Samsung Galaxy A8 review

Introduction

Introduction
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) is not a successor to a particular A-series phone. It’s more of a trimmed Galaxy S8 version for the masses with matching design, screen, and the current number 8. Or so Samsung would have us believe.

Indeed, Samsung is changing its naming convention once again. While before the number denoted the physical size of the phone in the midrange class, now it has come to show the generation it comes in and we’re up to gen8 if the S and Note series serve as any guidance.

That’s not to say that the Galaxy A8 (2018) doesn’t have a predecessor – it’s the Galaxy A5 (2017). And the new phone is an upgrade in almost all respects except perhaps for the main camera.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Visually, the A8 is indeed closer to the S8. The similarly shaped and sized curved glass-sandwich design, the tall AMOLED screen, and the fingerprint on the back are some of the features which show the close relation between the Galaxy A8 and the S8. There is even a notable selfie upgrade – the A8 now comes with a dual-camera at the front with a variety of effects, including portrait photos with defocused background.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) specs:
Body: Aluminum frame, glass front and back; IP68 rating for dust and water resistance.
Display: 5.6″ Super AMOLED display, FullHD+ 2,220×1,080 resolution Infinity display (18.5:9 aspect ratio), 441ppi pixel density; Always On Display.
Rear camera: 16MP, f/1.7 aperture. Phase detection autofocus. 1080p/30fps video recording.
Front cameras: Primary: 16MP, f/1.9 aperture. Secondary: 8MP, f/1.9 aperture. Fixed focus. Selective focus (portrait mode). 1080p/30fps video recording.
OS/Software: Android 7.1.1 Nougat; Samsung Experience 8.5 custom overlay.
Chipset: Exynos 7885: octa-core CPU (2×2.2GHz Cortex-A73 + 6×1.6GHz Cortex-A53), Mali-G71 GPU.
Memory: 4GB of RAM; 32/64GB storage; dedicated microSD slot for expansion.
Battery: 3,000 mAh Li-Po (sealed); fast charging.
Connectivity: Dual SIM; LTE Cat. 11 (600Mbps download); USB-C (v2.0); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac; GPS, GLONASS, Beidou; NFC, MST; Bluetooth 5.
Misc: Rear-mounted fingerprint reader (centered, hurrah!); single speaker on the side; 3.5mm jack; Samsung Pay support; Gear VR support.
The Galaxy A8 (2018) seems like a thoughtful alternative to the headliner without losing much of the S8’s charm. And if the price is right, then Samsung may have done an excellent ‘S8 lite’ model.

Design

Design
The Galaxy A8 (2018) would probably go down in history as the phone to fix the badly placed fingerprint scanner for Samsung’s phone portfolio. It may look like a Galaxy S8 and have the whole flagship vibe, but the balance on the back has been restored. The fingerprint sensor is now conveniently positioned under the main camera.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
The new placement aside, the biometric sensor is always-on, fast and very accurate. The latter is pretty much guaranteed by the lengthy setup process with more than the usual number of taps.

The slightly curved AMOLED display is one of the biggest treats – it’s sporting the cool 18.5:9 aspect ratio though the resolution of 1080p is slightly lower than the S8’s 1440p. The screen has the same round corners as seen on the flagship model, but while both phones are similar in size, the A8’s display is 0.2″ smaller than the 5.8″ unit on the S8.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Speaking of sizes, the Galaxy A8 is thicker and 20g heavier than the S8. The A8’s screen bezels are obviously bigger, though it’s nothing major to hurt the otherwise sleek design.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
The top bezel is jam-packed with stuff – the earpiece, the two selfie snappers, a bunch of sensors, and even a notification LED. The bottom has nothing though. There is no pressure-sensitive home key on the screen of the Galaxy A8 (2018), it’s one of the things the S8 series will be keeping as an exclusive.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
The Galaxy A-series was treated to IP67 grade ingress sealing in 2017 and the trend continues onto the 2018 editions. And no cards were lost in the process – even on the dual SIM version of the A8 (2018), you don’t have to sacrifice storage expansion for a second SIM. We definitely appreciate the dedicated microSD slot.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) – Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) – Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) – Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) – Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018)

Finally, the loudspeaker on the Galaxy A8 (2018) is on the right side, above the power button. It looked like an odd placement when Samsung introduced it on last year’s A-series, but we’ve come to accept it after it also became the choice for positioning on the J-series of 2017 as well.

Display, Battery Life, Loudspeaker, Audio Quality

Immersive 5.6″ AMOLED of 18.5:9 ratio

The new tall screen aspect ratio is the first bridge between the Galaxy A and S lineups. For better or worse this screen ratio has become the hottest trend of 2017 and it’s not going away. Naturally, Samsung has to cater to the users’ demands and the S8’s 18.5:9 Infinity AMOLED is now premiering on the Galaxy A8 (2018).

