Samsung knows how to make a premium Android smartphone. In recent years, every expansion of their Galaxy S series has absolutely managed to get Samsung to the top of the popularity charts. They belong to a very select group of Android OEMs that introduce innovative features every year, and the Galaxy S8 + is no exception.
The S8 and S8 + are two of three popular cell phones on the market where screen areas have priority over bezels – the other is the LG G6 – and the Galaxy S8 series has a traditional aspect ratio of 16: 9 expands a massive 18.5: 9. In addition to curved edges and a high-contrast AMOLED display, the Galaxy S8 and S8 + have a really futuristic design.
In my hands is the Galaxy S8 +, the larger of the two Samsung phones, with a 6.2-inch display. The smaller Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch screen, although neither of the two phones is much larger than the 5.1-inch Galaxy S7 and 5.5-inch Galaxy S7 Edge of the previous year. Since I am based in Australia, Samsung has provided me with the global variant, which includes a Samsung Exynos 8895 SoC. Instead, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is offered in the USA.
The Galaxy S8 + also contains 64 GB of memory with microSD expansion, 4 GB of RAM, USB Type C for the first time and a 3,500 mAh battery. The camera is the same as the Galaxy S7 – a 12.7-megapixel sensor with OIS and dual-pixel technology – but Samsung has optimized the software processing of the new device. These improvements in design, hardware, and even software on Android 7.0 make this phone the best in the market today.
Let's talk about the design as there is no other phone that looks very similar to the Galaxy S8 +. The front of this handset is absolutely dominated by the screen, so any other smartphone that has ever been released looks like the last generation. The iPhone 7, Google Pixel, Galaxy S7, and more look bad alongside a phone that's basically a giant, futuristic screen in your hands.
"(the Galaxy S8) … makes every other smartphone ever released look like the last generation"
The Galaxy S8 + has a small bezel at the top and bottom. Above, Samsung managed to house the front camera, the call speaker and some sensors in a room no more than 7.5 mm high. Below the display, the fingerprint sensor and the capacitive navigation keys have been omitted in favor of an on-screen key implementation and a beautifully expanded display.
The Galaxy S8 + uses curved glass on the front and back of the handset and leaves a small metal edge on the left and right. Due to the narrow edges, the buttons for power, volume and Bixby (more on that later) are quite narrow, although they have a solid click. The shiny finish of the metal sides on the sides in combination with the highly reflective glass panes gives the Galaxy S8 + a first-class look with few seams or distractions. Samsung has brought this aspect in line with its flagship phone designs since the terrible Galaxy S5. The S8 + in particular is far ahead of the iPhone in terms of both workmanship and visual quality.
There are some problems associated with a vitreous. First, the phone is a massive magnet for fingerprints on both sides. Those who want to keep their phones dirt-free will have their work cut out for them. Second, the glossy finish of the glass makes the Galaxy S8 + slippery. Sometimes trying to hold the S8 is like trying to hold a bar of soap. The way the glass slides right out of your fingertips is unprecedented and is not supported by such a thin piece of metal on either side.
By far the most pressing problem is the fragility of this design. The Galaxy S8 + has been on the market for over a month, and after just a few weeks, many consumers have reported cracked screens. Drop the S8 + once, even from a short distance or something not too hard, and it is very likely that the screen will break. Repair shops call the Galaxy S8 + the most fragile phone ever made, and that's not a good thing for everyday consumers who want to use this phone for a few years.
Of course you can put the S8 + in a pocket, but that affects the beautiful design. What good is it to develop such a fantastic looking phone if you have to put it in an ugly case to make sure it doesn't break right away? This is something to consider when buying the S8 +.
Another issue with the Galaxy S8 + design that isn't related to its fragility is the position of the fingerprint sensor. Samsung moved the sensor from the front to the back of the handset, which is not a bad move in itself, but placing it right next to the camera is just stupid.
Every time you activate the sensor, you are likely placing a series of dirty fingerprints on the entire camera lens, which will reduce the quality of your photos if you do not clean the lens routinely.
Fortunately, you can also secure the Galaxy S8 + using the iris scanner, which worked well in my tests. However, you need to turn on the display and swipe up on the lock screen before the scanner is activated, which will make the fingerprint sensor much faster in everyday use. Despite the quick use of the iris scanner and the poor position of the fingerprint scanner, the fingerprint lock is still the best way to secure the phone.
The Galaxy S8 + is the first Samsung flagship to use USB Type C. The company only switched to this latest generation connector because it also made a new Gear VR headset with USB-C support. The previous Gear VR was limited to micro USB, which is why the Galaxy S7 stayed with micro USB. USB-C is a more versatile port and should be the standard of all flagship phones released in 2017.
