If you look at premium Android smartphones out there, metal frames and unibody designs have become the norm. In fact, almost every other flagship smartphone just brings the bump in specifications. Last year’s Galaxy S7 was different, it raised a bar for “premium” Android smartphones, yet the wow factor was missing. But that completely changes with the new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+.
With Samsung trying to put behind the Galaxy Note 7 nightmare, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ become important devices to regain customer trust. Both smartphones get the usual specifications upgrade, new security features, along with a refreshing new design that is sure to make others envy. But all of this comes at a premium cost. While the Galaxy S7 was priced under Rs 49,000 at launch, the Galaxy S8 will set you back by Rs 57,990. But does that increase in premium make the Galaxy S8 a worthwhile purchase? We have already reviewed the Galaxy S8+ and were left impressed. Now it’s time to review the younger sibling, the Galaxy S8.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Specifications
The Galaxy S8 flaunts a 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display running at QHD resolution with aspect ratio of 18.5:9 and pixel density of 586ppi. The display is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5. Under the hood, the smartphone is powered by Samsung’s homebrewed 64-bit Exynos 8895 octa-core SoC built on 10nm process. It is paired with 4GB of RAM, and 64GB storage, which can be expanded up to 256GB using a microSD card.
For photography, the Samsung Galaxy S8 comes with an 8-megapixel smart auto-focus front camera, and 12-megapixel dual-pixel rear camera with f/1.7 aperture. Armed with a 3,000mAh battery, the smartphone runs Android 7.0 Nougat out-of-the-box with TouchWiz UX on top. The smartphone also features an Always-On display, IP68 water and dust resistance capabilities and a heart rate sensor.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Design
The Galaxy S8 simply looks stunning. In fact, I believe it is currently the absolute best looking smartphone out there. Compared to last year’s Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S8 sees a radical design change. Samsung has done away with the flat display, and both the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ feature dual edge curved displays. ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: It’s glorious, but with some caveats
We had both the devices for review, and as you can see in the picture above, despite featuring bigger displays, the smartphones retain compact form factor. The Galaxy S7 features a 5.1-inch QHD display whereas the Galaxy S8 features a 5.8-inch display, and still the Galaxy S8 nearly has similar dimensions as its predecessor. Yes, the display is tall, but the compact form factor is what makes it different.
The Galaxy S8 comes with a metal frame, which is sandwiched between front-and-back glass. The glass is a fingerprint magnet which easily attracts smudges. The glass construction also makes it prone to easily slip out of your hands. Although I would recommend putting a cover to get a proper grip, it does kill one of the smartphone’s USP. But for safety, that little compromise must be made.
Now, right from the moment you hold the smartphone in your hand, it feels completely out of the world. It’s sleek, has a thin profile and feels premium. The rounded edges and compact form factor makes it easy to hold in one hand and use. The front is dominated with a tall display, above which the iris scanner, front-facing camera, earpiece and ambient light sensor is placed.
But the visible change comes at the bottom. To accommodate a tall display, Samsung has done away with the physical home button and the capacitive touch Android navigation buttons. Instead, you now get on screen implementation. And the fingerprint sensor, which was embedded inside the home button, is now moved to the back, awkwardly placed besides the camera module.
Talking about buttons and ports placement, the hybrid SIM card slot sits on the top edge, whereas the USB Type-C and 3.5mm audio jack sits at the bottom. The power / sleep button is on the right edge, whereas the volume rocker is on the left. Samsung has added one more button on the left edge to quickly summon its AI assistant Bixby. Turn to the back, and you have the camera module, an LED flash and heart rate sensor.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Infinity Display
One of the most impressive things about the Galaxy S8, and the one that quickly catches your attention is the Infinity Display running at QHD resolution (1440x2960pixels). With an impressive screen-to-body ratio of 84 percent, the display has an aspect ratio of 18.5:9. It’s a Super AMOLED panel that is bright, offers impressive contrast, deep black and brighter whites. Color reproduction is vivid, viewing angles are good, and visibility under direct sunlight is no issue either.
Whether you’re watching movies or videos or playing games, the content simply looks magical on screen. What’s more, the display also supports HDR10 video content, meaning you can have immersive experience when watching movies and TV shows. As of now, HDR10 supported content is offered by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, but only LG G6 is officially supported by these apps. However, you can soon expect them to add compatibility for the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ too.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Bixby
Despite having Google Assistant on board, Samsung has also included its own Artificial Intelligence (AI) based personal assistant ‘Bixby’ on both the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ smartphones. Samsung hasn’t rolled out Bixby with its full-fledged functionality yet, but it will let you ask for weather updates, make calls to your contacts, turn Wi-Fi / Bluetooth on or off, ask to click a selfie and more. However, voice functionality support isn’t added yet. ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+: A closer look at Bixby AI assistant
You can either access Bixby by swiping from left to right on the home screen, or by pressing the dedicated Bixby button on the left panel. Just like Google Now, Bixby too pulls up information from supported apps and presents it in the form of cards. The interface feels refreshing and appealing and each information card has different accent colors.
