What was once an impossible fantasy - a sketch in someone's book, a render of an ambitious concept - is now a reality. These are just some thoughts that come to mind holding the Galaxy S8+, the big and bold next step Samsung took.
And yet, such is the progress the smartphone industry has been making that the Galaxy S8+, with its exquisite, elongated shape and borderless display, was the logical way forward rather than a result of a vain experiment.
Bigger is better, the old mantra goes, but is it really that simple? How deep does the average pocket go and how far does the average thumb stretch? And, most importantly, how tall is tall enough? Samsung were after more screen in less body and that is far from the only argument in favor of the new 18.5:9 aspect ratio, nor is Samsung alone in its endeavor.
The LG G6 is already a reality, with its 18:9 display and Google itself is on board as well, more than encouraging the widescreen experiments. Yet, it will be some time before media content catches on so the S8 pair do come with some early-adopter hurdles. But, if the widescreen mobile experience is truly the way of the future, there is hardly a better way to start the journey than the 6.2" Galaxy S8+.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ key features
- Body: Polished aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass 5 front and back; IP68 certified for water and dust resistance. Arctic Silver, Orchid Grey, Black Sky, Maple Gold, and Coral Blue color schemes.
- Display: 6.2" Super AMOLED, 2,960x1440px resolution, 18.5:9 (2.06:1) aspect ratio, 529ppi; HDR 10 compliant (no Dolby Vision).
- Rear camera:12MP, f/1.7 aperture, dual pixel phase detection autofocus, OIS; face/smile detection, Multi-Frame Image Processing; 2160p/30fps video recording.
- Front camera: 8MP, f/1.7 aperture, autofocus; 1440p/30fps video recording.
- OS/Software: Android 7.0 Nougat; Samsung Grace UX; Bixby virtual assistant; Smart Connect, Smart Connect Home
- Chipsets: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835: octa-core CPU (4x2.35GHz Kryo 280 & 4x1.9GHz Kryo 280), Adreno 540 GPU. Exynos 8895: octa-core CPU (4x2nd-gen Mongoose 2.3GHz + 4xCortex-A53 1.7GHz), Mali-G71 GPU.
- Memory: 4GB of RAM (6GB option for some markets); 64GB storage (128GB option for some markets); microSD slot for cards up to 256GB, UFS cards support.
- Battery: 3,500mAh Li-Po (sealed); Adaptive Fast Charging (same as S7); QuickCharge 2.0 support; WPC (Qi)&PMA wireless charging.
- Connectivity: Single-SIM, Dual-SIM available in certain markets; LTE-A, 4-Band/5-Band carrier aggregation, Cat.16/13 (1Gbps/150Mbps); USB Type-C (v3.1); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac MU-MIMO; GPS, Beidou, Galileo; NFC; Bluetooth 5.0.
- Misc: Fingerprint reader; iris recognition, face recognition; single speaker on the bottom; 3.5mm jack; bundled AKG headphones.
- No stereo speakers
- Inconveniently placed fingerprint reader
- The bulk of the photo and video content doesn't make the most of the available screen area due to the unusual screen aspect ratio
The good thing is, the extraordinary display is only one piece of the great package that is the Galaxy S8+ and it has plenty of other things going for it. One could expect nothing less given the pressure that the new flagship is under, following the unfortunate demise of the Note7. Samsung hasn't gone a full year without a new flagship since 2011 and, given the growth it's seen since, this is arguably its most important launch yet.
Judging by the early response, the company got the presentation right, but the S8 really needs to keep going strong beyond the hype stage. It just has to deliver performance that matches the wow factor, a user experience as compelling as the design. Guess what, we are here to find out if it does.
The Galaxy S8+ comes in a fairly standard black box with the name of the device on it. No fancy opening mechanism or special materials in sight and frankly, we would take exciting contents over a flashy presentation any day of the week. Plus, you don't really want to, or need to draw any attention away from the Galaxy S8+ that greets you as soon as you open the box. Even with a sticker on top for protection, the impressive curves and screen proportions still become instantly apparent.
The S8+ comes with a USB 3.1 Type-C to Type A cable for data transfer and charging. Type-C is finally settling in Samsung's ranks, but that could require some transition. To facilitate it, there are a pair of rather odd adapters included in the box.
The bundled wall charger is the all too familiar affair. It's one of Samsung's Adaptive Fast chargers, rated at 5V at 2A or 9V at 1.67A. Interestingly enough, the same charger can also power the DeX dock. It, however, is rated for 12V of input and refused to work with a simple 5V/2A charger. There is also a SIM ejector thrown in the mix.
Samsung also decided to sweeten the deal by including a pair of wired earbuds in the box. These come courtesy of AKG and have a retail value of $99 on their own. But pricing is not really indicative of quality and we are happy to report the headphones sound really good - we got deep bass and nice and clear mids.
