Samsung recently unveiled the Galaxy S8 with much fan fare and rightly so, there is a lot riding on the new Samsung flagship. The Galaxy S8 has to make sure that people forget the disaster that was the Note 7 while also making sure everyone gets hyped. Well, so far, it seems the S8 has succeeded. There is a lot of hype around the S8, plus, everyone only has good things to say about the Samsung device. But is everything great about the Galaxy S8? Well, I have been using the Galaxy S8 (priced at $724.99) as my daily driver for more than two weeks now, so here is my review of the Galaxy S8.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Specifications
Before we get started with the review, let’s take a look at the specifications of the Galaxy S8:
|Dimensions||148.9 x 68.1 x 8 mm|
|Display||5.8-inch Super AMOLED QHD+ Display (1440 x 2960 pixels)|
|Processor||Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 with Adreno 540 GPU or Exynos 8895 Octa with Mali-G71 MP20|
|Storage||64 GB, microSD support|
|Cameras||12 MP f/1.7 rear camera with phase detection autofocus, OIS, LED flash and 8 MP f/1.7 autofocus front camera|
|Battery||3,000 mAh, QuickCharge 3.0|
|Android||Samsung Experience UI (Android 7.1.1)|
|Sensors||Iris scanner, fingerprint, face recognition, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate sensor, SpO2|
|Connectivity||Dual SIM, WiFi dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, USB Type C, USB OTG, NFC|
What’s In The Box
The Galaxy S8 comes in a box that is very similar to what Samsung offered with the S7 and S6. Here are the contents of the box:
- The Samsung Galaxy S8, obviously!
- USB Type C cable
- Power Adapter
- Type C to USB cable
- SIM ejector tool
- AKG Earphones
Design and Hardware
Chances are, you will buy the Galaxy S8 for its amazing design. We have the Midnight Black version of the S8 and there’s no doubt that the S8 is a stunner. In fact, most people had a “wow” reaction when I showed them the device. The bezel-less design looks nothing like the previous flagships. There are no hardware keys for the navigation buttons, which is something I really like and it also makes up for a beautiful seamless front. There’s no Samsung branding on the front either, which also adds to the good looks. The metal frame and the glass back also make up for a one hell of a gorgeous looking device.
The back has the Samsung branding and on our unit, there’s also the Duos logo, signifying the dual SIM capability, which does ruin the look a bit.
Thanks to the bezel-less design, the Galaxy S8 is a very compact device, even with the huge 5.8-inch display. See how it compares to the iPhone 7 Plus, which has a smaller 5.5-inch display. Sorry, Apple fans but the bezels on the iPhone just look hideous now. The Pixel and the iPhone 7 too look embarrassing in front of the Pixel because the S8 is similar to them when it comes to footprint while packing a much larger display.
The bezel-less design also brings up a few changes from last year’s S7. The fingerprint scanner is on the back, and it’s awkward. Well, I’ll get back to it later. Plus, the device is narrower and taller, which makes the device much easier to hold because it’s really slender. However, this also makes reaching for the notification shade a tough task.
Also, while the glass back does look great, it’s a fingerprint magnet. You can just wipe everything to get the shiny new look renders show you but the moment you use it, there will be smudges, fingerprints, dirt and what not. That’s not all, it’s a bit slippery and I always made sure to hold it properly because first, it’s an expensive device and second, if the drop tests are to be believed, the S8 can be easily broken.
Other than that, the design of the Galaxy S8 is flawless, almost. There’s a Type C port at the bottom and there is a headphone jack, yay! As I have said almost a million times now, it looks stunning and while the placement of the fingerprint scanner and the glass back have some caveats, it’s not a deal breaker, not for me at least. The S8 is a pleasure to hold and looks really nice.
The Galaxy S8 will sell like hot cakes and most people buying it will get it for the design and the display. Well, the great design of the Galaxy S8 is complemented by the gorgeous display. As with previous Samsung flagships, there’s a Super AMOLED panel here and it’s the best display I have ever seen. First off, the display has rounded corners and thanks to edge curved design, it feels awesome when you have to use a swipe gesture from the sides. It’s mesmerizing really.