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) reviewThe resolution has been lowered to fit the A-series profile – there are 1,080 by 2,220 pixels on the A8’s screen making for a flagship-grade 441ppi density. The image is sharp, there is no visible pixelization whatsoever, and the Diamond PenTile pattern of the matrix is invisible to the naked eye.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) reviewWe expected the Galaxy A8 to post similar numbers in the tests as the most recent Samsung we’ve tested – the J7 Pro, and indeed it did. Maximum brightness in manual mode is reasonable at 390nits. In Auto mode, just like the J7 Pro, the A8 gets a healthy boost up to 590nits.

Display test 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 0 390
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) (Max Auto) 0 590
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) 0 425
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) Max auto 0 533
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) 0 413
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) max auto 0 559
OnePlus 5T 0 437
Oppo R11s 0 441
Apple iPhone X 0 679
Samsung Galaxy S8 0 440
Samsung Galaxy S8 Max auto 0 618

Just like any recent Samsung AMOLED, the one on the A8 scored an excellent mark in our sunlight legibility test. This makes the A8 (2018) one of those phones to bring at the beach, especially now that there is ingress protection.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Apple iPhone X5.013
  • OnePlus 5T4.789
  • Samsung Galaxy S84.768
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017)4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018)3.842
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)3.804
  • Oppo R11s3.153

Finally, there is one more display test to be aced. Samsung has been a master in color accuracy for quite some time, offering three different and very accurate color profiles (avg deltaE < 2, max deltaE < 4) – sRGB (AMOLED Basic), Adobe RGB (AMOLED Photo), DCI-P3 (AMOLED Cinema). There is also the default Adaptive mode, which has the widest color gamut, and it is calibrated for popping (vivid) colors (avg deltaE of 6.1).

So, the Galaxy A8 (2018) not only comes with an immersive and high-res AMOLED screen, but its panel is nothing short of class-leading.

Battery life

There’s a 3,000mAh battery inside the Galaxy A8 (2018), which should be enough for some good power autonomy enhanced by the efficient AMOLED and the 14nm chipset. There is fast charging supported which should fill about 40% of a depleted battery in half an hour.

In our testing, the Galaxy A8 (2018) clocked in 17 hours looping videos and around eleven and a half hours when browsing the web over Wi-Fi. In voice calls, it is close to a full day. Frugal standby consumption helped achieve an overall Endurance rating of 92 hours. The Always-On Display was turned off by default and we kept it this way for our standby test. Keeping it on will noticeably diminish the endurance rating.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review

Our endurance rating denotes how long a single battery charge will last you if you use the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. We’ve established this usage pattern so our battery results are comparable across devices in the most common day-to-day tasks. The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you’re interested in the nitty-gritties. You can also check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we’ve tested will compare under your own typical use.

Audio output is nicely clean

The Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) performed nicely in the first part of our audio quality test. When working with an active external amplifier it produced perfectly clean output and matched that with nicely high volume.

Headphones introduced very little stereo crosstalk so the Galaxy A8 (2018) is much better in that aspect than most of the phones out there. They did bring some intermodulation distortion (which you don’t hear easily anyway) and dropped the loudness to just above average, but the rest of the output was unaffected. Overall this is some of the cleanest headphones output we’ve seen on any phone lately.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) +0.01, -0.03 -92.1 92.2 0.0038 0.0085 -90.0
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) (headphones) +0.30, -0.07 -91.7 91.8 0.022 0.206 -72.4
Samsung Galaxy S8+ +0.01, -0.03 -92.1 92.1 0.0020 0.0086 -92.5
Samsung Galaxy S8+ (headphones) +0.03, -0.03 -92.5 92.5 0.0024 0.046 -77.3
Oppo R11s +0.02, -0.02 -93.4 93.2 0.0025 0.012 -90.8
Oppo R11s (headphones) +0.20, -0.37 -93.4 93.0 0.015 0.320 -55.7
OnePlus 5T +0.01, -0.03 -94.0 94.0 0.0018 0.011 -93.7
OnePlus 5T (headphones) +0.15, -0.09 -94.3 94.3 0.0071 0.135 -60.1
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 +0.02, -0.02 -94.3 94.3 0.0038 0.0072 -93.5
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 (headphones) +0.31, -0.01 -93.3 93.3 0.016 0.243 -63.8
LG V30 +0.02, -0.01 -93.2 93.1 0.0008 0.0069 -94.2
LG V30 (headphones) +0.03, -0.02 -92.9 92.9 0.0057 0.051 -68.1
HTC U11 +0.05, -0.11 -94.1 94.1 0.0017 0.0067 -94.5
HTC U11 (headphones) +0.05, -0.02 -93.7 93.8 0.0018 0.105 -53.7

