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Samsung Galaxy S8 review – not just a smartphone, it’s a superphone

Never has a company been under more pressure to produce a standout product than Samsung with the new Galaxy S8 following its Note7 dramas. The good news is Samsung has hit it out of the park.

There’s an old saying used by people to pluck up courage in tough situations – “it takes pressure to make a diamond”. That’s what Samsung did.

Put simply – the Galaxy S8 is the best smartphone Samsung has ever produced.

The device has a brilliant and iconic design and incredible build-quality.

It also has a screen size that defies the laws of physics. It’s big but the phone isn’t.

This feature alone will leave people asking: “how do they do that?”

But the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ isn’t just about looks.

It also has the Bixby intelligent user interface that’s got your back with reminders, getting to know your routine and know where you are and what you like and recognizing items through the camera.

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Another impressive feature of the Samsung Galaxy S8 is Samsung DeX which allows the device to power a desktop system thanks to its gutsy octa-core 10 nanometer processor.

For Tech Guide’s review, we used the larger Samsung Galaxy S8+ which has a 6.2-inch screen. The Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch display but apart from the screen sizes they are virtually identical.

DESIGN

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ look stunning with rounded edges that seamlessly merge metal and glass.

Its sleek look is complemented by the display’s rounded edges which also continue on the back panel.

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Even the rear camera is flush with the rest of the phone.

The screen (which we will talk about in a minute) dominates the front of the device but there is still room at the top of display for a camera, sensors, iris scanner and speaker. But only just.

The area above and below the screen weren’t even big enough to fit Samsung’s logo thanks to the fact that 83 per cent of the front of the product is taken up by the display.

This means a 5.8-inch (S8) and 6.2-inch (S8+) display can fit inside a device that’s smaller than other phones on the market.

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We sat the Galaxy S8+ beside the iPhone 7 Plus. The Galaxy S8+ is 15.95cm long while the iPhone 7 Plus is only fractionally smaller at 15.82cm long.

But the S8+ screen is 6.2-inches against the iPhone 7 Plus’s 5.5-inches.

The Galaxy S8+ is also narrower at 7.34cm wide against the iPhone 7 Plus at 7.79cm wide.

The Samsung Galaxy S8+ beside the iPhone 7 Plus

We found the Galaxy S8+ pretty easy to use with one hand despite the size of the screen.

Along the left edge are the volume keys and a dedicated Bixby key while the other edge has the lock/power button.

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On the bottom edge is a headphone jack and a USB-C charging port.

The home screen is now part of the display and every time you touch it you get a little haptic feedback. The fingerprint reader is now on the back beside the camera lens.

And the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ also has an IP68 rating which means it can handle a dunk in water and a roll in the dust.

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DISPLAY

Now on to the Infinity Display which is remarkable when you get the device in your hands.

The edges are not as rounded as the S7 Edge from last year but it still gives the devices a borderless look.

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It has an 18.5:9 aspect ratio so its longer and narrower.

But apart from marveling at the size of the screen and how it fits into a smaller device you will also marvel at the picture quality.

The screens have a quad HD resolution of 1440 x 2960 with a pixel density of 570ppi for the S8 and 529ppi for the S8+.

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One thing we found was the default resolution of the device was set at full HD (1920 x 1080) but we opted to go all the way to quad HD resolution which would tax the battery slightly more.

Go big or go home.

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Content looks incredible on the screen and you can toggle the settings to make the video fill the entire screen.

No black lines top or bottom – it’s all picture from top to bottom and edge to edge.

The added screen real estate comes in handy because you can see more of your email, document, web page and ebook.

You can also multi-task and run two apps at once and resize the windows to decide if you need more of one than the other.

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Bottom line: you’ll never get tired of looking at this gorgeous display.

PERFORMANCE

The Samsung Galaxy S8 runs off an octa-core 10 nanometer processor with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset. In short – it’s powerful. Very powerful. Proof of that is Samsung DeX – but more about that later.

It’s fast enough to play some pretty intensive games that would have slowed a laptop down a few short years ago.

On the graphics side, you get a 50 per cent faster and more efficient processor.

And the Galaxy S8 is also a Cat 16 device which means it is capable of speeds of up to 1Gbps on compatible networks like the latest Telstra and Optus developments.

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CAMERA

The Galaxy S8’s camera might not have increased its resolution from last year’s S7 but it’s still a noticeably better camera.

The 12-megapixel dual-pixel sensor has got you covered in all kinds of lighting situations including in low light.

Images shot in low light were remarkably bright and clear.

Picture taken with the Samsung Galaxy S8+
Picture taken with the Samsung Galaxy S8+

The shutter speed is virtually instant with auto-focus kicking in as fast as 0.2 seconds.

There’s also a Pro Mode which gives you full control of ISO, shutter speed, exposure, colour tone, manual mode and white balance.

Picture taken with the Samsung Galaxy S8+
Picture taken with the Samsung Galaxy S8+

If you’re into your selfies, then the good news is the 8-megapixel front camera has had a big improvement with smart auto focus to track faces and keep things crisp and clear.

Another nifty feature in selfie mode is the ability to relocate the shutter button anywhere on the screen to suit your shooting style as well as trigger the shutter by tapping the heart rate sensor or showing your palm to start a timer.

