Rarely am I ever impressed by new phones; waves and waves of products do that to you. But this is an exception. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8+ are really truly special.
If our hands-on video and loyalty-provoking articles haven’t been enough to convince you how beautiful they are, maybe this full review will. Just look at them — this is how phones should look like in 2017.
6.2-inch Galaxy S8+ on left, 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 to the right
Curves are in, thick bezels are out
Here’s how it compares to the LG G6
But honestly, they’re literally a handful
You’d be surprised how slim the two phones are for their large screen sizes; that’s because they use this new 18.5:9 aspect ratio that’s a lot longer than the usual 16:9 ratio use in practically every other phone out there. (The LG G6, in comparison, has an almost-as-long 18:9 ratio.)
But that doesn’t discount how unwieldy they can be in a single hand. Although accidental touches aren’t as common as with the Edge variants of the Galaxy S6 and S7, you’ll always be stretching and squirming your fingers around the AMOLED display, which, by the way, is rated as the best on a smartphone ever (all 1440 x 2960 pixels of it).
Samsung tried its best to find ways around the inconvenience. One was to bring back edge screen functionality, wherein you can swipe in a panel from the side to access quick settings and important contacts. The other is a gesture on the fingerprint scanner to bring down the notification shade. The Android Nougat interface, by the way, is a lot less cluttered compared to previous Galaxies and is easier to navigate now.
Reaching for the fingerprint scanner is a pain
Since this high-tech technology that would let you scan fingerprints anywhere on the front panel didn’t make it on time (would’ve been cool, though!), Samsung chose to place the fingerprint scanner right beside the camera lens at the back. We must say, it’s terrible. Not only does it make the lens prone to getting your greasy prints on it, the sensor isn’t even that accurate. Luckily, Sammy has some nice alternatives.
I thoroughly enjoyed using the iris scanner and facial recognition login features over the unintuitive fingerprint sensor. They’re both surprisingly accurate and have their own unique advantages. For the iris scanner, it works well even in poorly lit rooms; facial recognition, on the other hand, is less picky about your position and takes one less swipe to access from standby.
The Bixby button is so… Bixby
When something doesn’t work right, we should just call it “Bixby,” which is Samsung’s idea of the ideal virtual assistant. There’s a button right below the volume rocker to the side that lets you access Bixby even when the phone is asleep. Problem is, its functionality is… how do I put this… bad.
As of the moment, it can’t accept voice commands to do your bidding like with Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri. I was only able to scan objects seen through the camera app and look them up online, which then provided more information about the product. It wasn’t entirely accurate. Making matters worse is the current supported app list, consisting of two apps I actually use: YouTube and Uber — although strangely enough, YouTube compatibility disappeared from the list when I double-checked just now.
To our delight, Google Assistant is still available for those who’d rather not be Bixby’d; you can access it by holding the home button. Now, wouldn’t it be great if we could officially map Assistant on Bixby’s physical button? Get to it, Samsung!
DeX is DeXy
One more feature unique to Samsung’s Galaxy S8 line is DeX. Sounds silly, but it’s a docking system that allows these phones to connect to a monitor and turn themselves into a full-fledged desktop operating system. While it isn’t on the level of macOS or Windows (or even Linux), it’s a decent alternative to working with files on your phone if you really must use your phone. It comes complete with a taskbar, specific settings, and all your apps scaled to monitor proportions.
I personally don’t see this becoming a hit, especially since you must buy the DeX dock separately. In no way can this replace a true desktop PC experience, but it does make working and multitasking on your phone infinitely easier. I imagine this flying with consumers who travel from one workplace to another — and, umm, happen to have a monitor lying around at each destination.
Let’s be real: We all want to know how well the camera performs. After listing all its tricks and pitting it against its most bitter rivals, the Galaxy S8 duo have, hands down, the best set of cameras on any phone right now. Even if you ignore all the added features and upgrades over last year’s class-leading Galaxy S7, the fact it beat the Google Pixel is enough to earn its crown.
Take a look at some more photos we’ve taken with the new king of camera phones:
Keep in mind that the two smartphones share the same cameras both in front (8 megapixels) and at the back (12 megapixels). This means the only differences between the flagship pair are the screen size and battery capacity, so don’t worry about missing out if you opt for the smaller model. (Take notes, Apple!)
Speed and endurance as slick as the glass back
The only thing smoother than the rear glass panel is the processor and its accompanying software. Depending on where you live, you’ll either get Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 835 processor or Samsung’s very own Exynos 8895, which is just as fast. Beyond the processing speeds, what really sets these two apart are their super-tiny 10nm fabrication, meaning they’re a lot more efficient and less battery-hungry than older flagship chipsets.
On top of that, the smaller footprint allowed Samsung to jam more features into the Galaxy S8 without adding to the heft. The battery, in particular, is generous enough considering how much space is used for the awesome display and camera. I was able to squeeze out about four hours of screen-on time with both Galaxy S8 models over the course of one day on a single charge.
While this sort of battery endurance may not sound so great, especially when compared to other large contenders, consider that I have Samsung’s Always On feature activated the entire time. This handy function shows me the time, date, remaining battery percentage, and my notifications even when the device is on standby. This keeps me from turning the phone on every few minutes to check messages — I’d sacrifice some battery life for this convenience any day.
Enough brains to back the brawns
I just love how Samsung made 64GB the minimum storage option for the Galaxy S8 duo. This marks 16GB as prehistoric, and forces 32GB out the door, as well. In addition, the hybrid SIM card tray allows you to extend the internal storage using a microSD card, if you choose to forego adding a second nano-SIM card, however.
In a bit of a surprise, the memory of the base models didn’t get a significant boost. In a world where 6GB of RAM is gradually becoming the standard for higher-end phones, both Galaxy S8 units settled for 4GB. I’m not complaining, though; not once did the Galaxy S8 or S8+ shut down an app before I was done with it or hinder my multitasking between programs.
To protect your investment (and it’s a hefty one), we once again have full water and dust resistance to keep the phones safe against nasty spills. Finally — and this is important for couples out there — the Galaxy S8 pair has Bluetooth 5.0, which lets you connect two pairs of wireless headphones at once!
Is this your GadgetMatch?
How much are you willing to shell out for the best smartphones currently available? If you say around $750 to $850 for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ respectively, you have your GadgetMatch! But seriously, these are expensive phones. It’s even worse if you live outside of the US, where prices are jacked up further; the Philippines has to deal with PhP 39,990 and PhP 45,990 for the two flagships.
There really is no way around it other than waiting for the prices to go down, which might probably happen when the next iPhone and Pixel roll out. If you do decide to bite the bullet and purchase either of these two Galaxies as soon as possible, I can’t blame you. In my opinion, they’re prettier than other near-borderless phones, and have the camera performance and security features to boot.
If you’re still worried about another Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, don’t be. Samsung clearly learned its lesson and is taking battery safety more seriously than any other manufacturer right now. You can learn more about the steps Samsung has taken to ensure better quality control in our comprehensive explainer.