Samsung knows how to make a premium Android smartphone. For the past few years, every addition to their Galaxy S series has absolutely nailed it, shooting Samsung to the top of the popularity charts. They are one of a very select group of Android OEMs that introduce innovative features every year, and the Galaxy S8+ is no exception.
The S8 and S8+ are two of three mainstream phones on the market that prioritize screen real estate over bezels – the other being the LG G6 – and in doing so, the Galaxy S8 series has extended its display from a traditional 16:9 aspect ratio to a massive 18.5:9. Along with curved edges and a high-contrast AMOLED display, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ have a truly futuristic design.
In my hands for review is the Galaxy S8+, the larger of Samsung’s two phones, with a 6.2-inch display. The smaller Galaxy S8 packs a 5.8-inch screen, though neither phone is much larger than last year’s 5.1-inch Galaxy S7 and 5.5-inch Galaxy S7 Edge respectively. As I’m based in Australia, Samsung provided me with the global variant, which packs a Samsung Exynos 8895 SoC; those in the United States will be treated to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 instead.
The Galaxy S8+ also includes 64GB of storage with microSD expansion, 4GB of RAM, USB Type-C for the first time, and a 3,500 mAh battery. The camera is the same as the Galaxy S7 – a 12.7-megapixel sensor with OIS and dual-pixel technology – however Samsung has tweaked the software processing on the new device. These improvements to design, hardware and even their software atop Android 7.0 make this the best phone on the market today.
Let’s talk about the design, because there isn’t another phone available that looks quite like the Galaxy S8+. The front of this handset is absolutely dominated by screen, so much so that it makes every other smartphone ever released look last-generation in comparison. The iPhone 7, the Google Pixel, the Galaxy S7 and more all look straight up bad next to a phone that’s basically a gigantic, futuristic screen in your hands.
"(the Galaxy S8)... makes every other smartphone ever released look last-generation in comparison"
There is a small amount of bezel to the Galaxy S8+ at the top and bottom. Along the top Samsung has managed to cram the front camera, in-call speaker and a few sensors into a space no more than 7.5mm tall. And below the display, the fingerprint sensor and capacitive navigation buttons are gone in favor of an on-screen button implementation and a beautifully extended display.
The Galaxy S8+ uses curved glass on the front and back of the handset, leaving a small metal edge on the left and right sides. Due to the slim edges, the power, volume and Bixby buttons (more on that later) are fairly slim, though they exhibit a solid click. The glossy finish to the metal sides around the sides combined with the highly reflective glass panes gives the Galaxy S8+ a premium look, with few seams or distractions. Samsung has nailed this aspect to their flagship phone designs ever since the awful Galaxy S5. The S8+ in particular is leagues ahead of the iPhone in both build and visual quality.
There are some issues associated with a glass body. Firstly, the phone is a massive fingerprint magnet on either side; those who like to keep their phones grime-free will have their work cut out for them. Secondly, the glossy finish to said glass makes the Galaxy S8+ slippery. At times, trying to hold the S8 is like trying to hold a bar of soap. The way the glass just slides right out from your fingertips is unparalleled, and it’s not helped by such a thin sliver of metal on either side.
But by far the most pressing concern is the fragility of this design. The Galaxy S8+ has been on the market for over a month now, and there have been loads of consumers reporting cracked screens after just a few weeks of use. Drop the S8+ once, even from a short distance or onto something not particularly hard, and it’s highly likely the screen will break. Repair shops are calling the Galaxy S8+ the most fragile phone ever made, and that’s not a good thing for everyday consumers that want to use this phone for a few years.
Of course, you can put the S8+ in a case, but that takes away from the beautiful design. What’s the point of engineering such an awesome-looking phone if you need to put it in an ugly case to ensure it doesn’t shatter at a moment’s notice? This is something you’ll have to toss up when choosing to buy the S8+.
Another issue with the Galaxy S8+ design that’s not related to its fragility is the position of the fingerprint sensor. Samsung moved the sensor from the front to the rear of the handset, which isn’t a bad move in itself, but placing right next to the camera is just dumb.
Every time you go to activate the sensor, you’ll likely place a bunch of grimy fingerprints all over the camera lens, reducing the quality of your photos if you don’t routinely clean the lens.
