Samsung Galaxy S8+: Plenty of pluses all round
By Chong Jinn Xiung June 3, 2017
- New flagship benefits from bigger screen, battery and storage
- Great camera excels at low light photography once again
SAMSUNG’S latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8 is probably the most important product it has launched recently. The Galaxy S8 carried the heavy burden of pulling up Samsung’s reputation after the fiery fiasco of the Note 7.
Fortunately, the new flagship smartphone proves that it is more than the sum of its parts. Phone-makers continually find it trendy to produce flagships in two sizes. DNA opted for the larger Galaxy S8+ variant which will be the focus of this review.
Now it is worth mentioning that the Galaxy S8+ and the Galaxy S8 are essentially the same phones, they both carry the same specifications and wear the same design. Where they largely differ is in the screen size and battery.
There is much to talk about the Galaxy S8+ and what it holds within so let’s get going and take a look.
As indicated by the ‘Plus’, this phone is essentially the bigger brother of the Galaxy S8.
The star attraction is definitely the 6.2-inch screen that is really is a marvel to behold once you turn it on. The WQHD+ (2,960 x 1,440 resolution) quality has an eye-popping 530 pixels per inch for a really crisp appearance.
Truth be told this display is even bigger than some phablets but despite its size, the phone is surprisingly easy to grip and hold in hand.
An elegantly curved screen, dubbed by Samsung as the Infinity Display, dramatically drapes across the front of the device. By eliminating the borders all around the screen of the phone, you get more screen real estate without increasing the physical size of the phone.
The screen features a unique 18.5:9 aspect ratio that basically denotes it elongated shape and gives the phone its fabled 88% screen to body ratio.
With so much screen real estate, this makes the Galaxy S8+ an excellent device for general multitasking, especially with Android 7.0’s split screen function.
It is worth noting that the extra-large screen was incredibly useful during note-taking and editing documents as more of the document can be seen.
However, the problem with the elongated screen is that movies and games are often formatted in 16:9 hence there will be black bars bookmarking the content.
It is worth mentioning that the curved display also brings back Samsung’s Edge functionalities that were present in the S7 Edge. So if you loved the shortcuts and extra functionality, then you are going to love this.
Physically, the Galaxy S8+ isn’t that much bigger than its predecessor the Galaxy S7 Edge though it is taller. The phone is 8.1mm thick and weighs just 173g.
While the design is certainly stunning there is no getting around the fact that not everyone will find this form factor comfortable to hold. If you have small hands, you might need to consider the Galaxy S8 instead.
In Samsung’s quest to enlarge the phone’s screen size, the fingerprint reader, usually found beneath the home button has been shifted to the back of the phone. Placed right next to the rear-facing camera, it is in a rather uncomfortable and strange position.
There are a number of occasions where we would accidentally smudge the camera lens while searching for the reader to unlock the phone.
Fortunately, there is an alternate method to unlocking the phone with the new iris-scanning tech in front that utilises the front-facing camera to recognise your eyes. This new method is super quick to unlock the phone and became our preferred method.
The Galaxy S8+ is a phone that is ready for any kind of situation much like its predecessor. It too is IP68 certified water- and dust-resistant. This means the phone can survive a drop into a pool, submerged at a depth of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes.
The bottom of the phone switches to a Type C USB port for charging and data transfer. You still get the old faithful 3.5mm headphone jack and a single speaker grille for sound.
The Galaxy S8+ is an undeniably powerful phone, packing some of the best specs that read like a dream. Underneath you get a Samsung Exynos 8895 processor coupled with 4GB of RAM.
As always, specs on paper sound good but you’ve got to put them to the test to see how they really perform under pressure.
Across the board, the benchmark scores really show that the Galaxy S8+ scores above the rest of the crowd, outpacing them by miles be it in Antutu, Geekbench 4 or 3D Mark scores.
Unlike last year’s Galaxy S7 Edge, the Galaxy S8+ comes in only one variant, a 64GB model, which simplifies things. Like before, there is a microSD card slot that accepts cards of up to 256GB in size.
Over the years, Samsung’s TouchWiz interface has evolved to become a very capable Android skin. In its current state and our past experience with the Galaxy A7 and C9 Pro, TouchWiz proves to be a clean, lightweight and very functional interface all around.
Bixby is Samsung’s own artificial intelligence that replaces S Voice and it even has its own dedicated button on the left side of the phone, below the volume buttons.
As a virtual assistant, it is supposed to help you plan your day and remind you of things you need to do.
