WHAT IS THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S8+?
If you’re yet to decide between the Samsung Galaxy S8 or the Galaxy S8+, then there’s only one thing you need consider: how big do you want your phone?
For most people, the smaller 5.5-inch S8 will be best. It’s more manageable in one hand, and will comfortably fit in your pocket. But if you’re accustomed to larger handsets such as the iPhone 7 Plus, Google Pixel XL or Nexus 6P then I’d suggest opting for the S8+.
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It’s a masterclass in engineering and performance, and comfortably the finest big smartphone you can buy right now.
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SAMSUNG GALAXY S8+ – DESIGN
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is stunning from every angle. It’s easily the slickest Android phone I’ve ever held, and makes the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus feel old-fashioned in comparison. It’s futuristic – but it doesn’t sacrifice usability for style.
The 6.2-inch screen size sounds huge, especially since the majority of larger handsets stick to screen sizes between 5.5 and 5.7 inches. The last flagship phone I can remember to sport a 6-inch display was the Motorola-built Nexus 6 – and that was a nightmare to use. But it’s a different story here. This is a big-screened phone that feels great, and credit has to be given to Samsung for crafting a phone that feels this good.
The curved front and back help it to nestle in your hand, and the narrow design means your palm isn’t stretched quite so much as it is when holding an iPhone 7 Plus. It’s actually about the size as an iPhone 7 Plus – although that has only a 5.5-inch display – and it’s shorter than the hulking Sony Xperia XZ Premium.
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As a result of the tall screen, I’ve found myself struggling to move my thumb comfortably from the bottom to the top of the display in a single motion, leading to me gripping the device with two hands. However, the biggest issue with the size is the placement of the fingerprint scanner. In a move that screams of running out of time to embed it directly into the display, the S8+ sensor is tiny and crammed next to the camera. It’s hard enough to reach on the smaller S8, but here it’s virtually impossible without dislocating your thumb.
Along the sides of the device sit your typical volume rocker and standby buttons, but they’ve been joined by a dedicated Bixby key for quick access to Samsung’s new voice assistant. Considering how limited Bixby is, it seems a waste of space giving it its own button. Thankfully, you can easily disregard it – unless you accidentally hit it when you’re trying to lower the volume. There’s a SIM and microSD card slot along the top of the phone, and a headphone jack and mono-speaker flanking the USB Type-C port on the bottom.
Just like the S7, the S8+ is IP68 rated for water-resistance and can be submerged in 1m of water for about 30 minutes. Unlike the S7, however, Samsung has ditched those hardware buttons and gone virtual. The home button even features a haptic response and can be accessed from anywhere by just pushing down on the lower portion of the display.
My review unit is the ‘Midnight Black’ option, and it’s a deep black all over, with slightly shiny sides that blend into the display. The phone feels like one complete piece, with the glass, screen and metal all combining seamlessly.
The S8+ is available in an equally attractive ‘Orchid Grey’ option, too, which is light grey with a hint of blue and a black front. I’m glad to see Samsung ditch the white front completely, especially since it would have detracted from the “infinity” look it’s trying to achieve.
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A word of warning: it would be wise to invest in a case for the Galaxy S8+. Even though there’s Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and back, this is a delicate phone and I can’t imagine that things will end well if you drop it on a hard surface. I’ve been using the official Alcantara case and it’s suitably slim, plus it improves accessibility of the fingerprint sensor by separating it from the camera.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S8+ – SCREEN
The display is arguably the most striking part of the Galaxy S8+, and it’s the feature that really sets this device apart from the competition. In my review of the Galaxy S8, I said the handset made me feel excited by phones again – and that’s mostly down to the display.
There’s no Edge variation this year, and that’s because both the S8 and S8+ sport those eye-catching curved sides. They’re not as steep as before, though, and as such are more of a design trait than a practical feature. If you were put off by the edges on the S7 Edge, don’t let that sway you here.
Samsung has also further optimised its software to do a better job at rejecting accidental touches along those edge portions of the handset, something that was needed.
