Review: Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

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We’re back again as another year ticks over and Samsung have a new flagship device for us to take a look at. Obviously after last years trip with the Note 7, all eyes are on Samsung to deliver something special, and most importantly without issues.

Let’s dive right in and that a look at the official specs for our Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus.

  • Android OS, v7.0 (Marshmallow)
  • Display: 6.2″ Super AMOLED, 2,960 x 1440 resolution, 18.5:9 aspect ratio, 529ppi; HDR 10 compliant
  • Chipset: Exynos 8895, Octa-core CPU (4 x 2nd-gen Mongoose 2.3GHz + 4 x Cortex-A53 1.7GHz), Mali-G71 GPU, 4GB of RAM
  • Memory: 32GB, expandable with microSD cards
  • Rear Camera: 12MP, f/1.7 aperture, dual pixel phase detection autofocus, OIS; face/smile detection, Multi-Frame Image Processing; 2160p/30fps video
  • Front Camera: 8MP, f/1.7 aperture, autofocus; 1440p/30fps video recording.
  • Networking: Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, USB Type-C (v3.1), GPS, Beidou, Galileo;, 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Modem: Cat.16/13 (1Gbps/150Mbps)
  • Other: Fingerprint reader; iris recognition, face recognition, WPC (Qi)&PMA wireless charging,
  • Dimensions/Weight:  159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm, 173 g
  • Battery: 3,500mAh

The specs are pretty solid, with the display being one of the more stand out features. This is the biggest change Samsung have done and was made possible by the removal of the physical home button, but that also resulted in Samsung moving the Fingerprint sensor to the back of the device.

We have the Exynos version of the device, as will anyone getting the phone outside of the United States. So we’re dealing with the Exynos 8895, which is Samsungs on in-house chipset and like the U.S counterpart Snapdragon 835 by Qualcomm is made on a 10nm process node. So that should give better performance with less power consumption.

Samsung have’t made much changes to the rear shooter, but have included some interesting new tech to process the images. The front facing camera now features also gets Auto Focusing now as well.

We will detail more of the new features below, bet’s not waste any more time and dive right into the review and take a closer look at the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

We can clearly see Samsung have evolved the design of the S6 and S7 Edge from previous years, and even the Note 7 with its short lived history on the market. The device has a very solid build quality and packs a decent and balanced weight to it. We of course also have that large 6.2-inch AMOLED display with 2,960 x 1,440 resolution. This one spec pretty much dominates the entire device.

 

Samsung have now removed the physical home button and capacitive buttons and have moved to on screen buttons. Removing the physical buttons have allowed Samsung to add even more display than before. Samsung have made the display longer and in turn changed the ratio from 16:9 to 18.5:9. This gives us the large 6.2-inch display, but without the wide format and uncomfortable grip that would have accompanied a 16:9 display ratio of this size.

Samsung also rounded off the corners of the display, which go along wake for making the display look more sleeker, and offer more immersion when using the device.

 

The included accessories have now made the change to Black, instead of the usual white that we usually got from Samsung. Included in the box is the Adaptive Fast Charger, USB on-the-go adaptor, MicroUSB to USB Type C adaptor, and finally a set of earphones tuned by AKG.

Samsung have stated that the included earphones are worth $100, but that figure is clearly inflated, as while their definitely an improvement over the usual stock earphones, their evidentially not $100 quality.

 

Samsung’s are no longer making a separate edge device,  with both models of the S8 including what is called the Infinity display. This includes the same edge panel we’re use too, but without the edge specific title. We also have less bezel on the device than ever before, with Samsung even removing their own branding from the top of the device to allow for more screen space. This gives us a huge 84-percent screen-to-body ratio.

Samsung didn’t go mad and remove the headphones jack as some early rumours suggested. The bottom includes the 3.5mm jack, USB Type-C connection, Microphone, and finally Speaker. The speaker provides slightly louder audio than the S7 Edge,but not much or even noticeable most of the time.

The Note 7 was the first to feature the slight curve on the back, with the S8/S8 Plus following the same design. This provides a much more comfortable grip than compared to the S7/ S7 Edge.

Sadly the removal of the physical home button as meant the reposition of the fingerprint sensor to the back of the device. This is easily one of the most awkward places to put a fingerprints sensor, and even more so with the S8 Plus, which requires serious movement to reach.

Thankfully the sensor is extremely sensitive and responds to fingerprints extremely fast, and much quicker than the Galaxy S7 did. It also wakes the device by pressing your finger against it. After some weeks with the device it becomes somewhat easier to place your finger on the sensor when picking the device up and it promptly unlocks it without issue.

Samsung also include the Iris scanner that we got a brief time with on the Note 7. This time around it seems a little more reactive and responds almost instantly. Samsung now include an option to have the Iris scanner start searching when you wake the device, rather than having to swipe to activate it. Glasses are still an issue, but it’s a good alternative to the finger print sensor, but thankfully both can be active at the same time.

