Samsung Galaxy S8 review

Samsung Galaxy S8

Design

If the Galaxy S7 was stunning in design then we’re not exactly sure how to describe the S8 apart from that it’s on another level.

Samsung has brought its edge screen technology to both phones this year so you don’t need to buy the larger Galaxy S8+ to get the full experience. This not only looks great but has a big advantage when it comes to keeping the size of the phone from getting out of control.

The S8 is pretty much the same width, thickness and weight compared to its predecessor. It’s just a few millimetres taller but jumps from 5.1- to 5.8in when it comes to screen size. So what would typically be an unwieldy device feels barely any different in the hand. It’s a really impressive piece of craftsmanship, largely down to signi cantly reducing the bezels at the top and bottom. The physical home button and accompanying capacitive keys are gone to achieve this. Now you have on-screen navigation and a pressure sensitive home button built into the display.

The fingerprint scanner is now on the back, though awkwardly next to the camera rather than below it, and right-handed users are likely to smudge the camera when using it. Samsung has, however, improved the Iris scanner, so you might not nd yourself needing it.

A lot of users will be pleased to hear that Samsung has retained the headphone jack on the bottom. The Galaxy S8 is made from a lot of glass once again so it’s a little slippery but has a Gorilla Glass 5 back to resist damage.

As you’d expect, the Galaxy S8 is fully dust and waterproof like its predecessor, so has an IP68 rating. That extra button you see on the left side of the phone is to quickly launch Bixby (page 11), Samsung’s arti cial intelligence assistance.

There are ve colours to choose from, but in the UK we’ll get three at launch: Midnight Black, Orchid Grey and Arctic Silver (the latter with arrive at later date). Samsung may well bring the blue and gold options at the later date but we’ll have to wait and see.

Hardware

Compared to the Galaxy S7, the new S8 isn’t dramatically di erent when it comes to the speci cations and hardware on o er. That’s partly because the S7 ticked a lot of boxes, but there are new components with the screen being the most obvious change.

Display

As mentioned in the design section, Samsung has impressively jumped from 5.1- to 5.8in when it comes to screen size. This is despite the phone only being
a little taller in shape. If that’s not big enough, the Galaxy S8+ is a whopping 6.2in.

Like the LG G6, the Galaxy S8’s display had rounded corners which look great, matching the curvature of the phone’s metal frame. Samsung has also opted for a similar aspect ratio of 18.5:9 meaning the screen is very tall (or wide in landscape).

You can t more on the screen, of course, and the aspect ratio suits content like videos much better, so you don’t have to watch videos with annoying black bars any longer. Samsung has also added various software elements to ensure comfortable one-handed use.

The smartphone maker has stuck to its preferred SuperAMOLED display technology ensuring great contrast and colours. The S8’s screen resolution is Quad HD, 2960×1440 in this case because the screen is so tall. A pixel density of 570ppi is enough for anyone.

Specifications aside, the S8 also now has the well known edge screen as standard, so there’s no need to buy the edge version any longer (like the Galaxy S7 edge). The curve is more subtle than previous edge devices though, so you just have the edge panels rather than
any other additional functionality.

Processor

Once again, the Galaxy S8 will have a di erent processor for di erent markets around the world. Samsung has been a bit vague on the subject, but it appears the UK model will have the rm’s new Exynos 9 8895 chip rather than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 the two companies collaborated on. We’re assuming this as we’re told the Galaxy S8 will have an octa-core processor with clock speeds of 2.3- and 1.7GHz (four cores each) which doesn’t match up with the specs of the Snapdragon 835.

What we can say at this stage is that the Galaxy S8 felt very smooth indeed during our hands-on time with it. We’ll test this further along with benchmarks as soon as we get a final review sample.

The firm claims a 10 percent increase in CPU performance and a 20 percent gain on the GPU side.

Memory and storage

Not a huge amount has changed in this department but here’s the deal. The S8 still has 4GB of RAM and comes with 64GB of storage as standard. Samsung hasn’t mentioned anything about a 128GB model but that could come later.

As usual, the phone has expandable storage, so you can add up to 256GB via the microSD card slot.

Connectivity

As you’d expect from a agship Samsung phone, the S8 is packed with all the latest connectivity speci cations. To this end, it has dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, Bluetooth 5.0 and LTE Cat 16. It also uses a reversible USB-C port like recent Samsung devices and rivals.

The heart rate monitor also remains but has been moved to the other side of the camera module.

Fingerprint and Iris scanners

As mentioned already, the ngerprint scanner has moved to the back in order to t a much larger screen. We’re all for this – LG has been doing it since the G2 – but the placement isn’t very ergonomic.

Samsung appears to have prioritised the symmetry of design over functionality here, so most users will be making the camera lens grubby when reaching for the sensor. We haven’t tested the scanning itself, but we’ve seen it in action and it’s fast. You can also unlock the phone with it without the need to wake it up rst.

