be displayed in full screen, but one important name is missing from this list: YouTube. Well, with YouTube you can make the image full-screen by squeezing a wink, but then you’ll lose part of the bottom and top. With video streaming services like Netlfix, fortunately you have less trouble with that because cinema films are recorded in a 21: 9 ratio. It should be clear: the big screen has plus and minus points.
Videos and other content look good on the Galaxy A8 (2018). This is thanks to the 5.6 inch super amoled display, the largest screen we have seen so far on a smartphone in the Galaxy A series. It has a resolution of 2220 by 1080 pixels, also called Full HD +. These are more than enough pixels to display image and video in a sharp way. Unfortunately, you can not adjust the screen resolution artificially down to save energy, like the Galaxy S8. What the screen of both devices has in common is that colors look sparkling and contrasts are very good. That is the merit of an amoled panel.
Samsung has added a number of options to the screen. The blue light filter is one of them. When you turn it on, the color temperature of the screen changes. Because of the warmer colors – which you can adjust to your own taste – your eyes are less inclined and they are less tired at the end of the day. The advantage of this filter in the evening hours is that the hormonal balance of your body is less of a stroke. In addition, the Galaxy A8 (2018) has a number of color modes, but in fairness we saw little difference between the profiles. A last feature that we should not forget is the Always On display. If you enable it, you will see whether you have received new messages without unlocking the device. But also what time it is, the date, missed calls and the battery percentage of the battery. You can also choose to put your calendar on the screen. To a certain extent, you determine yourself what your Always On display looks like. This way you can give the clock a tan and set a background. Finally, you decide when the Always On display is active: all day or according to a specific schedule.
Under the bonnet of the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) he received a thorough service. For example, we find the Exynos 7885 on the inside. This octa-core processor consists of two 2.2 GHz powerful Cortex-A73 cores and six efficient, but slightly less fast 1.6 GHz Cortex-A53 cores. Combine that with 4 GB of RAM and Mali-G71 GPU and you know you are rammed in terms of computing power. Nevertheless, we noticed little and every time in our rest period. That is not due to the hardware, but to the software. To be precise about the radical skin that Samsung has laid over the operating system. For everyday things like mobile internet, Facebook and WhatsApp you have more than enough power under the hood.
You also get 32 GB of internal memory. You keep 22.7 GB of this for your own use. That is due to the amount of bloatware that you receive free of charge from Samsung, Microsoft and Google. Unfortunately, you can not delete these apps to free more memory. You can only switch them off. But do not worry: if you buy a microSD card, you can expand the storage capacity to a maximum of 256 GB. There is also room for a second nano SIM card. You read that correctly: memory expansion and extra SIM card. It can both be done with the Galaxy A8 (2018). You are no longer faced with a devilish dilemma.
The battery has a capacity of 3000 mAh. That does not sound impressive if you for example with the BlackBerry Motion or Huawei Mate 10 Pro with their 4000 mAh battery. Yet it is more than enough to get through the whole day. And if you unexpectedly need some extra energy, then thanks to Samsung’s Fast Charging technology you will have enough power in no time to be able to work for hours. After half an hour on the charger he is charged for 35 percent. After an hour, that percentage is 75 percent. After about 100 minutes it is again filled to the brim.
The Galaxy A8 (2018) is also equipped with conveniences such as a USB-C connection and a headphone connection. At a time when more and more manufacturers are omitting the audio input, it’s nice to hear that Samsung saves us this fate. Nevertheless, the device is still waterproof. Of course we can not forget the NFC chip. According to the latest figures, more than 320,000 consumers in the Netherlands now pay with their mobile phones. If you do not do this yet, but do you consider doing it, then it is good to know that at least it can be done with Samsung’s newest midrange. Finally you get the latest Bluetooth standard: Bluetooth 5.
Samsung has packed the Galaxy A8 (2018) with the latest forms of security. To start with, the security level of the operating system is up-to-date. It is delivered with the December 2017 security patch. In addition, it is equipped with Knox, Samsung’s security platform. Secure Folder is also available again. This is a folder where you can store apps, photos and videos extra securely. That way you can be sure that others can not make strange frills with your files.
As if that was not enough, the Galaxy A8 (2018) also has two forms of biometric security: a fingerprint scanner and facial recognition software. We start with the fingerprint sensor. We said earlier that this has got a new spot from Samsung. This makes him a lot better than the flagships of last year. A big compliment for Samsung. He is again extremely fast and accurate. Some critical remark we have is that the scanner is very flat. As a result, you sometimes search for the sensor with your finger. However, you are quickly used to that.
The facial recognition software will drop a stitch more than once. He did not recognize my face more than once. Then you can keep him close or far, at that moment he refuses to unlock your device. Especially in the evenings when it is a little darker he still fails to do it too often. Out of sheer frustration I used the fingerprint scanner, because at least that works. It is clear that face recognition does not work as well as for the Samsung Galaxy S8, iPhone X or OnePlus 5T. Samsung also recognizes that face recognition is not as fast and safe as other security methods.
We have something to criticize about the software. For example, the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) comes with Android 7.1.1 Nougat. From a brand new phone for which you have to count 499 euros, you can expect that it will at least run on the latest Android version. Unfortunately, that is wishful thinking. Although we assume that sooner or later you will get an update to Android Oreo, you would not have to wait here in our eyes. Probably the software update takes a big bite out of memory, so you have less left over. Android Nougat places Samsung in advance at a distance compared to the competition. Another relevant question is how long and how often you can expect security patches and updates for this device from Samsung. Her flagships receive a lot of attention, her middle class, however, a lot less. That probably means that Samsung will roll out updates for the Galaxy A8 (2018) less often and not so long.
