Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ Plus review: Infinity and beyond! Light years ahead
The new S8 and S8 Plus aren’t perfect, but they are damn close -- at least till the time Apple throws up the forthcoming 10th anniversary edition iPhone 8 or iPhone X.
Is it safe? Is it going to explode? Will the Samsung Galaxy S8 be able to bring back the glory to the Samsung name? I was posed with these questions much ahead of the launch and people including prospective consumers, colleagues and analysts -- all seemed either to have lost faith in the brand or quite anxious about buying one. All of them wanted to wait and watch if the Galaxy S8 and S8+ would NOT repeat the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco in any way.
I too had become a skeptic after being badgered with similar questions but some of my anxiety was curbed after I saw the global launch and all of it when I actually got the phone and started using it.
There are many good features about the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the S8+ and here is our detailed review of the devices and by the end of the review we think the devices may impress you enough to forget all about the Note 7 and its fiery batteries:
At the start it is important to say that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ are the same except in terms of screen size. While the S8 sports a 5.8-inches display, the S8+ towers with a 6.2-inch display.
Design and display
Undoubtedly the best looking phone that I have seen so far. It truly can be a cause of envy for iPhone lovers/owners as well. I would put my money on the Midnight Black just the way I had said that the iPhone 7 Jet Black was the best of all the colours Apple offers. However, both the phones get a lot of smudges so you have to be extra careful while using it. Also, if you are going to cover the pone up, then there is no point buying the black. The Samsung Galaxy S8s are refined and polished to a literal shine.
Samsung has also worked on the display to solve a common problem -- more screen but the phone size stays constant. This aides the consumer to carry the device easily and also at the same time enjoy content on a larger display.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 and the S8+ come with Infinity Display to solve the common problem. The new phones come with a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio that's similar to the 18:9 screen on the LG G6, but taller and skinnier than the traditional 16:9 screens the vast majority of other smartphones have. On the Galaxy S8, it measures 5.8 inches diagonally from rounded corner to rounded corner; on the S8 Plus it expands to 6.2 inches in the same dimension.
Smasung has cut down on bezels to provide more area on the display. Putting an S8 side-by-side with an iPhone 7 almost feels unfair to the iPhone — the Samsung's screen is just so much larger, yet the phone's overall dimensions are practically the same.
Unlike the Edge series, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ screen melts into the body of the phone creating a curve rather an edge which looks more pleasing to the eye and is more comfortable to hold. Earlier Samsung phones with curved screens had a tendency to register touches on the sides of the display when you didn't intend them, making the curved design more frustrating than it should have been. But the company has largely addressed this issue with the S8.
However, there is one catch and that is some apps don't work fullscreen with the new display. The list of popular ones, such as Pocket, Netflix, Speedtest, Dark Sky, and Spotify don't automatically stretch to fill the screen, leaving black borders above and below the app. You can force these apps to fill the screen with a couple button taps (recent apps, then the circular button that appears on the app in the carousel).
Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ specifications
Games might not be too friendly when it comes to force fitting them to the screen. Super Mario Run if force expanded cuts of content at the edges. Playing a game in the 16:9 aspect ratio it was designed for is not a terrible experience — you still have quite a large display canvas to play on — but until developers update their apps and games for this new tall and skinny world, you won't be able to make use of all the screen you're buying with the S8.
Watching movies and videos is a treat on the screen. While the phone automatically detects larger aspect ratio content and fits it automatically, other videos can be forced fitted to the screen and most of the experience is seamless with low-quality videos cutting off at edges.
Watch Samsung Galaxy S8 first impressions
In order to make space for the screen, Samsung has put the home button under the screen. Just like Apple's force touch with the home button cum touchID, Samsung has deviced the home button in such a way that the home button appears on light touch and the Google Assistant appears on long press.
Because the home button is under the screen, there cannot be any fingerprint sensor at the front. Samsung has put the fingerprint sensor at the back of the phone alongside the camera and flash modules. However, I was not too happy with the placement of the fingerprint sensor as I had to really strech my fingers to get to it on the S8 and had to change my grip with the S8+ to get to it.
But if it was upto Samsung, it would rather have the consumer not use the fingerprint sensor at all. The Samsung Galaxy S8s come with iris scanner and face recognition. However, both the tech solution needs to be upgraded and fine-tuned. While the iris scanner asks you to widely open your eyes, the face recognition is slow and falters in low-light conditions. I mean, I would really not be eyeballing my phone in public.
Samsung has also included Pixel-like gestures on the fingerprint, so you can swipe down on the scanner to reveal the notification tray, provided you can ever actually reach it.
Aside from that major stumble, the rest of the S8's hardware is practically flawless. The fit and finish is unparalleled, and the curved display is matched by a symmetrically curved back glass panel. The glass back allows for Samsung's wireless charging, and like last year's S7, the S8 is water resistant to IP68 standards, so it can withstand 1.5 meters of submersion for up to 30 minutes at a time.
