SAM­SUNG Galaxy S8+

Computer Shopper - - REVIEWS - David Lud­low

£678 SIM-free; £30 on £52-per-month con­tract From www.ama­zon.co.uk (SIM-free); www.voda­fone.co.uk (con­tract)

VERDICT

An in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful and beau­ti­ful phone that makes op­ti­mum use of its size

ON THE FACE of it, the Sam­sung Galaxy S8+ is merely a larger ver­sion of the ex­cel­lent Galaxy S8 (Shop­per 353). It has the same range of fea­tures as its lit­tle brother, and the same specs, with the no­table ex­cep­tion of a rather mas­sive 6.2in screen. On pa­per, that would seem to sug­gest that the S8+ is an enor­mous hand­set of rather epic pro­por­tions. How­ever, when we first picked up the hand­set (pro­vided by Voda­fone for this re­view), it be­came clear that the S8+ feels a lot smaller and eas­ier to hold that we’d ex­pected it to be.

With both the Galaxy S8 and S8+, Sam­sung has made the dis­play take up prac­ti­cally the en­tire front fas­cia, a de­sign it calls the In­fin­ity Screen. Drop­ping the phys­i­cal home but­ton, Sam­sung has squeezed more screen into the case by ex­tend­ing the dis­play top and bot­tom. With the curved edges of the dis­play keep­ing the phone’s width in check, the S8+ just isn’t that huge.

Sit it next to last year’s S7 Edge and the S8+ is pretty much the same width, as well as less than 1cm taller. Place the S8+ next to the Google Pixel XL (Shop­per 347), and there’s lit­tle dif­fer­ence in phys­i­cal size, even though Google’s phone has a smaller 5.5in screen.

That’s im­pres­sive go­ing for Sam­sung, and the S8+ is rather com­fort­able to hold and use in one hand. The S8+ is still a big phone, and you’ll need big pock­ets, but if you’re happy with a ph­ablet-sized hand­set, the S8+ is no big­ger than the com­pe­ti­tion and gives you more screen space.

Along with its lit­tle brother, the S8+ is one of the best­look­ing phones we’ve re­viewed. The sweep to its screen and curved edges give the S8+ a clas­sic look and dis­tin­guish Sam­sung’s phones from the com­pe­ti­tion. If Sam­sung could have once been ac­cused of fol­low­ing Ap­ple’s lead, that’s cer­tainly not the case now. We’d say that the S8+ is far more at­trac­tive than the iPhone 7.

TOUGH LUCK

Sam­sung has re­tained the durable build from the S7 Edge, with the S8+ main­tain­ing the same IP68-rated dust and wa­ter pro­tec­tion. Drop this hand­set in the toi­let, the bath or a sink, and it’s likely to sur­vive. Hardy Go­rilla Glass 5 is used for both the front and rear, too.

Mov­ing from the S7 Edge, Sam­sung has had to change the de­sign a lit­tle. With the screen tak­ing up more room on the new hand­set, the fin­ger­print reader has been moved to the rear. In it­self, that’s not a prob­lem, and we’ve found that a rear fin­ger­print reader on other phones has made them eas­ier to un­lock with one hand. How­ever, Sam­sung has put the fin­ger­print reader right next to the rear cam­era’s lens. As a re­sult, it’s far too easy to smear a greasy fin­ger­print over the lens, rather than tap­ping the sen­sor; the Pixel XL has a far more sen­si­bly placed sen­sor and cam­era lens.

That said, Sam­sung has face de­tec­tion in its phone, let­ting you un­lock your phone just by look­ing at it. When it works, it’s light­ning fast, but it’s too easy to con­fuse the cam­era: we found that the cam­era recog­nised us when we were wear­ing con­tact lenses, but not glasses. There’s no way to train the fa­cial recog­ni­tion to recog­nise you with and with­out glasses, some­thing that the sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy built into Windows 10’s Windows Hello can do.

SCREEN QUEENS

Stretch­ing the dis­play ver­ti­cally, gives the S8+ a rather strange 18.5:9 as­pect ra­tio, with a 2,960x1,440 res­o­lu­tion. Essen­tially, you get the same res­o­lu­tion as on the S7 Edge, only with an ex­tra cou­ple of bands at the top and the bot­tom.

