Samsung Galaxy S8 Expert Review

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By 31 Jul 2017

Design and first impressions

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Turn the S8 on, and straight away you see it - the screen is gorgeous: it stretches further across the front of the phone than any other version. The colours are lush, and the curved edges of the screen make the 'infinity display' seem just that. The physical Home button has been moved to make way for that extra-long screen . Technically it’s still there though, just hidden behind the home screen.

This fingerprint sensor, which used to be found at the bottom of the phone, has been moved to the back, next to the camera.  This seems like a bit of a design flaw for the gorgeous S8: it makes it too easy to press your finger against your camera to unlock your phone, and the phone awkward to use in your left-hand.

 
 
 
 
The Samsung Galaxy S8 design

That small moan aside, the build quality of the S8 is the best Samsung have come up with yet. Although the all-glass casing does attract fingerprints, its shine makes the S8 stand out.  We really like the piano-black finish too (although most of us protect our phones in a case straight away).

More bad news for left-handers though. Holding it in your left hand, it's easy to block the single speaker on the base of the phone, and difficult to stretch your index finger to the fingerprint sensor on the back. Spending a bit more time getting used to the layout might make it a bit easier to unlock left-handed, but it doesn’t seem like it was in the designer’s thoughts.

Hardware

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Before we take a look at any of the fancier new bits, here are the stats:

  • CPU: Samsung Exynos 8895 processor

  • RAM: 4 GB

  • Internal storage: 64GB

  • microSD: yes, up to 256GB

  • Battery: 3000 mAh

  • Screen size: 5.8 inch

  • Rear camera: 12 megapixels, f/1.7 aperture

  • Front camera: 8 megapixels, f/1.7 aperture

 

Connectivity:

  • Wi-Fi

  • Bluetooth

  • GPS

  • 4G

  • NFC

  • USB-C 3.0

Processor and memory

The Galaxy S8 packs a different processor to the S7 – although there isn't much difference between the two in terms of raw power.

That said, the new octacore processor is more energy efficient – which will offset the amount of power needed by the large display, and should improve the device's battery life. We noticed that apps do seem to open a bit quicker, and the screen was slightly more responsive than the S7 –although the S7 was pretty fast itself, so the difference in speed is small.

When it comes to storage space, the Samsung S8 only comes as a 64GB version. Bumping the minimum storage size up to 64GB – as well as giving users the option to add a microSD card – gives us lots of room to fill the phone with music, photos, videos and more apps and games than you could play in a month.

Screen

That gorgeous 'Infinity' screen – which stretches nearly the full diameter of the handset - boasts a Quad-HD resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. A fan of vibrant, punchy pics?  Photos definitely do look better on the S8 - they really pop.

There’s a bit of a downside to having a screen this large though.  Most apps and videos won't recognise the larger aspect ratio automatically, leaving you with 'letterbox'-style black borders around your videos. Experts from Team Knowhow have the fix though, so don’t worry. Take a little detour into your Settings menu, open Display, and tap on Full screen apps. Next to each of your apps is a toggle switch, which you can activate to get apps to display in full-screen. This needs doing for each app individually, so if you install something new and it's still letterboxed, head into your Settings  to fix the problem.

Camera

The Galaxy S8 camera is the same camera found in the S7, with a few tweaks to the camera software – and, in our experience - a few more fingerprint smudges. That sensor move really does cause some problems.

With a swipe-in from the sides of the screen, you can access panorama and slow-motion effects, as well as use the 'Pro' mode, which gives you manual controls for your shutter speed and ISO. There are  tons of fun filters and stickers to add to your photos, as well as Snapchat-style 'live effects' to spruce up your selfies or family shots.

Battery life

The S8 has a slightly larger battery than the S7. It’s not really good news though, because due to its larger screen size, the battery doesn't actually last quite as long as the S7's did.

Some of the phone's new features, like the always-on screen and quadHD resolution, might fly in the face of battery life – but you’ll get your phone through the day without needing to charge it. Specifically, the battery lasted 17 hours for us.

Software

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The Galaxy S8 runs Android Nougat 7.0, with Samsung's own user interface or "UI" installed too. This means you'll get all the features of Android 7.0 – but with Samsung's own menus and panels as a bonus.

It does take a while for Samsung to adopt the latest Android releases, so although Android 8.0 is right around the corner, it's unlikely to appear on the Galaxy S8 for a while yet. We’ll just have to be patient.

Just the same as the S7, the S8 software comes with those extra 'Edge' panels that can be accessed by tapping on the right-hand edge of the phone. These panels can be customised to show your favourite app shortcuts, notifications, reminders, news, contacts, or whatever else you might want to see in a hurry.

There’s also an introduction to make: Samsung's new digital assistant for the S8 - Bixby. Bixby is a  competitor to the built-in Google virtual assistant. It can be triggered by pressing the dedicated Bixby button on the side of the S8.  Just now, you  won't be able to use voice commands with Bixby - we’re all waiting for that next software update to make it happen.

Fans of the Google assistant will be pleased to hear that Bixby won't replace the existing software, but run alongside it. You can still open up Google by holding down your Home button.

The Verdict

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The Galaxy S8 is, no doubt whatsoever, the most attractive Galaxy flagship yet. The new design is sleek, streamlined and modern. The star of the show is undoubtedly the huge, gorgeous, wraparound screen – but that does sometimes feel a bit wasted, as the unusual aspect ratio forces you to enjoy videos or gaming in a letterboxed view.

Although the phone’s operation is smooth, fast and hiccup free,  Samsung have still gone back to adding features no-one asked for. Another virtual assistant, and a dedicated hardware button that can only be used for one thing, feel like odd features to add.

Oddness aside, those things don’t really matter much. With the S8, Samsung set out to prove that they still deserve their reputation as the greatest manufacturer of Android handsets - and we at Team Knowhow think they nailed it.

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