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Samsung Galaxy A8

Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Samsung’s mid-range OnePlus 6 rival

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
449
inc VAT

With a dual front-facing camera and an edge-to-edge screen, Samsung’s Galaxy A8 sets its sights on the OnePlus 6

Pros 
Bezel-less design
Pixel perfect display
Long-lasting battery life
Cons 
Same price as the (better) OnePlus 6
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The OnePlus 6 arrived with thunderous applause, possessing all the necessary credentials for mid-range smartphone dominance. It’s well priced and with a fancy design, speedy internals and one of the best smartphone cameras on the market, it’s already rocketing its way up the smartphone hierarchy.

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But what if Samsung was to defy the OnePlus 6’s well-priced conqueror at the final hour? Well, that’s precisely what the Korean giant is trying to achieve with the flagship-beating Galaxy A8 – and it’s perfectly poised to stop OnePlus’ mighty smartphone dead in its tracks.

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Samsung Galaxy A8 review: What you need to know

Samsung’s Galaxy A8 is the latest in a long line of mid-range smartphones to release this year. Equipped with a 5.6in, 2,220 x 1,080 resolution display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio – the first non-flagship all-screen phone from the company – the A8 is all set to steal OnePlus’ crown.

Samsung’s own 2.2GHz Exynos 7885 processor performs all the busy work on the inside, working with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage. The rear camera is a 16-megapixel f/1.7 sensor, with a dual (16-megapixel and 8-megapixel) selfie arrangement on the front.

Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Price and competition

The Samsung Galaxy A8 costs £449 in the UK. At that price, its closest competitor is the superb OnePlus 6, which is already making a good impression at £469. The Nokla 7 Plus is also a decent alternative at £349, as is the Honor 10 (£399).

Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Design

In a first for the A-series range of phones – or anything outside of its own flagship handsets – Samsung’s Galaxy A8 has a 5.6in notch-less edge-to-edge display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio. The bezels are slightly chunkier than they are on the top-end Galaxy range, though, with the front of the phone looking more like the Pixel 2 XL than one of Samsung’s glitzy flagships.

Things are more recognisable on the rear of the phone. Here, you’ll spot the now-familiar square camera housing placed in the center, although the fingerprint reader has shifted, and is now sensibly located under the rear camera.

Elsewhere, the volume rocker is on the left edge of the phone sitting next to the SIM and MicroSD card tray, with the power button placed on the right. The USB-C port, with Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging support, sits comfortably at the bottom, where it’s flanked by the 3.5mm headphone jack.

A layer of Gorilla Glass 4 is fitted on the back of the phone for added protection from drops and scrapes, though this does attract fingerprints quite easily. The A8 is also IP68 dust- and water-resistant and can be submerged up to a depth of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. The phone is available in three different colours: black, gold and orchid grey.

Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Display

As usual, the Galaxy A8 benefits from Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen technology, so you can expect effectively perfect contrast levels and class-leading image quality out of the box.

And that’s precisely what our X-Rite colorimeter tells us. The A8’s display reached a perfect Infinity:1 contrast ratio on the phone’s “basic” display profile, with an sRGB colour gamut coverage of 98% and an average Delta E of 2, making for a screen that is capable of producing accurate, vibrant colours across the entire palette.

Maximum brightness is decent as well, reaching a peak of 338cd/m2 on manual mode. Flick on auto-brightness – which adapts the display brightness depending on the surrounding light levels – and the A8’s screen reached a dazzling 810cd/m2.

There's also support – for the first time in Samsung's mid-range price bracket – for the company's Samsung Gear VR headset, although since the resolution and pixel density are lower than its flagships, images don’t look as crisp through your high-tech goggles as they do with Samsung's pricier phones.

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Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Performance and battery life

Behind the screen, Samsung has added something new to its mid-range lineup. There’s no configuration discrepancy for once: all customers are served by Samsung’s own octa-core 2.2GHz Exynos 7885 processor no matter where they live. There’s also 4GB of RAM for multitasking and 32GB of onboard storage, expandable up to 400GB via microSD.

And as for performance, well, the A8 doesn’t perform quite as well as the rest of 2018’s mid-rangers. Running the Geekbench 4 multi- and single-core tests, Samsung’s latest phone reached 1,526 and 4,348 respectively, delivering a massive 99% jump in overall performance over last year’s Galaxy A5, but still lagging behind many of its rivals.

It’s a similar story when it comes to gaming performance. An average 15fps in the GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 on-screen test proves that the ARM Mali-G71 MP2 GPU isn’t hugely powerful. Anecdotally, the A8 struggled to handle some of the Google Play store’s more graphically intensive titles, including Playerunknown's Battlegrounds, at stable frame rates.

Battery life, on the other hand, is much better. With a 3,000mAh battery, the A8 ran for 17hrs and 33mins in our continuous video playback test before switching off, making it every bit as long-lasting as the OnePlus 6.

Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Camera

A smartphone’s camera is only growing more important – especially in the mid-range price bracket – and here the Galaxy A8 doesn’t disappoint, at least as far as the specifications are concerned.

Out back, you’ll find a 16-megapixel f/1.7 unit complete with phase-detect autofocus and a single LED flash, although, unlike the OnePlus 6, this sensor isn’t optically stabilised. You might have spotted the dual camera arrangement on the front, too, which works in a similar way to the set-up on Sony’s Xperia XA2. The main front-facing camera is a 16-megapixel f/1.7 unit while the secondary 8-megapixel camera is used for depth detection, which allows you to live-preview a selfie with a portrait bokeh effect.

Back to the rear camera, which performed very well in our photography tests. Outdoors, and in plenty of light, the sensor captured images with oodles of detail, particularly in neighbouring brickwork and tree foliage. Colours are accurately judged, and the wide aperture helps ensure shots in good light aren’t hideously overexposed.

Things aren’t so impressive when the light dims, however, and this is where the A8 stumbles when put side-by-side with the OnePlus 6. Images in low-light conditions were filled with grain and visual noise. Worse, they’re heavily over-processed and objects lack detail – which you can see from the bear in my test shots.

The Galaxy A8 isn’t capable at shooting video at 4K resolution either, with the maximum video footage capped at the screen’s native resolution (2,220 x 1,080). Video footage, however, does benefit from electronic image stabilisation (EIS).

Samsung Galaxy A8 review: Verdict

Almost everything here is above board, but the burning question is whether there’s still room for a mid-range Samsung phone in 2018. With OnePlus and Honor dominating the charts, whatever Samsung manages to produce faces an uphill struggle – and I think the Galaxy A8 is no exception.

Buy Samsung Galaxy A8 from Vodafone

The A8 is a good-enough smartphone in its own right, managing to nail most of the necessary hallmarks of smartphone greatness, but the OnePlus 6 is just too strong for its reign to end this soon. And, if I’m honest, its very existence has reset the benchmark, making any mid-range smartphone launch from here on out very tricky indeed, not just for Samsung, but everyone else.

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