Samsung Galaxy A8+ (2018) Review: Truly a OnePlus 5T Killer?

The smartphone market saw a major shift in phone designs last year. Gone were those ugly thick bezels, instead, we saw a new revolution where the screen was the show-stopper. The new 18:9 aspect ratio of the phone screen was a trend that the whole industry wholeheartedly embraced. 

Whether it was a premium phone or a pocket-friendly one, the 18:9 ratio found its fan base among one and all.

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One of the first companies to adopt this design element was Samsung. Rechristened as Infinity Display, this new element was seen only in the 2017 flagships — the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ and the Galaxy Note8. Sadly, the lesser-known phones were barred from this design update. However, it changed soon with the release of the Samsung Galaxy A8+. 

The new Galaxy A8+ (2018) is the first non-flagship phone to sport the Infinity Display. However, that's not all that this new phone proudly boasts of. It's a powerful device with ample storage, speed, and a front dual camera — another first for the company.

However, what sets it apart is its price. It's retailing at just Rs 32,990. If you recollect, the Galaxy A series is Samsung's mid-range line-up designed for the ones who don't want to shell out huge bucks but definitely want more than what the budget series has to offer. But what makes it more interesting is that it's priced at the same price bracket as the OnePlus 5T.

So, is the Samsung Galaxy A8+ worth the Rs 32,990 price tag or is it just another mid-range smartphone? Let’s find out.

Design: Looks Good but With a Lot of Bulk

Staying true to its roots, the Galaxy A8+ sports a premium all-glass look. But when it comes to sleekness, the scenario changes drastically. 

Unlike the Galaxy A5 2017, the Galaxy A8+ is bulky and handling it with a single hand isn't a cakewalk. If we talk numbers, it's 8.3mm thick and weighs 191 grams.

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Thanks to the Infinity Display tag, the A8+ has shaved off its top and bottom bezels, akin to the Galaxy S8. However, it's similar to most of the new phones with 18:9 screen ratio and lacks the magical touch of the Galaxy S8's Infinity Display.

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Instead, we have slightly thicker bezels on the sides that thankfully, seem to appear only when you look for it. In case of regular usage, the tall display makes up for it.

Luckily, the A8+ has the fingerprint sensor below the rear camera

Speaking of the evolutionary tweaks, the front and the rear beautifully blends with the matte metal body. The tall Infinity Display also meant that the fingerprint sensor had to be shifted to the back. 

Luckily, the A8+ has the fingerprint sensor below the rear camera unlike its's pricey siblings and is easily reachable. Nevertheless, I ended up smudging the camera lens on more than one occasions. 

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Unlike the recently released OnePlus 5T, the rear is smooth and doesn't have the camera module bulging out. When it comes to the fittings, the power button is on the right side while the volume rockers and the secondary SIM tray is to the left.

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At the top, you'll find the primary SIM tray flanked on both sides by discreet antenna lines. We got the Black variant and the antenna lines seamlessly blended with the rest of the body. 

You'll find the USB Type-C charging port at the bottom, flanked on one side by the mic and the 3.5-mm headphone port.

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The point where it breaks away from the conventional design is the placement of the speaker grills. Unlike its older sibling, the Galaxy A8+ has the speaker on the right edge, positioned just above the power button. If you ask me, this design tweak is a welcome change. 

Often when listening to music or watching videos, I tend to hold the phone from the bottom edge, thus blocking the audio output. With this change, the audio flows out freely howsoever I am holding the phone.

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Coming to the build quality, the Galaxy A8+ is sturdy. Thanks to the Gorilla Glass protection, it should be able to handle short falls with grace. Plus, the IP68 rating makes it safe from dust and water.

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Overall, the design is premium and the shiny glass gives it a rich look. However, it's the size that may pose a problem, especially if you are one who has switched from a smaller phone. Plus, getting used to the 191 grams of the Galaxy A8+ is no mean feat!

Display: Samsung's Might Done Right

Device displays have always been Samsung's forte and the one on the Galaxy A8+ justifies this statement to the T. It sports a 6-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED (1080x2220) display with a pixel density of 410 ppi.

However, don't let the ‘1080p’ tag deter you from buying it. Even its strong contender, the OnePlus 5T, sports a 1080p display resolution.

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The 6-inch display is rich, sharp, and bright with the color reproduction just about perfect. Tweaking the display resolution is still a flagship-only feature and hasn't made its way to the Samsung Galaxy A8+.

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On a brighter note, it boasts of an Always-on Display (AOD), which is now seen in most of the mid-tier offerings. This feature shows all the important information such as time, battery level, and notifications even when the screen is off.

The Always-On Display feature can be customized according to your preference.

If you ask me, the Samsung AOD is one of its cherished features. Not only does it let you know every important notification at one glance, but can also be customized according to your preference.

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When it comes to sunlight legibility, I found it to be on par with most of the premium phones. The usual hassles like cranking up the brightness manually were taken care of by the automatic brightness indicator.

Hardware and Performance: Go Speed Racer

The Galaxy A8+ is powered by the in-house Exynos 7885 octa-core (2.2GHz Dual + 1.6GHz Hexa) processor and 6GB RAM. The Exynos 7885 is a fairly new mid-range processor and is equivalent to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset.

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Apart from the laggy TouchWiz, the overall performance is smooth and lag-free. Given that I switched over from the Galaxy Note8, I did notice some lag and hiccups initially.

However, over time, these weren't that frequent and, to be frank, can be found in almost all the mid-range phones. After all, there will be some difference when it comes to the Exynos 7-series and 8-series.

I did notice some lags and hiccups initially.

Rest assured that these hiccups won't get in the way of your regular course of work.

