Sam­sung Galaxy S8

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Android Advisor - - Contents -

We’re huge fans of the Galaxy S7, so couldn’t wait to see if Sam­sung would pro­duce a bet­ter phone with the S8. We weren’t dis­ap­pointed.

De­sign

If the Galaxy S7 was stun­ning in de­sign, then we’re not ex­actly sure how to de­scribe the S8 apart from that it’s on an­other level. It makes its pre­de­ces­sor, and other phones, look rather dated.

Sam­sung has brought its edge screen tech­nol­ogy to both phones this year, so you don’t need to buy the larger S8+ to get the full ex­pe­ri­ence. This not only looks great but has a big ad­van­tage when it comes to keep­ing the size of the phone from get­ting out of con­trol.

The S8 is pretty much the same width, thick­ness and weight com­pared to its pre­de­ces­sor. It’s just a few mil­lime­tres taller, but jumps from 5.1- to 5.8in when it comes to screen size. So what would typ­i­cally be an un­wieldy de­vice feels barely any dif­fer­ent in the hand.

It’s an im­pres­sive piece of crafts­man­ship, largely down to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duc­ing the bezels at the top and bot­tom. A screen-to-body ra­tio of over 83 per­cent is im­pres­sive stuff. The phys­i­cal home but­ton and ac­com­pa­ny­ing ca­pac­i­tive keys have been re­moved to achieve this. Now you have on-screen nav­i­ga­tion and a pres­sure sen­si­tive home but­ton built into the dis­play.

The fin­ger­print scan­ner is now on the rear, though awk­wardly next to the cam­era rather than be­low it. Right-handed users are likely to smudge the cam­era when us­ing it. This is our main bug­bear in terms of the de­sign and it should re­ally be be­low the cam­era, de­spite creat­ing an un­sym­met­ri­cal look.

A lot of users will be pleased to see that the head­phone jack has been re­tained on the bot­tom. Like its pre­de­ces­sor, the S8 is made from a lot of glass, so is a lit­tle slip­pery. Be­cause of this Sam­sung has used Go­rilla Glass 5 on the rear for ex­tra pro­tec­tion. You’ll prob­a­bly want to get a case to pro­tect this ex­pen­sive slab of metal and glass though, which is a shame con­sid­er­ing the out­stand­ing de­sign.

As you’d ex­pect, the Galaxy S8 is fully dust- and wa­ter­proof, so has an IP68 rating. That ex­tra but­ton you

see on the left side of the phone is to quickly launch Bixby, Sam­sung’s ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence as­sis­tance.

The S8 comes in five colours, though only three will be avail­able at launch: Mid­night Black, Orchid Grey and Arc­tic Sil­ver (the lat­ter with ar­rive at a later date). Sam­sung may well bring the blue and gold op­tions at the later date, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Fea­tures

Com­pared to the Galaxy S7, the new S8 isn’t dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent when it comes to spec­i­fi­ca­tions and hard­ware on of­fer. That’s partly be­cause the S7 ticked a lot of boxes, though there are new com­po­nents, with the screen be­ing the most ob­vi­ous change.

In­fi­nite Dis­play

As men­tioned in the de­sign sec­tion, Sam­sung has im­pres­sively in­creased the size of the dis­play from 5.1- to 5.8in. This is de­spite the phone be­ing only slightly taller in shape. If that’s not big enough, the Galaxy S8+ has a whop­ping 6.2in screen.

Like the LG G6 (page 70), the Galaxy S8’s dis­play’s rounded cor­ners look great and match the cur­va­ture of the phone’s metal frame. Sam­sung has also opted for a sim­i­lar as­pect ra­tio of 18.5:9 mean­ing the screen is very tall (or wide in land­scape). Sam­sung calls it the ‘In­fin­ity Dis­play’. You can fit more on the screen, of course, and the as­pect ra­tio suits con­tent such as videos much bet­ter, so you can, de­pend­ing on the source con­tent, watch videos with­out an­noy­ing black bars.

