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Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ review: The future is here
By James Lu - 22 Apr 2017
Launch SRP: S$1148

Overview, Design, Display, & Audio

 

Overview

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are the most important phones Samsung has ever made. In case you've been living under a rock this period, Samsung's last phone, the Galaxy Note7, was a complete disaster, thanks to a crucial design flaw that caused its battery to spontaneously catch fire and explode. In an unprecedented move, Samsung had to recall the phone twice, and was eventually forced to cancel the device entirely, handing out refunds to millions of customers, and costing the company billions of dollars in the process.

Now, Samsung doesn't just need to make a phone good enough to beat the competition, it needs to make a strong statement that it's so good that people are willing to forget that at one point it was a federal crime in the US with a ten-year jail sentence for anyone caught with a Note7 on board a plane.

It's an unenviable position that no company has ever had to come back from before. But you know what, I think the S8 and S8+ are actually good enough that Samsung can do it.

  Samsung Galaxy S8 Samsung Galaxy S8+
  Samsung Galaxy S8 Samsung Galaxy S8+
Launch SRP
  • From S$1148
  • From S$1298
Operating system
  • Android 7.0 Nougat with Dream UX
  • Android 7.0 Nougat with Dream UX
Processor
  • Samsung Exynos 8895 octa-core (4x2.3 GHz & 4x1.7 GHz), 10nm process
  • Samsung Exynos 8895 octa-core (4x2.3 GHz & 4x1.7 GHz), 10nm process
Built-in Memory
  • 4GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
Display
  • 5.8-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (570 ppi) / Super AMOLED Infinity Display
  • Always-On Display
  • 6.2-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (529 ppi) / Super AMOLED Infinity Display
  • Always-On Display
Camera
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, f/1.7, 1/2.5" sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size, phase detection autofocus, OIS
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/1.7
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, f/1.7, 1/2.5" sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size, phase detection autofocus, OIS
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/1.7
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 9 (up to 450Mbps), Bluetooth 5.0, VHT80, MIMO (2x2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 9 (up to 450Mbps), Bluetooth 5.0, VHT80, MIMO (2x2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
Storage Type
  • 64GB internal storage (UFS 2.0)
  • 256GB (MicroSD)
  • 64GB internal storage (UFS 2.0)
  • 256GB (MicroSD)
Battery
  • 3,000mAh
  • Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging
  • 3,500mAh
  • Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging
Dimensions
  • 148.9 x 68.1 x 8 mm
  • 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm
Weight
  • 155g
  • 173g

Design

The newest trend in smartphones is cramming a large display into a small body by eliminating as much of the front bezel as possible. Xiaomi was the first to do it with the Mi Mix, followed by LG with the G6. But shrinking the front bezel isn't enough for Samsung, who has also doubled up on the big screen effect by making the S8 and S8+ displays curved on both edges - yep, Samsung is all-in on curved displays this year, there's no longer a flat screen option. In fact the only difference between the two phone models is the display size and battery size.

Samsung is calling this new design an "Infinity Display" and it really does look incredible. With no physical buttons on the front, tiny bezels at both the top and bottom, and a display that covers almost the entire front of the phone and cascades over the sides like an infinity pool, it really feels like you're holding just a display in your hand. In fact both the S8 and S8+ boast a pretty incredible 83% screen-to-body ratio (the iPhone 7 Plus is just 67.9%, while the recent LG G6 manages an 80% figure).

Those curved edges aren't just for looks either, the curve allows Samsung to squeeze a wider display into a narrower body, making it easier to use one-handed than a similar size flat phone. The LG G6 for example, while boasting a similar bezel-less design, has a smaller 5.7-inch flat display, but with a body that is 3.8mm wider than the S8.

Of course, without a physical home button, that means there's no fingerprint scanner on the front of the phone. Instead, Samsung has moved the scanner to the rear of the device, similar to what Google, Huawei, and LG among others already do.

Unfortunately, while most rear fingerprint scanners are positioned in the middle of the phone below the camera where your index finger naturally rests, Samsung has instead bizarrely chosen to place it right next to the camera module, which is far too high up, awkward to hit and often results in fingerprint smudges on the camera lens as you hunt around for the scanner.

I would really like to see more companies follow LG and Sony's example and put the fingerprint scanner on the power button. On the bright side, you rarely need to use the fingerprint scanner because Samsung has included two other forms of biometric security: Iris scanning and face recognition (more on those later).

