Sam­sung Galaxy S8+

The S8+ fol­lows in the Galaxy S8’s bril­liant foot­steps, but its over­size de­sign will be too big for most tastes

PC Pro - - News - JONATHAN BRAY

SCORE ✪✪✪✪✪ PRICE £649 (£779 inc VAT) from sam­sung.com/uk

You might think the Sam­sung Galaxy S8+ doesn’t re­ally de­serve its own re­view. It’s much the same as the Sam­sung Galaxy S8, which we cov­ered last month ( see is­sue 273, p74), with the same in­ter­nals, cam­era, stor­age op­tions and screen res­o­lu­tion.

What makes it dif­fer­ent is the sheer size of the thing. The screen mea­sures 6.2in across the di­ag­o­nal, which would make a reg­u­lar phone prac­ti­cally un­us­able – but then the Sam­sung Galaxy S8+ is no reg­u­lar phone.

That’s mainly be­cause the 18.5:9 as­pect ra­tio al­lows Sam­sung to add ex­tra screen space with­out ex­pand­ing the width of the phone too much. Sur­pris­ingly, it’s com­fort­able to hold and use in one hand.

A look at the num­bers re­veals why. The Sam­sung Galaxy S8+ is a mere 73.4mm wide, which works out at only 0.8mm broader than last year’s S7 Edge. It’s no­tice­ably taller at 159.5mm (com­pared with 150.9mm for the S7 Edge), but thanks to in­cred­i­bly nar­row top and bot­tom screen bezels, it isn’t un­wieldy.

De­spite this, the S8+ isn’t the most pock­etable of phones. It’s al­most half a cen­time­tre taller than the Google Pixel XL, and hefty at 173g. You’ll need to keep it in a jacket pocket or get handy with a nee­dle and thread and add ex­ten­sions to your jeans pock­ets.

In terms of prac­ti­cal­ity and looks, th­ese are the only dif­fer­ences be­tween the Sam­sung Galaxy S8+ and the reg­u­lar S8. They’re both avail­able in the same two colours –Orchid Gray and Mid­night Black – and both look and feel glo­ri­ous. There’s Go­rilla Glass 5 on the front and rear, although the lack of bezels means it prob­a­bly will smash if you drop it any­way. It’s IP68 dust- and wa­ter-re­sis­tant, so should con­tinue to work when you ac­ci­den­tally drop it down the toi­let.

Just like its lit­tle brother, the S8+ has a mi­croSD slot and a fin­ger­print reader that’s been repo­si­tioned at the rear. Once again, it’s too close to the cam­era lens for com­fort. At least there are other ways to un­lock the phone, with both iris recog­ni­tion and the new fa­cial recog­ni­tion pos­si­ble if you lift the phone up to your face.

Most im­por­tantly, this is one hand­some smart­phone, largely due to the lack of bezels and the gor­geous curved edges that run up its flanks. It’s the smartest plus-size phone around, that’s for sure.

All-round per­former

It’s also supremely quick. You get the same octa-core Sam­sung Exynos 8895 found in the S8, and this is paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of UFS 2 stor­age. Which­ever test you choose, it matches the S8.

The Galaxy S8+’s AMOLED panel also meets our high ex­pec­ta­tions. Colours are per­fectly poised – not over­sat­u­rated yet still vi­brant. Our usual tests for bright­ness showed it

“This is one hand­some smart­phone, largely due to the lack of bezels and the gor­geous curved edges that run up its flanks”

can reach a max­i­mum of 554cd/m2, which means it will be bright enough to read in most con­di­tions.

That’s not the full story, how­ever. Since the screen is HDR Premium-cer­ti­fied, it can reach an even higher peak bright­ness un­der cer­tain con­di­tions. With only a small patch of white pix­els dis­played on the screen, the S8+ pushes peak bright­ness up to a sear­ing 912cd/m2.

