Samsung Galaxy A7 Review: Three-eyed phone with the lucky number ‘3’

By: | Published: October 21, 2018 5:55 PM

Samsung is vying for the top spot in the premium smartphone category and its new Galaxy A7 is the best candidate to help achieve it.

Samsung Galaxy A7 is the company’s first smartphone to have three main cameras

Samsung sprang into an immediate action when OnePlus outdid it earlier this year for having sold comparatively more units in the premium smartphone category. Since then, the company has doubled down on its foothold in the premium category after it faced an existential challenge in the entry-level and budget price categories. To maximise the efforts directed towards winning back the customers who fled elsewhere ruled by the likes of OnePlus and Xiaomi, Samsung found a subtle way to entice buyers with features previously unheard of. The Samsung Galaxy A7 is the testimony to the experiment.

The Samsung Galaxy A7 is the company’s first smartphone to sport three cameras. At first, it sounds like a novelty that would attract customers but turn out to be a mere gimmick. But, it’s the opposite. The three cameras are the three pillars of the smartphone that make it one of the appreciated camera smartphones in the price category. We say so because it should ideally have been a Galaxy S or Galaxy Note device to announce the firsts in the specifications list but Samsung is pinning big hopes on the Galaxy A7 with three cameras. Priced at Rs 23,990 for the base model, the Galaxy A7 is here to take on the rivals with the lucky number 3. Will Galaxy A7’s luck bear fruits for the company? Let’s find out.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Review: When craftsmanship marries luxury

Samsung Galaxy A7 Design, Display, and Hardware

Right off the bat, the Samsung Galaxy A7 is a well-crafted piece of glass and metal bodies. The 2.5D glass finish on the back gives the handset a premium look, which reasonably justifies the price and the ‘premium’ label attached to it. Of course, it is significantly better than the 2015 version but what sets it further apart is the shimmer that the rear end shows. That said, the glass finish is prone to fingerprints and may completely destroy that shimmer in seconds.

A metal frame is sandwiched between the two glass blocks and houses all the physical buttons on the device. The build is sturdy despite the use of glass on both the sides, which brings us to one of its byproducts – the heaviness. But the Galaxy A7 is not very heavy – you won’t feel its weight much while texting, watching videos, or browsing. We have received the Black colour model out of the three – Black, Blue, and Gold, but it looks grey largely because of the light striking the surface.

The rear of the Galaxy A7 has the three cameras equipped in a vertically long island, supported by a dual-tone LED flash just below it. There’s the Samsung logo emblazoned towards the upper middle. Usually, there is a fingerprint sensor on the back of Samsung devices but, as we mentioned Galaxy A7 is marking the introduction of many firsts, it has been relocated. The Galaxy A7 has the fingerprint sensor integrated into the power button that sits on the right side with a little concavity. The volume rockers are an inch above the power button. On the left side is the SIM tray silo that has three slots – two for SIM cards and one for the microSD card. On the top, there is a secondary microphone while the bottom edge has the 3.5mm headphone jack, Micro-USB port, main microphone, and the speakers.

Samsung earlier this year brought the AMOLED displays to as much down as the Galaxy J series that’s positioned in the lower mid- to upper mid-range. And when a smartphone goes uphill to reach the price points of any value higher than Rs 20,000, a lot of things are automatically anticipated to improve. The Samsung Galaxy A7 has a 6-inch full-HD+ Infinity Display that uses AMOLED panel, which means the colour reproduction is going to be richer, more vibrant than the previous models lacking it. Samsung is earning brownie points for not having succumbed to the ‘notch race’ in the industry and we hope it stays that way.

The display as large as this one has been crammed to the Galaxy A7 fascia despite its relatively dainty footprint. It has an 18:9 aspect ratio with thin bezels on the left and right sides but exactly opposite on the top and bottom sides. The display produces rich colours, however, slightly oversharpened sometimes but you can change that in the settings. The default Screen mode is set to ‘Adaptive Display’ that is ideally the best for any type of content you would see on the display. The sunlight legibility of the display is good on full brightness – you would not need squinting your eyes to read finer texts.

Ever since Xiaomi was called out for missing the Widevine L1 DRM standard on its flagship Poco F1, every other smartphone maker is making sure they distinctly scream about its presence on their respective handsets. The Samsung Galaxy A7 supports the Widevine L1 standard, which means you will be able to play Netflix and Amazon Prime videos in full HD resolution.

Samsung Galaxy A7 Cameras

Before we jump to the part where the cameras come out as the winners for the Galaxy A7, let’s consider some undeniable facts. The first smartphone to feature three cameras is the Huawei P20 Pro that launched earlier this year. It is a flagship from the company that introduced the world to the existence of dual cameras. Of course, it bears a hefty price tag, rightly so because it offered neck and neck competition to iPhone X and Pixel 2 back when was run through tests. The Samsung Galaxy A7, on the other hand, is a lot cheaper than Huawei P20 Pro, which means that the results will be watered down. But, if we rule out the existence of Huawei P20 Pro altogether, Galaxy A7 would amaze you with how it cameras work.

There are three sensors – one 24-megapixel f/1.7 sensor, one 5-megapixel f/2.2 depth sensor, and one 8-megapixel f/2.4 sensor with 180-degree ultra-wide angle lens. While the first two sensors do pretty much the same job of giving the Bokeh effect, the third sensor is the MVP for the cameras. But, Samsung is leveraging all three sensors to optimise a photograph by capturing details as much as it can. Samsung has also included the Scene Optimiser mode in the Galaxy A7 that tweaks the settings to find the best setup for a particular scene.

