Let’s check out Samsung’s latest flagship.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is finally here after months of leaks and rumors. Samsung’s current flagship is undoubtedly the best smartphones they have made. From its design and features, it goes to show that the Korean company isn’t backing down despite a disastrous 2016.
I said it before and I’ll say it again, the Galaxy S8 is one gorgeous device. Thin bezels and larger screen is the main selling point of the S8, without making the device larger overall. It’s thin enough to still be carried around comfortably with one hand, considerably thinner than the iPhone 7 Plus. The curved edges make a comeback but it is less pronounced compared to the Galaxy S7 Edge – that means there’s less instances of you triggering unwanted touches from your palm when using the device.
At 5.8-inches, (6.2-inches for the bigger Galaxy S8+), the taller screen with 18 5:9 aspect ratio gives you more real estate to read websites and emails. The 2,960 x 1,400 Super AMOLED display also pushes mobile displays to the limits. Samsung calls this the Infinity Display since it was made to look like it runs outside the smartphone without any borders. This is unarguably one of the best displays I’ve seen on a smartphone – bright whites and deep blacks and brilliant colors all around. It also helps that this is one of the mobile smartphones that support High Dynamic Range (HDR), though content isn’t available for us to test it.
Most of the front of the S8 is occupied by the screen, with hardware buttons on both side. A dedicated button for Bixby is located on the right – which is Samsung’s new smart assistant (more on that later). The speaker grill lies at the bottom, and while sound isn’t as great as we expected it’s loud enough for us to enjoy listening even in crowded places. Samsung retained the 3.5 mm audio jack, much to the delight of audiophiles everywhere and has now implemented USB Type-C as its main point of connection for charging and data transfers.
All the usual bells and whistles are present: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC (used by Samsung Pay which is launching in the UAE later this week). This particular S8 variant we got runs on the company’s own Exynos 8895 octa-core processor with 4 GB of RAM. The S8 now also sells in one 64 GB storage variant, which of course can be upgraded using the microSD slot that can support up to 256 GB cards. And yes, it is still dust and water resistant.
The rear camera sits next to the flash and heart rate monitor, but Samsung made a questionable move placing the fingerprint sensor at the side of the camera instead at the middle where it is more accessible. A couple of times during my time with the S8, I found myself touching the rear camera instead of the fingerprint sensor.
You alternatively have other ways to implement security on your device, i.e. face recognition and the iris scanner first introduced in the Galaxy Note 7. These new features are nice, but I’d personally use my fingerprint when logging in.
On-screen navigation buttons now replace the physical touch sensitive buttons on the S8. Haptic feedback placed right below the screen gives you that ‘clicky’ feeling when pressing the home button.
The taller screen also meant that most apps would need to be updated to take advantage of the extra screen estate. When watching video, there may be instances where you would see black bars on the sides since the video isn’t ‘wide’ enough – but that could easily be fixed by pressing a ‘fit to screen’ option.
Running on Android 7.0 Nougat, Samsung’s TouchWiz (now called the Samsung Experience) is less intrusive as I last remembered it. Icons are simpler, animations are more subtle. It seems the overall improvements were about speed and consistency. Even hopping to the Settings menu now showcases a more streamlined option list. This makes the S8 an even better smartphone than its predecessor.
The edge panels of the S8 still feature the same widgets that you can slide over to use. It’s more refined compared to previous versions, but I barely used it and I ended up turning it off. The same goes for Bixby, Samsung’s own personal assistant similar to Google Assistant. Bixby offers various ways on how the S8 can interact with you. The final version of the software will only rollout in May, and at the moment you’re stuck with a Google Now-esque screen that does the same thing as – well – Google Now (and Assistant). Samsung didn’t offer a way to remap the Bixby button on the side, so you’re stuck with a button that could have offered a better function.
The top-of-the-line specifications also mean that this smartphone doesn’t experience any hiccups when doing intensive tasks. This goes from games to apps or even rendering short videos. The device is so powerful that you can even buy an optional accessory (DeX) and turn it into a desktop.
Even if the S8 is using the same camera optics as the Galaxy S7, they’ve added small details that enhances the already great features of last year’s flagship. Images taken with the S8’s camera are brighter and more vivid, and playing with Pro mode can actually yield very good results. Low light images are great, and offer more detail compared to the S7. At the moment, it stands out as one of the best phone cameras we have used.
The 3,000 mAh battery on the S8 allowed me to use the smartphone for about a full day before it needs to be charged. It’s neither good nor bad – but there are various ways for you to conserve the battery life without having to always bring a charger. As always, the S8 also supports wireless and fast charging.
Priced at 2,799 AED (3,099 AED for the bigger Samsung Galaxy S8+), the Samsung Galaxy S8 triumphs over its current rivals in every way – yes, that even includes the iPhone 7 / iPhone 7 Plus. The Samsung Galaxy S8 is not just one of the best Android smartphones, but one of the year’s best.