The Samsung Galaxy S8 represents the pinnacle of smartphone technology in 2017. It’s beautiful, fast, has an insanely good camera, a fantastic display and a tonne of extra features – some good, some bad. In short, all the ingredients in place for this to be the best smartphone ever made.
However, things like Bixby (Samsung’s personal assistant) being somewhat patchy, the fingerprint sensor is located in a less-than-ideal position, and the battery not being as good as its predecessor, make the phone frustrating.
Samsung Galaxy S8 review: What you need to know
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a 5.8in flagship smartphone, which has a stunning design, blistering Snapdragon 835 processor, an incredible display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio and an impressive camera make it the best Android phone to date.
It is, however, let down by its battery life, which is a tad lower than its predecessor, the Galaxy S7 – and its eye-watering price might also put you off. Still, if you’re looking for the best Android phone on the market, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is the one to get.
Samsung Galaxy S8 review: Price and competition
At launch, the Samsung Galaxy S8 was an eye-watering 610. Since, the flagship phone has dropped in price, and can now be found for around 540. This makes it more expensive than the similar LG G6 that costs around 450.
There’s also the very impressive Google Pixel XL, now at around 450, and the iPhone 7 Plus at around 700. If you’re willing to take a drop in screen size, the regular iPhone 7 costs 579.
Is it worth it? If you want the very best smartphone on the market, then yes. It has waterproofing and a camera that’s very good. It’s better looking than most of its competitors, such as the Google Pixel XL, has a microSD card slot so you can expand the storage, and there’s more storage as standard as well. It’s better than the LG G6 and the iPhone 7, too, in almost every respect.
Even then you might say the price is too high, and I hear you on that front. However, the Samsung is not alone in raising UK prices to this level, as you can see by the prices of its rivals. In fact, it’s part of a general trend that has going on for some time now. You might not like it, but this the reality right now; in a year paying 700 or thereabouts for a top-end smartphone will seem normal.
Samsung Galaxy S8 review: Design
There will be no Samsung Galaxy S8 Edge this year. Why? Because the Samsung Galaxy S8 is the device the S8 Edge would have been. Samsung’s new flagship is a phone with curved edges, and there’s no alternative.
The result is the best-looking phone on the market. Samsung has created an 18.5:9 “Infinity Display” that looks like no device you’ve ever seen before – well, none since the LG G6, anyway. The front of the phone is 100% glass, with the slimmest of bezels nestled above and below, resulting in an impressively high screen to body ratio of 84% (the Samsung Galaxy S7’s screen-to-body ratio was 72%).
This is a phone that feels great in your hand. It’s slim, smooth and light. However, it’s also slightly over-engineered. It’s a tall phone, which causes some problems during use. Hold the phone in your hand as if you want to unlock it using the rear fingerprint sensor and you’ll struggle to reach the home button without readjusting your grip. Grasp the device so you can reach the home button, however, and icons at the top of the screen become unreachable.
There is, at least, a 3.5mm headphone jack here, which is refreshing to see in the light of many rivals removing it. To take advantage of this, Samsung is also including a rather nice pair of AKG earphones in the box. These are certainly a cut above the no-brand earphones normally included with your average smartphone, delivering music with a clean, balanced sound that’s very pleasing to the ear.
They’re comfortable, don’t leak sound unduly at high volumes and, depending on how much you care about sound quality, could be all the headphones you need. Although it’s a small thing it’s good to see such attention to detail from Samsung.
Samsung Galaxy S8 review: Display
Pixels: 1,440 x 2,960 pixels (570ppi)
The screen on the S8 looks great, as you’d expect of a Samsung Super AMOLED unit. Colours are bright and vivid, and it’s readable in all conditions. In normal use in the browser, I recorded an impressive peak brightness of 569cd/m2 on a fully white screen with auto-brightness enabled, and 415cd/m2 with auto brightness disengaged; sRGB coverage is an impressive 99.9%; and contrast, since it’s an AMOLED panel, is perfect.
Perhaps more significant is that it’s the only mobile phone screen currently that’s been certified by the UHD Alliance to the Mobile HDR Premium standard. That means, like a high-end TV, it’s capable of playing back HDR (high dynamic range) video content, meaning brighter highlights – up to 1,000cd/m2, according to DisplayMate – for an ultra-realistic image.
As I’ve already mentioned, the screen is curved along both long edges on the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ phones this year and this brings into play similar screen functions to previous Samsung Edge phones. Swipe a finger in from the right and you can access shortcuts to your favourite apps and contacts, plus various other Edge screen apps, including a compass and news feed.
More significant is how the curved edges result in a wider display on a thinner phone. Edge apps are gimmicky; a display without bezel is genuine innovation.
Samsung Galaxy S8 review: Camera
Scroll up and look at those specs again. Notice anything unusual about this year’s camera? Yep, it’s exactly the same as the S7 – at least the specifications are. In an odd move, Samsung has stuck to the same 12-megapixel rear snapper complete with f/1.7 aperture, dual-pixel phase-detect autofocus and optical image stabilisation. The ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mantra rings true here.
There’s one teensy difference that sets it slightly ahead of its predecessor, though. Chipset improvements have seen an interesting new feature brought to light, in the form of multi-shot image processing. Every time you press the shutter button, the camera captures three frames, merging them together to form the sharpest image possible.
Samsung Galaxy S8 review: Security
There are six secure ways to unlock the S8:
- Facial recognition (new)
- Iris scanner
Smart Lock (unlocks at trusted locations)
Only one of these is new – the facial-recognition part – although Samsung has also repositioned its fingerprint reader due to lack of space on the front of the phone, and it also says that it’s improved the accuracy of its iris-recognition system this year as well.
To be frank, none of the Samsung’s biometric unlocking schemes is particularly convenient. Technically, they work well, including the facial recognition (most of the time). The problem is that you have to manipulate yourself to fit their requirements, which is more effort than it should be.
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