The fu­ture is here

Sam­sung Galaxy S8 and S8+

HWM (Singapore) - - TEST - by James Lu

The lat­est trend in smart­phones is cram­ming a large dis­play into a small body by elim­i­nat­ing as much of the front bezel as pos­si­ble. But shrink­ing the front bezel isn’t enough for Sam­sung, who has also dou­bled up on the big screen ef­fect by mak­ing the S8 and S8+ dis­plays curved on both edges. Sam­sung is call­ing this new de­sign an “In nity Dis­play” and it re­ally does look in­cred­i­ble. With no phys­i­cal but­tons on the front, tiny bezels, plus

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a dis­play that cov­ers al­most the en­tire phone and cas­cades over the sides like an in­fin­ity pool, it re­ally feels like you’re hold­ing just a screen in your hand.

Those curved edges aren’t just for looks ei­ther, it al­lows Sam­sung to squeeze a wider dis­play into a nar­rower body, mak­ing it eas­ier to use one-handed than sim­i­lar-sized ‚at phones. Of course, with­out a phys­i­cal home but­ton, Sam­sung moved the fin­ger­print scan­ner to the rear of the de­vice. Un­for­tu­nately, while most rear fin­ger­print scan­ners are po­si­tioned in the mid­dle and be­low the cam­era where your in­dex nger nat­u­rally rests, Sam­sung bizarrely chose to place it right next to the cam­era mod­ule, which is far too high up and awk­ward to hit. On the plus side, you can avoid us­ing the fin­ger­print scan­ner on the S8 thanks to two other forms of bio­met­ric se­cu­rity: iris scan­ning and face recog­ni­tion.

The rest of the S8 and S8+’s de­sign is pretty much ‚aw­less. Sim­i­lar to the Note7, both phones have a gor­geous sym­met­ri­cal build with an alu­minum frame and a rear glass panel that curves at both sides to match the front. The days of ugly pro­trud­ing cam­era bumps are also long gone, and the rear cam­era is now com­pletely ‚ush with the phone.

There’s a USB Type-C port on the bot­tom along­side a stan­dard 3.5mm head­phone jack. And like last year’s S7, both the S8 and S8+ are IP68 rated.

Both phones use QHD Su­per AMOLED pan­els, but with a new 18.5:9 as­pect ra­tio that makes the S8 and S8+ taller and skin­nier than the vast ma­jor­ity of smart­phones out there with tra­di­tional 16:9 screens. On the Galaxy S8, you get a 5.8-inch 2,960 x 1,440 pix­els dis­play (570ppi), while the S8+ has a 6.2-inch 2,960 x 1,440 pix­els dis­play (529ppi). Both dis­plays are sharp, vi­brant and very bright, mak­ing them easy to use even un­der di­rect sun­light. The dis­plays are also ‘Mo­bile HDR Pre­mium’ certi ed, so you’ll be able to stream HDR (high dy­namic range) shows from Ama­zon Prime and Net‚ix when those apps are up­dated. An in­ter­est­ing new ad­di­tion to the dis­play is a spot of pres­sure sen­si­tiv­ity over the vir­tual home but­ton. You can push harder on this spot of the screen to wake the dis­play or re­turn to the home screen at any point, even when you’re us­ing a full screen app that doesn’t have a home but­ton dis­played. It’s some­what sim­i­lar to the iPhone’s Force Touch, but lo­cal­ized to just one spot.

The S8 and S8+ run on An­droid 7.0 Nougat with Sam­sung’s new Dream UX on top of it. If you haven’t seen a Sam­sung phone in a while, you’ll be in

for a pleas­ant sur­prise as the soft­ware is both re­strained and taste­ful, with a sim­ple home screen, and a small tray of app short­cuts. There’s no icon for the app drawer by de­fault (al­though you can add it back in the Set­tings menu) but if you swipe on the screen, it will load the app drawer. Swipe up again and you’re back to the home screen.

The big new soft­ware fea­ture for the S8 is Bixby, Sam­sung’s vir­tual as­sis­tant. Sam­sung thinks Bixby is such a big deal that it’s put a ded­i­cated but­ton on the S8 that does noth­ing but launch Bixby - you can’t even re-pro­gram it to do any­thing else.