Luckily you can also secure the Galaxy S8+ through the iris scanner, which worked well during my testing. However, it requires you to turn on the display and swipe up on the lockscreen before it will activate the scanner, which makes the fingerprint sensor much faster in everyday use. Despite how fast the iris scanner is to use, and the poor fingerprint scanner location, fingerprint lock is still the best way to secure the phone.
The Galaxy S8+ is the first Samsung flagship that uses USB Type-C. The company has only moved to this current-generation connector because they also produced a new Gear VR headset with USB-C support; the previous Gear VR was limited to micro-USB, hence why the Galaxy S7 stuck with micro-USB. USB-C is a more versatile connector and should be the standard on all flagship phones released in 2017.
The S8+ also includes a 3.5mm headphone jack, because Samsung isn’t a dumb and user-hostile company. The built-in speaker is just a single edge-firing unit with mediocre quality, and that’s perhaps the weakest aspect of this phone’s sound experience. The phone does support 32-bit/382kHz high quality audio through the headphone jack, though.
Along the top edge you’ll find the removable tray for both the microSD card and the nano-SIM. Remember when flagship phones didn’t have expandable storage? Yeah, that was a bad time. There’s also a notification LED on the Galaxy S8+, which all Android phones should have.
Like previous Samsung flagships, the Galaxy S8+ is IP68 water resistant, meaning it can be fully submerged in up to 1.5m of freshwater for up to 30 minutes. It’s always a neat feature to have an enables underwater photography, though it’s not a good idea to take the phone into saltwater.
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ comes with a 6.2-inch 2960 x 1440 Super AMOLED display, with a huge pixel density of 529 PPI. The main difference between this panel and a traditional 1440p display is its length: it features an extra 400 pixels of vertical height, taking it from a 5.55-inch 1440p 16:9 display (with equivalent pixel density) to a 6.2-inch 2960 x 1440 18.5:9 display. In other words, this display is roughly the same width as the 5.5-inch display on the Galaxy S7 Edge, but it’s much taller and leads to an impressive 84% screen-to-body ratio.
In terms of display area, which becomes the most important metric to compare displays of different aspect ratios, the Galaxy S8+’s display is 17 percent larger than the Galaxy S7 Edge’s display thanks to its extra height. If we were comparing two 16:9 displays, one 5.5-inches and one 6.2-inches, the 6.2-inch display would be 27% larger, but that’s not the case here as the Galaxy S8+’s display is much skinnier.
The main benefit of this extra screen real estate is purely from a visual design standpoint. The screen occupies nearly the entire front panel, and it looks amazing. When actually using the phone, for the most part you’ll see a bit more content on the screen at any one time. You also should factor in the on-screen navigation buttons that weren’t present on the Galaxy S7 Edge, which reduce the relative gain in screen real estate moving to the S8+.
Most apps support the extended Galaxy S8 screen pretty well, particularly those that have a ‘content window’ that can simply be extended to show you a bit more on the longer display. Some apps are natively locked to 16:9, producing black bars on the S8+ display, but Samsung has a neat button available in the app switcher that attempts to expand these apps to full screen. This feature worked every time I tried it, so you’ll rarely need to put up with a basic 16:9 experience.
Samsung has a similar button that appears while watching videos in apps like YouTube and so forth, however this button simply zooms in the content to occupy the entire display. Some may prefer this viewing experience, though as it crops off the top and bottom of the video, it’s not a favorite of mine. I’d rather watch with small black bars.
The other main feature of this display is its curved edges. I don’t think the curve adds much to the experience, though Samsung has persisted with it for several generations now. Samsung do have some ‘edge’-related software features that could be implemented on a flat screen if they really wanted to, and the screen tends to get annoyingly distorted and prone to reflections along the edges. It also makes the phone more fragile.
Samsung tend to produce quality phone displays, and the Galaxy S8+’s panel is no exception. As it uses AMOLED technology, its contrast ratio is unparalleled thanks to deep blacks. Viewing angles are excellent and exhibit almost no color shift at off angles, which is another benefit to AMOLED tech. Samsung also manages to produce a very bright AMOLED panel: this one tops out at over 570 nits, which puts it firmly in LCD territory and makes it easy to view in direct sunlight.
