Samsung Galaxy S8+ Reviewed: A ‘Fundamentally Flawed’ Look at the Future


Reducing bezels is a major focus for many smartphone manufacturers at this point, and even Apple has been rumored to be dropping them in a big way for its upcoming iPhone 8.

So before Samsung actually announced its Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, it was busy promoting the idea of “unboxing” your phone — dropping the bezels, and getting a full screen experience. Sure enough, that’s what the company has done, putting Samsung’s latest flagship phones against the likes of the LG G6, and, potentially, a glimpse of what Apple could bring to the table later this year.

Over at Android Beat, the Galaxy S8+ has been reviewed, putting together a lengthy look at Samsung’s latest and greatest. The result is one that praises the Galaxy S8+ for what it features, including that edge-to-edge front panel, the camera, the technology stuffed inside, and more. However, like most devices, there are some flawed elements to consider.

So, here’s a quick rundown:

Design

    “Pick up the S8+ and roll it around in your hands and it’s super-sleek, super-solid. It’s like finding an alien object, fallen from space and polished smooth by centuries of space dust abrasion – there are no sharp edges. That the time and date (or, optionally a calendar or photo) are glowing gently from underneath the hard, jet black Gorilla Glass 5 is something of a tech wonder. Everything is kept minimal and subservient to this smooth design. Is this really from the same company that made the plasticky, tacky Galaxy S5 only three years ago?”

Display

    “There are downsides to the full-on glass surfaces, of course. There’s the inevitable need to keep the Galaxy S8+ in a protective TPU or leather case in case of drops, meaning that you’ll only really ever get to feel the emotions above on day one, as thereafter it’ll be housed inside something very definitely man made and less ‘spacey’.

    You only need to protect against drops and shocks though, since Samsung has – impressively – managed to make the S8 range IP68-compliant, so completely water and dust proof. This is one bullet point that’s always worth seeking out in the phone world.

    Samsung calls the 6.2” 18.5:9 ‘WQHD+’(!) AMOLED screen an ‘Infinity Display’ and it’s easy to see where the moniker comes from. It’s larger and more colourful and higher contrast and more immersive than any phone display I’ve ever seen.”

Biometrics

    “A front facing camera and infrared LED light up your irises as you bring the phone up in front of your face – if all goes well then the iris pattern (unique to you) will be recognised and you’ll be authenticated and in. Unfortunately, the system falls down if you wear glasses (as I do) – varifocals (again, me) are the worst, distorting the patterns and, unsurprisingly, recognition doesn’t work.

    So we move on to strike three, face recognition. This was tried back in 2013 on the Google Nexus 4 and it never really took off – partly because it required a certain range of good light conditions and angles to work and partly because it wasn’t that secure – a photo of your face can unlock the phone better than the real thing under some conditions. So with 2017’s security concerns it’s a sign that Samsung was getting pretty desperate in order to have brought this old chestnut back.”

Internals

    “Under the hood is the powerful Exynos 8895 chipset with 4GB of RAM, with 64GB internal storage (though only 50GB free out of the box) plus microSD on the pop-out SIM tray if needed. The Qualcomm X16 LTE modem is rated at 1 Gbit/s, so up to 100MB per second transfer over cellular data. Gulp. That’s what you call future proofing!

    The Galaxy S8+ is fast, though you always get the impression navigating around the UI that the ‘Samsung Experience’ skin is slowing things down… just a little. More on the Samsung software in a moment.

    Having had the Note 7 battery fiasco in 2016, where physical constraints on the battery proved disastrous, Samsung has played it relatively safe with the Galaxy S8+, with only a 3500mAh battery even in this tall phone frame. I’m sure they’ve factored in battery expansion and allowed huge margins of error this time round. Battery life isn’t an issue though, with Android 7’s own battery optimisations added to by some aggressive ‘sleeping’ of background applications by Samsung’s own algorithms. Combined, getting through a busy day with the Galaxy S8+ is easy.”

Camera

    “Despite the S8+ camera being as flush as the LG G6’s, Samsung has done a much better job at compensating for the thin camera unit in software. The 12MP f/1.7 wide-ish angle lens is backed by a 1/2.5” ‘dual pixel auto-focus’ sensor and OIS, all very capable, but the biggest impact is in software, with Google Pixel-like multi-frame processing. So, instead of taking just one photo at a time, a burst of at least three shots is always taken (though the shutter noise only sounds once, obviously) and then these are averaged and optimised, computing out digital noise and artefacts while also allowing for genuine subject movement.”

Bixby (Button)

    “I did omit one button from the hardware rundown above – and it’s on the left of the phone and only has one function. It launches Bixby, Samsung’s new personal digital assistant. As of now it’s just a placeholder for some news, weather and PIM reminders, alongside a ‘Bixby Vision’ utility that’s supposed to recognise products and find them online for err… buying again. The former is good enough but doesn’t really improve on Google’s traditional Now screens on other phones, while the latter failed on the things I tried it out with in the UK.”

The Verdict

    “The Galaxy S8+ is certainly a stunning piece of smartphone design. It’s fundamentally flawed, of course – the mass of fragile glass that needs protecting, the fixed-use Bixby button, the awkward biometrics – but it’s going to be very influential going forwards. Not just for other manufacturers to copy, but also for Samsung’s own Galaxy S9 in 2018, which is sure to be faster again, have fully working voice control and a fingerprint sensor underneath the main display. That will be a sure fire recommendation, but it’s harder to be so definite with this year’s version.

    Not that anyone who buys the S8+ can really complain – there’s an insane amount of technology here and implemented so prettily. If you remember the very first Galaxy Note, it had a 5.3” screen diagonal and the phone was 83mm wide. This S8+ has a significantly larger display yet is only 73mm wide and a hundred times more manageable in the hand.”

You can check out the full review, with plenty of pictures to boot, through the source link below. All-in-all, while there are some hiccups, it sounds like Samsung has a strong smartphone to share with the world, and hopefully that means we see something even more exciting from Apple later this year.