TECHNOLOGY

Samsung Galaxy S8 Review

Pound for pound, there simply is no better Android phone.

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BY Rahil Bhagat - 24 Aug 2017

gadget review

Introduction

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

With the launch of its Galaxy S8 and S8+, Samsung had a mountain to climb.

Steepening the slope, of course, was the exploding Note 7 fiasco. Here’s a refresher: The batteries inside the old Note 7’s would overheat, catch fire and explode due to the phone’s thermals being poorly designed. Even after Samsung issued a global recall in September of 2016 and “fixed” the phone, some users still had exploding phones.

Exploding phones aside, Samsung has been staving off increased competition from Chinese upstarts like Xiaomi and Oppo selling phones with near flagship specs as well as a litany of novel features like Oppo’s spectacular selfie cameras.

Last but not least are the iPhone diehards who crave the simplicity and ease of use of Apple’s devices along with the rich ecosystem of accessories and apps that third party vendors ship.

So expectations were high. Quite simply, for Samsung to keep its crown as the premiere Android handset manufacturer, the S8 had to be the very best Android phone ever made.

After spending a few weeks with the device, I can say without reservation that aside from a few niggling software issues and one big hardware annoyance, Samsung has hit it out of the park with the Galaxy S8.

The phone oozes class with restrained good looks and a truly premium feel while packing beefy internals under the hood that can handle anything you throw at it.

In short, if you are looking for a new phone, the Galaxy S8 and its slightly larger sibling, the Galaxy S8+ should be at the very top of your list.

The Good

The Screen

Ever since the first AMOLED and Super AMOLED screens of Galaxy’s past, Samsung’s flagship smartphones have set the bar for mobile screen quality. The S8 is no exception to this thanks to its gorgeous display that for all intents and purposes is sans bezel. The company’s constant focus on improving the AMOLED technology that goes into their screen is plain to see.

The result is a 5.8 inch WQHD+ screen that comes with a whopping 83.6 percent screen to body ratio. To put that into perspective, last year’s similarly sized Galaxy S7, a sexy beast in its own right, had to make do with a 5.1 inch screen.

The S8’s curved, bezel free display makes reading text and scrolling through social media a true joy as the text seems to almost disappear off the screen. Video watching is similarly a lot more enjoyable as compared to the S7, especially in darkened rooms where the screen seems to flow into infinity.

I guess what I am trying to say is the screen is amazing and Apple has a hard job trying to top Samsung with the upcoming iPhone 8 launch.

The UI

Samsung’s TouchWiz UI often gets a bad rap for being bloated, stuffing your phone with in-built apps it doesn’t need. While this was very true in the early days, the TouchWiz that sits on top of Android Nougat that ships with the Galaxy S8 is fantastic. A lot of the fat has been trimmed and managing apps and settings is now easier due to more intuitive menus and better search features.

While still not as lean as stock Android, this new updated TouchWiz shows that Samsung is finally understanding that when it comes to the UI, less is more.

The Hardware

When buying phones, we sometimes forget that smartphones are essentially mobile computers and, looking past the gimmicks, it’s important to look at the raw horsepower that comes under the hood. In that aspect, the S8 especially stands out with oodles of power that belies its slim form factor.

The Galaxy S8’s beating heart is its 2.3 Ghz octa-core processor which comes in one of two varieties. If you live in the US or China, you get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with Adreno graphics. The rest of the world gets the Samsung Exynos 8895 and with Mali G71 graphics.

What this translates to is lightning quick performance even when performing heavy tasks like gaming or photo editing on the phone. In all my attempts to slow the phone down including bumping the default FHD display to WQHD and loading all sorts of applications did little to faze this beauty.

The Meh

Sound

Samsung’s mobile devices have never really been standouts in the audio department and it looks like the Galaxy S8 continues that trend with the phone’s single speaker producing lacklustre sound with very little bass. Voices sound tinny and even at maximum volume, loudness leaves a lot to be desired.

At least the included AKG headphones are a major step up from the generic headphones Samsung usually bundles with their smartphones, apart from being more aesthetically pleasing, and are more punchy even when stacked up against the likes of Apple’s ear buds.

Battery

As expected from a device this slim, battery life is a bit on the short side. The non-removable 3000 mAh battery is good for about a day of basic usage but when adding things like navigation, gaming and watching video into the mix, it makes sense to always keep an external power bank handy.

Fortunately, though, the USB-C quick charger that comes bundled charges the phone in no time. If battery life is a huge concern for you though, the S8’s big brother, the S8+ has a bigger 3500 mAh battery.

Bixby

Bixby is Samsung’s version of Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana and in theory, takes advantage of the phone’s massive processing power and wide array of sensors to help users in all sorts of contextual situations.At launch though, Bixby is quite half baked with no real functionality and with support for only a handful of native apps.

Even so, Samsung’s Bixby has potential, especially if the company builds in compatibility with its huge range of connected Samsung products. For now, though, the Bixby personal assistant just isn’t very useful.

The Ugly

Biometrics

Most mid and high end phones these days ship with fingerprint scanners. These handy sensors allow users to do all sorts of things, from simply logging into a device to authenticating financial transactions. When implemented well, such as how Huawei does it on its Mate series of phones, the result can be incredibly intuitive, allowing users to simple pick up the phone and go.

With the Samsung Galaxy S8, however, the fingerprint scanner was the one glaring downside marring what is easily one of the best phones ever made.

First of all, there is the positioning of the fingerprint sensor on the right of the camera lens. Most of the time, when trying to unlock the phone I ended up smudging my camera sensor instead.

The human finger simply isn’t designed to easily bend the way that Galaxy S8 wants you to. This made picking up and unlocking the phone unnecessarily hard.

Samsung has also bequeathed the Galaxy S8 with an Iris scanner that, in theory should enable you to unlock your phone at a glance. In reality though the Iris scanner doesn’t always work and even when it does, there is a bit of a lag as your phone unlocks.

PROS: Gorgeous screen, Powerful internals, Solid UI, Sexy build

CONS: Fingerprint sensor is annoying, Bixby needs work

Bottom Line

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a truly amazing piece of hardware that, aside from a few faults, is beautiful to behold, fantastic to use and loaded with unique features that help it stand out from the competition.

Pound for pound, there simply is no better Android phone.

Score: 9.5/10, Editors choice