Color performance is standard stuff from Samsung. They calibrate their displays at the factor to be oversaturated, and use a gamut well outside sRGB to achieve this. As Android doesn’t support proper color management, the result is a vibrant, beautiful looking image for the most part. Accuracy, though, tends to get thrown out the window: the Galaxy S8+ doesn’t perform well in our display tests, falling around the same mark as last year’s Galaxy S7 Edge. It’s temperature is too cold out of the box, though I didn’t suffer from the red tint issue some others were seeing.
You can correct the display’s color performance somewhat by heading into the display settings and switching to ‘basic’ mode. This does make the OS look like trash, as Samsung has designed it with the screen’s oversaturation in mind, though if you need color accuracy, it’s as good as it gets. Unfortunately, the S8+’s basic mode wasn’t as strong as its predecessor, but it comes close to achieving good sRGB performance.
The S8+ display has always-on functionality, allowing you to see the time and some notifications at all times when the display is ‘off’. No gesture is required to activate this feature: the Galaxy S8+ simply illuminates the pixels for this information (at a reasonable brightness level, too) so you can always see the time. It’s pretty handy, and something you should consider leaving enabled.
The other thing worth mentioning is the Galaxy S8+ allows you to change its display resolution in the settings screen. The goal here is to provide improved battery life and performance at the expense of display clarity, and in fact the S8+ is set to its FHD+ mode (2220 x 1080) out of the box. Of course, you’ll want to switch that up to WQHD+ (2960 x 1440) to get the best experience, and I could easily notice the difference in sharpness after I made this change.
All performance and battery testing was performed using this WQHD+ mode, as that’s the mode most people will want to use. Shifting down to FHD+ will provide a slight boost to battery life, but in my opinion it’s not worth it when the display looks so amazing at its full resolution.
Hardware Overview and System Performance
As with Samsung’s past Galaxy S phones, there are two variants of the Galaxy S8+ on the market: one with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 SoC, and another with Samsung’s Exynos 8895 SoC. Those in North America will get the Snapdragon model, while the rest of the world gets the Exynos variant. I have the Exynos model on hand to review, so I’ll be discussing the hardware of that phone in detail here.
The Exynos 8895 is an evolutionary step on the Exynos 8890, which was seen in both the Galaxy S7 series and the Galaxy Note 7 in some regions. The Exynos 8890 was built on a 14nm process, but with the 8895, Samsung has shifted to a cutting-edge 10nm FinFET process, the same as used in the Snapdragon 835. Samsung claims this has led to up to 27 percent higher performance and 40 percent lower power consumption.
In terms of CPU, we’re looking at an octa-core layout like last time. In fact, the design is pretty similar to the Exynos 8890, with a quad-core Exynos M2 cluster clocked at 2.31 GHz paired with a quad-core Cortex-A53 cluster clocked at 1.69 GHz. This is roughly a 300 MHz decrease in clock on the high-performance cores, and a 100 MHz increase on the efficient cores, relative to last year’s model.
The GPU has received a significant upgrade, moving from the Mali-T880 MP12 to a Mali-G71 MP20 clocked at 546 MHz. This upgrade should provide around 40 percent better GPU performance than last year’s Exynos 8890, and is the main point of difference between the two SoCs. We’re also seeing LPDDR4X memory support, and a new modem that supports LTE Category 16 downstream for 1 Gbps transfers, matching the Snapdragon 835.
The Galaxy S8+ itself comes with 64GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM as standard, with microSD card expansion support. For wireless radios, we’re looking at Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 5, the new Bluetooth standard that supports greater transfer speeds over longer ranges. LTE Category 16 downstream support is complemented by Category 16 upstream. There’s also NFC, which is standard for flagship phones.
Taking a look at our system benchmarks, and it’s clear that the Galaxy S8+ holds a strong lead over the Galaxy S7 Edge in CPU-limited workloads. The Exynos 8895 was 22 percent faster on average across our system benchmarks, despite the lower clock speed on the high-performance cores, though it didn’t quite match Samsung’s 27 percent performance improvement claims.