It’s one heck of a dis­play, then, but there are prac­ti­cal is­sues to con­tend with. That long-tall screen as­pect ra­tio means that not all apps and con­tent adapt per­fectly. I came across a num­ber of games dur­ing test­ing that left thick black bor­ders at the top and bot­tom of the screen and, when you turn the phone on its side, it’s a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion with movie and TV con­tent.

While YouTube and Sam­sung’s own video player let you stretch con­tent to fit the wide screen, other apps don’t yet of­fer the op­tion to do this. Fire up a movie on Net­flix, for in­stance, and you’ll have to put up with black bars to the left and right. No doubt this will change.

One area of per­for­mance where the Sam­sung Galaxy S8+ has the po­ten­tial to be dif­fer­ent from the reg­u­lar S8 is bat­tery life. With a larger 3,500mAh ca­pac­ity, you’d ex­pect in­creased stamina, de­spite that larger screen.

Anec­do­tally, this is a long-last­ing phone, sur­viv­ing a full day’s use and still hav­ing en­ergy to spare. Our video-play­back bat­tery test backs up this ex­pe­ri­ence. With the phone set to its de­fault screen res­o­lu­tion (1,080 x 2,220), the screen cal­i­brated to 170cd/m2 and Flight mode en­gaged, the Sam­sung Galaxy S8+ lasted 20hrs 33mins be­fore run­ning dry. That places it a long way ahead of the Google Pixel XL, iPhone 7 and the reg­u­lar S8.

Pics vs the Pixel

On pa­per, the rear cam­era isn’t much to shout about. It has the same res­o­lu­tion as last year’s Sam­sung flag­ships, re­main­ing at 12 megapix­els, and the sec­ondary spec­i­fi­ca­tions are a match as well, with op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion, dual-pixel aut­o­fo­cus and a bright aper­ture of f/1.7.

The only tech­ni­cal dif­fer­ence is that the cam­era, via the S8+’s ISP

(im­age sig­nal pro­ces­sor), cap­tures not one but three frames in rapid suc­ces­sion ev­ery time you shoot, com­bin­ing them to­gether in a bid to cre­ate sharper images.

It’s like HDR for ev­ery shot you take and is Sam­sung’s at­tempt to match the Google Pixel phone’s HDR+ tech­nique, which cap­tures up to ten images and blends them in a sim­i­lar way. As with the S8, it im­proves things sig­nif­i­cantly over the S7 and, in good light, the S8+’s images com­pare well with the Pixel’s. The main dif­fer­ence is not in de­tail cap­ture, but ex­po­sure, where the Pixel cap­tures much more nat­u­ral­is­tic images than the Sam­sung Galaxy S8+, which has a ten­dency to slightly over­ex­pose and over­sat­u­rate images. I also no­ticed in a cou­ple of ex­am­ples that the S8+ ap­plies sig­nif­i­cantly more sharp­en­ing than the Pixel.

I would call that a vic­tory on points for the Google phones. In low light, how­ever, the win goes more clearly to the Pixel. Its pic­tures look a lit­tle grainier than the Sam­sung’s, but that means it’s bet­ter at re­tain­ing de­tails. Once again, there’s slightly more nat­u­ral­ist colour cap­ture as well. The Google Pixel is still the king of smart­phone pho­tog­ra­phy.

If you value your front-fac­ing cam­era as much as your rear, you’ll be very sat­is­fied with the S8+. The f/1.7 aper­ture lets in much more light than the Pixel’s f/2.4, but the Pixel tends to ex­po­sure images more ac­cu­rately and ends up cap­tur­ing more nat­u­ral­look­ing snaps.

The Sam­sung dif­fer­ence

The Sam­sung Galaxy S8+ runs An­droid 7 Nougat over­laid with the usual Sam­sung launcher soft­ware. You might find this in­tru­sive, with its tweaked icons and laun­dry list of ex­tra fea­tures, but I don’t. It’s dif­fer­ent, but not un­pleas­antly so, and although there’s quite a long list of pre­in­stalled apps, the 64GB stan­dard stor­age al­lo­ca­tion and mi­croSD slot mean this isn’t the prob­lem it might have been.

