[Review] Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) – Triple Camera Tango

[Review] Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) – Triple Camera Tango

As Samsung’s first triple camera phone, the 2018 incarnation of the Galaxy A7 is an interesting proposition indeed. Rather than a flagship Galaxy S or Note series platform, Samsung introduced their latest triple camera array in a midrange workhorse.

Previously, we took a closer look and unboxed a unit of the Galaxy A7 intended for the European market. The primary difference with local Malaysian units is that it has a 3-pin UK style plug and a soft TPU casing to protect the casing on top of the obligatory charger and cable.

Galaxy A7 2018 front image

Externally, our test unit of the Samsung Galaxy A7 sports a mirrored metallic blue finish and sports a side-mounted fingerprint reader cum power button as well as a vertically aligned triple camera array on the back.

Fortunately, they’ve also retained a 3.5mm audio jack. Unfortunately they’ve yet to resolve the challenges that a fetching mirrored paint job brings to the party and the finish remains a fingerprint magnet that requires frequent wipedowns though the same holds true for many other phones in the market with similar paint jobs.

Galaxy A7 2018 bottom charger

In keeping with its midrange aspirations, the phone retains a microUSB port located at the base for charging and docking duties flanked by speaker grilles. For a midrange sub RM1.3K phone, the Galaxy A7 proves to be well built and surprisingly light too with a pleasant heft about it that makes it very wieldable one-handed.

The biggest quibble about its design though is that it does not have an IP rating, unlike its immediate predecessor from last year so some care must be taken to avoid it getting splashed or hit by liquids.

Galaxy A7 2018 rear

Galaxy A7 (2018) performance and specifications

Under the hood, the Galaxy A7 intended for the Malaysia market has a compelling feature set for what you pay for. In terms of hardware, the Galaxy A7 has a 6.0-inch Super AMOLED display with 2,220 x 1080 pixel resolution sheathed in Gorilla glass, an Exynos 7885 octacore processor, 4GB RAM and a generous 128GB of expandable storage.

Intended for midrange phones, the Exynos 7885 is an SoC of recent issue built on a 14nm FinFET process with a 1.6GHz Cortex A-53 hexacore for general light work, a 2.2GHz Cortex-A73 dual-core processor for more intensive work as well as a Mali-G71 GPU.


Galaxy A7 2018 side button detail

When subjected to benchmarks, the Galaxy A7 yielded a pretty good overall score for a midrange device that are on par and occasionally exceeding a Snapdragon 6XX series processor. In Geekbench 4, it got a single core score of 1,524 and a multi-core score of 4,415.

In other benchmarks, it had more pedestrian performance with a score of 5,417 in PCMark and in 3DMark’s Sling Shot Extreme OpenGL test, it got a score of 739 and in Sling Shot Extreme Vulkan it got a score of 692. In Antutu, it got a fair score of 120,728.

Under actual conditions, the Galaxy A7 proved fairly capable. Apps fired up in short order with minimal lag and it was able to tackle web browsing, YouTube, Netflix and a modicum of gaming without slowing down. For PUBG, the Galaxy A7 was able to tackle it under medium settings with a fairly smooth frame rate along with Asphalt 9 as well at a smooth clip.

Up front, the Galaxy A7’s Super AMOLED display served up vibrant hues onscreen veering towards the warm side of the spectrum with pleasantly deep blacks. Detail was sufficiently crisp with pin-sharp text onscreen and the panel was sufficiently bright enough to be legible under direct sunlight when dialled to maximum.

Galaxy A7 2018 and its scene recognition mode

Galaxy A7 2018 and its scene recognition mode

If the colour profile does not quite appeal, you can still tweak them as you see fit down to the exact red, green and blue levels you desire which is something many other competing brands don’t offer in their midrange phones. You can also activate their Always On mode that lets you see the time and other notifications at a glance onscreen without having to turn the phone on.

Audio quality from the sole speaker at the base of the phone was fair if unremarkable with just enough volume to hear a news broadcast in a busy restaurant. The bundled earbuds are rudimentary at best and have a relatively flat soundstage and middling treble along with being uncomfortable to wear after several hours. On the bright side, you can tweak your audio profile to taste and plugging in your own preferred pair of earbuds yields much better results.

In terms of performance, the Galaxy A7 is a fairly solid contender overall comparable with other phones in its price range but gains a slight edge on account of its vibrant Super AMOLED panel. Of particular note is that the Galaxy A7 supports Samsung Pay, making it one of the most affordable phones to get in on Samsung’s slick payment solution.