This leads to an extremely snappy device experience. It’s not noticeably faster than the Galaxy S7 Edge in most everyday tasks, however there’s enough CPU power here to run everything you can imagine, and this extra power will be useful in workloads like virtual reality and running Samsung’s DeX accessory.
The S8+ also holds a decent lead over the Google Pixel XL, which is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC, to the tune of 20 percent on average. Compared to the Huawei Mate 9’s Kirin 960 SoC, however, the Exynos 8895 in the S8+ falls short by about six percent. The Cortex-A73 CPU design used in the Kirin 960 is very strong as still leads in most metrics.
Those upgrading from the Exynos-powered Galaxy S6 will enjoy 37 percent better CPU performance on average.
Graphics and Storage Performance
Samsung have really targeted GPU performance with the Exynos 8895 to accommodate their virtual reality goals and the increased resolution of the Galaxy S8+’s display. The Mali-G71 MP20 at its modest 546 MHz clock speed dominates most benchmarks, up to a certain point.
In terms of raw performance advantages, the Galaxy S8+ is 60 percent faster in GPU-limited workloads on average compared to the Galaxy S7 Edge. That’s a massive performance improvement in a limited thermal and power envelope, assisted by the upgrade to a 10nm process. When looking purely at on-screen benchmarks, the S8+ still holds a 54 percent advantage over the S7 Edge despite its increased resolution.
Gains relative to the Snapdragon 821 are smaller, with the S8+ only beating the Pixel XL by 39 percent on average. I say “only” here, but that’s still an impressive gain. And compared to the Huawei Mate 9’s Kirin 960, which also uses a Mali-G71 GPU but only the MP8 variant at a higher clock speed, the S8+ pulls away by 32 percent on average. In fact the Galaxy S8+ is pretty much on par with the iPhone 7 Plus here in terms of GPU performance, and Apple’s A10 SoC has a beefy GPU in it.
The downside to the Exynos 8895, and this has been an issue across most Exynos processors, is throttling. Exynos SoCs are the worst on the market in this regard, with the S8+ slowing by 43 percent after 25 minutes of gaming. This is on par with the Exynos Galaxy S7 Edge, while Snapdragon 821 SoCs tend to drop by a more modest 20 to 30 percent.
The good news here is that the Exynos 8895 in its throttled state is still faster than the Snapdragon 821 at an equivalent screen resolution, as it’s starting from a higher peak level, though the gap is reduced significantly. Devices with 1080p displays like the Huawei Mate 9 and the OnePlus 3 are actually faster during long gaming sessions.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Snapdragon 835 stacks up when I get hands on time with it.
The Galaxy S8+’s storage performance is an interesting one. The NAND used here is clearly faster than last year’s in sequential tests, however it remains largely the same in random tests. This leads to great sequential NAND performance but only mid-tier (for a flagship) random performance. It’d be nice to see Samsung focus on arguably more important random performance in future devices.
Samsung has done what most other flagship phone manufacturers wouldn’t dare to do: they used the same camera hardware for two high-end phones in a row. That’s right, the Galaxy S8+ uses the same 12-megapixel Samsung S5K2L1 (or Sony IMX260) 1/2.5” CMOS sensor as the Galaxy S7 Edge, with 1.4µm pixels and dual pixel PDAF technology. It’s paired with an f/1.7 lens 26mm lens and optical image stabilization.
The rear camera supports 4K capture at 30 frames per second (and 1080p at 60 FPS), while the front camera is limited to 1440p capture. The front camera hardware has been upgraded, though, to an 8-megapixel sensor with an f/1.7 lens and autofocus.
One of the best aspects to the Galaxy S7 Edge camera remains in the S8+: it’s phenomenal focus speed thanks to dual pixel technology. What dual pixel does is turn every pixel in the sensor into both a light capture source and a phase detection autofocus element, so no matter where an object is in the frame, the sensor can focus accurately and very quickly. The S8+ is just as fast as the S7 Edge to focus, making it one of the fastest cameras on the market.
Several aspects of the S7 Edge camera’s image quality also remain in the S8+. Despite the fact it produces 12-megapixel images, detail is pretty mediocre due to aggressive post processing, particularly noise reduction. The ‘oil painting effect’ is well and truly here on S8+ photos, which will disappoint those that want to zoom and crop their smartphone images. Zoom out, though, and images look fine.