The big sell­ing point of this par­tic­u­lar it­er­a­tion of Sam­sung’s soft­ware is sup­posed to be Bixby – the firm’s an­swer to Alexa and Siri – but the voice-driven part of it isn’t ready yet and what we do have is not all that ex­cit­ing.

There’s an au­to­mat­i­cally cu­rated feed of per­son­alised news and info to the left of the home­screen that looks un­can­nily like Google Now, and Bixby Vi­sion – a plugin for the cam­era that analy­ses what you’re point­ing the lens at and at­tempts to pro­vide use­ful in­for­ma­tion, be that shop­ping links for prod­ucts or in­for­ma­tion on peo­ple and land­marks.

The news­feed works well, but I can see no prac­ti­cal rea­son for rein­vent­ing what Google Now does. Bixby Vi­sion is of lit­tle to no use at all. I could never get the shop­ping as­pect to work; noth­ing I pointed it at brought up any kind of recog­nised prod­uct. The im­age recog­ni­tion was patchy at best. A photo of the BT Tower matched a bunch of tow­ers across the world, but a snap of my face brought up a wildly in­ac­cu­rate match list, topped by a story about Rob­bie Wil­liams. I’m not sure if I should be of­fended by that or flat­tered.

The Place op­tion seems the most use­ful, but how many times are you go­ing to find your­self in a place want­ing to know some­thing about a build­ing that looks fa­mous?

Sam­sung DeX, on the other hand, is con­sid­er­ably more im­pres­sive. This is Sam­sung’s an­swer to Mi­crosoft Con­tin­uum: slot the phone into the DeX dock (a rather costly £129 ex­tra), con­nect a key­board, mouse and mon­i­tor, and you’ll be able to use your phone to run a com­plete win­dowed desk­top en­vi­ron­ment.

It’s sur­pris­ingly snappy and ca­pa­ble, too. I was able to work per­fectly hap­pily on just the phone for al­most a whole day – un­til I needed to use Pho­to­shop for RAW file edit­ing. It’s a big im­prove­ment on Mi­crosoft’s slug­gish ef­fort and small enough to stow away in the bag for emergencies.

In essence, the Sam­sung Galaxy S8+ is the same phone as the S8, with all the things that make that phone great, but with a big­ger screen, a big­ger bat­tery, a more un­wieldy pro­file and a higher price.

Is it any bet­ter, though? In my view, no, and that’s mainly due to the 6.2in Sam­sung Galaxy S8+’s size: it’s just one step too far. It’s sim­ply too tall to slip into my pocket day to day. We’ve been here be­fore with big phones, of course. I re­mem­ber re­view­ing my first 4.5in smart­phone and think­ing that lu­di­crously big at the time, so my opinion might change (as long as my pock­ets do at the same time).

But given the choice, and con­sid­er­ing the price dif­fer­en­tial – the Sam­sung Galaxy S8+ costs a hefty £779 to the S8’s £679 – the Sam­sung Galaxy S8 is the phone to choose from this pair. SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS Octa-core 2.3GHz/1.7GHz Sam­sung Exynos 8895 pro­ces­sor 4GB RAM Mali-G71 graph­ics 6.2in AMOLED screen, 2,960 x 1,440 res­o­lu­tion 64GB stor­age mi­croSD slot 12MP/8MP rear/front cam­era 802.11ac Wi-Fi Blue­tooth 5 NFC USB-C con­nec­tor 3,500mAh bat­tery An­droid 7

73.4 x 8.1 x 159.5mm (WDH) 173g 1yr RTB war­ranty

LEFT You can buy the S8+ in Orchid Gray (right) or Mid­night Black (left)

ABOVE The only vis­i­ble dif­fer­ence ver­sus the S8 is the S8+’s sheer size

ABOVE LEFT The DeX dock­ing sta­tion ready for ac­tion; note the “back” slides down for com­pact­ness

BE­LOW Con­nect a mon­i­tor, key­board and mouse to the DeX to cre­ate a win­dowed desk­top en­vi­ron­ment

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