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) frequency response
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) frequency response
You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

Loudspeaker

The Galaxy A8 (2018) has a single speaker at its disposal. It is positioned on the right frame above the power button, which, while a little unorthodox, should protect it from accidental muffling in most situations. It is also quite loud, scored a “Very Good” mark in our test, and subjectively – it has a rich and deep sound output.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Sony Xperia XA1 61.7 69.7 71.8 Average
Samsung Galaxy A8 66.7 66.6 75.7 Good
Samsung Galaxy S8 66.2 70.5 72.5 Good
OnePlus 5T 68.4 73.2 69.9 Good
Oppo R11s 67.8 72.9 73.3 Good
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) 66.6 66.1 81.5 Good
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 69.2 70.6 81.6 Very Good
Huawei Mate 10 Lite 67.8 71.0 84.5 Very Good
Xiaomi Mi A1 74.0 73.9 90.4 Excellent

Camera

Camera

The Galaxy A8 (2018) is equipped with a 16MP rear camera with an f/1.7 aperture lens – that’s the same resolution as the previous generation, only with a brighter lens. It’s got phase detection autofocus, but no optical stabilization. There’s a trusty old single LED flash – it’s how Samsung rolls.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review

The camera interface is quite familiar – swiping down will switch between the front and back camera. Left brings up a panel with filters (no download option, though). Right lands you on a shooting mode selector. Oddly, the HDR selector (auto, on, off) has been hidden in the camera settings.

A Pro mode is present, though that’s a huge overstatement – you get control over exposure compensation, ISO and white balance presets, plus a metering mode selector, but no manual focus and no manual shutter speed. Not the “Pro” we were hoping for.

Anyway, enough with the interface, let’s look at some pictures.

Image quality is quite good, with low noise and minimal signs of noise reduction. There is more than enough detail, but sometimes the foliage can get messy. Colors are pleasingly vivid too, without being over the top.

The dynamic range is about average, but we noticed the camera always brought more detail than we’d expect in the shadows.

Just like it happens with other Samsung samples, you may notice some sharpening halos and some over-sharpened building edges. But none of those were extreme, though.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/5025s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/3115s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/2513s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/3205s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/3597s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/3115s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/2058s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP camera samples

There is HDR Auto available, but it’s inside the Settings menu. We rarely had to rely on HDR as the phone brings enough detail in the shadows. Forcing the HDR on won’t enhance the shadows, but will decrease the highlights blowout a bit.

HDR off - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/3311s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review HDR on - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1021s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
HDR off • HDR on

Thanks to the wide f/1.7 aperture, the Galaxy A8 (2018) shoots nice low-light photos. Its shutter speed can go as slow as 1/17s without OIS, but it turned enough for some good photos. There is noise, sure, but also more than enough detail for the class.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP low-light samples - f/1.7, ISO 1250, 1/10s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP low-light samples - f/1.7, ISO 1000, 1/10s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP low-light samples - f/1.7, ISO 1250, 1/10s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP low-light samples - f/1.7, ISO 640, 1/17s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP low-light samples - f/1.7, ISO 1000, 1/10s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP low-light samples - f/1.7, ISO 1000, 1/10s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP low-light samples

We’ve seen higher-res panoramas than the 1,800px-tall snaps coming out of the Galaxy A8 (2018), but their quality is quite good with lots of detail, low-noise, good dynamic range, even exposure, and no stitching traces.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) panorama - f/1.7, - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) panorama

And here are the shortcuts to the Photo compare tool, where you can pixel-peep to your heart’s content. We’ve pre-selected the Galaxy A7 (2017) and the Oppo R11s, but you can pick any two of the smartphones we’ve tested.

Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
Galaxy A8 (2018) vs. A7 (2017) vs. Oppo R11s in our Photo compare tool

Selfie camera

In a Samsung-first, the Galaxy A8 (2018) comes with a dual front-facing camera. It’s a 16MP+8MP pairing, each with an f/1.9 aperture, with a fixed focus plane.

The lack of auto focus doesn’t mean the camera is not capable of some focus tricks. The A8 (2018) comes with Live focus in particular – a feature, which allows variable defocusing of the background before or after the shot has been taken. It’s probably the dual front camera’s raison d’être.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review

The 8MP snapper has slightly wider lens – it’s an equivalent of 24mm while the regular one is 27mm.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review

The 16MP selfie samples are among the best we’ve seen to date with plenty of captured detail, superb colors and contrast, very good dynamic range.

