- Editor's Rating
- Slim ergonomic design
- Gorgeous large display
- Excellent performance
- Awkward fingerprint scanner placement
- Bixby not available at launch
The Samsung Galaxy S8’s stunning infinity edge design and top-notch performance make it one of the best smartphones on the market.
Smartphone manufacturers have been facing a rather difficult problem over the last few years; consumers want bigger screens, but they don’t want bigger phones. The Samsung Galaxy S8 is the most eloquent solution we’ve seen to that problem. The Samsung Galaxy S8 is basically all screen with its eye-catching infinity edge design. Despite its large screen, it’s incredibly slim. The sleek profile makes the Galaxy S8 surprisingly easy to use with one hand or fit in your pocket. But the Samsung Galaxy S8 isn’t just a looker, it’s packing a real punch with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset.
Of course, all of that doesn’t come cheap, as the phone is one of the more expensive handsets on the market with an MSRP of $750. But this is certainly a case of you get what you pay for. The Samsung Galaxy S8 is one of the best smartphones on the market.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Build and Design
If the Galaxy S7 Edge was near perfect then the Samsung Galaxy S8 hits it out of the park (at least with regards to the design). Getting rid of the physical home button, shrinking the bezels a few millimeters, and adopting an 18.5:9 ratio really allows the display to pop. The screen is definitely the star of the show on the Galaxy S8, as the panel accounts for roughly 83 percent of the handset’s face.
The result is not only a satisfying user experience but a gorgeous aesthetic. The rounded display effortless blends into the black aluminum frame creating a glossy futuristic appearance. Measuring 5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31-inches and weighing only 5.47 ounces the Samsung Galaxy S8 is incredibly sleek and narrow, making it comfortably fit in about any pocket, and great for single hand use.
Now there is a tradeoff for this pristine aesthetic and that’s the physical home button. In a lot of ways that button acts as an anchor for the entire phone. It’s how you find your footing when you’re not looking at your device, and NBR would be lying if we didn’t admit that we found the lack of a button a bit disorienting when we first started using the Galaxy S8. However, uneasiness quickly faded away as we continued to use the device. Within a few days, we didn’t miss the physical button, as the capacitive feedback on the screen was able to simulate the sensation well enough for use to comfortably navigate the device even with our eyes off the screen.
The one area where the digital home button did fall a bit flat was when we were unlocking the phone. The digital button doesn’t provide the same capacitive feedback when the phone is idle, so it can be a bit more difficult to find that sweet spot. Luckily the power button located on the right side of the chassis performs the same function. In addition to the power button, there’s independent volume control and a Bixby home button located on the left side of the handset.
The buttons all offer excellent to travel with quick tactile response upon clicking them. Our only real complaint is the location of the Bixby home button located below the volume controls. It’s all too easy to accidentally hit that button when attempting to lower the volume pulling you out of whatever app you’re currently in.
However, the biggest design faux pas has to be moving the fingerprint scanner to the back of the device just right of the camera. Obviously with the front bezel removed Samsung had to put the scanner somewhere else, but its current location feels clunky. The spot is a bit hard to reach while holding the phone normally, but even worse it’s all too easy to accidentally streak your finger across the camera lens.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is the first flagship to house a USB Type C connection on the bottom portion of the chassis. Sitting to the left of the port is a 3.5mm headphone jack. We were happy that Samsung opted to offer different ports, instead of opting for some proprietary combo port like Apple did with their iPhone 7.
Sure there are a few hiccups, but the Samsung Galaxy S8 is masterfully crafted. It’s stylish, durable, and in most instances designed with utility in mind. In our opinion, it’s currently the best-looking handset on the market and feels great to use to boot.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Display and Audio
A big part of the reason that the Samsung Galaxy S8 is such a looker is the 5.8-inch AMOLED curved display.It’s gorgeous. The most notable aspect of the display beside its curved infinity edge design is the peculiar 18.5:9 aspect ratio. At first, NBR was worried that the elongated aspect ratio would make images and video appeared warped, but that wasn’t the case. Samsung did a great job of scaling everything to the device. Best of all users can easily switch between a stretched image or the standard 16:9 format. In fact, the longer screen proved to be a real boon in most instances. Web pages, in particular, looked great on the device. The extra screen real estate made it far easier to read with a lot less scrolling.