The primary 24-megapixel sensor captures good photos that don’t lack details and are rich in colour, however, little brightly toned. In daylight, the exposure is optimal and the camera is quick to focus on the subject. The best thing about the photos taken in the daylight is the level of detail – zooming into the photos shows tiny objects captured in the frame. However, the quality suffers when the camera is used indoors. The detail-preserving quality of the camera goes a little downhill. The best way to overcome this problem is adjusting the brightness in the scene. For example, on a very sunny day, things with light colours tend to get overexposed, which is why adjusting brightness is recommended. This is also applicable to indoor shooting where the light is not as much available unless you have things with shiny surface scattered around your room.

The second 5-megapixel sensor is to offer the Bokeh effect on the photos captured by the primary one. We found the depth level in photos to be just more than average. The photos have the edges of the subject in focus smudged with the defocused background at more than one place. That said, sometimes the photos turn out really good.

The third 8-megapixel camera is what is touted to shake things up. It’s an ultra-wide angle lens – commonly known as the full-frame fisheye lens used in DSLR cameras to play around with the scenes (landscapes, panorama, etc.) to show some artistry. This sensor covers a larger area in the frame – sometimes it even showed my fingertips I placed on the upper rear side to ensure the grip.

Ideally, the wide-angle lens will be handy if you want to snap a large group of people in one frame or the scenic beauty of a landscape is too compelling to leave out the sideways objects. And while you don’t want to trim the sideways, you will need to compromise for their distortion. The things or objects on the extreme ends of a photo look displaced and askew in a radial manner, which is why you may want to keep the subject in the centre. Talking about the quality, the images taken by the ultra-wide angle lens are sharp but don’t preserve details as much as the primary sensor.

Coming to the selfie camera, Samsung has gone for the same 24-megapixel sensor but with a different larger aperture of f/2.0. The selfies look great in terms of sharing them on social media websites and apps. The level of details is also decent except the skin tones look highly smoothened even with the Beauty Mode turned off. But, as we said, the selfies are good to go on Instagram and other social networking platforms. There is an LED flash given on the front as well, so you won’t have to look for a spot amply filled with light to click selfies.

There is HDR support for all the sensors and you can get the best out of this feature while shooting scenes with two opposite light shades. The videos on the primary and selfie cameras are up to 1080p resolution with no option to upscale them to 60fps. The videos are of good quality and quite stabilised.

Here are the camera samples:

Samsung Galaxy A7 Performance and Battery

The Samsung Galaxy A7 is powered by the company’s in-house Exynos 7885 processor clocked at a maximum of 2.2GHz paired with up to 6GB of RAM. As a mid-range smartphone, the Galaxy A7 fell short on claims when it comes to handling all sorts of apps and games. The handset begins to stutter when we opened heavy apps and switched between them constantly. But this happened only once or twice. Also, while playing games such as PUBG, Asphalt 9: Legends, the handset started to warm a little after 30-35 minutes. There was no lag, whatsoever, in the gameplay but we noticed some frame drops while playing Asphalt 9: Legends.

The fingerprint scanner, now mounted on the power button, is snappy. It unlocks the device quickly but sometimes refuses to read the thumbprints. The reason we used thumbprints is that of the practical use of the sensor. Also, we found that you won’t need to exert pressure while pressing the power button as the moment the thumb touches it, the phone is unlocked. This is quite comfortable but you will get used to it in some time. There’s Face Unlock also available on the Galaxy A7 – it’s not as advanced as using the iris recognition though. It works fine even in dim light conditions.

The speaker on the Galaxy A7 is above average and there’s nothing special about it. However, it can get pretty loud when you turn on the Concert Hall mode in the Sound settings. Samsung has given Dolby Atmos sound technology on the Galaxy A7 but that’s only limited to when using headphones. The voice calls made on the handset are loud and clear.

Samsung ships the Galaxy A7 with Android 8.0 Oreo with Samsung Experience 9.0 skin on top. It’s the same experience as the other Samsung smartphones with the same UI. There are some preloaded apps such as Amazon Prime Video, Dailyhunt, Google apps, and Microsoft apps that you can uninstall if you want. The handset comes with Bixby Vision support in the cameras to allow identifying objects by just placing a camera before them. It also has the Bixby Home screen that shows frequently-used features and content from different apps. But Bixby 2.0 voice assistant is not available on Galaxy A7.

Fueling the Galaxy A7 is a 3300mAh non-removable battery. In our testing that comprised using the Internet, social media, and chat apps for more than four hours, playing games for about 40 minutes, watching an hour-long movie on Netflix, and clicking photographs for about half an hour, the battery lasted a little more than half a day. We needed to charge it twice in a day, which takes around 2 hours to fully charge. There is no USB Type-C port on this handset, which is a downside for many potential buyers who go for mid-range phones.

Verdict

Samsung Galaxy A7 is a pretty decent device if you can overlook the performance instabilities, which the company may fix with a software update. The cameras have the wow factor on the Galaxy A7 and you will likely praise the photos captured by them. The premium design of the smartphone is impressive and should fulfill your desire for a good-looking phone for the money you are paying.

The base model of Galaxy A7 costs Rs 23,990 while the top-end model is priced at Rs 28,990. For all it’s worth, it only makes sense to go for the top-end model if you let the mobile photographer in you hush the sensible buyer since more storage means more photos. But you can get that by adding the microSD card on the base variant that is Rs 5,000 cheaper. The Samsung Galaxy A7 is available via both online and offline channels across India.

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