Galaxy A7 (2018) camera

The Galaxy A7 is the first phone from Samsung that integrates a triple camera array.  The primary camera consists of a 24-MP camera with an F/1.8 aperture complemented by a 5-MP f/2.2 camera for Live Focus mode to gather depth details in order to artfully defocus backgrounds when capturing portraiture.

The third 8-MP F/2.4 camera comes with a wide angle lens for scenery shots. One omission of note is that the camera array lacks optical image stabilisation on any of its cameras; a feature which is usually rarely present in this price point so you’ll need fairly steady hands and good lighting to ensure best results.

Much like last year’s Galaxy A7, the camera interface has a slider that lets you select various modes as needed with this year including a new Scene Optimiser mode that debuted on the Galaxy Note9 which tweaks settings for best results depending on what you’re shooting at.

The interface also has a new toggle that lets you swap between the primary camera and the wide angle one as needed. Unfortunately, Scene Optimiser mode doesn’t work with the wide angle camera, only the primary one. Live Focus mode also only works with the primary camera and not in Wide Angle or Pro mode.

One quibble is that the Pro mode on the A7 is substantially pared down from what you see on a Galaxy S series or Note series phone with, at most, basic settings to tweak ISO, White Balance and exposure. Presumably, this is to differentiate it from the higher end phones in Samsung’s stable though it would have been nice to this time around to have it in the Galaxy A7.

Under daylight conditions, the Galaxy A7’s primary camera performed well in auto mode and was fast on the draw with minimal shutter lag and the ability to capture good levels of detail and colour that are relatively shareworthy. The lack of optical image stabilisation is telling when undertaking low light shots which end up somewhat soft and grainy though they’re still usable for social media.  

Unlike the higher end Galaxy S and Note series models where Scene Optimiser mode is on by default, the Galaxy A7 sets it as a manually selectable mode separate from Auto. It takes a tad bit longer for it to recognise scenery, shrubbery and food but yields better results with more vibrant hues and an optimised palette that shows a recognised subject in its best light. Live Focus mode is particularly good with pretty accurate bokeh though it still occasionally flubs very fine details like hair.

One quibble is the aspheric distortion effect when using the wide angle lens though this is less pronounced when you’re taking group shots of people versus taking architecture where straight lines are more easily eyeballed.

Overall, the Galaxy A7’s triple camera array is a competent setup for most general purpose duties but falls short of excellence on account of the lack of OIS and, alas, the separation of Scene Optimiser as a separate mode and the simplified Pro manual mode. Even so, it remains quite a capable casual snapper for most scenarios.

Galaxy A7 (2018) battery life, price and conclusion

The Galaxy A7 comes with a non-removable 3,300mAh battery juiced by the aforementioned microUSB port. Under standard usage conditions with data constantly own for the better part of a working day, constant web browsing, some usage of GPS, an hour or two of streamed video, several hours of web browsing and constant texting and use of social media.

There was also a surreptitious game or two of PUBG and Clash Royale thrown in for good measure. This yielded enough endurance to last a day with about ten or so hours of active usage before it required a recharge. Alas, there’s no fast charging on the A7 so you’ll need a good couple of hours or so to fully charge the battery. This puts it on par and slightly above its compatriots in its price range.

As it stands, the latest incarnation of the Galaxy A7 is an interesting proposition. It offers performance and features equivalent to and slightly surpassing competing phones in its price range but tops the competition with a luscious Super AMOLED panel, scads of storage and a decent rear triple camera array though the lack of OIS and water resistance knock it down a pes. If you’re after a good looking camphone with Samsung’s quality Super AMOLED display and decent overall performance, this is well worth a whirl.

What we did Lots of storage, bright and vibrant display, good rear camera, excellent battery life, has Samsung Pay support
What we didn’t Finish is a fingerprint magnet, pro mode doesn’t offer many options, lacks water resistance
We say An aesthetically pleasing midrange workhorse that edges out over the competition with a vibrant Super AMOLED panel, generous amounts of storage and a novel rear triple camera.

Specifications
Price RM1,299
Display 6.0-inch Super AMOLED, 2,220 x 1080 pixels
Processor Exynos 7885 octacore
OS Android 8.0 Oreo
Memory 4GB RAM/128GB storage +microSD card
Camera 24-MP w/ F/1.7 + 8-MP F/2.4 (wide angle lens) + 5-MP F/2.2 (depth sensor) rear / 24-MP F/2.0 front
Battery 3,300mAh
Size/Weight 159.8 x 76.8 x 7.5 mm / 168g
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia

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