But the panel is more than just a few interesting design elements. What really sets it apart is the pristine picture. With a 3K (2960 x 1440p) resolution display that offers an impressive 570 pixels per inch (PPI), the Samsung Galaxy S8 has one of the best-looking displays on the market. Images appear sharp and defined with rich accurate color contrast that brings media to life. Whether you’re watching HD video, looking at pictures, or playing your favorite game it’s gonna look amazing on the S8.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is also High Dynamic Range (HDR) compatible, but NBR sees this as more future proofing than something to get excited about right out the gate. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, HDR is used to drastically expand the range of both contrast and color on a display. Sounds great right? The only issue is there currently isn’t that HDR compatible content available on mobile. Still, it’s nice to have this feature, knowing you won’t get left behind if content developers decide to start pushing out HDR content on mobile.
While the curved display looks gorgeous it also adds a fair bit of utility. Perhaps one of our favorite features on the Samsung Galaxy S8 is the ability to quick launch apps, contacts, or even capture portions of your screen by simply swiping across the right curved edge of the screen. This feature is one of those qualities of life changes that you don’t realize how amazing it is until you have it at your fingertips. The immediacy and flexibility of the quick launch window make navigating the UI a breeze. Multitasking is even easier, as you never need to drop out of the app you’re currently in to pull up another one or send off a quick message to a colleague.
The Galaxy S8 houses a single speaker along the bottom of the device, but it’s surprisingly robust. With the volume turned all the way up you could fill a modest size room comfortably with audio. In terms of quality, the audio isn’t perfect though. With the volume turned all the way up we didn’t notice that the speakers sounded rather tinny, especially when dealing with highs. Still, in a pinch the speakers are more serviceable, just don’t expect them to satiate an audiophile.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Features
The Galaxy S8 runs on Android 7.0 Nougat, but like any other Samsung smartphone, it comes with Samsung’s own unique flavoring (for better or worse). The smartphone shipped with a number of preloaded applications including an array of Samsung custom apps. They’re there if users want them, but luckily they can all be disabled or uninstalled if desired.
Swiping to the left will pull up the Hello Bixby, Samsung’s answer to Google Now. The feature works much in the same way with detailed cards that will display information, based on your preferences. Tying in applications and functions that suit your needs. For instance, if you take the same route every day, it may update you with traffic reports.
Of course, this is supposed to fit into a bigger picture that hasn’t quite come together yet. Bixby is a fully fledged voice assistant that was supposed to launch alongside the Galaxy S8 but has been pushed back until May. At launch, the assistant will supposedly be able to tie in different aspects of the phone to perform simple commands such as sending your most recent taken photo to someone on your contact list or setting up a reminder not only by time but location.
While the voice assists aspect of Bixby still isn’t out Bixby Vision did launch alongside the Galaxy S8. Unfortunately, it’s also somewhat underwhelming. The feature is basically a mode that allows the camera to identify products that can then pull up web searches or shopping options or translated text. The text translation works well enough, but the image identification is pretty hit or miss at launch. From our testing, the Bixby Vision struggled to find lesser known products, or products without any text on them. Which makes sense given that Bixby Vision is pulling from popular databases like Pinterest. But it’s also unfortunate the feature doesn’t work in the instances in which it would be most helpful. With products, we already know image recognition isn’t that big a deal, at least with what Samsung’s currently doing with it.
While the Galaxy S8 may not be currently revolutionizing smartphone AI the handset boasts a number of Samsung staples that make it one of the most feature-rich handsets on the market. The always on display makes a return with a stylish redesign that includes a bit of color with a starry night sky background. Other favorites include finger sensor gestures, quick launch camera, multi-windows support, smart alert, and smart stay, which utilizes the phone’s eye detection software to keep the screen on as long as you are looking at it.
In addition to a slew of built-in features, Samsung is also offering an optional desktop dock called Samsung DeX Station. The dock is a round circular disk (resembling a fat hockey puck) that slides open to the top, revealing a USB Type-C plug. The dock greatly bolsters the phone’s connectivity with two USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI connector, and an Ethernet connector. But the dock does more than simply mirror the phone’s apps onto a bigger screen, DeX provides full mouse and keyboard support along with altering many of the phone’s core applications to have full window support. That means you can plug your phone in and have full fledged windows web browsing or word processing. That utility doesn’t come cheap though as the Samsung DeX Station is sold at a $150 premium.
