Samsung Galaxy A7: highlights but not where you expect them
The Galaxy A7’s three cameras didn’t blow my socks off – after all, there’s already a smartphone with five lenses. But the Galaxy A7 (2018) still comes recommended as a well-kept secret.
As it happens, the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) is old news. The Galaxy A9 and its four cameras have already been presented, making the Galaxy A7 a kind of inbetween phone.
Since I already promised you a test of the Galaxy A7 in my last article and some users sent in e-mail requests for the very same thing, I decided to road-test the phone for a week.
And what did I think of the Galaxy? I liked it a lot… but not because of its three cameras. They’re OK but they’re not the highlight. That’s something completely different. But all in good time, kids. Let’s start at the beginning.
This is the third time a phone gets christened the Galaxy A7. As with the other mobiles in the A series, the A7 features the model name. It’s somewhat confusing. That’s probably why Samsung has put the year at the end of the title. In other words, the phone’s full name is the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018).
CHF 249.–was 299.–1
Galaxy A7 (6", 64GB, Dual SIM, 24MP, Blue)
Triple camera at a fair price
CHF 268.–was 299.–1
Galaxy A7 (6", 64GB, Dual SIM, 24MP, Gold)
Triple camera at a fair price
Galaxy A7 (6", 64GB, Dual SIM, 24MP, Black)
Triple camera at a fair price
Coming in at six inches, the A7 is really quite big. It also has rather thick edges – they’re particularly noticeable on the top and bottom. However, like all Samsung phones, the A7 doesn’t have a notch. In spite of the phone’s size, it’s rather light and only weighs 166 grammes. To put that into perspective, the smaller iPhone XS is 11 grammes heavier. A combination of the A7’s weight and size means the phone sits comfortably in my hand.
The A7 is big and thin
The port story
I’m pleased to say the A7 boasts a headphone jack, as these have become something of a rarity. Another now uncommon sight, but one that is definitely not good, is the micro USB charging connection the A7 comes with. You can forget fast charging. And at 3300 mAh, the battery isn’t particularly big.
In short: if you’re a heavy-duty user, you’re unlikely to be thrilled with this battery. If, on the other hand, you’re only a moderate user or you can charge it up at the office like I can, the battery won’t cause you any problems.
The micro connector. I lost track of the number of times I plugged the cable in the wrong way round
At least I only need one charging cable, as I still have the old type of headphones that require a micro connector. But that’s probably the only advantage.
First highlight: the display
Samsung has also treated the lower-priced phones to an AMOLED display. Yay! I reckon the display is one of the highlights of the A7. Some users find the Samsung displays oversaturated or unnatural, but that’s not the experience I had with the A7. If you don’t like the display, you can alter the colours in the settings.
The resolution is 1080 × 2220 pixels, which is more than on the new iPhone XR. I watched Netflix on the A7 a fair bit when I was out and about. The display looked good and all the details displayed nicely. Thanks to the 18.5:9 aspect ratio, the edges are minimal.
The A7 also features an Always On display. This isn’t just practical, it also looks great with the white display against the black OLED.
The Always On Display is nothing to be sneezed at
The reverse of my model of the phone comes in a gorgeous, reflective blue. Unfortunately, this attracts fingerprints and makes it look like you have sweaty hands the whole time. The phone is also really slippy. My boyfriend put it on a fabric chair and it slid onto the ground all by itself.
Beautiful and slippery
New fingerprint sensor
Hot on the heels of Sony, Samsung built a fingerprint sensor into the side of the phone. It was a success for the company right off the bat. The sensor really is sensational. It’s quick and it responds reliably – even with wet or mucky fingers.
But what I like most is that Samsung managed to put the fingerprint sensor in the perfect place. I always hold the phone with my thumb on the side, which is exactly where you’ll find the sensor on the A7. Other manufacturers place it under the glass or come up with other weird and wonderful ideas. Samsung presented a much more practical solution, which works just as well.
The sensor is under the volume buttons
You only realise how important the sensor is once you’ve had a phone with one that is too slow or not reliable. For me, fingerprint readers are one of the most important elements of a phone. Because let’s face it, that’s the part you need every time you want to use your mobile.
Let’s talk cameras
The cameras are supposed to be the highlights of the A7 (2018). Now, I’m not saying they’re bad by any means – especially not when you consider the price of the phone. But I don’t think they do enough to be bestowed the lofty title of highlight.