They are not as sharp as the regular photos, but that’s maybe a good thing as they show a more mature processing. Overall, this 16MP selfie camera easily gets our praise and makes it on our top picks list.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP selfies - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/1563s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP selfies - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/103s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP selfies - f/1.9, ISO 64, 1/50s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP selfies - f/1.9, ISO 125, 1/50s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP selfies

The 8MP snapper is equally capable, though sometimes it may produce slightly warmer colors. Other than that – it’s as great and recommended for group shots because of the wider lens.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 8MP selfies - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/2222s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 8MP selfies - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/149s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 8MP selfies

And here is a side-by-side comparison, shot in the “immersive” format.

Regular selfie - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/74s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review group selfie - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/149s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Regular selfie • group selfie

Finally, you can use the Live Focus feature to blur the background of the 16MP shots. The method softens the images, but the subject separation is done in a very pleasant way with no visible image artefacts. It’s not a clean-cut separation, but more of a gradual blur, but we prefer this way in mobile photography as the photos look more natural than the ones with messed up hair, ears, sweaters.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP selfie samples with blurred background - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/3012s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP selfie samples with blurred background - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/212s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP selfie samples with blurred background - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/25s - Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) 16MP selfie samples with blurred background

Video camera

The Galaxy A8 (2018) captures video up to 1080p/30fps, so no 4K recording out of this one. There is an option to capture 2,220 x 1,080 px videos, but those would look natural only on your Galaxy and nowhere else.

There is no OIS available on the Galaxy A8 (2018), but there is some kind of EIS enabled for all video modes.

The A8’s videos are encoded with a 17Mbps bitrate, the usual number, while audio gets a generous 256Kbps, stereo.

The FullHD video output is good, with nice levels of detail and low noise. Colors are rendered quite well too. Audio, by the way, is surprisingly clear, and it can’t be down to just the bitrate.

An unedited sample (10s, 22MB) straight out of the camera is waiting for you to download from our server and examine in detail. You can also try this wide sample (10s, 24MB) shot in the odd aspect ratio that the screen has.

Finally, the Video compare tool is a good place to go and check how the A8 (2018)’s video output stacks up against the rest.

Alternatives, Pros and Cons, Verdict

The competition

We have to admit the pricing is not in favor of the Galaxy A8 (2018) at launch. While the suggested tag of €500 is about right for an upper tier mid-ranger, the competition won’t even need to put a fierce fight to make a statement.

Luckily, we all know that either operators or time will adjust that price accordingly, so while we are not happy with the price at launch, it will get realistic rather sooner than later. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at some of the A8’s alternatives.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review

An extra €50 on top of the €500 can get you the flagship Galaxy S8, which is hands-down the better phone. It’s got a better screen, chipset and main camera. This one is nearly a year-old and soon to be replaced though. Then there is the cheaper Galaxy A7 (2017), with a regular 5.7″ AMOLED screen, similar chip, and same camera sensor sans the secondary selfie one.

The OnePlus 5T also would tempt you with similar AMOLED screen with a tall aspect ratio. It also offers a much faster processor and graphics, and dual-cam on the back.

Finally, the Huawei Mate 10 Lite is also worth checking out with classy design, capable chip, and four snappers – two at the back and two for selfies. Oh, and it’s much cheaper. Though honestly, it’s perhaps not in the same league as the Galaxy A8 (2018).

Samsung Galaxy S8 Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) OnePlus 5T Huawei Mate 10 Lite
Samsung Galaxy S8 • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) • OnePlus 5T • Huawei Mate 10 Lite

The Verdict

The new Galaxy A8 (2018) turned out somewhat of a rebel. We thought it’s going to be a ‘lite’ version of the Galaxy S8, but it grew above these expectations. The fingerprint scanner is also finally at the right spot.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) review

The A8 also offers a double cam for selfies, pretty functional at that.

Finally, when it comes to software, the Galaxy A8 (2018) might lack Oreo at launch, but it packs all the tricks the S8 series had in the bag, and then some.

Pros

  • Futuristic design, logical fingerprint scanner positioning
  • Class-leading Super AMOLED screen
  • Great battery life at 92 hours, fast charging
  • Excellent choice of processor with powerful A73 cores
  • Impressive image quality (both rear and selfie) for the class

Cons

  • No 4K video recording
  • Mediocre GPU
  • No Oreo at launch
  • Pricey

If it wasn’t for the pricey tag, we would have recommended the Galaxy A8 (2018) in a heartbeat. Which doesn’t make it a bad phone, on the contrary – it is a great all-round smartphone and probably one of the most well-done mid-rangers right now. We hope that once its price settles down in a few weeks (or months) – the Galaxy A8 (2018) will become the hot pick it was designed to be.

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