In our tests, DeX worked well enough. You simply plug and play and the apps that are compatible will launch in windowed mode on their own, while the ones that don’t will simply mirror onto the display. There is still the restriction that you are ultimately using a phone though. While the Galaxy S8’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is powerful for a mobile device, it still gets bogged down in trying to open too many applications at the same time. The DeX Station is a great solution for users that want to do all their computing on a single device, but we’re not quite sure how many of those users actually exist.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Biometrics
When it comes to biometrics the Samsung Galaxy S8 has pretty much every front covered. The phone features your traditional fingerprint scanner along with facial and iris recognition. The fingerprint scanner, while it is located in a strange place, works well. NBR did not have any issues with it when testing the device. The facial recognition also worked great. Though it should be noted that anyone with a picture of you could potentially break into your phone if you use this method. The iris scanner is a bit more secure, but can also potentially be a bit finicky. NBR did not have any issues with the iris scanner though, it read consistently and quickly became our favorite security biometric.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Camera
If you simply looked at the spec sheet you might think that the Galaxy S8 is using the same 12-megapixel rear camera as it’s predecessor, but it isn’t. This thing is a clear upgrade. The Galaxy S8 offers better clarity, as pictures appear more vibrant with better color detail. The one downside is that the slim thin frame doesn’t allow the Galaxy S8 to store two main cameras. Luckily Samsung has a workaround for this with a software that uses selective focus to create a similar effect. The Galaxy S8 camera also boasts better low light performance, with reduced noise and better detail.
The front facing camera is also better this time with an 8MP lens and autofocus. The auto focus makes it way easier for the front facing camera to clearly capture faces, which is perfect for facetime video and selfies. The only issue is that things in the backdrop can become blurry if they’re too far away. You can fix that by simply locking the focus onto things in the backdrop, it’s just something you need to be cognisant of.
Of course, both cameras are capable of capturing video. The rear-camera records in true 4K at 30 frames per second (fps), while the front-facing camera captures in 3K (2560 x 1440) at 30fps. Both cameras also offer a 60 fps capture at 1080p. The rear-facing camera also features Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), giving the users more flexibility in what they shoot.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Performance
The Samsung Galaxy S8 touts the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of onboard storage, and up to 2TB of expandable memory. As you’d expect with that spec list the Galaxy S8 is a powerhouse. The Samsung Galaxy S8 performed extremely well in our benchmarks testing at or near the top for pretty much every category.
So what does this mean for real-world performance? Well in short consistent excellence. Games, apps, and even multi-tasking on DeX worked extremely well. Pretty much anything that you throw at this phone (within reason) it will be able to handle.
Geekbench 4 is a cross-platform benchmark that measures overall performance. Higher score is better.
AnTuTu is a cross-platform benchmark that measures overall system performance. Higher score is better.
AnTuTu 3D is a cross-platform benchmark that measures graphical performance. Higher score is better.
AnTuTu CPU is a cross-platform benchmark that measures complex app and multitasking performance. Higher score is better.
AnTuTu RAM is a cross-platform benchmark that measures system speed. Higher score is better.
AnTuTu UX is a cross-platform benchmark that measures experience. Higher score is better.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Battery Life
The one area where Samsung (understandably) didn’t push the envelope is the battery. The Samsung Galaxy S8 houses the same size 3,000mAh battery as the Galaxy S7, but it’s also powering a bigger brighter display. Running a continuous video streaming test the battery life the Galaxy S8 ran for 5 hours and 58 minutes. That’s not particularly great for a handset. The good news is the Galaxy S8 performs much better in real world usage. While testing the device the Galaxy S8 had no problem lasting the entire day with around 30 percent charge left.
If you’re planning on binge watching Netflix I’d recommend you have a charger on hand, but under most circumstances, the Galaxy S8 should last all day.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Conclusion
The Samsung Galaxy S8 feels as good at is it looks. Not only does the handset pack a breathtaking display, but the curved design actually makes the phone more comfortable to hold and use with a single hand. Samsung has also baked in addition features to the edge of the display that makes navigating the UI even easier. The phone performs incredibly well across basically every metric (save for battery life) and the camera is even better to boot.
The only reason we might urge consumers to show some restraint is the price tag. The Galaxy S8 is a great phone, but if you have something recent, you may want to wait. The phone is quite expensive at $750 and one of the device’s key features Bixby largely remains a question mark.
If Bixby turns out to be great when it’s launched it could make the Galaxy S8 a must buy. However, even if it’s a bust, the Galaxy S8 is still one of the best phones on the market.
- Slim ergonomic design
- Gorgeous large display
- Excellent performance
- Awkward fingerprint scanner placement
- Bixby not available at launch