SAMSUNG Galaxy S8+
£678 SIM-free; £30 on £52-per-month contract From www.amazon.co.uk (SIM-free); www.vodafone.co.uk (contract)
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.
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.
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.
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