Samsung Galaxy S8 Review
To suggest that Samsung were sweating on the successful launch of their flagship model, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is an understatement. The launch comes on the back of a disastrous 2016, in which Samsung recalled their Note 7 models worldwide and had vice-chairman Lee Jae-Yong arrested as part of the bribery investigation into former Korean president Park.
Samsung will however rest easy, knowing that the Galaxy S8 has exceeded expectations and been met with fanfare. The Galaxy S8 feels as though it has ushered in a new age of smartphone. The button-less, almost bezel-less body puts the phone ahead of most of its competitors. It is also kitted out with the latest technical features, such as an iris scanner and AI assistant, Bixby.
The Good (Appearance, Graphics and Performance, Camera)
The first thing that will strike anybody about the Galaxy S8 is the appearance of the phone. At 5.9 inches (or 6.3 inches for the Galaxy S8+), the phone isn’t much larger than its predecessor or the iPhone 7. The all-glass front curves around the sides of the phone into a steel frame, held together with a glass back. Samsung’s iconic curved edges are not new, but the bezel-less face makes the display feel as though it wraps around the phone in a way previous models haven’t.
With an 18.5:9 display covering 84% of the body, the screen is noticeably long. Apps produced for 16:9 or 18:9 displays leave some of the display unused. However, Google has urged Android app developers to make applications more compatible with the new aspect ratio, suggesting this ratio may be the way to go moving forward.
As we’ve come to expect from new models, the Galaxy S8 comes fitted with a bit more kick than its predecessor, the Galaxy S7. The phone comes packed with 4GB of ram, basically as much as you could possibly need in a phone, and 64GB of internal storage, with support for a 256GB microSD card.
The Bluetooth 5.0 feature is reported to have 4x range at twice the speed of Bluetooth 4.2 system used by iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7, albeit for a select few number of compatible devices. Geekbench 4’s single-core and multi-core tests gave the Galaxy S8 a score of 2013 and 6659 respectively. To put it in context, the iPhone 7 and Pixel scored 3322 and 1624 in the single core test, and 5500 and 4121 in the multi-core test; essentially, the Galaxy S8 performs better in more CPU-intensive tasks than the iPhone 7, but less so for more basic functions.
Spec-wise, the Galaxy S8’s camera has only been improved at the margins compared to the GS7. The phone boasts a 12MP primary and 8MP secondary (front), up from 5MP in the GS7. A key difference is the new multi-frame image processor, which takes three shots every time you take a photo, leaving you with a clearer image. The use of image processing to produce sharp shots, rather than additional megapixels, follows the lead of the Google Pixel’s fantastic camera.
The Bad (Bixby, Fingerprint Scanner)
Samsung’s AI assistant, Bixby (the name of a creepy butler from a post-apocalyptic, digital-distopia world) feels underdone. For most images, the much touted ‘Bixby vision’ (designed to bring up information about an item via photo) requires you to resize the image to fit the object properly and merely searches for similar images on the web. Bixby can be used to change settings, but most of its (his?) other functions are clunky and prone to errors.
Those who use like using fingerprint to sign into a phone will be disappointed with the position of the scanner – next to the camera. Someone who holds the phone in their right hand, with their thumb on the right hand side, about a third of the way up will find the scanner easy to reach. Otherwise, it might take some getting used to. Did Samsung purposely position the fingerprint scanner to encourage use of its unique iris scanner?
When reviewing new phones, it is easy to slip into the habit of labelling each phone ‘the best phone ever’. I’ll refrain from making such statements. The Galaxy S8 is ahead of its time with the bezel-less display and packs enough power to do everything that’s possible on a phone in 2017, with an excellent camera to boot. All this comes at a premium price of course, setting you back $1200 for the standard size (or $1080 from Kogan).
The Galaxy S8 caps off Samsung mobile’s journey, from ‘unfashionable but practical’ to a genuine market leader, in terms of style. Only the most dire of Apple fans will find the iPhone 7 a more aesthetically appealing phone. At the same time, Samsung has expanded the ability to customise that their long-time fans have stuck around for.
The ball’s in your court, Apple.