There are actually two drivers per bud - one 8mm and one 11mm. You also have a microphone, so you can make and receive calls.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 360-degree spin
Once you manage to take your eyes off the seemingly endless 6.2" screen and take a look around the S8+, it becomes apparent that there is a lot more to its design. The symmetry is almost perfect all-around. The back curvature mirrors the front, to boost both the looks and handling.
The camera is almost perfectly flat on the S8+, eliminating any noticeable hump on that end as well. Good grip and comfort also benefit from the curve.
Size and proportions are one of the hot topics surrounding the Galaxy S8 and especially the S8+. 6.2 inches really sound like a lot. This is quite understandable, since 16:9 screens are all we were getting these past few years so we often forget to factor in the aspect ratio difference. Yet the new approach to bigger screens is to make them taller, 18.5:9 in this particular case. This all adds up to a phablet with an overall footprint of 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm - quite close to the Galaxy S7 edge, with its 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7mm. Sure, there is a small bump in both thickness and width, but nothing to really stand in the way of comfortable handling.
So with the difference in proportions, diagonals are not directly comparable across the S7 and S8 generations. You'd be much better off thinking of the Galaxy S8+ as the spiritual successor to the S7 edge with some extra screen top and bottom than a dramatically bigger phone.
Still, there is nearly a centimeter of added height, which combined with the slippery glass finish means you need to be extra careful to not let the handset slip in certain scenarios. The extra height means you will need to readjust your grip to a less secure one if you want to be able to reach all the way to top and bottom at the same time.
Circling back to the Galaxy S8+ design - its build and finish are nothing short of excellent. There is a polished aluminum frame all around and Gorilla Glass 5 on both the back and front. The IP68 water and dust resistance was achieved without any flaps to ruin the great impression the exquisite craftsmanship makes.
In terms of colors, you get a choice of Arctic Silver, Orchid Grey, Black Sky, Maple Gold, and Coral Blue - all pretty eye-catching. We also appreciate the subtle glitter effects, courtesy of the glass finish, even if it's nothing really new. The front of the S8+ is all black, regardless of the paint job chosen. This was definitely a good call on Samsung's end, considering there are a whopping six "cutouts" for various sensors on the top bezel of the device. French cheese would probably be the first thing to come to mind with any other choice of color.
Speaking of the top bezel, the six holes (not counting the earpiece) are a veritable "who's who" of cutting edge mobile tech. On the far left, there is a dedicated RGB status LED, so even if you don't like Samsung's AOD solution, you can still know when your attention is required. Right next to that is the illuminator for the Iris scanner. The scanner itself is on the far right of the bezel. This dual setup is necessary, since this biometric sensor operates with IR light - invisible to the naked eye, but necessary for capturing the retina pattern. The Galaxy Note7 used the exact same arrangement.
Going back to the left side of the earpiece, we also find a traditional proximity sensor and an ambient light detector. Last is the 8MP selfie camera, which also powers the new facial recognition system.
The bottom bezel (or the tiny bit that's left of it) holds absolutely nothing. We presume Samsung still needed to reserve some space underneath for some components. Plus, the home button and navigation keys are low enough as it is. Home button? Yes, definitely!
In the absence of a traditional physical key, Samsung has turned to on-screen navigation controls for the S8 and S8+. The nice side effect is that you can swap the back and menu keys the way you like it.
As for the home button, it now has a special status and is fixed in the middle. Samsung didn't want to skip on tactile feedback entirely. There are some dedicated pressure sensors underneath it, so it continues to function even when the screen is off. Plus, a taptic engine gives off a nice little vibration on every press. It is pretty convincing and doesn't feel like the front of the phone is giving in - somewhat of a problem on recent Apple devices. We did find the force sensitivity a little low out of the box, but Samsung lets you adjust that.
The only real problem we have with the new navigation scheme, combined with the tall body of the S8+ is that it leaves the main controls sitting pretty low, relative to the whole device. Chances are you will naturally tend towards holding the S8+ higher up to take advantage of the extra vertical screen real estate. That, however, means your thumb needs to do plenty of stretching to reach the bottom left or right corners of the screen (depending on which hand you use).
The sides of the Galaxy S8+ actually hold little surprises. A solitary power button sits pretty high up on the right.
The top and bottom parts of the Galaxy S8+ frame are noticeably wider than its sides. This works well for housing the SIM card slot and a second noise-canceling mic on top. On the bottom, we find a USB Type-C port, the good old 3.5mm audio jack (phew, it's still here) and a single speaker.
It is disappointing that the S8+ has no stereo speakers - maybe understandable, given all the size constraints, but a Huawei-style hybrid setup, using the earpiece might have still been possible.
Finally, we have the left hand side, which houses the standard volume rocker and the all new Bixby button. In case you haven't heard already, it fires up Samsung's virtual assistant. Having a dedicated button is easily justifiable, since Bixby is intended as a constant helper all throughout the Galaxy S8+ user experience. Samsung's goal was to make it truly versatile, so it can take an active part in your interactions with the phone. It's an ambitious project for sure and we'll examine it in more detail in the software section.