We are not unabated about Samsung Experience 8.5 – the skin that Samsung has released on Android. The skin looks good and offers all sorts of useful features, but does make an attack on the flexibility of the operating system. If you quickly scroll through the different menus, jump from the heel to the branch from screen to screen or start several apps in succession, then you notice that Samsung sometimes has trouble keeping up with you. Samsung Experience UI is the basis for this. At the same time, we must recognize that the skin offers enough possibilities to set up the interface to your own taste. So you decide how many apps you want on the screen, whether you want to enable or disable the app drawer and the order of the navigation buttons.
If you have multiple user accounts for apps like Facebook, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, you can use both profiles on your device thanks to Dual Messenger. You might know such a function from Xiaomi and Alcatel. It is certainly not new and unique, but it is handy. In the settings menu under the Advanced functions tab you will find a number of useful additions from Samsung, including one-handed operation, smart slumbering and quick activation of the camera by pressing the on / off button twice. And if you want to spend as little time as possible on maintenance, there is Device maintenance. This optimizes your phone by detecting and removing malware, but also closing apps running in the background, clearing the cache, and extending the battery life.
Samsung has placed a 16-megapixel camera on the back. It is equipped with phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and f / 1.7 aperture. The pictures you shoot with this look good for a middle class. Colors come true to your pictures have enough details. If you photograph in the evening or zoom in on pixel level, you see that the photos are somewhat grainy. This despite the extra large aperture. With stickers you can dress up your pictures in a cheerful way. For the more advanced photographer there is the Pro mode. All in all, the primary camera is decent, but not very special.
On the other hand, there is plenty to say about the selfie camera. It does not consist of one, but two cameras. These have a resolution of 16 and 8 megapixels, respectively. It is the first time that Samsung gives a smartphone a double selfie camera. This allows you to get started with Live Focus, Samsung’s portrait mode. You may know this feature from the manufacturer’s high-end flagships, but can also be found in a middle class for the first time. Before shooting a selfie, you determine with a slider how blurry you want the background. The end result looks good. The bokeh effect sometimes looks somewhat ‘made’ and artificial, but is nevertheless impressive for a middle class car. Especially when you start working outdoors. Some middle classes with portrait mode suffer from ugly, blurry edges around your hair, neck and shoulders. With the Galaxy A8 (2018) you do not have to worry about that.
If you want to make a group photo together with your friends, you can appeal to the wide-angle lens. By swiping from left to right on the screen, you can activate it. You clearly see a difference between the normal lens and wide-angle lens, but it is no difference between day and night. There are slightly more people in the picture, but not significantly more. By extending your hand, using a selfie stick or keeping the camera in landscape mode, you can do something about it.
You can record videos in Full HD. Unfortunately, an option for 4K videos is missing. Samsung has also given its cameras no optical image stabilization. Electronic image stabilization, on the other hand, is present, but it is less effective than the optical variant. What is clearly visible on the test video below is that the autofocus is constantly focusing. As a result, you see the image ‘dancing’ all the time, which can be quite annoying if you want to record a video. If you disregard that aspect, the Full HD videos look fine for a middle class.
Value for money
The price tag that hangs on the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) is substantial. Samsung requires no less than 499 euros for the device. In that price range there are more than enough other phones you can get, including flagships. But what do they have to offer?
One of the biggest competitors of the Galaxy A8 (2018) is the OnePlus 5T. For the same 499 euro you get this flagship killer in house. Just like Samsung’s middle-class car, he has a front-facing screen with Full HD + resolution. In terms of processing power, the Exynos 7885 and Snapdragon 835 do not differ greatly. OnePlus has optimized its software better than Samsung so that it runs smoother. In addition, you get more working memory and storage capacity. Whether you actually need 6 GB of RAM in practice, we dare to doubt, but you will get it from OnePlus. Extra memory for the same money, however, can never hurt. If you are planning to shoot many selfies, then you are better off with the Galaxy A8 (2018).
The Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) is an excellent phone in the middle segment. It is made of premium materials, looks sleek and contemporary and has many features that you normally only find in the high-end segment. Watching movies and series on the Infinity Display is an experience. The double selfie camera on the front is equipped with Live Focus and delivers beautiful portrait photos with bokeh effect. Of course we can only applaud the waterproof design. And the battery saves it all day when it is fully charged. As you can see, the Galaxy A8 (2018) has enough commendable points.
Of course we also have a number of critical notes. For example, in our view it is inexcusable that Samsung does not install Android 8.0 Oreo, but Android 7.1.1 Nougat on the Galaxy A8 (2018). Especially if you charge 499 euros. Samsung is thus at a disadvantage. Probably it is an indication that the device is kept up-to-date for less. We have mixed feelings about the facial recognition software. On one occasion he did better than the other. With great regularity, he failed completely and switched to the fingerprint scanner, which structurally did well. Finally, it is a pity that none of the cameras is equipped with optical image stabilization. That would have been nice for this price tag.
The Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) itself is a great device that we can recommend as a daily driver. Remember that there are more than enough alternatives in the same price range. Looking around and orienting is certainly no harm.
Pros Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018)
+ Infinity Display
+ Both dual sim and memory expansion
+ Dust and waterproof (IP68)
+ Good selfie camera
+ Fingerprint sensor is well placed
+ Good battery life and Fast Charging
Negatives Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018)
– Outdated Android version
– Face recognition software does not always work
– No optical image stabilization and 4K