Samsung Galaxy S8 review: Essence distilled

GSMArena team, 21 April 2017.

Synthetic benchmarks

Samsung really pulled out all the stops in the S8 and S8+ specs department. Nothing but the best, which in this case is the current pair of flagship offers from both Qualcomm and Samsung's own silicon divisions. Of course, we are talking about the Snapdragon 835 and the Exynos 8895 - both built on a cutting-edge 10nm manufacturing process.

In fact, word on the street is that the Korean giant might have been so enveloped in its quest for ultimate mobile performance that it actually hoarded all the initial Snapdragon 835 stock. This, allegedly, caused LG to resort to a Snapdragon 821 for the G6 and might have also forced Xiaomi to postpone the Mi 6. But at this point these are just speculations, of course.

Samsung Galaxy S8 review

Samsung claims there is virtually no performance variance between the pair. Both chips have a total of eight cores - a pretty standard setup. Qualcomm has its custom Kryo 280 cores working at 2.35 GHz. These do have a bit more wiggle room in terms of maximum frequency (2.45 GHz, as rated by Qualcomm), but this is what Samsung decided to go for. As for the Exynos 8895, it has four of redesigned M1 "Mongoose" V2 custom cores, clocked at 2.3 GHz and a less power-intensive cluster of four Cortex-A53 units, at 1.7 GHz.

There are some differences in the graphics department as well: an Adreno 540 on the Snapdragon 835 and a Mali-G71 MP20 on the Exynos 8895.

We've tested both the Exynos and the Snapdragon version of the S8+, and we'll now compare to the Exynos-powered S8, 4GB of RAM each.

So, let's dive in and kick things off with GeekBench 4, where the Galaxy S8 appears to be tuned slightly differently. While it matches the Exynos S8+ in single core tests, it's a notch slower in multi-core, though still ahead of the Snapdragon S8+. The Kirin 960 in the Huawei P10 is almost a perfect match in single-core, but can't keep up with all cores running. The iPhone 7 is still in a league of its own in terms of single-core output, but it holds them back in multi-core.

GeekBench 4 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    6338
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    6175
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SD 835)
    6106
  • Huawei P10
    6069
  • Apple iPhone 7
    5654
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (E8890, Nougat)
    5645
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    5245
  • OnePlus 3T
    4364
  • Google Pixel XL
    4152
  • Google Pixel (5.0)
    4139
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    3979
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    3754
  • LG G6 (US)
    3648
  • HTC 10
    3621

GeekBench 4 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7
    3488
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    1945
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    1938
  • Huawei P10
    1927
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SD 835)
    1915
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (E8890, Nougat)
    1911
  • OnePlus 3T
    1890
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    1854
  • LG G6 (US)
    1792
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    1724
  • HTC 10
    1708
  • Google Pixel (5.0)
    1535
  • Google Pixel XL
    1507
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    1332

Anticipating some possible confusion with Galaxy S8 results from various sources over the next few days, we would like to offer some insight on the current GeekBench situation. At the end of last month, the popular benchmark suite was updated to version 4.1. It changed quite a few things and as per the developer's own accounts, users can expect increases of up to 2% in single-core and 5% in multi-core scores. That means that results between GeekBench 4.0 and 4.1 are no longer directly comparable. We have decided to do the fair thing and publish the older and comparable GeekBench 4.0 scores instead.

Moving on to some compound benchmarks, Basemark OS II 2.0 puts the S8s at the top of the chart - well, in the Android world at least, as the iPhone 7 is still a few points ahead.

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7
    3416
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SD 835)
    3406
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    3376
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    3298
  • Huawei P10
    2910
  • OnePlus 3T
    2678
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (E8890, Nougat)
    2670
  • Google Pixel (5.0)
    2461
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    2386
  • Google Pixel XL
    2281
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    2128
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    1880
  • HTC 10
    1839

It's pretty much the same story in Antutu 6, where the iPhone 7 snatches the victory by a tight margin. The S8 posts virtually identical numbers to the S8+, both in Exynos trim, while the Snapdraggon S8+ is a tiny bit behind.