Samsung’s image processing is still excellent, however, which leads to images that look great in nearly all conditions. When outdoors, the S8+ performs very similarly to the S7 Edge, and that’s exactly what you want to see considering how well the S7 Edge performed in these conditions. Images are vibrant, exhibit fantastic dynamic range, and just look damn good without needing to edit them after the fact.
Samsung has made some noticeable improvements to their image processing in the S8+, which allows them to reuse the hardware from the S7 Edge for better results. Dynamic range and the auto-HDR mode are superior to last year’s model, likely due to multi-frame image processing. Images taken in high-contrast environments look even more awesome than ever on the S8+.
Improvements have also been made to the way the S8+ handles indoor photos. The phone appears to deliver brighter, better metered photos under artificial lighting, often with improved colors as well. The S7 Edge performed well indoors, but the S8+ takes things to the next level. You also get the added benefit of the aforementioned dynamic range improvements, which help to create indoor images with more depth than before.
There are times when the S8+ still struggles to meter correctly, leading to indoor shots with a noticeable yellow or red tone on occasion. On cloudy days, the S8+ also has a habit of taking shots that are too ‘cold’ or blue for the conditions, leading to unnaturally desaturated photos. Luckily, you can change the white balance to whatever you like in the camera’s fully-featured manual mode.
Low light performance is still largely the same as last generation, though sharpness has been improved for fast-moving objects in poor lighting conditions. Photos can be a bit grainy when it gets really dark, however the S8+ is still a competent camera here.
I was impressed with the improvements to the front facing camera, particularly the inclusion of autofocus. When you pair the selfie camera with a wide f/1.7 lens, you can achieve some nice background blur to your selfies. The improved light gathering ability also assists with low light capture, which is an area a lot of selfie cameras struggle with.
My only real complaint with the Galaxy S8+ camera is that it isn’t as good as the Pixel XL. There’s just something about the Pixel’s always-on HDR mode that produces stunning results in all conditions. The Galaxy S8+ comes close, but it just can’t match that level of quality.
As for the camera application, the S8+ uses a simple layout that’s easy to use and control. You can capture videos and stills from the same screen, while quick access to some settings like HDR and the flash are on the left. It’s not immediately intuitive that you need to swipe from the left to access additional camera modes, though you do get a range of cool features there, such as selective focus, slow motion video capture, and a hyperlapse mode.
The manual mode is fantastic, and gives you access to pretty much everything you’d want. Some phones only provide ISO, shutter speed and white balance controls, but with the S8+ you also get access to focus modes (multi and center) along with a range of metering modes. In terms of features here, the S8+ is starting to approach what we see on professional DLSRs.
Battery life is a very interesting case for the Galaxy S8+. We’re looking at a 3,500 mAh (13.48 Wh) cell, which is a slight decrease on the 3,600 mAh battery we saw in the Galaxy S7 Edge. We’re also seeing a larger display, which typically reduces battery life, though a more efficient SoC process technology. So there are a range of factors impacting battery life.
The Galaxy S7 Edge had fantastic battery life, and it’s great to see the Galaxy S8+ largely living up the performance of its predecessor here. Interestingly, the S8+ lasts longer in more processor-heavy benchmarks, like PCMark and GFXBench, but it falls behind by a small margin in our web browsing tests.
The Galaxy S8+ performs well when compared to other current-generation flagships. It outperforms the Pixel XL by around 10 percent on average, though it falls behind the massive Huawei Mate 9 and its huge battery. I have some more phones to test in the coming weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see how the S8+ performs up against new flagships from LG, HTC, Huawei and Xiaomi.
Note that these results do not consider the always-on Galaxy S8+ display. If you leave that feature enabled, you will experience higher standby battery drain than most other smartphones, which can lead to reduced overall battery life.
Samsung includes Android 7.0 on the Galaxy S8+ out of the box, with the latest version of what the company is now calling “Samsung Experience” (aka. a custom skin). Samsung’s software has become increasingly better across the last few generations, and what you get on the S8+ is the best version of their software yet.