The S8 + also has a 3.5mm headphone jack, as Samsung is not a stupid and unfriendly company. The built-in speaker is just a single mediocre edge-firing unit. This may be the weakest aspect of the sound experience of this phone. However, the phone supports high quality 32-bit / 382 kHz audio through the headphone jack.
At the top is the removable compartment for the microSD card and the nano SIM. Do you remember when flagship phones had no expandable memory? Yes, that was a bad time. There is also a notification LED on the Galaxy S8 + that all Android phones should have.
Like the previous Samsung flagships, the Galaxy S8 + IP68 is waterproof, so it can be completely submerged in up to 1.5 m of fresh water for up to 30 minutes. It is always a nice feature to enable underwater photography, although putting the phone in salt water is not a good idea.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 + has a 6.2-inch Super AMOLED display (2960 x 1440) with a huge pixel density of 529 PPI. The main difference between this panel and a conventional 1440p display is in its length: it has an additional vertical height of 400 pixels that goes from a 5.55-inch 1440p 16: 9 display (with equivalent pixel density) to one 6.2-inch 2960-x display ranges from 1440 to 18.5: 9 display. In other words, this display is roughly the same width as the Galaxy S7 Edge's 5.5-inch display, but is much larger and results in an impressive screen-to-body ratio of 84%.
In terms of the display area, which becomes the most important measure for comparing ads with different aspect ratios, the display of the Galaxy S8 + is 17 percent larger than the display of the Galaxy S7 Edge thanks to its additional height. If we compared two 16: 9 displays, a 5.5-inch and a 6.2-inch display, the 6.2-inch display would be 27% larger. However, this is not the case here since the display of the Galaxy S8 + is much thinner.
The main advantage of this additional screen area lies in the purely visual design. The screen takes up almost the entire front panel and looks fantastic. For the most part, when you actually use the phone, a little more content is displayed on the screen. You should also consider the on-screen navigation buttons that were not available on the Galaxy S7 Edge to reduce the relative gain in screen areas that will be transitioned to the S8 +.
Most apps support the expanded Galaxy S8 screen quite well, especially those with a “content window” that can be easily expanded to show you a little more on the longer display. Some apps are locked to 16: 9 natively and generate black bars on the S8 + display. However, Samsung has a clear button in the app switcher that tries to expand these apps to full-screen mode. This feature worked every time I tried it, so you rarely have to deal with a basic 16: 9 experience.
Samsung has a similar button that appears when watching videos in apps like YouTube, etc. However, this button simply enlarges the content to cover the entire display. Some may prefer this viewing experience, although it is cut off at the top and bottom of the video and is not a favorite of mine. I prefer to look with small black bars.
The other main feature of this display is the curved edges. I don't think the curve adds much to the experience, although Samsung has stuck to it for several generations. Samsung has some edge-related software features that can be implemented on a flat screen if really desired. The screen tends to be distorted and reflect at the edges. It also makes the phone more fragile.
Samsung generally produces high quality phone displays, and the Galaxy S8 + panel is no exception. Because AMOLED technology is used, the contrast ratio is unprecedented thanks to deep black. The viewing angles are excellent and show almost no color shift at off angles, which is another advantage for AMOLED Tech. Samsung also manages to produce a very bright AMOLED panel: this panel reaches over 570 nits, which means it is firmly in the LCD area and is easy to see in direct sunlight.
Color performance is standard from Samsung. They calibrate their displays to the factor to be oversaturated, using a color gamut outside of sRGB. Since Android doesn't support proper color management, the result is mostly a vivid, beautiful-looking picture. However, accuracy is often thrown out of the window: The Galaxy S8 + does not perform well in our display tests and is roughly the same as last year's Galaxy S7 Edge. The temperature is too cold, although I haven't suffered from the red tint problem that others have seen.
You can correct the color performance of the display somewhat by changing the display settings and switching to basic mode. This makes the operating system look like garbage, since Samsung developed it taking into account the oversaturation of the screen. However, if you need color accuracy, it's as good as it gets. Unfortunately, the base mode of the S8 + wasn't as strong as its predecessor, but it comes close to good sRGB performance.
The S8 + display is always on, so you can always see the time and some notifications when the display is off. No gesture is required to activate this function: The Galaxy S8 + simply illuminates the pixels for this information (even when the brightness is adequate) so that you can always see the time. It is fairly practical and should be considered leaving it activated.
The other thing worth mentioning is that with the Galaxy S8 + you can change the screen resolution in the settings screen. The aim is to improve the battery life and performance at the expense of the clarity of the display. In fact, the S8 + is immediately set to FHD + mode (2220 x 1080). Of course, you want to switch this to WQHD + (2960 x 1440) for the best experience. After making this change, I could easily tell the difference in sharpness.
All performance and battery testing was done with this WQHD + mode as this is the mode most users want to use. Switching to FHD + slightly extends battery life, but in my opinion it is not worth it if the display looks so impressive at full resolution.