Aside from the awkwardly-placed fingerprint scanner, the rest of the S8 and S8+'s design is pretty much flawless. Similar to the Note7, both phones have a gorgeous symmetrical build with an aluminum frame and a rear glass panel that curves at both sides to match the front. The days of ugly protruding camera bumps are also long gone, and the rear camera is now completely flush with the phone.

The power button, as usual, can be found on the right side of the S8's skinny frame, while the volume buttons are on the left. A new addition is a dedicated Bixby button (Samsung's new AI assistant) below the volume buttons.

Both the S8 and S8+ have a USB Type-C port on the bottom and (hurrah!) a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. A dual SIM card tray can be found on top, with the second nano-SIM slot doubling up as a microSD card slot. And like last year's S7, both the S8 and S8+ are IP68 rated, which means they can withstand up to 1.5 meters of water submersion for up to 30 minutes at a time. 

Finally, Samsung is introducing a new color for the S8 and S8+. Along with the usual Midnight Black, Maple Gold and Arctic Silver (which won't be available locally at launch) is a new Orchid Gray color, which is a sort of gunmetal gray with a slightly purplish hue. Samsung's gorgeous Coral Blue color also makes a return, but as usual, it won't be available at launch.

 

 

Display

Like last year's S7, both the S8 and S8+ use QHD Super AMOLED panels, but by eliminating the physical buttons and stretching the displays, Samsung has had to adopt a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio that makes the S8 and S8+ taller and skinnier than the vast majority of smartphones out there with traditional 16:9 screens. On the Galaxy S8, you get a 5.8-inch 2,960 x 1,440 pixels display (570ppi), while the S8+ has a 6.2-inch 2,960 x 1,440 pixels display (529ppi).

16:9 content will display with black borders on the left and right.

Now there is some 21:9 content out there that looks fantastic on the S8, but even that isn't perfect, with black boxes at the top and bottom (although this is where the screen curves over the edge anyway). This problem may only be temporary anyway, as Google has recently started encouraging developers to support a widescreen aspect ratio on their apps.

21:9 content like this trailer for The Last Jedi looks fantastic on the S8+'s widescreen display.

As for the screen itself, Samsung's Super AMOLED panels are among the best in the business, and the S8 and S8+ are no exception. Both displays are sharp, vibrant and very bright, making them easy to use even under direct sunlight. As usual, contrast is also fantastic with ultra deep blacks. The displays are also ‘Mobile HDR Premium’ certified, so you’ll be able to stream HDR (high dynamic range) shows from Amazon Prime and Netflix when those apps are updated.

Like last year's S7, the display is an always-on panel, so you'll see the time, date, battery life and any notifications when you're not using the phone. Edge panels are also back; if you swipe in from the curved right side of the phone (if you're a lefty you can change it to the left side) you'll get access to more app shortcuts, contact shortcuts and other tools including news feeds, Quick Tools (which includes a compass and ruler), Reminders and Smart Select, which lets you easily capture part of the screenshot as a screenshot or animated GIF.

An interesting new addition to the display is a spot of pressure sensitivity right over the virtual home button. You can push harder on this spot of the screen to wake the display or return to the home screen at any point, even when you're using a full screen app that doesn't have a home button displayed. It's somewhat similar to the iPhone's Force Touch feature, but localized to just the spot on the display where the home button resides. It's a thoughtful little feature that works well and will help users transition away from a physical home button.

While we're on the topic of virtual buttons on the bottom of the display, for the first time, Samsung now allows you to swap the position of the 'back' and 'app multi-tasker' buttons! This is a boon for anyone upgrading from other Android brands and not having to to re-adapt to Samsung's preferred button placement.

 

Audio

Audio on the S8 comes from a single downward-firing speaker found on the bottom of the phone. It's the one area where Samsung hasn't really kept up with the competition, many of which boast stereo speakers. I actually would have preferred if Samsung had used the same speaker placement it experimented with on the mid-range Galaxy A7 (2017), which had the speaker on the right-side, next to the power button. At least this way your hand doesn't cover the speaker when you're holding the phone in landscape orientation. The speaker itself is fairly good, but isn't as loud as the one on an iPhone 7.

You also get a pair of AKG-branded earphones in the box. The earphones are pretty decent, and better than most stock earphones, but they're probably not worth the S$140 Samsung claims they are.

9.0
  • Design 9.5
  • Features 9
  • User-Friendliness 9
  • Performance 9
  • Value 7.5
The Good
Gorgeous design with huge dual curved display in a small body
Excellent camera
Great benchmark performance
IP68 build
Iris scanning
Edge panel functions on both S8 and S8+
The Bad
Awkwardly positioned fingerprint scanner
Bixby is still a work in progress
Pretty expensive
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