That pretty much sounds like every other AI assistant out there but the difference lies in Bixby Vision, which is supposed to help identify objects with the camera and bring up helpful information on where you can buy a queried item.
Sounds great on paper, but Bixby is still a work in progress and isn’t ready for prime time yet.
Speaking of functionality, there is no doubt that you are getting the very best of Samsung as the Galaxy S8+ works with the many accessories that make up Samsung’s ecosystem.
For the office worker and those who are productivity-focused, there is the DeX docking accessory that allows you connect your Galaxy S8+ to a monitor via HDMI so that it can function as a standalone PC.
There is also the new Samsung Gear VR making the phone more than capable of handling 3D graphics given that it needs to be virtual-reality ready.
Apart from featuring a bigger display, the Galaxy S8+ holds a bigger 3,500mAh battery compared to the S8’s 3,000mAh, giving it an advantage at least on paper.
Putting it to the test in practical situations, the phone lasted between 12-13 hours, leaving between 30-40% at the end of the day. There are a myriad of settings you can play around with from adjusting the screen resolution down to using Ultra Power Saving when you are in a pinch, even fast charging you need a quick recharge so you shouldn’t be too worried about the Galaxy S8+’s battery.
In terms of photography, Samsung’s flagship cameras have been pushing the boundaries of mobile photography for a number of years and it looks like the Galaxy S8+ intends to maintain that tradition.
The Galaxy S8+’s primary 12-megapixel camera with Dual Pixel autofocus and fast f/1.7 aperture, is identical to its predecessor, the Galaxy S7 Edge. It shares the same sensor though it has some added enhancements.
Performance was very speedy though it is about on par with the previous version. The camera springs to life almost immediately when you double-tap on the lock button, a noticeable difference as there is no home button this time.
Quality wise, pictures were especially crisp, colourful and vibrant. Sharpness is amazing even around the corners of the image. The camera also produces great looking ‘bokeh’ when taking close ups.
The Galaxy S8+ impresses with its night shots. Mind you, extremely dark scenes still look soft and noisy but it really does a good job even when there is little available light.
The front facing-camera has gotten a bigger upgrade. Samsung bumped up the 5-Megapixel sensor in last year’s model to 8-Megapixel, so this will definitely be a boon to selfie lovers.
The camera interface remains intuitive as before, giving you quick access to all the various modes, filters and settings.
In terms of video recording, you get up to UHD quality recordings with the handset. The top quality videos will no doubt look great on a 4K ready TV. The big improvement this time around is the optical image stabilisation that keeps things smooth and steady even when there is motion.
The Galaxy S8+ handled highly contrasting environments such as this scene relatively well.
Even in dimly lit indoor environments, the camera was able to pick up lots of details.
It may be dark outside but the Galaxy S8+ snaps really good looking night photos.
Our usual close up shot also yielded good results
There is no shortage of smartphone casings to customise your Galaxy S8+ with but here are two noteworthy ones provided by Samsung themselves.
The first is the Clear View Standing Cover with a translucent matte cover that is almost see through. When closed the cover prompts the handset to display the date and time, for a short time before it turns off or reverts to the default Always On display mode.
As a bonus, the cover can be adjusted to act as a stand so you can prop up the Galaxy S8+ when you want to watch a video. You also get limited control to accept calls and play music without having to open it.
We also received the Alcantara Cover, a simpler cover that only protects the rear of the handset. The soft textured microfiber back feels nice but it can easily get dirty.
If we had to choose, then the Clear View Standing Cover is definitely more practical despite the premium look of the Alcantara cover.
On the whole, Samsung’s Galaxy S8+ really is the best phone that it has made to date.
Some might say that the Galaxy S8+ is an incremental step up from the S7 Edge, but there are just enough improvements to its display, performance and battery life to warrant a serious look if you are in the market for the very best.
It is worth remembering that the Galaxy S8+ has its low points too. The unusually tall shape of the display can prove to be a challenge for users with small hands and this new aspect ratio may not be widely supported by all content and apps that are typically used to a 16:9 ratio.
But the biggest disappointment with the Galaxy S8+’s feature set is Bixby which in its present state doesn’t seem attractive at all. It was made out by Samsung as a game-changing experience but at the moment it doesn’t look or function as well as it should.
On the whole, the Galaxy S8+ is a stand out on its own as a top-tier device that delivers a fantastic viewing experience, excellent performance for both productivity and entertainment as well as best in class camera performance.