With the iPhone 8 and 7s just around the corner, Samsung has released the Samsung Galaxy S8, the successor to the Samsung Galaxy S7. For the past few years, phone innovation has sort of plateaued. We get bigger screens, faster processors, more RAM, and better cameras, but we don’t see too much major change in the body of the phone. Sure, the iPhone 7 introduced a groundbreaking new color – Jet Black, but aside from that, there wasn’t any major change. Like always, the processor got faster, and the camera got better, and nothing really changed. Oh wait, they removed the headphone jack. I’m sure people all around the world are rejoicing at the lack of a headphone jack, but for me, that isn’t innovation. That all changes with the Samsung Galaxy S8. Let’s find out how Samsung’s latest phone holds up.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is the most beautiful and one of the most groundbreaking phones on the planet right now. The front is unobstructed, with no home button or side buttons, and there’s even no Samsung logo. The first thing you notice when you pick it up and turn it on is just how massive the screen is. At 5.8 inches, it’s one of the biggest screens I’ve ever seen practically put on a phone. At 5.8 inches, you’d expect the body to extend into tablet territory, but it doesn’t. The bezels on all four sides of the screen are near zero, and the footprint of the phone is tiny. It’s about the same width as an iPhone 7, and only a tad taller. The iPhone 7 has a 4.7” screen, so Samsung has managed to fit an extra inch of screen onto a device roughly the same size.
The back of the device looks great too, with an edge-to-edge glossy glass cover, and three cutouts for the flash, heart rate sensor, camera, and fingerprint scanner. Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is a magnificent looking device, and it comes in five color options: Midnight Black, Orchid Gray, Coral Blue, Artic Silver, and Maple Gold. In my opinion, the Midnight Black Color looks the best, as it blends well with the screen, making the already enormous screen look even bigger.
That Fingerprint Scanner
Sadly, there’s one caveat to lacking a home button on the front – Where does the fingerprint sensor go? Samsung’s answer is to put it on the back. Nope, they didn’t put it on the back where everybody else puts it; they put it on the back right next to the camera. Having three cutouts for three different things on the back can make finding the fingerprint scanner pretty difficult, and since it’s so small, it doesn’t always work when you do find it. Another side effect of having the fingerprint scanner so close to the camera is that it gives you the perfect opportunity to smudge the lens of the camera. Every time you unlock your phone.
Like it’s predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S7, the Samsung Galaxy S8 features water and dust resistance, with an IP68 rating. Thankfully, the Samsung Galaxy S8 retains the headphone jack, in contrast with the iPhone 7, where the headphone jack was removed to aid water resistance.
Right off the bat, the Samsung Galaxy S8 has strong specs. It packs in a Snapdragon 835 and 4GB of RAM, and an Exynos Processor with 6GB RAM in select countries. The unit I tested was the Snapdragon 835 variant, with 4GB of RAM. That’s more than enough for everyday use, but if you can’t resist, you can import a 6GB RAM variant at a premium. In it’s 6GB variant, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is one of the most powerful Android phones out there, if not the most powerful. Rather underwhelmingly, the Samsung Galaxy S8 only has a 3000mAh battery. When coupled with those monster specs, the Samsung Galaxy S8 might not have the stamina you’d hope for. If you need maximum battery life, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ has a larger battery, though at 3500mAh, it’s not too much larger.
The screen is absolutely ridiculous. It has a screen resolution of a whopping 1440×2960 pixels, which gives it a ~570ppi pixel density. That’s a huge battery suck, and doesn’t provide many advantages over something like ~220ppi, so Samsung provides an option to tone down the display resolution to a more sensible number. This ~557ppi display does come in useful when using a VR headset, as a VR headset puts the display much closer to your eyes. Samsung has always been the leader in mobile screen technology, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 pushes that to the maximum. The display is insanely bright, pumping out pixels at an eye-watering 1000 nits. That’s 400 nits more than the iPhone 7’s 600 nits. Combine this with the fact that the screen is near bezel-less, and you have the best screen ever on a mobile phone.
Viewing angles are almost perfect, and the screen is bright and clear, even in direct sunlight. Under the display, for the home button, is 3d touch. 3d touch was the flagship feature of the iPhone 6s, but instead of being the whole display, 3d touch on the Samsung Galaxy S8 is for the home button only. Since Samsung has historically always had a home button, it’s a significant change. Instead of switching to the default three button array with no change, Samsung has made it so that the phone vibrates when you put extra pressure on the home button. The intended effect is that it feels like you are pressing down on a real button. It’s fairly convincing, but it isn’t as polished as the feeling is on the iPhone 7.
