Together with NOMU, AGM belongs to the newcomers in the outdoor smartphone sector. After the convincing AGM X1 we are now about to test the cheaper and therefore less powerful AGM A8. AGM emphasize their use of only high quality components and exclusively use Snapdragon processors at the moment. Our AGM A8 testing device houses a now already old Snapdragon 410. Further, the phone provides a 5-inch HD-display, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of ROM, a 4050mAh battery and an obligatory IP68 certificate. AGM A8 already runs with Android 7, whereas users of the more expensive AGM X1 have to wait till august.
Versions and order
AGM A8 is available in 2 different versions and with 3 different kinds of memory. There is a US and EU version, which differ in the supported networks. The EU version is available with 3/32GB or 4/64GB. In addition, there is AGM A8 SE with a weaker camera and without NFC.
Design and build quality
AGM A8 is mostly made of thick black plastic. The design is finished with 2 silver metal strips on the left and right side. Power button and volume control are dazzling yellow and they are located on the right. Compared to other outdoor smartphones, they are easy to press and have a nice feedback. The dimensions are 159x83x16mm and the device has an enormous weight of 248g. It is thick and heavy – as it is typical for outdoor phones – but with its 5-inch display it still feels nice while holding it. The bezels are 9mm.
After removing two screws, the rear cover can be taken off. Beneath it, you can see another cover, which protects the phone from water. If you remove this as well, you get access to the 4050mAh battery (replaceable), the two SIM slots (2xNano) and an extra micro-SD slot (up to 128GB). Below the display you can find the three common Android sensors keys, which are even illuminated. However, you won’t find a notification LED. Below the soft touch buttons, there is the AGM logo, which can be found in the middle of the rear side as well. As special design element, a mounting for attaching a strap to AGM A8 can be found on the rear.
The rear camera does not jut out at all. Below, you can see a slightly weak single LED flash. AGM A8 is IP68 certified, which means the device is protected from dust and water. As luck would have it, I spilled a whole cup of hot coffee with milk and sugar over the testing device after it had arrived. I cleaned the smartphone with water and it also survived a 5-minute dive without any problems. In order to be protected from water, the micro-USB port and the audio jack are quite deep in the casing and can be sealed with thick rubber nubs. This is somewhat inopportune, as AGM does not provide an adapter for the audio jack, so you have to get one yourself, as most headphones do not have plugs this long. The USB port does not cause big problems, as one or the other connector might be long enough. Nevertheless, the provided cable’s connector is a bit longer than usual USB cables.
The AGM A8’s 5-inch display has a resolution of 1280x720pixels, which results in quite sharp 294PPI. In daily use, you cannot detect any single pixels. Viewing angles, color representation and contrast are convincing, considered the price range. The only niggle is the maximum brightness (300 cd/m²), which is a bit low. When using the phone outside, however, it was less grave than I thought. You can read contents well even on a bright day, but when the sun is shining directly on the display, you can’t see anything anymore. Unfortunately, there are no settings to customize the display. SmartWake features are not available either.
AGM A8 houses a 10-point touch screen. It puts every input into practice fast and accurately. The glass front is made of scratch resistant Gorilla Glass 3 and a screen protector is additionally attached ex works. Apart from maximum brightness, AGM A8’s display is really convincing.
The Snapdragon 410 clocks at 4*1.2GHz and was used merely in low-budget smartphones like Xiaomi Redmi 2 in the middle of 2014. The Adreno 306 GPU is responsible for a lousy graphics performance, but 4GB of RAM secure a decent multitasking performance. In practice, the processor was designed for users who use their phone primarily for surfing, telephoning and simple multimedia tasks (YouTube, Netflix…). The system mostly runs fast and fluently. The phone takes some time to open or change apps and AGM A8 sometimes needs a longer pause. Loading demanding websites in the browser happens fast. Of course, AGM A8 is not a smartphone suitable for gaming. However, simple games like Temple Run or Subway Surf run smoothly. Because of the thick casing, the phone does not get warm even after one hour of gaming.
The internal storage has a reading/writing speed of 18/25MB/s, which is alarmingly slow. This causes significant load time when installing new apps. The RAM speed of 3GB/s is not convincing either. The storage on the other hand has a nice size with either 3/32GB or 4/64GB. You can expand the storage with a 128GB micro-SD card and use dual-SIM at the same time.
The reason why no manufacturer seems to be willing to produce a high-performance outdoor smartphone remains a mystery to me. An outdoor smartphone is apparently not supposed to be suitable for gaming as well. AGM A8’s performance is acceptable for the price and it is sufficient for daily use. Those who would like to have a faster outdoor smartphone have to pay more respectively. For the low price, the performance is okay.
AGM A8 with Android 7
While AGM X1 users are still waiting for a system update, AGM A8 already runs with a stable and nearly unchanged Android 7 system. The Google Play Store is preinstalled as well. However, all that glitters is not gold, as the Android system patch (august 2016) is rather out-of-date. Anti-virus programs didn’t find any problems, but it would be nice if AGM came up with another update. The phone has a preinstalled app for OTA updates coming directly on the smartphone. We could not find any major bugs or problems during the test week.
The rear camera takes pictures with 13MP in a 4/3 format and it records videos in (maximum) FHD with 30 FPS. The autofocus works fast in good lighting conditions and trigger time is satisfying. Considered that it’s an outdoor smartphone, the images have a convincing sharpness, number of details and color representation, if enough light is available. However, you cannot deny the slight blur at the edges. The pictures are a bit coarse-grained, too. If you are inside or if there are many clouds the image’s quality decreases rapidly. The weak 2MP front camera is sufficient for video telephony, but you shouldn’t expect nice selfies.
Connectivity and communication
Only the EU-version supports all 2G, 3G and 4G frequencies. Reception is not as good as with X1, but it is still clearly above average. The voice is transmitted loudly and clearly and the earpiece is quite loud, if required. The speakerphone creates a slight echo, but you can still use it.
Wi-Fi reception is good. The Wi-Fi module transmits with n-standard in the 2.4GHz network. It has a good range and a maximum throughput with 100Mbit. The Bluetooth 4.0 module works well within a 10m-range and has a continuously stable connection.
The mono speaker on the rear convinces with good volume. However, basses are barely perceptible and from 70% onwards, the sound is tinny. When headphones are connected, sound quality is good, but the sound is not very loud.
The GPS reception is suitable for an outdoor smartphone. Within a few seconds, AGM A8 connects to up to 20 satellites and it is able to determine the position even inside buildings. An e-compass is available for pedestrian navigation. Car as well as pedestrian navigation worked perfectly. The phone offers the three standard sensors (acceleration, light and proximity sensor), but a gyroscope is unfortunately not available, so you cannot use VR glasses. Since AGM A8 wouldn’t fit in VR glasses anyway, it doesn’t matter that there is no gyroscope. The phone even supports NFC and of course, OTG is supported as well.
The 4050mAh battery secures good, but not extraordinary battery life. In PCMark battery test, the phone lasted for 11.5 hours with medium display brightness. You get about 2 days of run time with a daily active use of 4 hours. Therefore, you’re well prepared for all-day mountain hiking, bicycle tours or riding. Watching YouTube videos at medium display brightness via Wi-Fi for one hour costs 7-8% of the battery. Unfortunately, Quick-charge is not available and so it takes about 2.5hours with the provided charging adapter until the battery is recharged. It takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to charge the phone from 10 to 50%.