For starters, Samsung’s skin has a much nicer visual design than any previous version of TouchWiz. The company is now using a clean yet unique style that looks like it belongs in a modern Android world. Every cartoon element that was a feature of TouchWiz in the past is now a more stylized, futuristic element, with a greater use of rounded edges and far fewer gradients. The design looks pretty good these days, and stands out from the crowd of other Android handsets.
As always, Samsung has changed basically every element possible in the OS to reflect their design language, aside from stock Google applications. The mix of Samsung’s skin and traditional Android design tends to work reasonably well, and many apps use elements from Google’s design handbook, although it’s clear that most of Samsung’s stock apps have been designed with a different style in mind. Previous versions of Samsung’s skin have looked nothing like stock Android, so I’m glad Samsung has hired some design experts for their latest efforts.
Where you’ll likely notice the biggest changes compared to stock Android is in the notification pane, which uses a vastly different style. Most of the changes are purely visual though, so you’ll still see the same highly-informative notifications as you get with Android 7.0’s more card-based layout. At the top you’ll find the traditional range of quick setting toggles, which can be expanded into a two-pane smattering of controls, along with a brightness slider. Samsung has cut down on unnecessary crap here in favor of just the elements you need.
The settings screen has also been changed significantly, with a simplified design making it far easier to navigate than any previous Samsung handset. The condensed submenus are a godsend and they just make sense, separating settings into clear categories. Previously this area was an absolute mess. In fact, Samsung even gives you hints about where to find stuff if you happen to accidentally stumble into the wrong section, making it even easier to find what you’re looking for.
As you’d expect from a Samsung device, there are a lot of features throughout the software. I’m not going to discuss everything, because many of these features are of limited use, and some aren’t hugely original. You will find handy things like the app notification blocker, full theming support, a one-handed mode, gesture support, and the game launcher. There’s even a new maintenance tool that makes it easy to manage battery life and storage, turn on performance modes, and secure your handset.
Bloatware is not nearly as much of an issue on the Galaxy S8+, because Samsung allows you to remove it all during the installation process. In a surprise move, Samsung actually asks you if you want to install a bunch of unnecessary crap like S Health and their duplicate internet browser. I didn’t want any of that garbage on my phone, so I opted not to install it.
This doesn’t rid the S8+ of bloatware entirely. There are still two duplicate apps – Gallery and Galaxy Apps – and a few other bits of junk like mySamsung and a full suite of Microsoft apps. I still have no idea why Samsung persists with their own app store when the Play Store is at least one million times better, but it’s the only way to update their pre-installed apps. I guess you can’t win everything.
I would talk about the Edge screen features, but there’s not a whole lot to discuss. I found the Edge screen more annoying than anything, bringing up some useless panes when I just wanted to swipe across the screen. I don’t need quick access to apps or contacts; I can do those things from the homescreen or within the contact app. Perhaps the only useful feature here are the screenshot tools.
Another thing I’m not going to spend much time on, much to the chagrin of Samsung I’m sure, is Bixby, their new virtual assistant application to rival Google’s Assistant. The Galaxy S8+ even has a dedicated button for launching Bixby, which frustratingly can’t be remapped to something useful. I say this because Bixby is basically a clone of Assistant and Google Now, and there’s no compelling reason to use it over Google’s alternative.
Bixby is split into three parts: Home, Voice and Vision. Home is the leftmost pane of your homescreen that shows you stuff like calendar appointments, the weather, news and so forth. This sounds a lot like Google Now, and that’s because it is, except it doesn’t have the power of Google behind it. Vision uses your camera to recognize objects, like Google Goggles back in the day, making it a neat but ultimately gimmicky inclusion. And Voice wasn’t available in Australia, so I couldn’t test it.
As for updates, Samsung’s track record here is better than a lot of other Android OEMs, but still a fair way behind Google and their Pixel handsets. My review unit does currently have the May security patches installed, which is a good start from Samsung, though I’m not convinced the handset will receive monthly updates.
Straight Out of the Future (Almost)
Samsung has once again produced an excellent flagship phone, and I’m sure it’s a handset that nearly every phone buyer will be considering throughout 2017. It features a fantastic range of hardware and some decent updates to the software, plus the most beautiful phone design I’ve ever seen and used.