 

Samsung’s new design direction is definitely full of improvements. The new larger display offers a clear advantage, and allows for better grip with a larger display, and also prevents the onscreen buttons from using up typical screen space that would have been the case on a standard 16:9 display, but they also disappear when not being used, which means to get more real estate on the display, which is great for browsing webpages and multi-tasking.

UI

Samsung have made some subtle changes to the UI for their latest device. This actually includes the renaming of TouchWiz to Samsung Experience.

The main changes include the removal of the app launcher icon, and now users can simply swipe up or down on the home screen to bring up the app launcher. You also have an option of having the app launcher a permanent part of the home screen; much like how iOS works.

  

Most of the rest of the UI is very similar to previous Samsung devices, with everything running extremely smooth on the S8 Plus.

 

Samsung have updated most of the icons to make them a little more modern, and prevent their UI from looking any bit stale.

 

Dual window is also nativity supported on the S8 with Android 7. This also benefits from the larger 18.5:9 ratio and allows for the apps to benefit from the large screen real estate.

Bixby

Samsung own in-house assistant has been in the making for some time now, but finally has made its debut on their latest flagship device. The new assistant is aimed at providing more control over your device than ever before. Sadly the new software wasn’t completely ready for launch and the bigger part of Bixby; being Bixby Voice is actually not available outside of South Korea just yet.

The information side of Bixby is working as it should and does a very similar job as Google Now, and is available by swiping right on the home screen, or by using the dedicated button on the side of the device. This brings up relevant information regarding news topic, emails, contacts, music, and more. Again, we have to point out how very similar this is Google Now.

Next up is Bixby vision which is embedded directly into the camera app and allows users to capture text, identify locations, and search for products online. This is an impressive use of technology, but currently feels overly gimmicky. At least identifying text and locations is quite useful, but such apps already existed.

The only true new feature is the ability to search products online by taking a snap of it, but searching for an item using the camera is not much of a time saver over simply typing it in on google, especially since there is no guarantee it will work and the search is limited to Amazon currently versus the entire internet when typing. Perhaps this will improve in the future.

As for Bixby voice, the lack of it being included means most will simply use Google Assistant, which is support perfectly on the device. This might mean that Bixby Voice won’t get much attention whenever it finally does become available. Right now Bixby does some interesting things, but nothing really new, or beneficial.

Camera UI

Samsung’s camera app for the past few years has been one of the best we have seen on the market, and not only gives amazing control over the settings you wish to use when going for the Pro Mode, but also has fantastic navigation and shortcuts.

Photos and Video

Now it’s time to check out some photos taken with the Galaxy S8 Plus. While the camera might seem like it lacks any update over the S7 Edge, it in fact is a new sensor that does feature some changes and Samsung also include a new image processing chip.

This utilises information from what the sensor sees even before you actually take a photo and uses that information to give you a better quality image and reduced noise. The main ability is for giving you a better shot if you happen to press the shutter at a bad moment, the chip can use previous information to provide you with a better image.

Similar to how HDR combines multiple shots with different exposures, the image processing chip is always at work to provide better quality shot.

HDR is a great way to bring detail into a shot that would otherwise have limited exposure. Below are images taken without HDR active, and then again with HDR turned on.

Non-HDR on the left. HDR on the right.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We can easily see the same amazing quality that we got from the Galaxy S7. Most users will be hard press to find much a difference between the two, which is of course nothing bad. The Galaxy S7 gave us some of the best quality photos we had seen from a smartphone. There are some signs of sharper images, but not much of a leap forward.

The main benefits will only be evident in images that would have otherwise turned out slight worse, which is impossible to fully measure.

Full size images

The above images are resized for viewing on the website. If you wish to check out the full size images, you can do so with the link below.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus Full Size Photos

Videos

The Samsung Galaxy S8/S8 Plus include the wide range of resolutions that we are use too with Samsung flagship devices. Below we have 1080p, 1080p@60fps, 1440p, and finally 4K.

Each video includes HDR and Stabilization being turned off and on and alternating the two. It must be noted as always that YouTube will of course do its thing and that can have an affect on the overall quality. That being said, most people end up sharing their videos through social media and ultimately YouTube can handle video content better than most.

1080p

1080P@60fps

1440p

4K

Benchmarks

Now it’s check out some performance on the S8 Plus and see how it handles some of the top benchmarks avaialble.

3D Mark Ice Storm Extreme 12669
3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited 31171
3D Mark Sling Shot 3955
3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme 3199
Antutu 172758
Geekbench 3 Single-Core 2019
Geekbench 3 Multi-Core 6703
PC Mark 5142

The numbers clearly speak from themselves, and here we can see some big leaps against last years Galaxy S7. The Exynos chip inside our Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus had no problem handling the most intensive tasks that we could throw at it.

Battery Life

Our battery testing is done over a 12 hours period with medium to heavy usage in mind. The aim isn’t to bench the battery life, but rather measure its performance over a specific time while using the device how we normally would, and it’s not about draining it as fast as possible and seeing how long it lasts.