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Also striking is how the display is pushed to almost each corner of the device. There’s no chunky bezel and this results in a big change to the aspect ratio. Most phones use the typical 16:9 aspect ratio, but the S8+ pushes that to 18.5:9. This gives the screen a taller look, and a narrower feel.
If you’ve ever used a Samsung flagship before then you’ll know they always have excellent displays, and the S8+ is the best yet. It’s an AMOLED panel, with a resolution of 2960 x 1440, and it’s the only phone so far to have been ‘Mobile HDR Premium’ certified by the same UHD Alliance that will certify HDR TVs. HDR (high dynamic range) is a big step up for televisions, offering better contrast and a brighter picture – and while it’s great to see it trickle down to phones, neither Netflix or Amazon Prime have updated their apps to support it yet.
As with any AMOLED panel, the best attribute is the colour reproduction. It will display the deepest black and brighter shades such as red and green are gloriously vivid without being oversaturated. Like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the Galaxy S8 can display the entire DCI-P3 cinema-grade colour gamut – and, in certain cases, it will go beyond 1000-nits of brightness.
Interestingly, out of the box the phone defaults to 1080p rather than 1440p. I assume this is to save battery, but it looks good nonetheless. Although, if you’re happy spending £700+ on a phone then I’m going to assume that you’ll want to get the most out of it. You can hop into Settings to up that resolution.
The screen is a joy to use outdoors as a result of that impressive brightness, and even though the curved edges do reflect the sun a little more than would be the case with a flat screen, it certainly isn’t something I notice regularly.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S8+ – PERFORMANCE
Whether your Galaxy S8+ comes with an Exynos 8895 (Europe, Asia and Canada) or the Snapdragon 835 (USA), you’re getting one fast phone. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, though, since even the Moto G5 – a phone costing £150 – can handle the current version of Android with ease.
The S8+ is comfortably one of the fastest phones around, but I can’t say that it’s noticeably faster than the LG G6 or the Google Pixel, both of which run the slightly older Snapdragon 821. What this newer set of chips offers is a more efficient 10nm process, which does appear to improve battery life and support for gigabit LTE speeds. There are also benefits to additional features such as DeX, which I feel couldn’t run well on anything else.
4GB comes as standard – there’s a 6GB model floating about in Asia, but I doubt we’ll see it here – as does 64GB of internal storage, but that can always be boosted by a microSD card. Although 4GB of RAM isn’t the highest available, it’s difficult to tell apart a phone with 4GB and one with 6GB.
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Bluetooth 5.0 is another addition that feels like it’s there to future-proof the phone, but it fixes one of biggest annoyances I’ve had with Bluetooth. You can now connect two devices simultaneously and play the same source through them both, which is great for listening to the same song with two pairs of wireless headphones.
Games and apps all run without a hitch and the operating system is fluid throughout, something that can’t always be said for Samsung phones. When I reviewed the Pixel XL, I felt it was the smoothest Android experience ever – and the Galaxy manages to match it.
There’s a bigger gap in performance in terms of the synthetic benchmark tests, where the Galaxy S8+ scores 2034 in Geekbench 4’s single-core test and 6559 in the multi-core version. That’s on a par with results from a test Snapdragon 835, and slightly above phones running the Kirin 960, which scores 1935 and 6237 in the same tests.
The single-core scores are still slightly disappointing, since the majority of daily tasks utilise only this, but it never seems a priority on Android phones. The iPhone remains at the top in this category, with its 3434 single-core score. In the AnTuTu benchmark – which is far more general, testing everything from 3D games to RAM – the S8+’s 173,292 score is one of the best. Notably, its 70,546 score in the 3D gaming tests put it above the iPhone 7 Plus, which scored 60,000.
The S8+, like its smaller sibling, continues Samsung’s trend of including poor speakers on phones. This won’t be an issue for everyone – there are plenty of people in the TrustedReviews office that couldn’t care less about how a phone sounds – but if you like listening to podcasts or YouTube videos without connecting a Bluetooth speaker then don’t get too excited. Sound is pushed from the bottom, and it’s easily blocked by your hand when holding the phone in landscape.