The Samsung Galaxy A8 box is an attractive blue color, but beyond that it's not particularly exciting. It brings a one-piece, three-button headset, a microUSB cable and a charger. The charger is rated at 5V @ 2A or 10W.
This is Quick Charge 1.0, v2.0 outputs 50% more power (15W) so charging will be slower than the Galaxy Note5 (they have basically the same battery capacity).
There's a card eject tool to help you access the two card slots. We have the dual-SIM Galaxy A8, but the single-SIM version also has two slots.
At 5.9mm the Samsung Galaxy A8 is the company's thinnest smartphone. True, others have gone below 5mm, but thickness wasn't a top priority for Samsung until recently.
Nearly 74% of the Galaxy A8's front is taken up by screen - that's a bit less than the Note5 since the A8 is 5mm taller. It is essentially the same size as an iPhone 6 Plus (except 1.2mm thinner, 21g lighter and with 0.2" more screen).
The Samsung Galaxy A8 is thin, but not obsessed with it. It slims down the traditional Galaxy design without going far off the beaten path. It certainly makes the phone look and feel better though, a Galaxy Note 3 or 4 seem bulky in comparison. And get this - the camera barely sticks out at the back.
It's clear that some design decisions helped Samsung make a slimmer phone without sacrificing the battery capacity or having a protruding camera. No S Pen leaves more room inside, no OIS makes for a thinner camera module.
Whether you miss those or not, you'll certainly appreciate the slender frame of the Galaxy A8. The alloy sides have been chamfered to lead the hand into the very slight curve of the back. The chamfer goes away at the four corners, making them a bit wider. It's subtle but it gives you more grip.
That's already helped by the matte plastic on the back. It is plastic rather than glass, which doesn't look as good as (clean) glass, but it doesn't get as smudgy and is grippier to boot. For color options you get the standard White, Black and Gold (that's the one we got, color-wise more brass than gold if you ask us).
One grudge we have with the back cover is that it would have benefited from a subtle texture, not to mention the surface on our retail product is not perfectly even and has some slight dents here and there (and it's a brand new phone). Overall, we feel the plastic could have been design a little differently to match the upscale looks and feeling of the phone better.
The glass on the front has a very slight bevel, while the metal frame has been chamfered and is fairly smooth when doing side-swipe gestures. The metal is slightly raised above the glass, to offer a little extra protection if the Galaxy A8 falls flat on the floor.
Weighing 151g, the A8 is one of the lighter phones its size. It's 20g less than the Galaxy Note5 and iPhone 6 Plus, which also helps with the handling - it's a tall device, but doesn't feel top-heavy. It doesn't feel hollow either, the A8 is thin, which keeps the volume down and feeling dense.
It may not look quite as premium as the Note or the iPhone (one has shiny glass, the other - cool aluminum), but letting someone hold it for a minute can quickly change their mind.
Below the screen is the hardware Home key, which also doubles as a fingerprint reader. We're happy to report it's not the swipe variety of the S5/Note 4 generation, but the same high-quality nearly instantaneous reader that the S6/Note5 got.
The capacitive Back and App switcher keys fade completely within the background when the backlight is off. At least on the Gold version they disappear completely, leaving a cleaner (if a bit impersonal) design. Above the screen are the 5MP selfie camera, the ambient light sensor and the proximity sensor.
The rest of the Samsung Galaxy A8 design should be familiar to anyone who has seen a recent Galaxy. One interesting choice is to have two card slots on both the single and the dual-SIM version. One holds the main SIM, the other the microSD card.
It's just that on the dual-SIM version the second card slot accepts either a nano-SIM or a microSD card. If the price premium is small enough, you might as well just get the dual-SIM version even if you think you'll never need a second phone line.
The A8 has 32GB of built-in storage, so you can get by without a microSD for a while, but dual-SIM users with a lot of multimedia may find it a tight fit.
Anyway, also on the left are the volume keys, while the right side houses the Power button. The three keys are thin and have a rather flimsy press.
Continuing around the sides, a standard microUSB 2.0 port is on the bottom (no MHL though), next to the 3.5mm audio jack. There's a microphone snuggled between them. The second mic is on top, used for noise cancellation and stereo audio in the camcorder. There's no IR blaster here (but the Note5 doesn't have one either).
Finally, we get to the back and let's just rip that band-aid off - the back is non-removable, the battery is not accessible. At 3,050mAh it has 50mAh over the Galaxy Note5, but even so the added flexibility would have been a plus.
At least the camera barely sticks out the back - it's not flush, but it's much better than the Galaxy S6. Other than that, the design of the back is straight out of the Galaxy S III sketchbook, down to the speaker grille. Hardly original, but let's be generous and call it "time-tested."