The future is here
Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+
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 Netix 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.