Display – Problems
The display on the Samsung Galaxy S8 is the best screen out there, but it comes with a few caveats. The fact that it’s an AMOLED display means that there’s a chance you’ll experience burn in on your phone, after owning it for an extended period. Burn-in is when a pixel retains an image, and spread over a number of pixels, you can end up with some weird artefacts on your Samsung Galaxy S8. This usually happens around status bars and the time. Also, there has been a few complaints about the screen being red from unboxing. Since AMOLEDS aren’t as accurate as IPS displays, there can be a few color discrepancies in the displays. This is especially noticeable if you hold the phone and tilt it up and down. You may notice that the entire screen goes bluer or redder as you tilt the phone. If you’re like most people, you won’t find this too annoying, but for me, it’s a potential deal-breaker.
Hardware – Camera
The Samsung Galaxy S8 has impressive front and back cameras. Although the rear camera is only 12 megapixels, history tells us megapixels aren’t everything. In real world usage, the camera is fantastic – clear, detailed, and vivid. It performs admirably in low-light conditions, thanks to the large sensor size of 1/2.5”. It also has a relatively low fixed F-stop at f/1.7. The front camera is also good, at 8MP and f/1.7. Samsung has always had good camera software to back up it’s hardware, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 retains the same great Camera app you’ve come to know and love. Video recording is fairly stock-standard for a flagship phone. It can record 4k UHD video at 30fps, or 1080p video at 60fps. There aren’t any phones out there that can record 4k at 60fps, but I was hoping that the S8 would be able to break that barrier. Obviously, the critical thing you’d have to overcome is the ridiculous video sizes. 4K is around 9MP, and at 60 images per second, it’s going to be quite big. Still, it’d be a nice option.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a flagship phone, with flagship specs. With this in mind, performance is perfect. It’s possibly the fastest Android phone out there. All games run perfectly fine, and there aren’t any slowdowns whatsoever. There’s a good amount of RAM in there, in fact, the same amount of the Macbook Air in 2015, so you can open a lot of apps without having to RAM swap. Unfortunately, the one area in raw specs where the Samsung Galaxy S8 loses out against the iPhone 7 is SSD speed. Apple has a ridiculously fast ~1.5GBps read SSD in the iPhone 6s and 7, whereas the Samsung Galaxy S8 can only reach around half that. This is shown in a speed test conducted by YouTuber “PhoneBuff”. In the speed test, the 2015 iPhone 6s bet the 2017 Samsung Galaxy S8 by a sizeable margin.
The battery specs on the Samsung Galaxy S8 are underwhelming, but in real life usage, the Samsung Galaxy S8 does rather well. It has less battery life than the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and a little less than the Samsung Galaxy S7. However, it’s still very good, and it should get you through the day with moderate usage. On the Samsung Galaxy S8+, it’s slightly better, but not by too much, since it has an even larger screen to drive. Of course, battery life probably wasn’t the main priority for the designers working on the Samsung Galaxy S8. The priority? Safety. After the massive Samsung Galaxy Note 7 scandal where Note 7 phones randomly exploded, Samsung has pulled out all the stops to ensure this doesn’t happen again. So far, there haven’t been any incidents of batteries exploding, so Samsung’s 8-point test seems to have worked out well.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is built sturdily, and feels solid in hand, however, it’s made almost exclusively out of glass. It’s an absolute fingerprint magnet, a bit of a bummer for a device you use with your fingers. Worse than that though, is the fact that if you drop the device, you have two sides of the phone to potentially crack. This has been the case since the Samsung Galaxy S6, but since this phone is even bigger than it’s predecessors, there’s a higher likelihood that it’ll crack under pressure. Since the display is so amazing and so un-normal, I fear that display repairs are going to be obscenely expensive, especially since it’s a rounded AMOLED. With all of these things in mind, I wouldn’t say that the Samsung Galaxy S8 is too durable, nor that you should use it without a case if you don’t want scratches on the back.
Value For Money
At $749, The Samsung Galaxy S8 is one of the most expensive S- series phones ever. However, it’s got a ton of technology packed into the case, and a lot of it is on the bleeding edge. It’s not a budget phone by any means, but for the money you’re paying, you’re getting top-of-the-line specs and a gorgeous, cand the near bezel-less display. I think that it’s worth it, considering the iPhone 7 plus is around the same price.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a masterpiece of technology and paves the way for a lot of innovation in the future. It’s the first big leap of faith we’ve seen amidst a sea of little cautious steps. It’s packed with bleeding edge technology, and the screen is awesome. The Samsung Galaxy S8 definitely the leader in mobile technology right now, and I’m really pleased with the approach. It represents the future, and it does it brilliantly.