Phone Calls20-30 Minutes
Text message/Chat/EmailsThroughout the day(checking) and 20-30 sent
Photos10-20
Video recording20-30 Minutes
Internet browsingThroughout the day(around 30-40 minutes total)
Gaming30 Minutes
YouTube/Netflix30-40 Minutes
ConnectivityWiFi and 4G; mostly 4G
Screen Brightness50-percent

The 3,500mAh inside our Galaxy S8 Plus battery could handle our 12 hour period with strength and gave us the above usage with 45-percent battery life left. This is a fantastic result to see from a device with such a large display and top of the line performance.

Conclusion

It’s time to sum up the Galaxy S8 Plus and our thoughts on the new direction with regards to the Design and Display. Below is our breakdown of each part of the device, and finally our overall thoughts.

Design

Samsung have made the biggest change in design since the removal of their user replaceable battery with the launch of the Galaxy S6; while being a beautiful device, it lacked expandable storage or warrant for design concentration over functionality. Samsung needed to do more. Thankfully the S7 family brought back the MicroSD slot and introduced water resistance. Those same features that are still around for the new Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus.

The removal of physical home button and capacitive buttons on the front are something that have been rumoured for some time. Thankfully Samsung didn’t just remove them for the sake of easier manufacturing, but also extended the size of the display vertically. They even removed their own branding to allow for more screen space.

This allows for a more slender build, whilst keeping the display at 6.2-inch on the S8 Plus and 5.8-inches on the S8. Samsung also added a slight curve to the back of the device around the edges, something they did with the Note 7 that allowed for a nicer grip. The glass and metal come together to provide one of the most premium looking devices on the market.

The only real issue with design is the re-position of the Fingerprint sensor to the back of the device. Like we mentioned previously, whilst being way more awkward than before to unlock using your finger, it does become a lot easier, and thankfully Samsung made the sensor very fast, and allow it to wake the device.

Ultimately this is the nicest looking and feeling device Samsung have ever made, and the display to body ratio makes for a truly remarkable design. The slight curve on the corners of the display also add to the effect that Samsung really aimed for with its Infinity display. All we can say is, nice work Samsung.

Display

The new 18.5:9 display offers more vertical screen space than ever before. This allows for the better grip we mentioned above, but also brings some interesting changes to the UI side of things. Samsung’s Video app and YouTube app include support for extending videos to utilise all of the display, but when it’s not supported or not used, you will have pillar boxes on the side of the display, but thanks to the AMOLED display, it’s not noticeable in the least, and doesn’t uses power.

As for the quality of the display, we have one of the best Samsung have ever made.. The rich colours and great brightness levels make for one of the best displays you will see on market. Samsung also included HDR support as they did on the short lived Note 7. HDR support is somewhat limited, but that will change with Netflix and Amazon bringing support in the near future.

Camera

The camera hasn’t change much at all compared to the S7 Edge, but we still have the same amazing Dual-Pixel technology inside, and yet again Samsung are providing some of the best quality photos we have seen from a smartphone. Teh 12MP shooter does very well in low-light situations and can HDR is one of the quickest and most effective features we have seen.

This also goes for video recording too, with 1080p@30/60fps and 1440p, and 4K all providing amazingly detailed quality videos. The camera app also deserves a mention for being extremely well laid-out and easy to navigate.

Performance

Our model includes Samsung’s latest Exynos 8895 chipset with Octa-core (4 x 2.3 GHz & 4 x 1.7 GHz) processor and 4GB’s of RAM. The benchmarks and overall usage have shown that the S8 Plus is one of the fastest devices available on market. Everything on the OS runs buttery smooth, and the UI is extremely responsive.

Multi-tasking is also a big part of the S8 Plus, and again performance was spot on and handled everything, even when using the camera while browsing on chrome, or playing a video while on WhatsApp. Intensive gaming utilizes the most out of a device, and the S8 Plus didn’t skip a beat and performed like you would expect.

Overall

That’s pretty much it for our review on the Galaxy S8 Plus. Samsung have taken their flagship device in slightly new direction, but it can easily be said that this is one of the best smartphones they have made yet.

Samsung have crafted a beautiful blend of design and functionality all while doing something little different and useful. It was a risky move removing the physical home, but Samsung have at least used the space wisely and made the display larger. Thankfully it paid off and we can see this becoming a standard thing for Samsung flagships in the future.

The Galaxy S8 Plus is of course top tier in terms of CPU/GPU performance and camera quality. This on top of the many features and absolutely stunning design mean it’s easily one of the best smartphone available. If the size is too large, Samsung still have you covered with it’s smaller brother, but if you want the longest battery life, the S8 Plus is the best option.

It must be noted that devices like this always come with hefty price tags, and the S8/S8 Plus are no different, and Sim Free unit can set you back €700/800 respectively, which is a big ask for any smartphone. At least Samsung tick all the right boxes for such a large price, but none the less, a decent contract offer is probably a better deal for most.

We gladly award Gold and recommend it for anyone looking for the best of the best, with design, camera quality, performance, and battery life all being strengths for the Galaxy S8 Plus.

 

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