The display is a 5.8-inch QHD Plus display, that is 2960×1440, however, by default the phone is only running at Full HD that is 2220×1080 by default. Apparently, Samsung has done this to make sure the performance of the device and battery are top notch. The good thing is, you can change the resolution and set it max if you want. It’s a bit strange but after the Note 7 debacle, Samsung is allowed to be paranoid.
Other than that, the device a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio that’s similar to the 18:9 screen on the LG G6, which does cause some problems. Many popular apps like Netflix, Pocket etc. don’t scale up to use this aspect ratio. There’s also a problem of 16:9 videos. While Google is encouraging app developers to support the new aspect ratio, Samsung has included a fix for videos in 16:9. Whenever a video is playing with the black bars, a button pops up that lets you scale the video to full screen but the problem is, you do lose some frame of the video.
However, watching videos and movies on the gorgeous display is a treat. The display is sharp and offers vibrant colors and deep blacks, something that’s expected of AMOLED displays. Plus, as with Samsung, the display brings a little extra saturation but it looks very pleasing to the eye. The display also offers decent maximum brightness and great minimum brightness and the sunlight visibility of the display is amazing, one of the best I have seen. There’s also the very cool Always-on feature, which shows you notifications, along with other info.
Overall, the S8 has one of the best displays on a smartphone ever and that in itself is enough for me to buy this phone.
Samsung flagships have always featured cameras that go toe to toe with the iPhones and the S8 is no exception. The S8 packs in a 12 MP Dual Pixel rear camera with an aperture of f/1.7, OIS, phase detection autofocus and an LED flash. Actually, the rear camera on the S8 is pretty similar to what the South Korean giant offered with the S7 but it’s still one of the best smartphone cameras right now.
The device captures some great shots in both ample light as well as low light and while the camera does oversaturate things, the photos look great. Also, thanks to the higher aperture, the S8 camera captures more light, so the shots always have great details and good lighting. The HDR mode too works well, and the dynamic range in photos is pretty good. Here are some shots we took from the S8:
All’s not good though, the flash is very harsh and if you tend to use flash for your photos, you won’t like it. Plus, if you like natural realistic photos, you will not be a fan of the S8 camera.
On the front, the S8 packs in an 8 MP autofocus camera with f/1.7 aperture, making it one of the first smartphones to pack an autofocus selfie camera. Well, the photos from the S8’s front camera come out great. They are bright, thanks to the higher aperture and also have decent detail. However, the front camera does lack when it comes to the dynamic range. Other than that, the S8 captures some great selfies. Check out a few selfies I took from the S8:
Plus, the Samsung camera app offers a ton of options and modes to play with. Along with the usual shooting modes, the Samsung app brings a Pro mode, which brings manual controls for ISO, shutter speed, white balance, focus etc. Plus, there are tons of filters, and Snapchat like masks for the front camera. I like the manual controls, but the masks, not so much.
Overall, the cameras on the Galaxy S8 are really really nice. You can also check out our video, where we compared the S8 camera with Pixel’s in detail.
In the US and other western countries, the Galaxy S8 is powered by the latest and greatest Snapdragon 835 octa-core processor with Adreno 530 GPU, while other countries get the S8, powered by the Exynos 8895 processor with Mali-G71 MP20 GPU. The device features 4 gigs of RAM, which is surprising, considering Samsung’s very own C9 Pro comes with 6 GB RAM. Having said that, the device is pretty snappy.
When it comes to benchmarks, the S8 tops the list when it comes to multi-core performance. However, the iPhone 7’s A10 Fusion chip is still the one to beat when it comes to single-core performance. When it comes to AnTuTu scores, the iPhone 7 beats the S8 by a slight margin. Talking about the graphics prowess, the iPhone 7 is ahead of the S8 but there are a lot of factors here. The S8’s Mali GPU has to push out QHD Plus pixels.
