Samsung Galaxy S8Rs 57900
Design and Build8.5/10
Value for Money9.0/10
- Eye-Catching Design
- High Performance of Both Rear and Front Camera
- Very High Quality Display
- Fast Performance
- Lies Well in Hand
- Inappropriate Location of Fingerprint Sensor
- Content Doesn`t Fit 18.5:9 Display Ratio
This is the best phone Samsung has ever made and quite possibly the best phone. This is a Galaxy S8 but before I can talk about how great this phone is, I’ve to answer the question that everyone is thinking: Will it explode?! (Because the last best phone that Samsung ever made did explode twice!)
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if the S8 will explode, but what I do know is that Samsung has put a lot of time, money and effort into making sure what happened with the Note 7, doesn’t happen again.
Okay, that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the Galaxy S8. It comes in two versions; there’s a smaller version with a 5.8 inch display and then the bigger S8+ which has a 6.2 inch screen. Basically, these phones are exactly the same, except for their screen size; the same design, same features, same camera and so far.
They’re also pretty expensive, the S8 is going to run you $720 or more (depending on your carrier) and the S8+ is going to run another $100 on top of that. That’s about the same as what you pay for an iPhone or other premium device but that’s still a lot of money! But when you first touch these phones, that price (where anything in Samsung’s recent history) is the last thing you’re thinking about!
This phone is gorgeous! It’s so refined and polished. Samsung’s taken everything that it’s learned over the years for the S6 and the S7 and applied it on S8. It’s clean, elegant, nipped, tucked and really polished to a shine. It doesn’t look anything like an iPhone or any other phone you can buy.
The star of the show here is the new display; a bright and vibrant Quad HD Super AMOLED panel that stretched to the edges of the phone and then curved on the sides. Samsung calls us an infinity display because the edges almost disappear off the side of the phone. The screen has a new shape, it’s 18.5 by 9 aspect ratio which is taller and skinnier than most other smartphones.
But like any other phone, there’s pros and cons to this: when you’re viewing a web page or other content, you can see more of it on the screen or if you’re watching a 21 by 9 widescreen video, it uses more of the available display, but where you really notice the new shape is when you’re handling the phone, because the S8 feels a lot smaller than you might expect.
It’s not as wide as other phones, so it can be easier to use on one hand but at the same time, it’s a lot taller, so it can be difficult to reach the top with your thumb, even if you’re using the smaller phone like what I am. It’s a bigger change in how you handle and use the phone than you might expect.
There are some apps and games like Super Mario run that don’t automatically use the whole display so you either get a black bar on the top and bottom or you stretch it to fit and it cuts off the sides. But overall I’m a fan of this new shade and how much Samsung has done to reduce the size of the phone frame around. It really feels like you’re just holding a screen instead of an entire smartphone.
Hardware & Performance
The other bits of the hardware is equally impressive; the screen blend seamlessly into the metal frame around it and the back glass is curved in the symmetrical fashion and because it’s all glass, it really attracts fingerprints and gets kind of greasing just a few minutes of use. Believe it or not, I got a scratch on it while I reviewed this phone in just a couple of days. That means you’re probably going to put a case on top of it which is kind of a bummer because it hides all of this great design work.
You might have noticed because of this new big screen that there’s no Home Button on the front of this phone. Frankly, Samsung didn’t even have room for it! Instead, there’s a new Virtual Home Button that’s pressure-sensitive. It’s like they took the iPhone 7 force touch and just put it right here at the bottom of the screen where a Home Button would have been. You can push on it to wake the screen up or go home, even if you’re in a full-screen app and you don’t see a button there.
The other consequence of this big screen is that Samsung had to move the fingerprint sensor onto the back of the phone. It’s probably the only real misstep of the S8 design. It’s located really high up on the back and right next to the camera which means, it’s hard to reach and also means that you’re going to be putting your finger all over the camera lens all the time.