Native apps such as internet, gallery, music, S-health, reminders, weather, and third-party apps such as Twitter, Foursquare and Uber among others are supported at the moment. You can see the trending topics, check-in at places, and also request and Uber right from the Bixby screen, rather than having to open the app.
There is one interesting feature called ‘Bixby Vision’ which uses the camera along with machine learning to identify objects, landmarks or translate foreign languages. I tried clicking the photo of a chair and it recognized the object while offering relevant information. Powered by Pinterest, the result included different types to chairs and details.
Bixby Vision can also translate languages without needing a translator. I clicked a photo of text from an English book, selected the area and translated it in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu, and the results did not disappoint me. Sure, Bixby is in its early stage and I’m excited to see if future updates can make it better than Google Now.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Security
For biometric authentication, Samsung has included two options – fingerprint scanner and Iris scanner. Yes, the fingerprint sensor placement is quite awkward, especially for right handed users. Samsung is being criticized for placement of fingerprint scanner, as you often tend to place your finger on the camera lens, which then needs cleaning every time before clicking a photo. The scanner is quick in recognizing your fingerprint and unlocking the smartphone. The only issue I faced was when my fingers were wet or sweaty, the scanner didn’t recognize it most of the times.
Thankfully, there is an Iris scanner as well, and I’m quite impressed with it. The scanner works well irrespective of the lighting conditions. Even in absolute darkness, the iris scanner recognizes your registered irises to quickly unlock your smartphone. During my overall usage, I never came across a situation where the iris scanner failed to work.
That being said, the odd placement of the fingerprint sensor doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I hardly used the fingerprint scanner throughout my time of review. What’s more, the iris and fingerprint scanners can also be used to authenticate cashless payments using Samsung Pay platform. ALSO READ: How to use Samsung Pay in India: Here’s our complete guide on how it works, how to setup and transact
Samsung Galaxy S8 Edge Panels
Sure, the edge screen offers a completely different experience when watching videos, movies, and also while playing games. But there is more to it – the edge panels. Depending on where you set the swipe gestures (left or right), you get quick access to app shortcuts, and the list is customizable too. I have added Yahoo! Sports to keep a track of football matches. You can add your favorite teams from EPL, La Liga, Serie A, NBA and more. Besides offering you the latest scores, it also offers details about upcoming matches of your favorite teams and the local time too.
There is music app shortcut allowing you to play / pause and skip tracks, Yahoo! finance to keep track of indices and company stocks, shortcuts for apps such as calculator, calendar, alarm clock, gallery and more. You can also add device maintenance screen where you get a glimpse at the remaining battery, storage, free and used memory and more. What’s more, you can even add calendar, weather and favorite callers to the edge panel.
Samsung Galaxy S8 User Interface and Performance
The Galaxy S8 runs Android 7.0 Nougat out-of-the-box with a layer of Samsung’s TouchWiz UX. Unlike Samsung’s previous interfaces, the new one is neat, refreshing and visually appealing too. Right from the icons, to fonts, and the settings menu, Samsung seems to have really worked hard to make the interface as lightweight and attractive as possible.
While there is no app drawer button, you can access all installed apps by swiping to the top from the lower half. Although the physical home button has gone, a virtual one is always present, even when the display is turned off. To invoke the home button, simply press on-screen, just above the USB Type-C port. Under settings menu, you also have the option keep the home button on all the time, and you will be able to see it on the always-on display too. In terms of pre-installed apps, Samsung has partnered Microsoft to include OneDrive, Word, Office, Excel and Skype apps. In terms of Google apps, you only get Duo, Photos, Maps, Play Music and Movies pre-installed, rest all such as Docs, Sheets and Drive among others need to be downloaded.
Samsung has also included it’s My Galaxy App with an aim to bring a variety of entertainment and services at your fingertips. It gives you access to videos, music and gaming, along with other services to order food on Zomato, hail an Ola can, booking a movie ticket on BookMyShow, recharge your mobile, data card, DTH, or pay your mobile, landline or electricity bills, all without having to install these apps individually. ALSO READ: Samsung ‘My Galaxy’ app: Your destination for movies, music, gaming, and more
Now, coming to the core aspect, performance. The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are beasts powered by one of the most powerful chipsets out there today. The Exynos 8895 SoC and 4GB of RAM is good enough for smooth and lag-free performance. During my usage, I never came across a moment where the smartphone felt underpowered. Be it multitasking between apps, playing games, surfing websites on Chrome browser with multiple tabs open. Even gaming performance is smooth. Samsung has a dedicated ‘Game Launcher’ where you can find all your installed games. The good part about the launcher is that it gives GPU the priority when playing games, thus ensuring that you get a smooth and lag free experience. And there are three modes to choose from, normal, high-performance and power saver.