Well, to be honest, most high-end smartphones these days perform really well and the S8 does not really blow up the competition when it comes to real world performance. However, I’m glad that the Samsung flagship is responsive but there are reasons to be a little skeptic. Samsung phones, even the high-end ones are known to slow down over time. Will that be the case with the S8? Well, no one knows right now. So, fingers crossed! Hopefully, the S8 manages to surprise us when it comes to long term performance.
The Samsung Experience UI
I have never really been a fan of Samsung’s TouchWiz UI and when I started out with the S8, I had kind of made up my mind that’s it going to suck. Well, I’m glad to tell you that’s not the case. I have been pleasantly surprised by the new “Samsung Experience UI” on the Galaxy S8. There are a few gimmicks here and there but I’m happy that I don’t need to install the Nova Launcher on the S8. The home screen is inspired by the Pixel Launcher, with a swipe up to open the app drawer. Plus, a swipe up in the app drawer brings you back to the home screen. Other than the new Samsung launcher, there are new icons with a wireframe design, which look pretty nice to me. However, if you’d like a stock Android look, there are various themes, wallpapers, icon packs and even different types of always on displays to download from the Samsung Store.
The S8 also comes with its own native apps, like phone, contacts, messages, camera, clock etc. and they are pretty capable. While there has been a lot of debate over should Samsung really be making these apps when Google already offers them. Well, I don’t mind Samsung apps and they certainly don’t ruin the experience. All the Samsung apps have a bright UI, which makes them look great. Also, they are all feature packed. I have been using them and I like some apps more than their Google counterparts.
Along with the good looks, the software on the S8 comes with a ton of customization options, as well as handy features. When you dig deep in the different options in the Settings page, you will find a ton of options. Let me tell you my favorite options and features. I love the fact that Samsung has included a Blue Light Filter mode and the fact that you can swap the navigation bar keys. The lovely Always on Display too can be customized to view different content and clock styles. There are also the Edge panels, which come in really handy when you need to launch an app quickly, or contact someone or select a part of the screen to take a screenshot or GIF. Plus, there are various Edge panels you can download, which is amazing.
That’s not all! The device comes with a Game Launcher, which makes sure that resources are properly managed while playing games. Then, there’s one-handed mode, which works like a charm and Samsung Pass, which is a password manager service. Another notable feature is the Secure Folder, which works as the name suggests but in my usage, it was a bit too slow for my liking. Also, there are other useful services, like Samsung Cloud and Samsung Pay.
Yes, Samsung has just packed the S8 with every feature they got their hands on while managing to make the device feel restrained. You heard that right. At no point of time did I find the S8 overwhelming. The good thing is, Samsung hasn’t put all of these features on your face and they are just there.
The most hyped software feature of the S8 has to be Bixby. In fact, Samsung was so confident of the AI assistant that it put a dedicated button to launch it. This button only launches Bixby and while ways to remap it have come popped out, Samsung has made sure that they don’t work. So, is Bixby worth a dedicated button? Well, No! Out of the box, Bixby does not even have the voice features yet, which is surprising. There’s the Google Now like Bixby page on the home screen that brings you cards on weather, alarms, reminders, news etc. It also works with your social media accounts to bring you personalized cards. So, how is it unique from the Google Now page? Well, I don’t know.
There’s also Bixby Vision, which is similar to Google Goggles and what Amazon offers in its app. You can just launch Bixby Vision, point the camera to an object and it will identify the object for you. It’s certainly a decent novelty feature but is it actually useful? I’m not sure!
Well, if you ask me, Bixby is a failed attempt from Samsung!
Telephony and Audio Performance
When it comes to the audio performance, the S8 comes with a rear mounted speaker and it’s pretty decent. It’s louder than the likes of iPhone 7, 7 Plus and Pixel and brings decent clarity. However, it does sound one-directional because there’s one speaker. On the phone calls front, the S8 is great, as you’d expect from a modern day flagship.