The design is something straight out of the future. The Galaxy S8+ uses premium materials with a seamless construction across the board, and that massive near bezel-free display is truly something to behold. Samsung knew they were onto something big with their new screen setup, and what they’ve produced here will shame every phone manufacturer in 2017 that doesn’t follow a similar path.
The downside to this sort of design is its extreme fragility. With the phone now having been on the market for a little over a month, it’s clear that dropping this phone spells disaster. Putting a case on such a beautiful phone is a travesty, but it might a necessity. I’d like to see Samsung work on the phone’s durability in a future model, perhaps forgoing the largely-unnecessary curved display edges.
The S8+ is filled with great little features and additions all over the place. USB-C is included in Samsung’s flagship for the first time, while we’re still seeing a microSD card slot and IP68 water resistance. The headphone jack remains, there’s a notification LED, and you even get an iris scanner. However, the fingerprint sensor – moved from front to back – is in such an idiotic position it’s hard to know exactly what Samsung’s engineers were thinking when they placed it so close to the camera lens.
The enormous 6.2-inch 18.5:9 AMOLED display is one of the best you’ll find on a smartphone. It’s taller and therefore larger than the Galaxy S7 Edge display, but it doesn’t feel any more cumbersome to use. Contrast ratio and viewing angles are superb, while Samsung continues to deliver class-leading brightness for this display technology. It’s still a pretty oversaturated display, though this does make images look fantastic and those that require accuracy can switch to the ‘basic’ display mode with ease.
I received an Exynos 8895-powered Galaxy S8+ to review, and its performance wasn’t a huge surprise. It’s significantly faster than the Exynos 8890 in last year’s Galaxy S7, particularly in terms of the GPU, and also comfortably beats the Snapdragon 821. CPU performance does fall behind the Kirin 960, however its GPU is unparalleled thus far (I haven’t tested the Snapdragon 835 just yet).
The main downside to Exynos SoCs, though, is throttling under heavy load, which has remained an issue for several generations now. Performance is cut by more than 40% after 20 minutes of gaming, which does impact the experience.
The Exynos 8895 does use a more efficient process node, though, which allows it to deliver battery life similar to the Galaxy S7 Edge despite a slightly smaller battery and a larger display. Battery life in general is excellent, consistently falling towards the top of our performance charts. Plus you also get fast charging, both wired and wireless.
The Galaxy S8+ also brings a decent range of other hardware features, including Gigabit LTE Category 16, Bluetooth 5 (a first for smartphones), NFC, and a reasonably quick 64GB of internal storage.
The camera is one area that didn’t receive a significant upgrade over the Galaxy S7 Edge, although the S7 Edge was such a strong performer that significant changes weren’t required. Through a few tweaks to processing and an improved front-facing camera, the S8+ delivers better images than its predecessor, primarily thanks to better dynamic range. It performs very well across the board, though can’t quite match the all-round brilliance of the Google Pixel.
I appreciate the time and effort Samsung has put into improving their Android software experience, particularly the visual tweaks that modernize the operating system. There’s still a bit of bloatware included, though you can choose not to install a lot of it during setup, and Bixby isn’t particularly useful or anything special up against Google Assistant. However, small steps forward are always welcome, and Samsung has come a long way in terms of their software in the last few years.
- Samsung Galaxy S8+ on Amazon
- Samsung Galaxy S8 on Amazon
- Samsung Galaxy S8+ on Samsung.com
- Samsung Galaxy S8+ on BestBuy
At the end of the day, the Galaxy S8+ is a phone I’d recommend to most buyers, but only if you’re willing to put up with its fragility. At over $800 outright, it’s an expensive handset, so it’d be devastating to see it shatter within a few weeks. Keep good care of it, though, and you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic range of hardware that could just be worth its high asking price.
Pros: The most beautiful, futuristic phone I’ve ever seen. Enormous, vibrant display without being cumbersome. Great performance and battery life. Camera still stacks up favorably despite lack of hardware upgrade.
Cons: The most fragile phone ever made. Dumb fingerprint sensor position. Exynos version loves to throttle. Bixby isn’t anything special. Expensive.