Basically, high-performance gives you full throttle with maximum frame rates, whereas other modes take care of the battery life. And to allow you to have distraction-free gaming experience, Samsung has also added ‘no alerts during games’ feature, where it won’t show any call or SMS notifications when you are gaming. And the best part, even after continuously paying the graphic intense games such as Asphalt 8: Airborne for half an hour, the device barely gets warm. Also, battery consumption during the whole time was just about nine percent.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Rear Camera
For the Galaxy S8, Samsung is using the same sensor that it used on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge. However, it has made a few improvements in the software department to improve the image quality further. Essentially, you get a 12-megapixel sensor with pixel size of 1.4µm, and aperture f/1.7. The camera module also supports phase-detection auto-focus (PDAF), optical image stabilization (OIS), 4K video recording (30fps), full-HD (1080p) slow-motion video recording (60fps), and HD slow-motion video recording (240fps).
The camera app interface is clean and clutter free. You can camera switch, HDR, flash and settings toggle on the left (or top if holding vertically), whereas camera shutter button, video recording button and gallery shortcut is on the right (bottom if holding vertically). A simple swipe from the left brings up camera modes such as auto, pro, panorama, selective focus, virtual shot, slow motion and hyperlapse among others. ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy S8 camera review: A closer look at the front and rear camera on the newest flagship out there
Talking about the photo quality, camera performs exceptionally well in almost all lighting conditions. The sensor can capture sharp photos with accurate colors. Close-up photos and the ones shot indoors under artificial lighting conditions offer good amount of details. Here are some sample shots.
Even low-light photography on the Galaxy S8 is worth talking about. The camera lets you capture accurate light and color information without looking grainy. In fact, from all the smartphones that I have tested, the Galaxy S8 camera simply stands out, and you don’t always need to look for proper lighting conditions to capture a better shot. Below are some low-light camera samples. ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy S8 vs Apple iPhone 7: Low-light camera performance compared
I also shot some videos in full HD and 4K resolution, and the quality looks good. My only problem was that after over five minutes of continuous video recording, the back of the device tends to get slightly warm. However, it does not affect the quality or performance in any way. Slow motion video works well too, but I expected Samsung to at least offer 120fps on full HD videos, that would have been great.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Front-Facing Camera
One of the big changes coming to the Galaxy S8 front camera, besides the bump in resolution to 8-megapixel, is the addition of auto-focus. It helps you capture blur-free selfies. Due to a higher resolution sensor and aperture of f/1.7 the camera captures bright and detailed selfies. Look at some samples below.
The auto-focus feature also lets Samsung add selective-focus feature to focus on the subject while blurring out the background. At times the effect looks artificial, but most of the times, it just works, and yes, you don’t need a dual camera setup for that.
Samsung has also included Snapchat-like live filter effects that you can add to photos. While the effect works well, my only problem is that it reduces the resolution and looks a little washed out. Here, look at some samples below.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Battery Life
Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S8 with a 3,000mAh battery, and it supports fast charging feature too. It takes about an hour-and-a-half to completely charge the phone from 0-100 percent. It may not be the fastest, but it’s not bad either. With a large 5.8-inch QHD resolution display and powerful hardware, it becomes important to have a larger capacity battery. Thankfully, the Exynos 8895 SoC isn’t power hungry, and credit can be given to its 10nm fabrication process. Samsung’s TouchWiz UX is also well-optimized to get maximum performance and battery life from the smartphone.
That said, the battery on the Galaxy S8 easily lasted me for an entire working day without having to look for the charger. With screen brightness set at 30 percent, display resolution set at full HD, I could get screen-on-time of just above five hours. In terms of usage, I had made phone calls for about an hour, social networking and internet surfing for a couple of hours, and listening to music over Bluetooth for three hours. ALSO READ: LG G6 review: The flagship smartphone that you deserved, a year ago!
Under display settings, there is also an option to switch resolution to HD or QHD. There is no visible difference noticeable to the naked eye, but the change in resolution did cause an overall impact on the battery life. Switching to QHD resolution, I would need to charge the Galaxy S8 before the end of the day. In terms of screen-on-time, it dropped to a little over four hours. And while I expected it to perform better at HD resolution, I was left disappointed with the same battery life as full HD resolution.
After having used the Galaxy S7 last year, I had a lot of expectations with the Galaxy S8, and sure, it did not disappoint me at all. Samsung has once set a new benchmark proving how a premium Android flagship smartphone should be like. Right from a sleek and beautiful design, to the gorgeous display, water and dust resistance and more, Samsung has absolutely nailed it with the Galaxy S8.
Be it the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the Pixel and Pixel XL, and the LG G6 to name a few, they all look ancient, purely from the design point of view. The one factor that goes into favor of these smartphones is the fact that they are now available for much lesser, thanks to cash back and instant discounts offered by retailers. And that brings us to an important question – is the Galaxy S8 worth your money? I’ll keep it simple – “yes, it absolutely does.” If you want a smartphone that looks stylish, doesn’t compromise on performance and security, and enables you to take best photos no matter the lighting condition, the Galaxy S8 won’t let you down.