The notch is dead. How’s that for an opening statement? Over the past year and a half or so, we’ve seen plenty of innovation from smartphone makers, all focused on one thing: making the dreaded notch go away. While most embraced it since its controversial debut with the iPhone X in 2017, its glory days are unequivocally over. We’ve seen the emergence of slider mechanisms both manual and motorised; fancy elevating and pop-up cameras, and even a “Pivot Rising Camera” design. You know who you are.
But hey, it’s a good thing. Everyone’s trying. Everyone wants to be the one delivering what consumers really want (or is it?)—a true bezel-less full-screen experience.
There’s an unexpected suitor joining the fray—Samsung. The range-topper in its premium mid-range A series, the Galaxy A80 marks the first Samsung device with a full-screen display, and boasting a trick rotating camera module to boot.
I had the chance to play around with the device for a couple of weeks, so let’s jump in to the full review.
Design and build
In the hand, the Galaxy A80 feels immediately solid and well-built. It’s certainly a step up from the “glasstic” Galaxy A70. It’s premium-looking and a refreshing (and not forgetting bold) change to the rest of the A series.
The shiny back is reassuringly protected by Gorilla Glass 6, and because the Galaxy A80 uses an optical under-display fingerprint scanner, the back of the phone is clean and uninterrupted. The down side of this application—it loves fingerprints and smudges. One way to mediate that of course is to use a case. And you’ll be chuffed to know that Samsung includes one in the box, and it’s a gorgeous one at that.
There’s an assuring heft to the device too, tipping the scales at 220g. It’s a large device, mind you. I immediately took to the design, and while I found the fingerprint-hungry back an annoyance, I thought the overall design and feel were spot on.
The rotating camera module is located on the upper part of the phone with the back kept minimalist aside from the Samsung logo emblazoned in the centre.
There’s a power button on the right side, while the volume rocker is placed on the left side. No Bixby button, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t missed in any way.
Down at the bottom are the SIM tray, USB-C port and single speaker grille.
Turn it over to the front and you’ll be greeted by the beautiful “New Infinity Display”—a massive 6.7-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display (1080×2400) with all-round super slim bezels. It’s a gorgeous display, despite its comparatively lower pixel density (tops 393PPI). At 85.8 percent screen-to-body ratio, it still can’t beat the likes of OPPO’s Find X, OPPO Reno or vivo NEX, but still an impressive display nonetheless.
Under the hood, the Galaxy A80 runs an octa-core 8nm Snapdragon 730G chipset, Qualcomm’s latest upper-mid-range processor. This is coupled with a generous 8GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. Plenty of storage out-of-the-box. That said, certain quarters may be disappointed with the lack of microSD storage expansion.
Continuing on what’s good on the device—there’s a fairly large 3,700mAh battery that supports 25W fast-charging via USB-C.
You’ll find all the expected bells and whistles—Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 5.0 (A2DP, LE), NFC, GPS (A-GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BDS) and FM Radio.
Audio-wise, there’s a single down-firing speaker with Dolby Atmos sound, and an active noise cancelling mic.
As mentioned, there’s an under-display fingerprint scanner that offers the only biometric authentication method on the device.
The phone runs Android 9 Pie with One UI. There’s some bloatware, but overall One UI offers arguably the best third-party Android experience today.
One UI is rock solid—it’s responsive and snappy, even when it’s running on non-flagship-level hardware like on the Galaxy A80.
Iconography and typography are spot on, and other One UI-specific enhancements like gesture driven navigation, quick toggles, AOD (Always on Display), and even Night mode (Samsung’s Dark Mode) are nice touches. One UI’s Device care software helps keep the device in tip-top shape whether it’s battery, storage, memory or security. Also, Game Launcher is a handy tool if you want an optimised and interruption-free gaming experience.
This is where things get interesting. The Galaxy A80 features a triple camera array with a 48MP f/2.0 wide-angle camera, 8MP f/2.2 123-degree ultra-wide-lens camera and a 3D Depth (TOF) camera. The 3D Depth camera makes the new Live Focus Video f feature possible. OK, some argue that the 3D Depth camera isn’t a “camera” per se, so technically it’s a dual-camera system. I’ll leave that open-ended, OK?
But hang on, notice anything missing?
The selfie camera. Well, technically, the device doesn’t have one. Thanks to the rotating camera mechanism, the regular photos and selfies share the same camera system.
The great thing about this is there’s no compromise in quality, since you’re using the most powerful main cameras. The only trade off is speed, since it takes around a second for the camera module to slide up and rotate.
In case you were wondering how it works: When you select selfie mode in the camera app, the upper rack slides up and the camera module rotates. Switch to the main camera and the camera module rotates to face the rear. It’s pretty slick, really. If you want to know more about the rotating camera mechanism, read this previous article.
What’s in the box
- Galaxy A80 unit
- TPU case
- 25W fast charger
- USB-C to USB-C cable
- SIM ejector tool
- In-ear earphones
When we talk about performance, there are a couple of things to consider: how responsive the UI is, how well it handles multitasking, battery life, how it fares running apps like video, games and the camera. Ah yes, the camera, how can we forget that?
The Galaxy A80 isn’t going to give flagship devices a run for their money, at least not in the raw performance stakes. But that’s not to say it doesn’t perform. In fact, in typical every day tasks—checking email, browsing, social media, messaging, watching videos, streaming music, gaming, the phone will deliver without complaint. Multi-tasking is silky smooth, with no noticeable lag or skipped frames when switching between multiple apps. Perhaps it’s the fact the One UI is properly optimised. I have to hand it to Samsung for great work done in the software department.
In the usual suite of benchmarks, AnTuTu and Geekbench 4, the Galaxy A80 performed amicably, placing slightly above older flagships like the Galaxy Note8. This is a more or less expected outcome.
