In case you’ve been under a rock the last month and a bit, Samsung back on 5 May released their latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8. It took a wee while for us to get our hands on a review unit which is probably because A) every man and his dog would have been requesting a review unit and B) I will reluctantly concede that there are more worthy sites and outlets out there that deserved to get their grubby little mits on the phone before me. Lucky for me I did manage to get my hands on a review unit and upon opening it, it was obvious that Samsung has wiped the filth of the previous reviewer off the device because this was one pristine, well presented device that smacked me in the face with its stunning design. So, what did I think of the S8? The short answer is that it is hands down the premier smartphone on the market today. The longer answer in which I justify that last statement shall come right….now!
Let’s start with that slap in the face gorgeous design I mentioned. The S8 is gorgeous, my review unit was Maple Gold which looked fantastic, although it is prone to fingerprint smudge so you’ll wanna wipe your hand grease off it from time to time to keep it looking pristine. The form factor is a mere 148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm with a weight of 152 grams yet Samsung have managed to cram a 5.8-inch Quad HD display into this device. That display, known as the Infinity Display is the true hero of the device as it goes from edge to edge much like the previous Galaxy 7 Edge. Samsung have removed a physical home button and made use of soft keys instead which give the screen more real estate to work with and have even removed their logo from the top of the phone, leaving just enough room for your cameras and that all important speaker so you can actually hear people when you make a call (yes believe it or not phones are still used for making calls). The feel in the hand is nice and comfortable and will fit nicely into the hands of most people. Usually a screen of 5.8 inches would be a bit unwieldy to hold but not so on the Galaxy S8 thanks to the Infinity Display.
The screen itself is a joy to use and view. A tip for young players though, by default the phone is set to Full HD so to bring out all its glory go into settings and increase it to Quad HD and prepare to be wowed by a vibrancy that pops off the screen and screams look at me. It reminds me a lot of a high end 4K UHD TV, such is the quality of this display. Functionality wise it is very responsive and is aided by the ability to reject your palm when you hold the phone. Why is that important? Because the majority of phones I have used that push the screen near the edge struggle in this area and will think that your palm is your finger so when you go to do something on screen it won’t work as the device thinks you are already trying to do something. By rejecting your palm, the Galaxy S8 is more responsive to your actual inputs.
Inside this gem of a device is some serious hardware. The S8 has an Octo core (2.3Ghz Quad & 1.7Ghz Quad), 64 bit, 10nm processor on board backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage that can be expanded to 256GB with a Micro SD Card. That hardware is coupled by a 12MP Rear Camera and a Front Facing 8MP camera. All this stellar hardware is running on the silky-smooth Android 7.0 with Samsung’s overlay over the top.
Android 7.0 is fast and responsive, Samsung’s overlay is a change from the old TouchWhiz we were all used to so it does take some time to get used to. The biggest change is figuring out how to get to your app drawer. Eventually I figured out that all it takes to get to the App drawer is a simple swipe up from the bottom of the screen and there you have it, all your apps ready to not be used because let’s face it how many of those all-important apps do we download and never use? Getting Apps onto the home screen requires a long press and then selecting that you want it on the home screen although I did find it always defaulted to taking me to a blank home screen instead of one that had apps on it but still had space for more. Aside from that it is hard to fault this overlay from Samsung, it looks great and once you are used to it is a lot faster and easier to use. Apps load in the blink of an eye and what is a real testament to Samsung, I didn’t have a single app crash at all during my time with the S8. Anyone with an Android phone knows that it doesn’t matter how much you pay for them crashes occur so to not experience one at all is near unheard of for an Android device.
Part of the fun of this overlay and the S8 is Bixby. Yes, that personal assistant that sets out to rival Siri and every other personal assistant on the market. Bixby support in New Zealand is not fully optimised so there are features we can’t use yet like being able to take a picture and then use Bixby to search for the product online to buy but it is far from useless. Part of Bixby’s charm is in taking a picture of an item, place or landmark and then allowing Bixby to bring up useful information on what you just snapped. At its worst, you’ll be able to see items that are similar on Pinterest, at its best you can bring up things like Restaurants, Bars and places of interest that are near to the landmark you took a picture of. I used that feature in Auckland City just to test it out and was surprised at how well it did. Places of interest are a bit limited at the moment but the key things that people will use this for like finding a Restaurant work well and ends up being quite handy.
When it comes to the battery on board, the S8 sports a 3,000mAh battery. Forget those annoying benchmark tests where some well-respected journo can’t be arsed doing the hard yards and just runs a movie on loop while surfing the net to figure out how long the battery will last. I find there is a much more realistic scenario to test the battery, it’s a little scenario I like to call day-to-day use. Mind blown I now but stick with me here. For the past 2 weeks, I have used the S8 everyday with email push notifications on, Facebook and Messenger on, Twitter on, all that crap that a tech writer with no credibility likes to use plus I made calls, send texts and did my fair share of web browsing on it. What did that net me in terms of battery drain? Well at the end of each day I was left with about 25-30% percent battery left by the time I was ready to push the zzz’s and enjoy bed so all in all battery life is pretty good for a fairly heavy day-to-day user. Just be sure to put your phone on charge that night so you are fully juiced up in the morning. If you do forget then as long as you’ve left yourself sometime in the morning the phone does support fast charging with the propriety charger and you’ll get from 0-100 in about an hour.
Camera wise the S8 is at the upper end of the market, 12MP may not sound like much but by now you should know that MP isn’t the be all and end all of a smartphone camera. Aperture plays a much more important role and the S8 has an F1.7 lens that takes crisp and detailed images in most light settings. Low light I found to be a bit of a struggle but it still performs better in low light than all but 2 phones that I have used so it’s right up there. Colours are rich and well represented and they positively pop off that gorgeous Quad HD Super AMOLED Infinity Display. The Rear Camera can also take 4K UHD HDR video so you can capture all your most memorable moments in all their intricately detailed glory. Be aware though 4K shows every detail possible, it doesn’t make you look prettier so for a hideous beast such as myself, all those hideous features are amplified to a level I wish I could hide.
The Galaxy S8 is going to set you back $1,299 or $1,499 for the S8+ so it isn’t for the faint of heart. The S8 is the star of the 2017 Smartphone Show and is easily the best phone Samsung have ever produced. The phone is easy to use, ridiculously fast and responsive and comes with the best damn screen you could possibly want on a smartphone, in a design that makes the screen the star of the show and is comfortable to hold. Oh and buy the way you can buy the phone direct from Samsung New Zealand and pick yourself up a sweet 256GB Micro SD card for free while you’re at it!