Walking a Tightrope

A couple of weeks ago, Samsung launched the refresh of the A6 series for this year. We’ve already given you guys a closer look at the Samsung Galaxy A6, so now its time to look at its bigger sibling. The Samsung Galaxy A6+ (2018) definitely has a steep price tag at Php 22,990 but does it get the balance between their mid-range and flagship offerings right?

What Is It?

In terms of hierarchy in Samsung’s product lines, the A series aims to bridge the gap between their more affordable mid-range devices such as the Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro and the rest of the J series. The Galaxy A6+ is one of two phones that were recently launched in the country in the hopes of bringing some of the flagship features at a lower price point, which is a very challenging tightrope act.

How Does It Feel?

In terms of overall build, it feels and even looks closer to its brethren in the J series. Unlike the A8 and A8+ that were introduced at the start of the year, this device has a full metal build that’s comfortable to hold and fairly pocketable considering its size.

It doesn’t attract fingerprints like glass-backed devices but can still be a bit slippery. It has slid out of our pants pockets on several occasions (thank heavens for carpeted floors) and has even threatened to slide off tables that are slightly off axis. Despite the minor spills the phone has taken, the review unit in our possession is relatively scratch-free, which is a testament to the phone’s build quality.

We mentioned that its looks resemble more of the Korean brands J series phones, mostly due to its construction and the antenna bands on the back of the phone plus the side-firing speaker, but there are very telling signs that it takes after the S series too. You’ve no doubt seen the dual camera setup on this device, as well as its fingerprint scanner, which is very reminiscent of the S9+.

Does It Have A Good Display?

Thankfully, an awesome screen is something else that the A6+ inherits from its siblings in the S series. You’ve got a 6-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED panel on the A6+, which means your in for a treat if you like binge-watching shows on your phone on the commute home. Samsung’s Super AMOLED panels have always been a crowd pleaser that offers really great picture quality and its certainly one of the highlights on the A6+.

The panel also allows for the Always-On Display feature without draining the battery too much, so there won’t be a need hit any buttons to simply check the time or see if you have any notifications. It’s always been a nifty feature but we do recommend toggling it off if you want to squeeze more battery life out of the phone.

How Fast Is It?

Samsung typically uses their own chipsets on their devices and it was particularly jarring for us to see that the A6+ was running on a Qualcomm processor. It’s packing a Snapdragon 450 that’s been paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. It’s good enough for browsing the web or thumbing through your social media feeds but we’ve definitely seen the phone struggle at times.

It can game a little bit but you will have to sacrifice a lot of graphical fidelity to get some of the more popular titles running smoothly. You might want to avoid the “Battle Royale” genre but it should have enough zip for mobile MOBAs like Arena of Valor or Mobile Legends.

How About the Rest of the Phone?

A Series devices have always been a lesson in compromise and, while there are things we think the A6+ gets right, a few features on the phone definitely merit a bit of attention.

One of the biggest gripes with the S8, S8+, and even the Note 8 was the placement of the fingerprint scanner; something Samsung soon corrected immediately. While the fingerprint scanner in the A6+ does benefit from the adjustment, its performance left us a little disappointed. It’s a tad sluggish and, while that’s forgivable to some degree, it isn’t very accurate either.

Another thing is its aforementioned speaker on the right side of the phone. It’s not about its placement but more about the sound quality. It can be a bit tinny, favoring the highs, and you’re getting a fair bit of distortion above the 70-percent mark too. We would definitely recommend using earphones to enjoy content better on the A6+.

Are the Cameras Any Good?

On paper, the camera chops of the A6+ are pretty impressive. You’ve got a dual camera setup on the back of the phone at 16MP + 5MP, which gives you access to Samsung’s take on the “Portrait Mode” — Live Focus. The aperture on the main camera is pretty wide as well at an f-stop of f/1.7 that should give you better results in low light conditions.
Let’s have a look at a few sample photos.

Under direct sunlight or when you’ve got an ample light source, photos come out nice and sharp plus it handles situations with tricky exposures pretty well. The Live Focus can be a little erratic but once everything locks on, it produces a really smooth bokeh effect that you can tweak after the fact. Once the lights are low though things take a turn South though.

The wider aperture of the A6+ does help a ton with reducing the amount of noise present in shots taken indoors but you definitely lose a lot of the sharpness. It’s not bad, all things considered, but you may need the help of your friends to shine a light on things if you plan on upping your Instagram game.

The front camera has a higher megapixel count at 24MP and an aperture of f/1.9 but you’re pretty much getting the same output in terms of quality. We’ve found that it’s a little prone to camera shake when you hit the shutter button on the screen so definitely use a timer for your self-portraits.

As a bonus, you’ve also got a good assortment of Stickers to play around with. It also comes with Bixby Vision to give you information on locales, assist with quick translations, and help you identify products so you can easily shop for them online.

How’s the Battery Life?

We ran into a little trouble running our battery benchmark tests with this device so, sadly, we can’t give you a figure to compare it with other phones that also have a 3500mAh battery. Thankfully, real-world testsĀ are most reliable anyway and we’ve managed to get a full day’s worth of juice with the A6+ with half of it spent with our mobile data turned on. It takes quite awhile to top up the phone though so if you do decide to pick this up, either charge it as soon as you get home from a long day or let it top up while you sleep.

Should You Buy It?

Now, we’ll be completely honest with you, the price tag of the Samsung Galaxy A6+ (2018) is on the expensive side at Php 22,990. As John mentioned in our hands-on and quick review, there’s a ton of competition out there that are offering a little more zip under the hood that’s just slightly more expensive than this device. However, if your loyalties lie with the Korean brand and have your eyes set on the A6+, you might want to check out if its available via your telco’s postpaid plans instead of paying for it straight out.