The phone sticks to Sam­sung’s pre­ferred Su­perAMOLED dis­play tech­nol­ogy en­sur­ing great con­trast and colours. The screen res­o­lu­tion is WQHD+, 2960x1440 in this case be­cause the screen is so tall. A pixel den­sity of 570ppi is enough for any­one. It’s worth not­ing it de­faults to Full HD+ (2220x1080), but you can change it in the set­tings if you wish. The lower res­o­lu­tion im­proves graph­ics per­for­mance and also aids bat­tery life with­out a no­tice­able drop in qual­ity. If you want, you can also drop it down to 1480x720. Spec­i­fi­ca­tions aside, the Galaxy S8 also now has the well-known edge screen as stan­dard, so there’s no need to buy the edge ver­sion any longer (like the Galaxy S7 edge). The curve is more sub­tle than pre­vi­ous edge de­vices though, so you just have the edge pan­els rather than any other ad­di­tional func­tion­al­ity.

There are some new fea­tures to make the screen eas­ier to use one-handed which we’ll cover in the soft­ware sec­tion, and the dis­play is al­ways-on should you want it to be.

One last thing to men­tion about the screen is that it has Mobile HDR Premium cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by the UHD al­liance. The abil­ity to dis­play HDR con­tent sounds good

but you’ll only get it with cer­tain ti­tles on Ama­zon Prime Video. More part­ners will be an­nounced.

Pro­ces­sor

Once again, the Galaxy S8 has have a dif­fer­ent pro­ces­sor for dif­fer­ent markets around the world. Sam­sung has been a bit vague on the sub­ject but, as we sus­pected, the UK model has the firm’s new Exynos 9 8895 chip rather than the Qual­comm Snap­dragon 835 that the two com­pa­nies col­lab­o­rated on. The firm’s lat­est eight-core pro­ces­sor has clock speeds of 2.3- and 1.7GHz (four cores each) and a Mali-G71 MP20 GPU. The firm claims a 10 per­cent in­crease in CPU per­for­mance and a 20 per­cent gain on the GPU side. We’re very im­pressed with the per­for­mance here with some of the high­est bench­mark re­sults we’ve seen. It’s the graph­ics boost that’s par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy con­sid­er­ing the res­o­lu­tion. We tested at de­fault set­tings and switch­ing to the full amount of pix­els didn’t drop the frame rates much.

Mem­ory and stor­age

Not a huge amount has changed in this depart­ment. The phone has 4GB of RAM and comes with 64GB of stor­age as stan­dard. As usual, the phone has ex­pand­able stor­age so you can add up to 256GB via the mi­croSD card slot.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

As you’d ex­pect from a flag­ship Sam­sung phone, the Galaxy S8 is packed with all the lat­est con­nec­tiv­ity spec­i­fi­ca­tions. To this end, it has dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, Blue­tooth 5.0 and LTE Cat 16. It also uses a re­versible USB-C port like re­cent Sam­sung de­vices

and ri­vals. The heart-rate mon­i­tor also re­mains, but has been moved to the other side of the cam­era mod­ule.

Fin­ger­print and Iris scan­ners

As we touched upon ear­lier, the fin­ger­print scan­ner has moved to the rear in or­der to fit a much larger screen. We’re all for this – LG has been do­ing it since the G2 – but the place­ment isn’t very er­gonomic.

Sam­sung ap­pears to have pri­ori­tised the sym­me­try of de­sign over func­tion­al­ity here, so most users will be mak­ing the cam­era lens grubby when reach­ing for the sen­sor. The scan­ner is fast when it works, but its place­ment and size make it frus­trat­ing to use, es­pe­cially with a case on.

