There aren’t many interesting new smartphones at CES 2018 but Samsung has got a pocket rocket in the form of the Galaxy A8. We’ve taken a look at what can be described as a better late than never Galaxy S8 mini.
Before CES, there were a few rumours flying around that we’d see the Galaxy S9 unveiled at the show. It’s not a big shock those were no more than tales, but Samsung did at least have a new handset to keep us occupied.
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.
Price and release date
Although the Galaxy A phone have got a lot better over the last couple of years, they have also increased in price.
That was the price of a flagship phone not too long ago and although it’s cheaper than current top-of-the-range devices, there’s the issue that you can pick up the still excellent Galaxy S7 for just £379.
Of course, they vary in a few ways but some of areas of a spec comparison favour the S7 so it’s worth considering.
Compared to some more recent phones, the Galaxy A8 has some tough competition. For example, the excellent OnePlus 5T and Honor View 10 are both £449.
The Samsung Galaxy A8 release date is April in the UK.
Design and build
We’re glad 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 Galaxy S8 in terms of look and feel.
It’s quite easy to confuse the A8 with its premium brother apart from a few small things. The display doesn’t have the curved dual edge but does have tiny bezels so most of the front is take up by the screen.
It has a 75 percent screen-to-body ration compared to the S8’s 83 percent.
That means, like the S8, that the home button is no longer and the fingerprint scanner is on the back of the phone. It’s much easier to reach and use underneath the camera rather than beside it, though.
A small difference compared to the S8 is that there’s no dedicated Bixby button on the side. We’re not particularly fussed about this.
It is a little thicker than both the S8 and last year’s A7 at 8.4mm but 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 1.5 meters 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.
In the UK, the Galaxy A8 will be available in black, gold and orchid grey colours.
Specs and features
As you’d expect, the Galaxy A8 is the best phone in the A range to date in terms of specs. For all intents and purposes, it can be thought of as a Galaxy S8 mini – just not in physical size.
The display is the main upgrade since the Galaxy A7 as Samsung has, for the first time, brought the Infinity Display to the A range.
So the Galaxy A8 has an on-trend 5.6in 18:9 screen and as mentioned earlier, this means most of the front is the display and the home button is gone. 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 1080×2220 but that’s still an impressive 441ppi.
You don’t get the edge panel then but you do get the always-on feature, so the A8 displays some information 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 which is welcome.
We’ll test the Galaxy A8 out for performance, including benchmarks, soon but during our hands-on time it seemed like a slick device.
Connectivity and battery life
These days, there’s nothing overly exciting about connectivity on a phone. We’ve essentially reached a status quo of features, following gimmicks like infrared transmitters to control TVs and the like.
So the Galaxy A8 has the usual array of things 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. The battery size is still 3000mAh so we’re expecting a battery life of around a day.
When it comes to photography, it appears that 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 at the front are 16- and 8Mp cameras, both f/1.9, and the main reason for this is so you can use Live Focus. This gives you a bokeh effect blurring the background and you can adjust the amount of blur afterwards.
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.
Sadly they don’t offer autofocus and are limited to 1080p video recording. Preliminary results look good though.
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 stabilisation and video recording higher than 1080p but again, Samsung needs to separate the flagship level.
We took a few photos with the main camera and they looked very detailed, crisp and colourful.
The Galaxy A8 doesn’t ship with the latest version of Android but comes with 7.1 Nougat instead. We imagine an upgrade to 8.0 Oreo will arrive at a similar time to Samsung’s other Galaxy phones.
Samsung’s interface is pretty simple and clean these days and although there’s no dedicated Bixby button on the side, it’s a swipe away from the main homescreen.
We’ll update this section after some more time with the phone but it’s worth noting that the Galaxy A8 supports Samsung Pay and is the first in the A range of devices to support Gear VR.