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When it comes to measuring the performance of the Galaxy A8+, the AnTuTu benchmarking tool clocked a score of 70014, which is quite obvious for a device with these specs. 

If you recollect, the Galaxy A5 had clocked 60054 points while the more recent Xiaomi Mi A1 clocked 62959 on Antutu.

The Galaxy A8+ clocked a score of 70014 on the AnTuTu benchmarking tool

But then, let’s not go into benchmarks, as we know how companies play with these numbers. On the temperature front, I didn't find any unnatural heating issue during my time with it. 

Software: Still on Nougat

Moving on, the Samsung Galaxy A8+ still runs Android Nougat on top of the in-house TouchWiz. It's a tad disappointing for a phone, which comes with a 2018 tag in its name. 

The Android O update is on the cards, however, I would take that with a pinch of salt since the 2017 flagships are yet to see the Android O update globally.

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Nonetheless, the security patch is latest and the one on our review unit is dated 1st Jan 2018. Personally speaking, I find the TouchWiz interface to be a little slow. Even in the high and mighty Galaxy S8, the response took a little too long and the same can be said about the Galaxy A8+. 

It isn't dramatically slow but those extra nano-seconds that it takes to return the results would seem annoying in the long run. 

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On the security front, the device is protected by the in-house Samsung Knox, which provides chip-level encryption. An offspring of Knox is the Secure Folder app, which creates a safe haven for all your important files by encrypting it.

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But what I particularly like about Samsung phones since the past one year is the ability to do cashless transactions, thanks to Samsung Pay. 

Its ability to use both the NFC and the MST technology to make transfers makes it super handy while shopping, even if it's your regular grocery shopping.

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Lastly, the A8+ comes with a built-in blue-light filter, scrollable screenshots, game booster and a horde of Samsung apps (read bloatware) and, of course, Bixby Vision and Bixby Home. 

The Face Unlock feature also makes an appearance in the A8+ and comes with its share of misses more than hits. Sometimes, all it takes is a mere set of glass to fool it. Plus, it doesn't work in dark.

The Samsung Galaxy A8+ is also the first non-flagship to ship with Bixby Vision and Bixby Home. Just a swipe to the right and you'd find your calendar and social media handles arranged neatly under one roof. The same can be said about Bixby Vision.

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Whether you need a similar product from the Internet or built-in OCR to extract text, Bixby Vision has them all. But, to be frank, the Samsung smart assistant is a mere gimmick for now for a regular user. More often than not, I found myself looking for the Google Assistant.

Camera: Far From Perfect

Another first that the Galaxy A8/A8+ boast of is the front dual-camera setup. It has a 16-megapixel sensor and an 8-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/1.9 at the front. The rear camera is a 16-megapixel sensor with a f/1.7 aperture.

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The front lenses take admirable shots in the portrait mode. Similar to the Galaxy Note8, the background blur can be adjusted as per your preference while the shot is being taken, or even later when you have time.

Unlike some of the recent phones such as the Honor 9, the blur seems natural. What's more? It handles the faint edges such as hair quite well. Following are some sample photos taken from the front camera.

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Thanks to the f/1.7 aperture of the rear camera, the Galaxy A8+ can capture decent low-light shots with less noise and enhanced clarity. When compared to the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2's low light shots that come in the same price range, the Galaxy A8+ comes out as a clear winner.

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However, it's not all hale and hearty when it comes to the night shots. At times, the exposure needs to be set manually to get the real feel of the nocturnal settings. But, then again, the exposure issue is a problem seen in mostly all Samsung phones.

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Low exposure settings

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Normal exposure settings

When it comes to daylight shots, the Galaxy A8+ captures great pictures. In ideal conditions, it can bring even the minute things into the focus. However, it's the focus that is a bit problematic.

Unless you tap on the object, the viewfinder would still show you a blurred background.

Unless you tap on the object, the viewfinder would still show you a blurred background and the same would be replicated on your pictures.

I found it annoying as I didn't have both my hands free every time to take pictures. The following are some of the photo samples, taken after setting the right focus.

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The camera app comes with plenty of options and features such as camera modes, stickers, and Bixby Vision. Plus, it's easy to navigate around. Well, that’s the one thing about Samsung, they can never go wrong with the camera interface.

Overall, the camera experience was good, however, it felt a little half-baked. Something in the camera output was clearly missing, leaving me wanting for more.  

Battery: One Day of Bliss

The device is powered by a 3500mAh battery unit and promises a great battery life. And, staying true to it, the phone easily lasts a day even for a power user.

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On a regular day involving phone calls, net-browsing, online streaming of videos and songs, it took more than 24 hours for the battery level to come down to 8%. 

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Moreover, the Galaxy A8+ comes with a fast charge adapter. Though it's not as quick as Qualcomm's Quick Charge, the turnaround time for a full charge was pretty decent. It took around one and a half hour for the battery level to reach 100% from 8%.

My Verdict

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy A8+ is a great phone with a decent battery life, great processor, and a great front dual-camera setup. Given that it carries some notable Galaxy Note8 features like Live Focus, the IP68 rating and the popular Infinity display make it a great buy.

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What's more? I found the battery life commendable. Previously, I was used to charging my old phone twice a day. With the Galaxy A8+, I could easily make past the once-a-day-charging routine easily. And if luck were on my side (more work and no play), it can even stretch for a day and a half.

But the phone isn't without its share of flaws and limitations. For one, I found the focus issue of the rear camera really annoying. Secondly, apart from being thick and heavy, the Galaxy A8+ is big ... big enough not to fit into regular trouser pockets. Plus, the big side bezels is a big let down for me.

So, will you buy the Galaxy A8+? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.