However, credit where it’s due: this is the first Samsung phone to launch with three cameras. Here’s a low-down on what it comes with:
- The main module of the camera features 24 megapixels and f/1.7 light intensity.
- The second camera is an ultra wide-angle lens, featuring 8 megapixels and an f/2.4 aperture.
- The third camera boasts 5 megapixels and an f/2.2 aperture. This is for depth of field or bokeh effect.
What I kept wondering was whether an ultra wide-angle lens would work with just 8 megapixels. The answer: it does. But only when you hold your phone absolutely still. Otherwise the image is blurry, especially at the edges. And as you’d expect with wide-angle lenses, there’s a certain amount of distortion. If you snap a shot of something with straight lines, you’ll see clearly what I mean.
Photo taken with the main camera
Shot taken with the wide-angle lens
You notice the 120 degree angle. But it comes into its own much more inside than if you photograph outside. When you shoot outdoors there’s a lot more in the picture, whereas a photo shoot inside will show more of the fisheye effect. You’re almost guaranteed to get this effect when you take a picture of the room from above.
The wide-angle lens is fun to try out and it certainly has its purpose. To give you an example, the wide-angle lets you get pretty much everything into the picture when you’re taking a photo of your flat. They’re also great for Instagram-friendly panorama images or for wide-angle shenanigans.
Shot taken on the main camera
Shot taken with the wide-angle lens
But in a lot of cases, you actually want to be as close to the subject as possible so you can capture the details. Obviously, for that kind of shot a wide-angle lens isn’t your best bet.
Foto-Kurztipp: Such die Nähe, Teil 2
A zoom lens, like the fourth lens on the A9 (2018), would perhaps have made more sense.
Side note: it’s best not to photograph people with a wide-angle lens. You’ve got two other cameras on the phone for that. They’re not bad but by the same token, they don’t blow me away.
As for the third camera, this is meant for capturing photos with bokeh effect. Samsung call it live focus. Usually, shots with a shallow depth of field come out really well.
Samsung’s three cameras
Sometimes the camera struggles to focus. But the phone makes up for it by allowing you to edit the bokeh images afterwards. This includes altering the focus so that a different section of the image has the limelight. As with a lot of other phones, the A7 also lets you alter the strength of the effect.
The 24-megapixel main camera captures sharp images at night. Unfortunately, the phone doesn’t come with an optical image stabiliser. When you’re in bad lighting conditions, you’ll notice this feature is lacking.
This image was taken without a tripod – taking that into account, I think it’s a pretty clean image
I felt like photos taken during the day were quickly overexposed. The good news is you can go into the photo menu where it’s easy to reduce the brightness yourself. After that, the lighting settings will be correct again.
Granted, it could be quicker but…
The Galaxy A7 features an Exynos 7885 processor. This is fourth newest Samsung processor. But sadly, it’s not particularly fast, especially when it comes to multitasking. That’s something you notice when you switch between two apps. The phone always takes a moment, and when you have lots of apps open at once you can tell the phone runs slower.
I mostly used gesture navigation to operate the phone – in other words, without pressing any buttons. This type of navigation worked well and it also let me see more of the screen.
Samsung claims to have built Dolby Atmos into their A7 phone. But purely from a technical point of view, this seems hard to believe. And the speakers sound just like a cheaper phone: high notes are clipped and if you play things too loud, everything sounds tinny.
The audio quality also annoyed me sometimes when using the phone for its initial purpose: phoning. But the issue only really stood out after an hour-long call. On the plus side, it does support Wi-Fi calling, which is something you can’t take for granted.
To be honest, I don’t mind compromising the slightly slower processor and not the best sound in the world for a lower price tag. After all, the phone has other advantages.
What’s nice is that the A7 still accepts two nano sim cards and a micro SD card. That’s something you see less and less these days.
There’s space for two nano cards and a memory card
Verdict: want a cheap phone? This is the insider’s pick
The A7 isn’t a phone for heavy-duty users and it’s by no means a flagship. But it is the insider’s pick for people who don’t want to drop hundreds of francs on a phone. The mobile is sturdy and has a few great highlights you’d be searching high and low for in phones within this price segment.
What you get is a unique, beautiful phone that offers great value for money. If you’re looking for a chic phone with a good OLED display, standard camera, great fingerprint sensor but without the notch, I can highly recommend the A7.
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