The firm says you won’t need the fin­ger­print scan­ner as much be­cause of the im­proved Iris scan­ner, which de­buted on the Note 7. While this works, it’s still frus­trat­ing to use a lot of the time as you’ll need to hold the phone up like you’re tak­ing a selfie, hold it the right dis­tance away and re­quire things like good light­ing. If you’re con­cerned about se­cu­rity, then the S8 is likely to be a bit an­noy­ing, with the best op­tions be­ing a pat­tern or nu­mer­i­cal PIN rather than the more ad­vanced bio­met­rics.

Cam­eras

There’s no change from the fan­tas­tic cam­era in­side the Galaxy S7. So the S8 has a 12Mp Dual Pixel with an im­pres­sive f/1.7 aper­ture and other fea­tures such as op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion (OIS) and 4K record­ing.

The cam­era also of­fers ‘multi-frame im­age pro­cess­ing’ where it takes three shots in­stead of one and uses the ex­tras to do things like re­duce blur and per­fect other

el­e­ments like fo­cus. It’s the new pro­ces­sor that makes this al­ready awe­some cam­era even bet­ter. Some shots, unedited, are un­be­liev­able (see above).

There are loads of dif­fer­ent fil­ters and shoot­ing modes to play with in­clud­ing the usual sus­pects. There’s even a new food mode for show­ing off your res­tau­rant or­ders or home cook­ing skills.

We were suit­ably im­pressed with the S7’s cam­era and although it’s es­sen­tially the same tech here, the S8 is one of the best phone cam­eras on the mar­ket.

When it comes to the front cam­era things are sim­i­lar with a match­ing f/1.7 aper­ture, though the res­o­lu­tion has been bumped from 5- to 8Mp. The wide aper­ture

means you can shoot in much harder con­di­tions than most phones and the re­sults in gen­eral are sharper and more de­tailed than be­fore.

If you’re wor­ried about jump­ing to a much larger screen size Sam­sung has made tweaks to help you op­er­ate the phone with one hand. In the cam­era app we found it easy to switch be­tween the cam­eras, modes, fil­ters and even zoom all with dif­fer­ent thumb swipes.

Bat­tery life

Sam­sung hasn’t made a fuss about bat­tery life on the Galaxy S8. This may be due to the fact it has the same 3,000mAh ca­pac­ity as its pre­de­ces­sor. Nev­er­the­less, it’s good to see fea­tures such as USB-C, fast charg­ing and wire­less charg­ing as stan­dard. Bat­tery life will al­ways be bet­ter when a phone is new and un­used but we are, nev­er­the­less, im­pressed with the S8. Dur­ing our time with the phone, it lasted al­most 48 hours of moder­ate us­age.

Soft­ware

Man­u­fac­tur­ers don’t typ­i­cally sell phones be­cause of the sup­plied soft­ware, and this is largely the case with the Galaxy S8, though it has some in­ter­est­ing el­e­ments.

An­droid 7.0 Nougat

As you’d ex­pect, the phone comes pre­loaded with the lasted ver­sion of An­droid (7.0 Nougat) and Sam­sung hasn’t messed about with it too much. The in­ter­face

re­mains clean and easy to use, but still has lots go­ing on be­hind the scenes. You get a lot of pre­in­stalled apps, though most are use­ful in­clud­ing Google’s, Mi­crosoft’s and Sam­sung’s own. The app draw is now ac­cessed with an up­wards swipe, which will take some users a while to get used to. You can swipe up from the end of the menu to re­turn to the home screen.

There’s tonnes of things you can cus­tomise with the soft­ware, in­clud­ing the home screen and app draw grids. It’s easy to get lost in the set­tings menu with the amount of op­tions with things you sim­ply won’t know about un­less you go and look. An ex­am­ple of this is the fin­ger­print sen­sor ges­tures, which are switched off by de­fault. They al­low you to open and close the no­ti­fi­ca­tion panel by swip­ing, which is handy with a tall screen like this.

Since the nav­i­ga­tion but­tons are on-screen you can swap back and re­cent apps around – handy if you’re com­ing from an­other phone and not used to Sam­sung’s lay­out. You can even ad­just how sen­si­tive they are to avoid press­ing them by mis­take.