With such a strange screen res­o­lu­tion, not all apps fit prop­erly, par­tic­u­larly games. Like­wise, videos don’t fill the screen

com­pletely, leav­ing a cou­ple of black bands. YouTube and Sam­sung’s video player let you stretch video to fill the screen, but Net­flix pre­serves the cor­rect as­pect ra­tio.

That’s not too bad a prob­lem, as the screen is a Su­per AMOLED model, which means it has per­fect blacks that blend in pretty well with the phone’s thin bezels. We soon found our­selves ig­nor­ing the bands and con­cen­trat­ing on the mid-screen ac­tion.

It should come as no sur­prise that the dis­play’s im­age qual­ity is ex­cel­lent. We mea­sured the S8+ as able to pro­duce 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, with in­cred­i­ble con­trast. Colours look rich and vi­brant with­out be­ing over­sat­u­rated.

We mea­sured the screen with a bright­ness of 361cd/m2; how­ever, turn the phone on to auto bright­ness and put it in bright am­bi­ent light, and bright­ness gets pushed to 554cd/m2, mak­ing it eas­ier to see. Even more im­pres­sive, the dis­play is HDR Pre­mium cer­ti­fied, so peak bright­ness is 912cd/m2: with the right con­tent, the S8+’s screen is sim­ply stun­ning.

SOC IT TO ME

Per­for­mance is just as good as it is on the smaller S8 thanks to the 2.3GHz Sam­sung Exynos 8895 SoC pro­ces­sor. Man­ag­ing 6,629 in Geek­bench 4’s mul­ti­core tests, the S8+ and reg­u­lar S8 are the fastest hand­sets we’ve tested. A score of 64 in the GFXBench Man­hat­tan off­screen test is also the best we’ve ever seen in a phone, show­ing that the S8+ can eas­ily cope with ev­ery­thing.

A 3,500mAh bat­tery sits in the phone. Al­though there’s a larger screen to con­tend with, the S8+ out­paced the S8 in our bat­tery life test, last­ing an im­pres­sive 20h 33m in our video play­back test with the screen set to a bright­ness of 170cd/m2. In com­par­i­son, the S8 lasted 16h 45m. There’s eas­ily enough power to get through a heavy day’s us­age. Charg­ing is rapid us­ing ei­ther the USB-C port or wire­less charg­ing.

CANDID CAM­ERA

Sam­sung has used a 12-megapixel rear cam­era, the same res­o­lu­tion as the S7 and S7 Edge. Per­for­mance has im­proved slightly from last year, with Sam­sung’s HDR shots look­ing ex­cel­lent with a high amount of de­tail. Com­pared to the Pixel XL, Google’s phone has the slight ad­van­tage, pro­duc­ing shots with slightly less noise and more nat­u­ral colours, but we’re re­ally quib­bling over mi­nor points. In short, the S8+ takes ex­cel­lent shots, and you’ll be more than happy with the re­sults.

FAIL­URE TO LAUNCH

The S8+ is pow­ered by An­droid 7.1 Nougat, which runs beau­ti­fully smoothly on this hand­set. Sam­sung has made few changes to stock An­droid, so it’s not too hard to get used to. We’re not mas­sive fans of Sam­sung’s launcher, its browser or SMS app, but these can be re­placed with Google Now, Chrome and Google Mes­sages, all avail­able in the Play Store.

Sam­sung has in­creased the de­fault stor­age to 64GB, up from 32GB on the S7 Edge, which gives you loads more room for apps. There’s a mi­croSD card slot, too, so you can ex­pand stor­age. An­noy­ingly, Sam­sung has dis­abled An­droid’s Adopt­able Stor­age op­tion, which merges the in­ter­nal stor­age and a me­mory card into one handy block. With An­droid Marsh­mal­low, you could flick this op­tion back on us­ing a com­man­d­line tool from your com­puter; Sam­sung has dis­abled this work­around in An­droid 7.0/7.1, which is a slight shame.

The real question is whether the S8+ is worth an ex­tra £100 over the S8. The an­swer de­pends on what you want. We pre­fer the S8+’s larger dis­play, par­tic­u­larly as the phone doesn’t feel that big, and bet­ter bat­tery life. If you don’t like big phones or want to save cash, the reg­u­lar S8 is the bet­ter op­tion. Ei­ther way, the Galaxy S8 range con­tains the best An­droid phones you can cur­rently buy.

The S8+ is one of the best-look­ing phones we’ve re­viewed. The sweep to its screen and curved edges give it a clas­sic look and dis­tin­guish it from the com­pe­ti­tion

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