The Samsung Galaxy S8+ just raised the bar for design, functionality, power, camera…the list goes on. Overall, it’s hands down one of the best smartphones on the market right now.
Talk about a comeback and a way to reward disappointed fans of the device we won’t mention any longer, the Galaxy S8+ is one hell of a sexy phone; it feels slick in hand thanks to its curved edges and when the screen is switched on, its infinity edge display is just a thing of beauty to look at.
Place your device on a dark surface, and it looks like it’s a floating display. It’s packed with some powerful specs under the hood and whether you opt for the S8 or the S8+, you won’t be disappointed. It’s probably the first time Samsung has got most things right.
Samsung didn’t overdo it by taking out what people loved about the S7 and S7edge, like the camera, 3.5mm audio jack, and if anything it’s a good example of all the right things put together for the best user experience.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ is slightly awkward to use with one hand, but that’s ok, or is it?
The S8+ is 6.2 inches, and with that comes with a tall device that’s hard to reach the top when using one handed. To make it worse, the fingerprint sensor is placed right at the top next to the camera which I often find myself looking at before I touch as I have to get used to finding it.
Placing it next to the camera also means my camera glass is often covered in smudges, and thanks to Samsung’s warning note, I’m often reminded to wipe the camera before taking pictures. Having said that, though, you could simply just enter your pin code or use either face recognition or iris scanner to unlock your device.
When face recognition picks up my face, it’s pretty rapid but when it doesn’t I revert back to entering my pin code to unlock the S8+. With a new display aspect ratio, Samsung ditched having a physical home button and it’s quite clever how they now have it placed below the display – why haven’t they done this before?
The virtual home button feels just like a regular home button especially with haptic feedback, a bit like what Apple did with the iPhone 7’s home button. To the left of the S8+, there’s a volume rocker which is not separated and can often be confused especially using one handed or been used in the dark. Below it is a dedicated button for Bixby assistant (more on this later).
On the right of the S8+ is a single power button which you can also double tap to activate your camera and down at the bottom is a USB-C port for charging and data transfer – it also supports fast charging just like the S7edge. Up top, there’s the Sim card and microSD card tray; you can expand the S8+’s 64GB built-in storage with another 256GB microSD card if you wish to do so.
On the front, there’s an 8MP front-facing camera with dual pixel technology for fast autofocus and F1.7 aperture for capturing more light and making your pictures look sharp and detailed even in low light. Elsewhere on the front, you have the earpiece, notification light to the left and some sensors for iris scanning and face recognition.
Just like the front-facing camera, the camera on the back also features an F1.7 aperture, dual-pixel technology and it’s still 12MP like its predecessor, however, the sensor is slightly updated. In some parts of the world, you gave the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and in other parts, you get Samsung’s own latest Exynos 8895, either way, you will have a powerful Octacore processor with a powerful GPU integrated. You also get a Multi-Frame Image Processing feature which means the S8 captures three images each time to prevent blurry images.
On the right side of the camera is the awkward fingerprint scanner which could have been placed a bit lower for easy reach and to its left is the LED flash to enhance low light photography and a HR scanner – I actually don’t know why Samsung still includes an HR scanner as you can buy the Gear Fit 2 or Gear S3 Frontier instead for all things health and fitness.
When it comes to the design, overall it’s a beautiful piece of device and Samsung calls the design unified because no matter which colour you opt for, the front is all black to allow the infinity edge display to look seamless with the rest of the device. When watching videos, you appreciate it a lot more. P.S. if you decide not to use a case, be prepared for a very slippery phone and if you place it on its face, it tends to slide off the table very easily.
The Galaxy S8+ isn’t just all about design, Bixby is a new buzzword and DeX is awesome!
While I could use this whole review just to talk about how gorgeous the S8+ is, I also need to point out everything else Samsung got right with the S8+. There’s Bixby which is very intelligent and takes what a personal assistant should be to the next level, and there’s also DeX which allows you to work anywhere, all you need is a dock and a monitor.
Bare in mind though that Bixby is not fully functional out of the box in the UK, the voice feature is missing for example, but that will change with an update later on.
Bixby is an AI driven personal assistance that could potentially give Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri and Cortana a run for their money. It’s designed to do more than just answer questions, pull answers from various sources and deliver it. It’s beyond just speaking to your phone or controlling lights and IoT in your home.
Bixby will eventually have the ability to see, talk, remind and recommend things. With a dedicated button on the side, you simply press it and ask it questions; you can ask it to set reminders, activate the camera in order to scan a bottle of wine to find out where you can buy your own, plus more. Bixby home will gather various cards relevant to you, such as reminders, schedules, football scores, almost like Google Assistant.
Bixby Vision is embedded in Bixby Home, but you will also see the new Bixby vision symbol in camera app where you can just scan things straight from the camera. What I like about Bixby is that you don’t have to use voice to activate it, you can use the button on the side, which I find less embarrassing to use in public – no need to shout Ok Bixby or something.
Then there’s DeX! DeX is a feature or application that truly demonstrates how powerful the S8+ is; it offers a desktop-like experience. You will need a separate dock to make this happen, but once you do, it’s very straight forward. DeX dock uses HDMI connectivity to make the visual aspect happen and it will also charge and keep your device cool.