Snap Win­dow

Mov­ing to a big­ger screen, de­spite the phone not be­ing much big­ger, presents a prob­lem. A larger dis­play means it’s harder to reach it all with one hand. As men­tioned ear­lier, things such as the cam­era app have new con­trols to help you out. A new fea­ture for the S8 is called Snap Win­dow and takes ad­van­tage of the tall screen size. It’s es­sen­tially a new part of Multi Win­dow and

al­lows you to snap a cho­sen sec­tion of an app to the top part of the screen. Be­low it you can carry on like nor­mal on a still larger chunk of the real es­tate.

Bixby

Bixby might sound like a new cud­dly mas­cot but it’s Sam­sung’s an­swer to the likes of Siri and Google As­sis­tant. There’s even a Bixby but­ton on the side, so you can ac­cess the fea­ture quickly, with­out un­lock­ing the de­vice. Sadly, you can’t change what it does. The idea is you can talk to Bixby and it will un­der­stand the con­text of what you’re do­ing.

There’s also Bixby vi­sion, which does clever things. If, for ex­am­ple, you point the phone’s cam­era at a local land­mark Bixby will pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about it, along with places in the area to eat.

It’s worth not­ing that much of the func­tion­al­ity is avail­able via Google As­sis­tant (which is on the phone) and Bixby will be lim­ited to se­lected Sam­sung apps to start with. You also won’t be able to use the voice el­e­ment at launch with UK lan­guage sup­port ar­riv­ing at an unknown later date.

Un­til then, you’ll have to make do with Bixby Home – the in­ter­face loads if you push the phys­i­cal but­ton on the side or swipe right from the home screen. Here you’ll get, in a very sim­i­lar way to Google Now, all kinds of in­for­ma­tion that should be use­ful such as the weather, news, fit­ness stats and sug­ges­tions.

While this sounds great dur­ing our time with the phone we weren’t con­vinced by it, es­pe­cially with the lack of voice sup­port at launch. Google Now is al­ready a much bet­ter al­ter­na­tive and prob­a­bly al­ways will be.

DeX

We’re ac­tu­ally more in­ter­ested in DeX, a dock­ing sta­tion which lets you use the Galaxy S8 as a makeshift PC for £129. You con­nect the phone via USB-C and the dock as two USB ports, Eth­er­net, HDMI and a cool­ing fan. You can also use it with a wire­less key­board and mouse and once the phone is docked you’ll get a cus­tom desk­top-style in­ter­face where you can open and re­size apps in sep­a­rate win­dows like you would on a PC or lap­top. You can read our full re­view on page 47.

Other new ac­ces­sories in­clude a new Gear 360 2 cam­era and a tweaked Gear VR head­set bun­dled with a mo­tion con­troller.

Verdict

Sam­sung has taken the best phone around and made it even bet­ter with an im­pres­sive screen and de­sign. It ticks a shed load of boxes you’d want a flag­ship to do. It’s the best

phone of 2017 so far but it is ex­pen­sive and the bio­met­rics are a let down. We’re keen to see what the likes of Ap­ple, HTC and OnePlus can do to chal­lenge. Chris Martin

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

5.8in (2960x1440, 570ppi) Quad HD dis­play An­droid 7.0 Nougat Exynos 8895 octa-core pro­ces­sor 4GB RAM 64GB in­ter­nal stor­age Mi­croSD card slot (up to 256GB) 12Mp rear-fac­ing cam­era with OI 8Mp front cam­era; Pres­sure sen­si­tive home but­ton Fin­ger­print scan­ner Heart-rate mon­i­tor 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi Blue­tooth 5.0 with aptX GPS NFC 4G LTE Cat 16 head­phone jack USB-C 3,000mAh non-re­mov­able bat­tery wire­less charg­ing IP68 dust and wa­ter­proof rating 68x149x8mm 155g

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