Luckily, the ngerprint sensor isn’t needed as much with the Galaxy S8 because Samsung has improved the aky Iris scanner found on the Note 7. Again, we haven’t tried it, but it works very quickly if you can be bothered to hold the phone up to your face.

Cameras

There’s no change from the fantastic camera inside the Galaxy S7. So the S8 has a 12Mp Dual Pixel snapper with an impressive f/1.7 aperture and other features such as optical image stabilisation (OIS) and 4K recording.

The camera o ers ‘multi-frame image processing’ where it takes three shots instead of one and uses the extras to do things like reduce blur and perfect other elements like focus.

If the S7 is anything to go by then the S8’s camera will be one of the best available on a phone. It certainly seemed very decent during our time with it, but we need a lot longer to give you a proper verdict.

When it comes to the front camera things are similar with a matching f/1.7 aperture, though the resolution has been bumped from 5- to 8Mp. Again, during hands-on testing this camera outputs good quality results, but we’ll test this further.

If you’re worried about jumping to a much larger screen size Samsung has made tweaks to help you operate the phone with one hand. In the camera app, we found it easy to switch between the cameras, modes, lters and even zoom all with di erent thumb swipes.

Battery life

Samsung hasn’t made a big song and dance about battery life on the S8. This may be partly due to the fact it has the same 3000mAh capacity as its predecessor. Nevertheless, it’s good to see features such as USB-C, fast charging and wireless charging all as standard.

It’s likely that most users will need to charge the S8 every night, but we’ll know more once we’ve had the phone for a signi cant period of time.

Software

Manufacturers don’t typically sell phones on the software, and this is largely the case with the S8, but there are some interesting things to talk about.

Android 7.0 Nougat

As you’d expect, the phone comes preloaded with the lasted version of Android, 7.0 Nougat and Samsung hasn’t mucked about with it too much. The interface remains clean and easy to use, but still has lots going on behind the scenes. You get a lot of preinstalled apps, though most will be useful including Google’s, Microsoft’s and Samsung’s own. The app draw, for your information, is now accessed with an upwards swipe, which will take some users a while to get used to.

Snap Window

Moving to a bigger screen, despite the phone not being much bigger, presents a problem. A larger display means it’s harder to reach all of it with one hand. As mentioned earlier, things like the camera app have new controls to help you out.

A new feature for the S8 is called Snap Window and takes advantage of the tall screen size. It’s essentially a new part of Multi Window and allows you to snap an app to the top part of the screen. Below it you can carry on like normal on a still larger chunk of the real estate.

Bixby

We said not selling a phone on the software is ‘largely the case’ here because Samsung is making a big deal about Bixby. It might sound like a new mascot, but it’s Samsung’s answer to the likes of Siri and Google Assistant. There’s even a Bixby button on the side so you can access the feature quickly, without unlocking the device.

The idea is you can talk to it without worrying what you can and can’t say. It will also understand the context of what you’re doing. We saw a demonstration that showed it set a wallpaper after launching the gallery with minimal taps.

Bixby Vision can also do some clever things such as tell you about a local landmark you point the camera at, along with additional information about what’s around you like places to eat or provided online prices for a product without scanning the barcode.

It’s all very impressive, but much of the functionality is available via Google Assistant (which is on the phone) and Bixby will be limited to selected Samsung apps to start with. You also won’t be able to use the voice element at launch with UK language support arriving at an unknown later date. Until then, you’ll have to make do with Bixby Home – the interface loads if you push the physical button on the side or swipe right from the home screen. Here you’ll get all kinds of information that should be useful such as the weather, news and tness stats.

DeX

We’re actually more interested in DeX, a docking station that lets you use the Galaxy S8 as a makeshift PC. You connect the phone via USB-C and the dock as two USB ports, Ethernet, HDMI and a cooling fan. You can also use it with a wireless keyboard and mouse and once the phone is docked you’ll get a custom desktop-style interface where you can open and resize apps in separate windows like you would on a PC or laptop.

The demonstration appeared to work very well and could make the Galaxy S8 a decent productivity device for anyone wanting to do general, basic o ce work. Samsung has even optimised its own browser, so it loads the desktop version of websites.

Other new accessories for the Galaxy S8 include a new Gear 360 2 camera and a tweaked Gear VR headset bundled with a motion controller.

Verdict

Our initial impression of the Galaxy S8 is positive indeed. Samsung has taken the best phone around and made it even better with an impressive screen and design. It ticks a shed load of boxes, but check back for a full review soon when we have tested it properly.

Specifications

5.8in (2960×1440, 570ppi) Quad HD display n Android 7.0 Nougat
Dual curved edge display
Exynos 8895 octa-core processor

4GB RAM
64GB internal storage
MicroSD card slot (up to 256GB) n 12Mp rear-facing camera with OIS n 8Mp front camera
Pressure-sensitive home button
Fingerprint scanner
Heart-rate monitor
11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX
GPS
NFC
4G LTE Cat 16
Headphone jack
USB-C
3000mAh non-removable battery n Wireless charging
IP68 dust & waterproof rating
68x149x8mm
155g