Thanks to the big display, I ended up playing games quite a bit. To its credit, the phone will run the latest games without issues. PUBG plays well with ultra graphics, racing simulators like Asphalt 9 and Real Racing 3 run smoothly, too. I ended up playing Battle of Warships: Naval Blitz a lot, a multiplayer battleship war simulator, my current muse.
Watching videos on the expansive AMOLED display was delightful. While one might argue about the lack of pixels, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to notice too much of a difference unless you place a Galaxy S10+ beside it.
One thing that I found lacking was in the audio department, an opinion that was reflected in my previous Galaxy A70 review. The single down-firing speaker is fairly loud, but if you’re looking for proper stereo sound or a wider soundstage, you’re not going to get it.
Also, because of its full-screen design, the phone lacks a traditional earpiece and makes do with “sound under display” technology. Yeah, similar to the early Xiaomi Mi Mix series, and the stunning Sony Bravia A1 series OLED TV. Great for aesthetics, not so for audio performance.
Without a 3.5mm headphone jack, you’ll need to use the bundled USB-C in-ear earphones, or a set of good Bluetooth ones. By the way, Samsung does not provide a USB-C to 3.5mm in the retail package.
Battery is average at best, although that means it will last a day (10-12 hours) with around 4 hours of screen on time. On the plus side, it features 25W super fast-charging so you’ll get juiced up in no time when you find yourself running low.
I found the fingerprint scanner just OK, neither fast nor particularly accurate. On my opinion, it’s slightly better than the one on my Galaxy S10+ though, so perhaps Samsung has tweaked it on the Galaxy A80.
I miss Face Unlock and I think Samsung could have easily integrated that as an option.
Right off the bat, I was completely on the fence when it came to picking between an ultra-wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens. Which is more useful? Which would I most likely use on a day-to-day basis? I’m still struggling with that debate. I ran into the same predicament with the Galaxy A70. Would I have traded the ultra-wide-angle for a telephoto?
My personal struggles aside, the camera system on the Galaxy A80 isn’t shabby at all. The whopper of the main camera could have done with a faster lens (I would trade it for the 32MP f/1.7 on the Galaxy A70), I admit, but generally captures details and colours well with good dynamic range. It will pixel-bin to 12MP and will return likeable photos.
The 8MP f/2.2 camera is slightly sharper than the one on the Galaxy A70 and has the advantage of an even wider 123-degree lens.
The ultra-wide-angle lens is extremely useful for when you need to capture more in a shot or if you’re going for a dynamic or exaggerated angle. Do note that there is a noticeable quality drop as compared to the main sensor. And expect distortion, an inherent trait of an ultra-wide-angle lens. Also, dynamic range isn’t that great either, so you may want to stick to better lit environments.
In low light, the Galaxy A80 takes acceptable photos, with expectedly softer details and more noise. Make sure to shoot with the main 48MP sensor.
One of the key strengths of the Galaxy A series (later trickling into its flagships) is Live Focus mode, and on the Galaxy A80 it gets even better. For one, the addition of the 3D Depth camera means it’s even better in separating subject from the background. Whether you’re shooting a portrait or an object, the Galaxy A80 does Live Focus really well.
With the Galaxy A80, Samsung is introducing a brand new skill—Live Focus for Video. The same amazing subject-background isolation prowess now applies to video, and yes, on-the-fly. It’s a sight to behold, making your footage look as if you’re running some fancy big aperture lens camera.
Since selfies use the main 48MP sensor (defaults at 12MP), you’ll get good selfies with plenty of details. I found selfies well-exposed overall, thanks to HDR Auto, and I also like that skin tones are true-to-life. I wished they’d taper down on the beautification though.
In terms of video, the Galaxy A80 is a decent performer. It is capable of shooting up to [email protected] with its main camera and [email protected] on the ultra-wide. There’s always-on electronic image stabilisation but only at [email protected] on both cameras. For added stability, you can turn on Super Steady Mode.
The camera UI is familiar and intuitive. My only gripe is the Bixby Vision button on the top left which I constantly unintentionally trigger each time I take a photo. I’m hoping Samsung demotes this option to somewhere on the Mode carousel or into one of the secondary menus.
- Bold, premium design
- Excellent build quality
- Big, bright screen
- Good performance overall
- Generous memory and storage
- That trick rotating camera
- Above average camera performance
- In-display fingerprint scanner
- Super fast-charging + 25W fast charger bundled
- Excellent bundled protective case
- Average battery life
- No headphone jack
- No microSD expansion
- No stereo speakers, audio could be louder
- No Face Unlock
- Fingerprint scanner could be more accurate, faster, better
- That annoying Bixby Vision button
- Premium price
Pricing and availability
The Galaxy A80 is available for purchase at all Samsung Experience Stores and Samsung Malaysia Online Store with a price of MYR2,499. It comes in Angel Gold, Ghost White and Phantom Black colour options.
Despite the omission of several features, the Galaxy A80 is still an impressive smartphone. As the flagship device in the Galaxy A series, it exudes a premium feel and build, and boasts some clever engineering and overall strong hardware. Granted it isn’t for everyone, and there are alternatives at its price point. That said, it’s a head turner, and may just be the option for those who don’t need a flagship Galaxy S10, iPhone XS or Huawei P30.
SUMMARY & RESULTS
Despite the omission of several features, the Galaxy A80 is still an impressive smartphone. As the flagship device in the Galaxy A series, it exudes a premium feel and build, and boasts some clever engineering and overall strong hardware. Granted it isn’t for everyone, and there are alternatives at its price point. That said, it’s a head turner, and may just be the option for those who don't need a flagship Galaxy S10, iPhone XS or Huawei P30.
A flagship alternative
Design & build
Pricing & value for money