Also, the S8 comes with premium AKG earbuds, which the company claims is worth $100. I’m not sure if they are worth 100 dollars but they are pretty good and far better than what Apple offers with the iPhone 7 or what Google offers with the Pixel. It does lack bass but makes up for it with great sound quality.
The battery performance on the S8 is pretty average. The 3,000 mAh battery on the S8 will only last you a day if you are a moderate user. For instance, in my day to day usage, where I always had the phone connected to mobile data or WiFi, had always on display turned on all the time, the display resolution set to FHD+, the device lasted for around 18 to 20 hours, with a screen on time of around 15 percent, that is 3 hours. When I bumped up the screen resolution to QHD+, I did notice a slight dip in battery performance, with the battery lasting for around 15 hours with 3 hours of screen time.
On extensive usage, the battery does drain a lot faster. In a day where I took a lot of photos and videos, while also making calls, checking social media, browsing the web, the device lasted for around 9-10 hours.
The S8 does charge very fast, so there’s that. The S8 charges to 100 from 15 percent in 1 hr 15 minutes . In comparison, Pixel does it in 1 hr 42 minutes while the iPhone 7 does it in 1 hour 20 minutes when it just has a meager 1900 mAh battery. The battery performance on the S8 is definitely average but yes, it charges real fast.
The Various Scanners
You saw this coming, didn’t you? Well yes, the fingerprint scanner on the S8 is a huge annoyance. Thanks to its weird placement next to the camera sensor, I frequently touched the camera lens instead of the fingerprint scanner. It’s also not the fastest or the most responsive fingerprint sensor out there. It has an awkward design, which results in the scanner taking too long when you are adding fingers. Also, since I was using a case on the device, reaching out the fingerprint was a tough job. Samsung has included fingerprint gestures like the Pixel, which don’t really matter, because you should be able to reach the fingerprint scanner easily to use it.
Now, I’m not sure if this comes in the good things or the bad things of the S8. Well, let’s just say the face recognition and the iris scanner on the S8 are okay-ish. Let me first put it out there: I’m not a big fan of the Iris Scanner because it requires to scan your eyes at a specified position while widening them.
So, when I set up the Face Recognition and found out that it works, and that too amazingly fast in my first few tries, I was delighted. However, my joy was short lived. The Face Scanner is just too inconsistent to rely on. I’d understand if it fails to work when it’s dark but it fails even indoors when there’s light. Apparently, it only works at an angle and when there’s light on your face. So, I constantly made a fool of myself staring into the phone while waiting for it unlock. Not cool Samsung!
Well, the Galaxy S8 is a flagship smartphone and thus, competes with the best smartphones there are. There’s the iPhone 7, the Google Pixel, the recently launched LG G6 and while they are pretty great smartphones, they don’t really match up to the premium design of the S8. In fact, it will be hard for even the Pixel 2 or the iPhone 8 (or 7s or X or whatever they plan on calling it) to beat the S8’s design. The Galaxy S8 has its flaws but it’s still as close as it gets to being a perfect smartphone.
- Gorgeous design
- One of the best displays
- Fluid performance
- Great camera
- Decent speakers
- AKG earphones are good
- Slippery build
- Weird placement of fingerprint scanner
- Face Recognition is inconsistent
- Average battery performance
- Bixby is useless, as of now
Galaxy S8 Review: Pros Outweigh Cons
You must have noticed that the bad things about the S8 outnumber the good things about it but trust me, I still think the Galaxy S8’s pros outweigh its cons. The bezel-less design and the curved display are something that will definitely get you excited. Plus, it packs in great cameras, refined software, decent speakers, sleek performance and handy additional touches like the pressure sensitive button and the AKG earphones. However, its shortcomings include the weird fingerprint scanner, the inconsistent face recognition feature, the poor to average battery and well, useless Bixby. So, should you buy the S8? Well, if you ask me, I would get the S8 just for that amazing display and design.
What about you? Will you be buying the Galaxy S8 over the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel? Let me know your thoughts on the Samsung flagship in the comments section below.