Samsung Galaxy S8 Active review

Ricky Villacrez, 18 November 2017.

Introduction

By now, we've come to expect an "Active" version of the latest Samsung SX device. Also by now, we've mostly come to terms with the fact that it still isn't commercially available in other markets outside the US. That aside, the Galaxy S8 Active is a ruggedized version of the Samsung Galaxy S8. It also does not water down specs or skimp on features over the standard model.

Here, you'll find the same camera, CPU, and even the same HDR-compliant display from the Galaxy S8. One thing worth noting is the screen is the same aspect ratio and size as the Galaxy S8, though the main difference is the Active isn't curved.

The Active variant is a device that's targeted at those who have physically demanding professions or just enjoy the outdoors and would like to have the extra peace of mind about their phone.

In the past, the Active model even had an extra key, one that could open the 'Activity Zone' app (exclusive to the 'Active' variant) or whatever you wanted to program it to do. Well, Samsung has bumped the "Activity Key" down to "Bixby Key" status.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Active key features

  • Body: Rugged design with metal frame, protected by dense rubber bumpers with grip-textured back plate. IP68 water resistant, as well as shock resistant and shatter-resistant glass display. MIL-STD-810G compliant.
  • Display: 5.8" Super AMOLED display QHD+ (2,960x1440px) 18.5:9 aspect ratio (2.06:1), 568 ppi, Gorilla Glass 5, HDR support.
  • Rear camera: 12MP f/1.7 aperture, dual pixel phase detection autofocus, OIS; face/smile detection, palm or voice shutter, 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
  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core CPU (4x2.35GHz Kryo 280 & 4x1.8GHz Kryo 280), Adreno 540 GPU.
  • Memory: 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage; microSD card slot for cards up to 256GB, UFS card support.
  • Battery: 4,000 Li-Po (sealed); Adaptive Fast Charging (QC 2.0 compatible)l WPC (Qi) & PMA wireless charging.
  • Connectivity: Single-SIM (Exclusive to AT&T in the US) - 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; NFC; Bluetooth 5.1
  • Misc: Barometer; Samsung Pay; fingerprint scanner; iris scanner, DeX dock compatible;

Main shortcomings

  • Programmable Activity Key is now Bixby Key
  • No bundled earbuds
  • No Gear VR compatibility
  • Verizon and International availability not yet expected

In the past, the 'Active' version of Samsung's flagships were slower to receive official updates, particularly since the phone is only available through a single US carrier, which have been notorious for delaying official software updates in the past. Though, things have been improving slowly, but surely, with Samsung's update frequency ever since Google started released monthly security updates.

Titanium Gold Front - Samsung Galaxy S8 Active review Gold Back - Samsung Galaxy S8 Active review Meteor Gray Front - Samsung Galaxy S8 Active review Gray Back - Samsung Galaxy S8 Active review
Titanium Gold Front Gold Back Meteor Gray Front Gray Back

If you're on AT&T in the US, you have three competing Galaxy S8 options: the standard model goes for $750, while the Active and Galaxy S8+ go for $100 more at $849. So you could either get a larger screen and larger battery, or a ruggedized Galaxy S8 at regular size, with a much larger battery (33% more than the Galaxy S8).

One other tidbit that may be worth mentioning, the Galaxy S7 active from last year had the "active" branding in all-lowercase letters, as well as the Galaxy S6 active before it. Not sure what Samsung was trying to do with all-lowercase branding (which did throw us off, to be honest), but Samsung has capitalized the "A" in "Active" here.

Now that our OCD is out of the way, the question remains: is the Galaxy S8 Active the right phone for you? Let's find out together, starting with the unboxing on the next page.

Reader comments

  • Anonymous

After just 1 year, my S8-Active is coming apart. Im very dissatisfied

  • Alex

Why is the sound in the headphones worse than in the usual S8?

Nope, pass. I know 3 people who have had S7s and a S8 in the last year ALL three were busted within the first 4 months and all were in cases, including an Otterbox Commuter. Two of them went to Moto Z Force units, and one went to a iPhone 7. A...