- The excellent Super AMOLED screen is great for a device in this price range
- Triple cameras are disappointing in terms of quality
The mid-range segment smartphone is a very competitive space these days with the likes of Asus, Xiaomi, Oppo and Honor all competing for top position. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Samsung launched its proverbial hat in the ring in the form of Galaxy A7 (2018).
However, does the A7 really have what it takes to outdo the rest?
To stand out in the mid-range game, Samsung knows it needs a killer and iconic design. He opted for a shiny glass back which is amazing to see, but unfortunately is quite slippery. On several occasions, the phone has also slipped from the desk, so you definitely need to wrap it in a case if you want it to be whole.
The A7 comes in three distinct colors: black, gold and blue, which we receive as our review template. Blue is definitely the most striking of the lot and it's a pretty nice color to look at honestly.
You can not talk about the A7 without talking about the huge 6-inch Super AMOLED screen. Simply put, the resolution looks great and the colors are beautiful. If there is any criticism, it is that the large frames on the side spoil the appearance of the phone.
Another point of contention are the plastic sides. Although it looks like a polished metal, it actually does not have the high quality feel you would expect.
This is the first time that Samsung integrates the fingerprint reader with the power button. Certainly it is unusual because the only other phone that did this was the Sony Xperia line. While the reader is quite fast, it seems strange to unlock it with the right thumb and the left index finger.
But the fingerprint reader is not the only way to unlock the A7 using biometrics. It has a face unlock feature that is no different from that found on more sophisticated Samsung phones. Granted, it's not as responsive or precise as I'd like it to be, but it's useful to have, though.
The rear window and fingerprint reader on the side are not the only defining features of the A7. The back contains the famous triple camera, another novelty for Samsung.
However, the biggest disappointment in the A7 is the fact that it uses a dated micro USB port. Nestled between a single speaker and a 3.5mm headphone jack, the micro USB port should be switched to the newest and fastest Type-C port.
In addition, the other disadvantage of the A7 is the lack of weather protection. Unlike the more advanced cousins, like the Galaxy S9, the A7 is vulnerable to water, so be careful not to wet it.
Taking a peek under the hood, the A7 is powered by a Samsung Exynos 7 Octa 7885 chip. Now this is a mid-range chip perfectly suited for a phone in this range and is at the same level as Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600.
My A7 evaluation unit came with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. Although 64 GB of RAM does not look like much, it is fortunate that there is an expansion slot for microSD cards that supports storage expansion.
Putting the A7 on the pace of benchmarks, the phone earned a very respectable score that indicates that it is at least a phone capable of daily use. In fact, you could say that it works better than the Snapdragon 636 chip from Qualcomm.
All those numbers aside, I had no problem using the A7 in real-world conditions with all applications running smoothly without any delay or slow down. While browsing Chrome, checking for deals on Lazada or Shopee to watch YouTube videos, A7 worked fine.
Now the games are not the best on the A7 and you may need to turn graphics settings on demanding games to medium or low if you want to get the best experience. That said, the screen is great for consuming content and playing games, so that's a consolation.
The A7's unique speaker on the bottom proved to be normal in terms of audio performance. The lack of a second front speaker means it does not sound so good and sounds horizontally.
Packing a 3,300mAh battery, I do not think the A7 would not work exceptionally well. It is true that I could get about an entire day of use from about nine to ten hours with a charge. However, since it boasts an older micro USB port, I missed the ability to charge quickly with the phone.
Coming to the most talked about feature of the A7: the array of triple cameras. It consists of a main 24 Megapixel camera with a f / 1.8 aperture along with a 5 megapixel secondary camera that is essentially a deep camera to help the A7 capture bokeh images.
Last but not least, the 8-megapixel wide-angle f / 2.4 aperture is useful for capturing panoramic landscapes or when you need to capture more in a scene.
As far as quality is concerned, the main camera takes decent pictures in daylight, but the sharpness and detail suffer greatly with less ideal lighting conditions.
In addition to normal Auto mode, you can toggle between other modes such as Pro mode and Scene Optimizer, a new Galaxy Note 9 feature. Disappointingly, Pro mode lacks true manual controls and offers only basic settings such as adjusting ISO, exposure, and white balance. I suppose this should not be too surprising given your budget stature, but it would have been nice.
The Scene Optimizer should take advantage of the camera's ability to recognize the scene and recommend appropriate settings to better capture it. This does not work in Wide Angle mode, however.
In my experience using wide-angle mode, I found that it works best when capturing scenes in very sunny conditions. However, the smaller aperture, lower megapixel and lack of optical image stabilization (OIS) have resulted in many muddy scenes indoors or in low light.
In terms of video quality, I'd say you should not expect too much from the A7. Not surprisingly, given its mid-range status, I was limited to shooting videos in Full HD resolution. The absence of OIS also affected A7's video performance, resulting in many unstable videos.
Although I must praise Samsung for trying to enter the crowded mid-range segment, the reality is that at $ 310 (RM1,299), the A7 is simply not very competitive. Possibly the strongest reason to choose the A7 is if you love Samsung's sharp Super AMOLED screen and value more than anything else. It looks great and you will not regret it if you want to watch many videos or browse your phone.
But in addition, the mid-range processor of the A7 is outpaced at this price. While not terrible for day-to-day use, I have to take into account that there are similarly priced brands out there that stack flagship class processors in their mid-range offerings.
Not to help is the fact that the much talked about set of triple cameras sounds better on paper than in actual use. Choosing a wide angle camera opens up different possibilities, but the lack of OIS really hinders your photo and video performance.
So if you're in the market for a fantastic display with decent performance, the A7 is for you. Otherwise, you may want to check out the many other offers in the market.