Bixby is made up of three fea­tures: Bixby Home, Bixby Vi­sion and Bixby Voice.

Un­for­tu­nately, Bixby Voice, which will let you talk to Bixby and is­sue com­mands isn’t avail­able yet. Press­ing the Bixby but­ton launches Bixby Home, which is Sam­sung’s ver­sion of Google Now, and dis­plays var­i­ous cards and in­for­ma­tion based on your rou­tine and in­ter­ests. It will dis­play the weather, any up­com­ing cal­en­dar ap­point­ments or re­minders you’ve set and any news up­dates you’ve sub­scribed to. It can also sync with third-party ser­vices like Twit­ter and Face­book.

Bixby’s most in­ter­est­ing fea­ture is Bixby Vi­sion, which re­sides in the cam­era and gallery app. This is ba­si­cally Sam­sung’s ver­sion of the Google Gog­gles app. Point the cam­era at some­thing, hit the Bixby but­ton and

it will iden­tify the ob­ject, place or text you’re look­ing at.

It can trans­late the text, show you sim­i­lar im­ages on Pinterest, or if you’re look­ing at a land­mark, use Foursquare to show you more in­for­ma­tion about it, as well as nearby points of in­ter­est. One thing I did no­tice was that Bixby cheats a bit here. It doesn’t ac­tu­ally show you ar­eas near to the land­mark you’ve taken a pic­ture of, in­stead it just uses GPS to lo­cate you and show you nearby things, so when I loaded up a pic­ture of Ma­rina Bay Sands on my com­puter at work and then took a pic­ture of that, it tried to sug­gest me restau­rants near my of­fice.

The lo­cal ver­sion of the S8 and S8+ is pow­ered by Sam­sung’s Exynos 8895 SoC, which is built around a cut­tingedge 10nm process and fea­tures four of Sam­sung’s Mon­goose M2 cores run­ning at 2.3GHz and four ARM Cor­tex A53 cores run­ning at 1.7GHz. It also sports ARM’s new Mali G71 GPU clocked at 550MHz. Bench­mark per­for­mance was top notch, with the S8 out­per­form­ing ev­ery other smart­phone out there, in­clud­ing Apple’s iPhone 7.

Specs-wise, Sam­sung hasn’t changed much with the S8’s rear cam­era, which seems to use the same 12-megapixel f/1.7 shooter as last year’s S7. That’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing; the S7 had one of the bet­ter cam­eras of 2016, even if Sam­sung did pass on the whole dual-lens fad. The front cam­era has been im­proved, and is now a higher- res­o­lu­tion 8-megapixel shooter with aut­o­fo­cus. The aut­o­fo­cus works pretty well, so you you don’t have to tap the screen to fo­cus on your face.

Sam­sung has un­der­stand­ably been a lit­tle con­ser­va­tive with the bat­ter­ies in­side the S8 and S8+, with a 3,000mAh bat­tery on the S8 (the same size as the S7) and a 3,500mAh bat­tery on the S8+ (slightly smaller than the S7 Edge’s 3,600mAh bat­tery). In our video loop­ing bat­tery bench­mark, the S8 lasted just short of twelve hours and the S8+ lasted thir­teen and a half, both of which are ac­tu­ally slightly shorter than last year’s S7 and S7 Edge. Nev­er­the­less, that’s still above av­er­age com­pared to many other smart­phones.

Af­ter the Note7 dis­as­ter, the S8 and S8+ are ex­actly what Sam­sung need right now. Their gor­geous, all-dis­play de­signs are a breath of fresh air and while Sam­sung wasn’t the rst to do a bezel-less phone, its ex­e­cu­tion is far su­pe­rior to its ri­vals, with the curved edges keep­ing the phones small enough to eas­ily use one-handed, and with­out sac­ri­fic­ing im­por­tant fea­tures like an IP68 build and ex­pand­able stor­age.

The S8 and S8+ have an im­pres­sive 83% screento-body ra­tio.

The *nger­print scan­ner on the S8 is awk­wardly po­si­tioned next to the rear cam­era.

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