DeX has the ability to run Android in desktop mode, use Microsoft office 365 mobile suite, you can also run native Windows applications via Citrix, all you need is a good internet connection. It will display in full HD and if you really want to watch 4K videos on say YouTube, it will minimise into mobile size for you to do so.
DeX in action is really fluid and you can run multiple applications with no glitches. Thanks to the new processor chip with an integrated GPU that’s really powerful, it’s very impressive to see it in action.
The S8+’s software is refined to be slick and clean, you can see how far Samsung has come from what used to be a bloated device with a bunch of stuff you don’t need or probably won’t use. Samsung even improved their multitasking split screen feature; you can now pin to screen a section of the screen you are looking at to be permanently open while you do other things. Unfortunately, it’s not compatible with a lot of apps yet, but hopefully, we’ll see an update for this.
Let’s not forget about Bluetooth 5.0; As far as I’m aware, the S8+ will be the first smartphone to feature Bluetooth 5.0 which will see it use energy more efficiently and also allow you to connect two Bluetooth devices simultaneously. This will be really useful on flights where you want to share audio between two users.
Samsung Galaxy S8+’s battery requires power saving mode to last a day
If I was disappointed about anything with the Galaxy S8+, it would have to be its battery life. With my type of usage level (may not be similar to most people), it barely lasts the whole day. When I don’t have my DSLR with me, or even if I do, I heavily rely on the S8+ for taking images and it serves as a backup for shooting videos too when my DSLR battery runs out of juice.
To get almost a day out of it, I constantly have to put the S8+ in power saving mode and also leave the default display settings at FHD and switch to WQHD when I want to have a better experience with videos, and whilst plugged in.
I think Samsung doubled down on processor efficiency, but even with a very energy efficient processor, a bigger battery would still be a nice thing to have. Users who buy the small S8 will find that they can’t use it all day without the need to boost it.
My usage is all media based, so watching YouTube videos, playing games, capturing image and video in 4K, reading emails, social media, editing images using Lightroom CC (requires data connectivity), emails (lots of emails) and calling people.
On the bright side, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ both have fast charge capability, USB-C and even wireless fast charging feature, so you won’t need to be tethered to a socket for long to get your battery back up to 100%.
Samsung Galaxy S8+’s camera is consistent and can replace your point-to-shoot camera.
If Samsung decided not to change a thing about the camera on the S7 or S7edge and used exactly the same modules in the S8+ I’d still be completely happy with it. I actually couldn’t think of a way to make it any better than it already was, however, Samsung has managed to improve it using software tweaks.
It offers the same camera as the predecessor with a 12MP shooter, however, it comes with something called Multiframe Image Processing and this is not HDR. This is something used to prevent blurry images; every time you tap the shutter button, it takes three images and gives you the sharpest one.
I also like that you can save images in RAW format, which for me is perfect. Using Lightroom app on mobile, I have a direct access to my DNG images to edit it and make it even better than it already is before I either share with my clients or upload to social media.
Should you buy the S8+?
If you were to ask me that question off-record, I would sound really biased and say yes definitely. It has the best smartphone hardware design, the camera is great, it’s really powerful (CPU + GPU combo), it’s more than just a smartphone in that it can transform into a workforce and I feel it’s a device that won’t go out of date for at least two years.
But, for this review, I’m not trying to convince you to buy it, but just to give you an educated view and my experience using it for about week or so. A lot of the niggles will be fixed via various software updates, especially for Bixby. Check out the pros and cons below, hopefully, it will help you decide whether it’s worth a purchase or not.
The cons in a nutshell
- You can’t use in WQHD display mode if you want the battery to last long.
- The smaller S8 is small enough for easier fingerprint sensor reach.
- A lot of smudge on camera glass when using fingerprint sensor.
- With new 18.9:5 screen aspect ratio, there’s still black borders on some content for now.
- Pin to the screen is not compatible with all apps yet.
- Face recognition doesn’t always work, but Iris scanner is very responsive.
- Vibration or loud notifications don’t work well sometimes – when you get notifications whilst listening to music, it sounds like it’s dying or half vibrates.
- Speaker is not that loud, could do with dual stereo speakers.
A lot of the cons are knit-picking but the pros outweigh the cons:
- Beautiful device.
- Bixby will continue to improve and could be better than competitors’.
- USB-C is welcomed and 3.5mm headphone jack still present.
- Display quality is second to none.
- The camera is one of the best on the market, probably better or on par with the Pixel XL.
- DeX is incredibly responsive and a great tool for entrepreneurs.
- The AKG tuned earphones out of the box is the best to come with a smartphone.
- Not new, but still glad the S8 and S8+ are both IP68 water and dust resistant.
- MicroSD support, up to 256GB.
Price, colour options and availability
The Samsung Galaxy S8 will launch on the 28th April in UK and Europe, with the S8 coming at £689 and the Galaxy S8+ at £779. Two colours variants will launch in the UK; Midnight Black and Orchid Grey. The potential availability of the third colour, Arctic Silver, will be announced later.
Other colours available are Maple Gold and Coral Blue. Device reviewed is the Midnight Black version.