Have some fun with your selfies
Have some fun with your selfies

There are also included filters and plenty of fun masks you can use on yourself or your subjects.

AUDIO

Included with the Samsung Galaxy S8 is a pair of AKG earphones which sound excellent.

These high-quality earphones plug into the device’s headphones jack (yes, Samsung decided to keep it) and have a great balance of clarity and bass.

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It’s a massive bonus for a pair of headphones of this quality to come with the phone. Usually included earphones with a phone are average at best and we end up paying for a higher quality pair. You won’t need to do that with the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+

BIXBY

Bixby is the new intelligent user interface for the Galaxy S8 which can remember your habits like the regular calls you make each day, where you are and what’s around you as well as news that might interest you.

The camera can also be Bixby’s eyes to identify things.

Sadly, the voice control isn’t working yet for Australians but it’s coming.

Understandably, we found Bixby was a little under cooked but we put that down to the fact that some updates are due when the device is officially released.

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And when that happens we expect to use our voice to control in all aspects of the phone and use it execute tasks that could only be done by touch in the past.

Samsung’s promise is that Bixby can do with voice whatever you can do with touch – and we intend to hold them to that once we get the full Bixby update.

SAMSUNG DEX

An exciting feature of the Samsung Galaxy S8 is its ability to power a desktop system with the Samsung DeX dock which is priced at $199.

To us this is one of the most exciting features of the device.

Once docked with Samsung DeX, users will see a slick and clean desktop version of Android which you can navigate with a mouse and keyboard.

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The most surprising thing is how powerful it is thanks to the octa-core 10nm processor.

We had several applications and YouTube videos running at the same time and it didn’t miss a beat.

It was hard to believe that everything was running off a phone.

Even Microsoft’s popular suite of apps – Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint have been updated to render like the full-blown application when using Samsung DeX.

A mobile professional could quite easily leave their laptop at home and hot desk it just with the Samsung Galaxy S8.

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And when they’re ready to go, they simply pull the phone out of the dock and take everything with them.

Your files, your data and all your passwords all stay on the phone.

We expect Samsung DeX to be the hit feature of the Galaxy S8 especially with high-end users.

SECURITY

There are several ways to secure and unlock the Samsung Galaxy S8 including PIN, pattern, fingerprint, face recognition and iris scanning.

The fingerprint reader is now located on the back to the right of the camera lens which is within easy reach if you’re holding the device in your right hand.

Even if you’ve registered your left index finger it’s not too much of an effort to unlock the phone.

Once your print is recognised the phone unlocks in a split second.

The fingerprint reader is now beside the camera
The fingerprint reader is now beside the camera

The other new security method is the iris scanner. It took seconds to set up so we were able to unlock the Galaxy S8 just by looking at it.

It didn’t take long to get used to how far away you needed to hold the phone for it to unlock in a second or two.

It even works in the dark.

But sometimes it works too well. We decided to use the iris scanner to unlock the phone and checked the option to unlock the phone when the screen turns on.

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One time we just looked at the phone to see the time and in doing that it quickly unlocked before we put the device back in our pocket and butt dialed someone.

Just goes to show how quick the iris scanner can be so be careful out there.

BATTERY

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 have 3,000mAh and 3,500mAh capacity batteries respectively.

These batteries have undergone Samsung’s eight-point battery check.

Our S8+ easily got through an entire day and into the next morning on a single charge.

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You can engage power saving modes that automatically do things like turn down the brightness, knock down the screen resolution and switch off background network usages to add hours of extra battery life.

You get an adaptive fast charging plug and USB-C cable with the Galaxy S8 so you can get a full charge in about 80 minutes.

Samsung Galaxy S8 – $1,199. Samsung Galaxy S8+ – $1,349.

VERDICT

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are not just smartphones – they’re superphones.

Apart from a slick design and incredible Infinity Display, the device backs up its supermodel looks with brains, performance and features that set it apart from anything else on the market today.

Without a doubt, the best mobile device Samsung has ever produced.

Never has a company been under more pressure to produce a standout product than Samsung with the new Galaxy S8 following its Note7 dramas. The good news is Samsung has hit it out of the park. There’s an old saying used by people to pluck up courage in tough situations – “it takes pressure to make a diamond”. That’s what Samsung did. Put simply - the Galaxy S8 is the best smartphone Samsung has ever produced. The device has a brilliant and iconic design and incredible build-quality. It also has a screen size that defies the laws of physics. It’s…

Samsung Galaxy S8

Rating - 100%

100%

PROS: Infinity Display, large screen in a small device, slick design, excellent camera, powerful processor, Samsung DeX, fast iris scanner, water resistant, good battery life. CONS: Bixby not ready yet. VERDICT: Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are not just smartphones - they’re superphones. Apart from a slick design and incredible Infinity Display, the device backs up its supermodel looks with brains, performance and features that set it apart from anything else on the market today.

User Rating: 2.52 ( 52 votes)

 

About Stephen Fenech

Stephen is the Tech Guide editor and one of Australia's most respected tech journalists. He is a regular on radio and TV talking about the latest tech news, products and trends.

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