Tech review: All-screen Samsung Galaxy A80 comes at a price

Samsung's Galaxy A80 has a pop-up camera design and an in-display fingerprint sensor, allowing for a truly near-bezel-less screen.
Samsung's Galaxy A80 has a pop-up camera design and an in-display fingerprint sensor, allowing for a truly near-bezel-less screen.PHOTO: SAMSUNG

Samsung is taking a walk on the wild side with its latest mid-range Galaxy A80 smartphone.

With a pop-up camera module reminiscent of the ones in phones from Chinese smartphone-makers such as Oppo and Xiaomi, the A80 feels like it came from a research laboratory in China.

In fact, its design feels even more outlandish than its competitors.

The camera module slides up before the phone's rear cameras flip vertically to face the user - all within a second of tapping the front selfie camera button in the camera app.

It is clever as it kills two birds with one stone. Firstly, the same set of cameras doubles as both front and rear cameras, which means there is no drop in their quality or features, unlike most phones.

Samsung says there are three cameras: a 48-megapixel (MP) main camera, an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera and a 3D depth camera.

The last is more accurately known as a time-of-flight sensor that captures depth information for more accurate blurring of the background in bokeh shots.

Photos taken by the 48MP primary camera is, by default, downsampled to 12MP versions that look reasonably sharp and natural with accurate colours.

  • FOR

    Good camera for selfies

    Near-bezel-less screen

    Feels fast in games and apps

    AGAINST

    No water resistance

    Large, heavy and slippery

    Accidental touches from lack of bezel

    Lacks headphone jack and memory card slot

    SPECS

    Price: $898

    Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 (Dual-core 2.2GHz, hexa-core 1.8GHz)

    Display: 6.7-inch, Super Amoled, 2,400 x 1,080 pixels, 393 ppi pixel density

    Operating system: Android 9.0

    Memory: 128GB, 8GB RAM

    Cameras: 48MP (f/2.0), 8MP ultra-wide (f/2.2, 123-degree), 3-D depth (time-of-flight) camera

    Battery: Non-removable 3,700mAh battery

    RATING

    Features: 4/5

    Design: 4/5

    Performance: 4/5

    Value for money: 3.5/5

    Battery life: 4/5

    Overall: 4/5

The ultra-wide-angle camera is not as good, but is useful for large groups as well as scenic landscape shots. It does not perform as well in low-light situations, at least in the default Photo mode. Photos turn out soft, with a good amount of noise.

But Samsung has included a Night mode that, like the ones in other phones, requires users to hold the phone steady for a few seconds while taking a shot.

The resulting images are indeed markedly improved - brighter and less noisy.

Night mode can even make objects visible in very dark conditions akin to similar modes in the Google Pixel phones, though the photos are too noisy to be usable.

This pop-up camera design, coupled with an in-display fingerprint sensor, also allows for a truly near-bezel-less screen Samsung dubs the "New Infinity Display".

With its 20:9 aspect ratio, this 6.7-inch screen is longer than usual - hence you do not have to scroll down as often while reading a Web page. By comparison, the Galaxy S10 models are 19:9.

Although the screen is, on paper, not as sharp as the displays in Samsung's flagship models, I could not really tell the difference. It is bright and looks vibrant with great viewing angles.

But the phone feels rather unwieldy because of its size and weight (an above average 220g). The glass back is so slippery that I have already dropped the phone twice - on the bed - while watching videos.

YouTube videos can be zoomed in to fill the entire screen, though the content at the top and bottom edges are lost. Netflix movies, are displayed without any black bars, which makes for a more immersive experience.

But I was frustrated by how often I accidentally tapped the screen with my palms while typing because of the minimal bezels. The phone is also difficult to use with one hand.

Its in-display fingerprint sensor feels inconsistent. There are times when I had to press and hold my finger a tad longer for it to be recognised, but other times, it is reasonably fast.

There are more downsides.

If you switch to the selfie camera while the phone is lying on a surface, the camera module will pop up like normal, but the transformation is incomplete as there is no allowance for the rear camera to rotate to the front.

The first time this happened, I was startled by the distressing noise made by the camera's motor as it tried to complete the process. But it will stop after a couple of seconds, retract the camera module and show an error message.

The module will also try to retract into the chassis when the phone is dropped. But in my tests - drops from a height of around 0.5m, the module never retracts fully before it hits the ground and will likely be damaged.

In addition, there is no water- resistant feature while the camera module motor may fail due to wear and tear.

Other features missing on the A80 include a headphone jack, microSD card and wireless charging - all of which are available in Samsung's flagship models.

The A80 also lacks a Bixby button, but that is a plus point in my book. Samsung's virtual assistant is, though, still present.

The phone is powered by an upper mid-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 processor, which is capable enough to run apps and games smoothly. But it is about 25 to 35 per cent slower than the flagship 855 chip in benchmarks.

The A80 lasted me an entire day without charging, but not much more than that.

In the video-loop battery test, it clocked 14 hours and 10 minutes.

It also supports Samsung's 25W fast-charging technology, which replenished the battery from 1 to 50 per cent in just under half an hour.

Pricing is likely to be a sticking point. At $898, the A80 is more expensive than flagship models from brands such as Xiaomi.

In fact, Samsung's own Galaxy S10e is priced at $1,078 and offer better hardware.