By the way the modding community already has plans for the new hardware control. Samsung won't be offering any custom mapping functions for the button, but there are third-party apps that turn it into a fully customizable key akin to BlackBerry's convenience key of old. At least for the time being, that is. Samsung is reportedly implementing extra software measures to hide the Bixby button from modders. So, it's hard to say how things will play out in the long run.
Before we complete the hardware tour there's something else about the back of the S8+ we have to mention. We already covered the fine selection of colors, nice and convenient curvature and the sturdy Gorilla Glass 5 finish. We won't really fixate too much on the single 12MP Dual Pixel camera, as it's mostly identical to the one found on the S7. We will, however, point out that Samsung's positioning of the fingerprint reader is less than ideal.
It is way too high up, off-center and right next to the camera lens. Guess what you'll constantly be tapping by accident while searching for the sensor. Samsung itself seems aware that this is an issue and has even added a notification in the camera UI, reminding you to keep the lens clean and smudge-free from time to time.
Still, if you opt for one of the S8+'s biometric unlock methods, you won't have to deal with the inconvenience too frequently. We guess that offers at least a little bit of consolation. Another little detail worth mentioning is that the single LED flash and heart-rate monitor no longer have dedicated cut-outs. Instead, they are positioned directly underneath the Gorilla Glass surface. Neat!
Technology: GSM / HSPA / LTE
2G bands: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 - SIM 1 & SIM 2 (dual-SIM model only)
3G bands: HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700(AWS) / 1900 / 2100
4G bands: LTE band 1(2100), 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 17(700), 20(800), 28(700)
Speed: HSPA 42.2/5.76 Mbps, LTE-A (4CA) Cat16 1024/150 Mbps
Announced: 2017, March
Status: Available. Released 2017, April
Dimensions: 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm (6.28 x 2.89 x 0.32 in)
Weight: 173 g (6.10 oz)
Build: Front/back glass (Gorilla Glass 5) & aluminum frame
SIM: Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Hybrid Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
- Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified)
- IP68 certified - dust/water proof over 1.5 meter and 30 minutes
Type: Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size: 6.2 inches, 98.3 cm2 (~84.0% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution: 1440 x 2960 pixels, 18.5:9 ratio (~529 ppi density)
Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass 5
- 3D Touch (home button only)
- Always-on display
OS: Android 7.0 (Nougat)
Chipset: Exynos 8895 Octa - EMEA
Qualcomm: MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 - USA & China
CPU: Octa-core (4x2.3 GHz & 4x1.7 GHz) - EMEA
Octa-core (4x2.35 GHz Kryo & 4x1.9 GHz Kryo) - USA & China
GPU: Mali-G71 MP20 - EMEA
Adreno 540 - USA & China
Card slot: microSD, up to 256 GB (uses SIM 2 slot) - dual SIM model only
Internal: 128 GB, 6 GB RAM or 64 GB, 4 GB RAM
Primary: 12 MP, f/1.7, 26mm, phase detection autofocus, OIS, LED flash, check quality
Features: 1/2.5" sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size, geo-tagging, simultaneous 4K video and 9MP image recording, touch focus, face/smile detection, Auto HDR, panorama
Video: 2160p@30fps, 1080p@60fps, HDR, dual-video rec., check quality
Secondary: 8 MP, f/1.7, autofocus, 1440p@30fps, dual video call, Auto HDR
Alert types: Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
3.5mm jack: es
- 32-bit/384kHz audio
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth: 5.0, A2DP, LE, aptX
GPS: Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO
USB: 3.1, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector
Sensors: Iris scanner, fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate, SpO2
Messaging: SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM
- Samsung DeX (desktop experience support)
- Fast battery charging (Quick Charge 2.0)
- Qi/PMA wireless charging (market dependent)
- ANT+ support
- Bixby natural language commands and dictation
- MP4/DivX/XviD/H.265 player
- MP3/WAV/eAAC+/FLAC player
- Photo/video editor
- Document editor
Non-removable Li-Ion 3500 mAh battery
Colors: Midnight Black, Orchid Gray, Arctic Silver, Coral Blue, Maple Gold, Rose Pink
SAR: 0.67 W/kg (head) 0.97 W/kg (body)
SAR EU: 0.27 W/kg (head) 1.00 W/kg (body)
Performance: Basemark OS II: 3401 / Basemark OS II 2.0: 3298
Basemark X: 43862
Display: Contrast ratio: Infinite (nominal), 4.658(sunlight)
Camera: Photo / Video
Loudspeaker: Voice 68dB / Noise 69dB / Ring 71dB
Audio quality: Noise -92.2dB / Crosstalk -93.3dB
Battery life: Endurance rating 88h