The S8 and S8 Plus use USB Type-C ports for wired charging and data transfer, and both phones include a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Samsung is also throwing in a set of AKG-branded wired headphones with the S8 models (the company recently purchased AKG's parent company, Harman), which sound fine.
Software, UI and the small details
Samsung;s TouchWiz UI has taken a lot of flak but the new version is smoother, faster and not cluttered. Al least, there is no need to download another launcher.
As expected, the new UI comes on top of Android 7.0 Nougat. The home screen is simple with just a handful of app shortcuts and a nice big weather widget front and center. A quick swipe up and you enter the app tray, a swipe up again and you are back to the home screen.
The settings menu is similarly straightforward and easy to navigate, and includes a search function to find anything within it. Should you dig deep into the settings, you can find an endless array of options and configurations, from customizing the order of the on-screen buttons to themes that can alter the appearance of virtually every aspect of the phone. Other touches, like the slick, pill-shaped notification bubble that pops up at the top of the screen when an alert comes in, or the customizable always-on display are things I wish were available in all versions of Android, not just Samsung's.
What is interesting is that Samsung has also put some nice themes and effects for the phone. There are small features like data saving built into its browser. Also the phone comes with Blue Light filter to help consumers read more in dark conditions.
Bixby and its button
Samsung has built its own digital assistant called Bixby and has been generous enough to put a dedicated button for the assistant. However, Bixby now comes without voice commands and is currently reduced to a HTC Sense Companion-like assistant. Bixby rides on third-party services such as Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, and Foursquare, and can tell you the weather, upcoming appointments, news updates, or reminders you've set.
Bixby also shows up in the camera and gallery app, providing functionality that's very similar to what Amazon already offers in its app and what Google Goggles has done for years. Called Bixby Vision, it uses computer vision to identify an object or text and then links you to similar images on Pinterest or options to buy more of the same product from Amazon. It uses Google Translate to translate text, much like how the proper Google Translate app does. It can also identify landmarks and provide links and facts about them or tell you all about the bottle of wine you're about to open. Additionally, it is not possible to remap the Bixby button on the S8 to do something more useful.
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ is fast to say the least. While the western editions of the phone come with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor, the Indian version comes withe Samsung's Exynos 8895 processor which is an equivalent of the Snap 835. While the S8s was blazing fast, it tilts off a little when compared to the iPhone 7 Plus in app launch times. The real question is will it slowdown after months of usage -- we think not. We threw a lot of data at it and the phones aced all possible scenarios we could conjure.
Samsung S8s come with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot for expansion, and a radio capable of both gigabit LTE and gigabit Wi-Fi. The S8 is the first gigabit LTE smartphone you can buy, but until we have actual gigabit networks to use it on, that doesn't matter all that much.
The S8 is also the first phone to come with Bluetooth 5.0, which promises better range and the ability to deliver audio to two different Bluetooth devices at the same time. I was able to get the same song from YouTube to simultaneously play out of two sets of Bluetooth headphones, though you could also use it to have two Bluetooth speakers play the same audio.
Phone and a computer for extra price
Smasung Galaxy S8 also supports Samsung DeX -- a dock that can turn the phone into a PC with the help of a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Samsung is yet to reveal the price of DeX but having used it, I think it can catch up quite well. No lags were observed but app support is short right now.
Samsung Galaxy S8 will also come with Samsung Pay support that means you can actually pay using your mobile phone at almost all card accepting shops.
I was a little disappointed that Samsung hadn't worked really hard on the camera for the Galaxy S8s. Having said that, I still think that the Samsung S8s' camera is one of the better cameras available. The camera with just the upgrade of capturing more light is still the same as the camera unit that came on the last year's S7 Edge. Samsung has beefed up its software processing, using similar techniques as Apple and Google to provide better detailed images in low light, but the differences between this year's camera and last year's are negligible at best.
The camera opens very quickly (double tap the power button to open it from anywhere), it focuses exceptionally fast, and is able to balance tricky exposures well. The selfie-camera also has an upgrade of 3-pixels, taking the capacity from 5 to 8-megapixels on the S8s.
I was particulary not unhappy with the battery backups of the S8s but it could improve a lot. The Samsung Galaxy S8+ definetly has better backup than the S8. The smaller S8 has a 3,000mAh battery, while the S8 Plus jumps to a 3,500mAh cell.
The smaller model can last an entire day between charges if you're a light user, but if you use your phone a lot, you will likely have to charge it at some point in the day. The larger S8 Plus might be the better option for heavy users — it was more likely to last me a full day before it needed to be plugged in.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ are undoubtedly the best looking, all round smartphone available in the market right now. It might just be behind the Apple iPhone 7 Plus in terms of camera but in the Android space, the phones are second to none. Well good things come at a price and the S8 is retailing at ₹57,900 and the larger S8+ is retailing at ₹64,900.