[nextpage title=”Introduction” ]
Product Type: Smartphone | Manufacturer: Samsung | Price: From £689.00 | Where to buy: Vodafone | [et_social_share]
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is a masterpiece of design and just about the best flagship smartphone that money can buy right now.
With such big shoes to fill after the Samsung Galaxy Note fiasco, it’s no wonder the Korean electronics giant has gone all out with the S8. The company is back with arguably the most anticipated smartphone of the year. The Samsung Galaxy S8 sports the largest screen-to-body ratio of any handset released so far, plus some killer hardware such as iris scanning and Bluetooth 5.0. Is this smartphone of the year? Let’s find out.
OS Android 7.0 with TouchWiz
Processor Exynos 8895
Resolution 2960 x 1440 (529 DPI)
Memory 4 GB RAM
Micro SD compatible? Yes, up to 256GB
Rear camera 12MP
Front camera 8MP
Connectivity WIFI b/g/n, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
Dimensions 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm
Battery 3,500 mAh
[nextpage title=”Design and Screen” ]
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is unlike any other handset currently on the market. It’s truly a masterpiece of engineering with ultra-thin bezels and an entirely new form factor. We have no doubt that the device will usher in a new era of tall, slim devices with panels that take up the majority of the device.
The Galaxy S8+ has about the same footprint as an iPhone 7 Plus, although it’s a bit slimmer in the sides. This is despite the fact that Samsung has managed to cram in a 6.2-inch display, which is 0.7-inches bigger than the iPhone 7 Plus. It still comes encased in glass much like it’s predecessor, though the finish seems much more reflective this time round. In bright sunshine we could make out our reflection quite clearly… along with all the marks. Make no mistake, this is still a complete fingerprint magnet. Still, for all its incredible design and aesthetic appeal, the Galaxy S8+ feels fragile. The sides are worryingly slim and the glass bezels dominate the device, posing as a potential drop hazard no matter how you hold it. While the build quality is staggering, we wonder whether it is form over function. Does the Galaxy S8+ belong in your hand or a museum?
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is an interesting device to hold in the hand because it feels like a 5-inch device, but it’s actually a good couple of centimetres taller. This makes it easy to slide into a pocket without any unnecessary bulge. At 8.1mm, it’s also one of the thinnest handsets available and the rounded edges help to make things feel even slimmer. Due to the height, it can often be difficult to reach things at the top of the screen one-handed. We found it possible to use the device in this manner with some hand readjustment, but it could be a problem for those with shorter fingers.
Move round to the back and ergonomically, the company has made a rather questionable decision regarding the fingerprint scanner placement. Aligned slightly off-centre on the right side, it sits alongside the camera sensor in an odd place. If you’re holding the phone with your right hand, the index finger will naturally gravitate to the sensor. Hold it in your left hand and you’ll find yourself touching the camera sensor by mistake. It’s all a bit confusing and honestly, they should’ve just placed it centrally.
On the top and sides, you’ll find the usual array of power button, volume control and SIM tray. An additional Bixby button can be found on the right, though it can’t be programmed for anything else. On the bottom, you’ll find a headphone jack, USB-C jack and speaker grille. All of these ports are fully IP68 water resistant, which gives complete dust and water protection up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. The headphone socket is a welcome addition and produces good quality audio, though it doesn’t come with a quad-DAC like the Korean LG G6. Hi-Res audio files are still supported, which can be played back through the bundled AKG headphones. It’s also worth noting that this is the first device to support Bluetooth 5.0, which supports higher bandwidth and the ability to broadcast music to two sound sources at once.
[nextpage title=”Camera” ]
The camera on the Galaxy S8+ is a 12 megapixel, f/1.7 sensor. You may realise that these are exactly the same hardware specifications as we saw on its predecessor. Unsurprisingly, image quality remains much the same as what we saw on the Galaxy S7, which is excellent, however things have changed slightly on the software processing front.
Image detail is exactly what we saw on its predecessor, although things are now slightly softer. Colour reproduction has changed significantly, with the S8+ favouring a more neutral palette. In comparison, the Galaxy S7 now seems somewhat oversaturated in comparison. The sensor is still able to comfortably handle dynamic scenes, which is evident in our test images. We were experiencing quite the heat wave when these pictures were taken in London, but the handset stood up to the task very well.
Macro photography was also excellent thanks to the inclusion of optical image stabilisation. It was possible to get very close to objects without the sensor dropping out of focus. Detail was excellent and didn’t suffer unnecessary sharpening.
Low-light photos are largely the same as the Galaxy S7, though Samsung appears to have cleaned up the noise algorithm. There’s slightly less grain which helps images retain more detail. This is still one of the best night shooters out there and can soak up ample light in even the darkest scenarios.
Much like it’s predecessor, the Galaxy S8 features an excellent camera application which packs in a bunch of manual controls. You get everything from ISO to shutter speed and white balance adjustment. There’s even metering modes and focus adjustment, plus various colour profiles you can apply to quickly give your image a certain tone. This is all speedily accessed from the main camera panel, without needing to go through any unnecessary menu diving.
The 8 megapixel front camera is an area where Samsung has greatly improved image quality, though some changes leave a little to be desired. It’s no longer a wide-angle sensor and can’t capture as much space, meaning group shots could be a little more problematic. That said, this has a benefit of making selfies look a lot less distorted, since wide-angle lenses typically ruin facial features. The improved resolution and aperture means that it’s capable of capturing far more detail and performs better in low-light.
[nextpage title=”Performance and Software” ]
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ comes in two variants depending on your locale. Americans will be treated to a Snapdragon 835 and 4GB RAM, while us Europeans get the latest Exynos 8895 chip and 4GB RAM. In terms of raw performance, the latter has always been a faster processor than the Snapdragon. Comparisons online seem to tell a similar story, so it looks the Europeans are getting a better deal once again.