Fingerprint & Iris Scanner
Most people use the fingerprint scanner to unlock their phone, so to make up for this, Samsung provides two other ways to unlock it; you can use your Iris or new Face Unlock Feature but neither are really great. The Iris scanner means you’ve to hold the phone really close to your face and the Face Unlock Feature is less secure and pretty slow. It’s a pretty big blemish in what is otherwise a stellar design.
Surprisingly, Samsung’s software on the S8 is almost as polished and good as its hardware, which is not something I’m used to saying. It’s cleaner and easier to use and unlike prior Samsung software, it doesn’t send me running to the Play Store to download a new launcher icon Pack.
Software & Visual Assistant
Out of the box setup is really simple with just a handful of clean app icons on the Home Screen and tasteful text throughout. The other tasteful touches all around, like the way notifications pop up on your screen or how you can just swipe up to get to your apps.
If you want to dig deep into the settings menu, there’re lots of customization options, from the order of the on-screen buttons to full themes that change almost everything about the software’s appearance. I like the fun stuff too, like the lenses that Samsung stole right from Snapchat and put in the camera app or the way that I can customize the always-on display to show a doughnut so that I’m always on brand.
But the big new software thing this year is Samsung’s taken a virtual assistant which is called Bixby. It even put a whole button on the side of the phone, just dedicated to launching Bixby. The problem here is that Bixby just doesn’t do very much. If you push that button, it will launch a Home-Screen page; it has different cards of information and can plug into services like Twitter, Spotify and other things, but it’s not really different from what we’ve seen from HCC in Google already. Bixby also shows up in the camera, so you can use it to scan items and shop for them, on Amazon or find more pictures; but again, that’s not really much different than what Google Goggles did four years ago.
Bixby will eventually support voice commands and voice controls but it doesn’t at launch and I haven’t been able to test that yet. On the upside, the S8 does come with Google Assistant which you can use for all of your voice commands now and probably forever. It’s just a bummer that you can’t change the button on the side of the phone to do anything else.
You probably notice that I haven’t talked about things like battery life, processor or camera performance yet; well that’s because there’s really not a whole lot to say here!
The Galaxy S8 that you can buy in the US is the first phone to come with Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and it’s just as fast, snappy and fluid as you’d expect, but so it’s the same on every other high-end phone whether it’s an iPhone or Pixel or even Samsung S7 from last year.
The real question is: How will the Samsung S8 perform in six months or a year down the road?
Because Samsung software is notorious for slowing down over time but unfortunately I can’t answer this question yet.
Likewise, the battery life in the S8 and the S8+ is adequate but not remarkable. It’s not a marathon runner and if you’re a heavy user, you’re probably going to have to charge at some point throughout the day. One thing Samsung claims is that, in addition to not having a tendency to catch fire, the new battery in the S8 is supposed to last longer throughout its lifespan and provide up to 95% of its charge after two years of use. I’ll have to check in with you in two years to see if that’s true! )
Finally, the camera in the S8 and the S8+ isn’t usually different from last year’s phone; in fact, the rear camera has the same specs as the S7. Samsung’s done some software work to improve the image quality, but it’s not a huge difference and really it’s a great camera.
Last year’s S7 was one of the best cameras that you can buy in 2016 and pretty confident, the S8 is going to be one of the best cameras in 2017. On the front camera, Samsung has made some Improvements too. It’s higher resolution and it autofocus which is apparently a thing that front cameras didn’t do before, so now, all your selfies will be as sharp as you’d expect.
Another big question is: Does the Galaxy S8 do enough to get Samsung out from the dark cloud of the Note 7? Do its design, features and performance do enough to make you forget about all of those exploding phones from just last year?
I think the answer is, Yes! The Galaxy S8 is a tremendous device with beautiful Design; new ideas on what a smartphone can look like and great performance. Samsung deserves a lot of credit for taking a risk and pushing forward what a smartphone can look like in 2017; at a time when pretty much every phone looks the same.
Let’s just hope that risk doesn’t blow up in Samsung’s face!