AnTuTu 6

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7
    174532
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    174435
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    174070
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SD 835)
    168133
  • OnePlus 3T
    165097
  • HTC 10
    154031
  • LG G6 (US)
    141895
  • Google Pixel (5.0)
    141193
  • Google Pixel XL
    141186
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    133574
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    132084
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (E8890, Nougat)
    129629
  • Huawei P10
    126629
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    81615

Things aren't quite so clear-cut on the graphics side of things. The Mali-G71 MP20 is a true mobile graphics powerhouse, no question about it. It brings about the sort of power that will probably make console-grade gaming experiences possible on mobile down the line.

There are a few things to consider when analyzing the Mali-G71 MP20, as implemented inside the S8 and S8+. The main one, of course, being resolution. The new ultra-wide aspect ratio means about 576,000 extra pixels on top of QHD the GPU has to render on.

There is also the matter of proper support from game developers. Currently, Samsung is forced to play the middle-man between game engines and its new screen aspect ratio, offering both straight-forward support for the resolution, as well as resizing, fitting and cropping assistance. The latter is an imperfect solution and can sometimes lead to graphical errors and glitches - yet another batch of hurdles that early-adopters will have to endure.

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7
    61
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SD 835)
    57
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    50
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    50
  • OnePlus 3T
    49
  • Google Pixel (5.0)
    49
  • Google Pixel XL
    47
  • HTC 10
    47
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    42
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (E8890, Nougat)
    38
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    38
  • Huawei P10
    29
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    21

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7
    60
  • OnePlus 3T
    48
  • Google Pixel (5.0)
    48
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    40
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    40
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    36
  • Huawei P10
    35
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SD 835)
    34
  • Google Pixel XL
    30
  • HTC 10
    28
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (E8890, Nougat)
    27
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    27
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    15

However, it's not all that bad. Even today, many titles already support the wider aspect natively. Others scale and crop without any issue. We are happy to report that we couldn't really induce a crash in any game we tried but on the other hand we didn't try that many. The worst problems we managed to end up with are slightly cropped out controls around the very edges of the game interface and a few extra screen flashes while loading. All were pretty isolated and we can only expect improvements going forward.

As for actual on-screen performance, it quite understandably suffers a hit due to the lavish new resolution. Again, we will remind you that these are synthetic tests and any self-respecting game nowadays has the ability to scale back in quality or detail gracefully to ensure proper performance.

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7
    43
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    42
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SD 835)
    39
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    36
  • Google Pixel (5.0)
    33
  • OnePlus 3T
    33
  • Google Pixel XL
    32
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    32
  • HTC 10
    31
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (E8890, Nougat)
    29
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    28
  • LG G6 (US)
    25
  • Huawei P10
    22
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    15

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7
    60
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    34
  • Google Pixel (5.0)
    34
  • OnePlus 3T
    33
  • Huawei P10
    30
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    23
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    23
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SD 835)
    18
  • Google Pixel XL
    17
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (E8890, Nougat)
    15
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    15
  • HTC 10
    15
  • LG G6 (US)
    11
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    6.7

The Galaxy S8 is a truly amazing gaming device and a pretty future-proof one as well. These Open GL ES 3.1 scores definitely speak for themselves.

GFX 3.1 Car scene (offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    25
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    25
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SD 835)
    23
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    20
  • Google Pixel (5.0)
    20
  • OnePlus 3T
    20
  • Google Pixel XL
    19
  • HTC 10
    18
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (E8890, Nougat)
    16
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    15
  • LG G6 (US)
    15
  • Huawei P10
    14

GFX 3.1 Car scene (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia XZs
    21
  • OnePlus 3T
    20
  • Google Pixel (5.0)
    20
  • Huawei P10
    16
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    13
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    13
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SD 835)
    12
  • Google Pixel XL
    11
  • HTC 10
    9.9
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (E8890, Nougat)
    8.3
  • LG G6 (US)
    8.1
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    7.9

Basemark ES 3.1 / Metal

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7
    1547
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    1189
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    1111
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SD 835)
    817
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    732
  • Huawei P10
    716
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (E8890, Nougat)
    680
  • LG G6 (US)
    647
  • OnePlus 3T
    641
  • Google Pixel XL
    626
  • Google Pixel (5.0)
    626
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    623
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    316

Much like the Galaxy S8+, the small S8 is hard to fault for performance in any area - it sets the standard, really. The few minor differences we observed, compared to the S8+, can very well be attributed to the margin of error between units and test runs.