On our Galaxy S8+, things were blisteringly quick. Pages loaded instantly and the UI was about as fluent as you can get. Even though some devices now offer 6GB RAM, we didn’t notice any performance impact due to the S8+ using 4GB. Gaming was excellent on the device, with entry-level games such as Candy Crush Saga barely making it break a sweat. Asphalt Xtreme blazed through the test at highest settings. There really wasn’t a hint of slowdown, which is something that no other devices have managed to accomplish so far.
Being that gaming performance seemed so promising, we were keen to see if the Dolphin emulator would run on the Samsung Galaxy S8+. Other users had posted videos online of the emulator running games at full-speed, which was unheard of only a few months ago. For those unaware, Dolphin is an app that allows your mobile device to play Nintendo GameCube games. Since it is emulating an entire console architecture, it’s an extremely stressful test for mobile graphics cards.
Unfortunately, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ didn’t do well at all. It turns out that American variants which use the Snapdragon 835 are better suited to these tasks. Performance on the European model was a slow, stuttered mess. Even my HTC 10 was smoother.
On the other hand, CPU benchmarks were excellent and a marked improvement over the American model. It scored an enormous 175,842 on AnTuTu, with only the iPhone 7 Plus beating it. The device currently sits at number 2 on the AnTuTu top 10. Compare this to the overseas variant, which seems to score around the 162,000 mark. This puts it about the same as a OnePlus 3T.
GeekBench scores were a similar story, with the device scoring 2135 in single-core and 6608 in multi-core. This puts it as the fastest multi-core device and the fastest single-core Android device you can buy. There’s also an 8% performance increase if you pick the European model over the American model.
GPU benchmarks were equally impressive, despite the disappointing Dolphin performance. The Galaxy S8+ scored 3128 on 3DMark, with the app proclaiming this handset as “one of the most powerful devices around”.
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ runs on Android 7.0 with the latest version of TouchWiz. It feels like the most substantial update in recent memory, with a host of new features on board. Samsung has chosen to overshadow Google’s offering with many of their own, including the new assistant Bixby. Google Now has also been replaced with DayLite, which can be accessed in the same using from a left swipe on the home screen. Here you will find a personalised feed of news and content made from cards. Users can discard cards which are not relevant, further tailoring the experience. While it offers a pretty nice experience, it’s nowhere near as deep as Google Now.
Visually, things are not that much different on first impression, though there’s a greater focus on rounded edges. Everything just seems a lot more flowing and smooth. The app tray button no longer exists in the bottom right, instead you simply swipe up to access the full list. It feels incredibly intuitive and follows on from the Google Pixel, which was the first device to really popularise that feature.
The quick launch menu has gotten a big visual overhaul, with new icons and tabbing. You can now slide across for more icons, with the option to add more yourself. Notifications follow the standard Android 7.0 format, although font sizes have been decreased to squeeze in more information. The addition of a “Block Notifications” function on the drop-down menu is quite nice, allowing the user to quickly block notifications from any app currently displaying. If you’ve got a backlog of notifications from a particularly lively application, this serves as a simple way to clean things up.
The Edge Panel makes a return and has expanded features such as the ability to view recent photos and compose GIFs from specific areas of the screen. All of this can be accessed using a simple inward swipe from the edge. The always-on display is similar to the S7 and can be customised to show time, battery life, calendar information or a specific image.
Thanks to the inclusion of an iris scanner, you now have more ways than ever to unlock the handset. Samsung has said that this feature should not be used for secure payments and honestly, we’re inclined to agree. It can sometimes be fooled using a high resolution image of the user, which is a little disconcerting. The software is still in early days so we reckon this will get ironed out as it continues to improve. Luckily, the fingerprint sensor is speedy and offers a suitable substitute.
The addition of extra real-estate on the panel doesn’t really change functionality as such because few apps actually use the space. Those that do will only extend the full width, allowing more information to be seen. If you’re gaming, you’ll get a special “Game Tools” tab which allows you to modify how the game displays, though it rarely worked properly in our case. Forcing titles to fill the screen rarely did anything aside from distort the image beyond the edges. It did have some other cool features however such as the ability to record gaming footage and disable distracting notifications/ edge functions for a purer experience.
The company spent a long time bigging up the virtual assistant Bixby, which will ship on the Galaxy S8 range. A dedicated button on the side allows quick access but unfortunately, our handset didn’t seem to have the functionality. Only a small fragment of functions were included on our handset; most of which reside in the camera app. Bixby Vision can be used to read and identify products in an image, while also translating text. The former worked very well but the latter… not so well.
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ has a 3,500mAh battery, which is significantly above other handsets. It’s about the same as what we saw in the BlackBerry KeyOne, though the Samsung handset has a much higher performance processor. We expected battery life to be good on the Galaxy S8+ but quite frankly, we were blown away. The KeyOne has the best battery life of any device we’ve tested in recent memory and the Galaxy S8+ comes very close to that figure. Setting the screen to full resolution (QHD+), it lasted a massive 1 hour 58 minutes in our 20% drain test. This means that without engaging battery saver, you should be looking at roughly 9 hours 50 minutes of on-screen time. This is backed up by an extremely strong score on the AnTuTu battery test of 13,546.
[nextpage title=”Conclusion” ]
It’s difficult to put into words what a stunning device the Samsung Galaxy S8+ actually is. The design is incredible, performance is class-leading and battery life is excellent. It really is the complete package. Our only gripe is that the design lends itself to accidents, as the Galaxy S8 is so well designed that it’s also a delicate flower. If you’re prone to dropping things, buy a case ASAP.