Samsung Galaxy S8+ review: Infinity and beyond

Infinity and beyond

GSMArena team, 18 April 2017.

Conclusion

It was a tall task for the Samsung Galaxy S8+ development team - not an enviable position, to say the least. Not only were they looked upon to deliver a meaningful upgrade to the S-series in an increasingly competitive market, but had a Note7-sized gap in the company portfolio to fill. And such a task certainly involved taking quite a few risks.

Getting rid of the home key goes against a generations-old tradition, while the new fingerprint reader position will certainly raise more than a few eyebrows. The unorthodox 18.5:9 aspect ratio is not going to be a YouTuber's favorite either.

Samsung Galaxy S8+review

Well, you've got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette and the final product looks like the sacrifices were well worth it. The Galaxy S8+ is one gorgeous piece of tech with its Infinity display and no amount of black bars can take that away from it. Plus, it's not like having bezels in their place will do your videos any good.

The camera is barely an upgrade over the Galaxy S7 for your good light or video shooting, but the new image-stacking tech delivers a notable boost in the camera's weakest area - low light photography. And the front camera got such a major update that it might be enough of an incentive on its own for selfie fans to upgrade.

The chipset is the fastest around, while the software is more polished than ever. And while the battery capacity hasn't been increased over the S7 edge, the endurance is improved when it comes to web browsing and video watching.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ key test findings

  • The perfectly symmetric body is slick and durable, thanks to front and rear Gorilla Glass 5 and IP68 certification. However, the all-glass body is quite slippery.
  • The new 18.5:9 aspect ratio works great for portrait gaming and has its benefits for browsing and multi-tasking. However, the S8+ is quite tall for one handed use and reaching the notification area can be tricky.
  • The new on-screen navigation works well and buttons can finally be re-mapped. The home button has nice haptic feedback. However, controls are placed pretty low relative to the overall height of the S8+ and can be hard to reach.
  • The fingerprint reader is really awkwardly placed - too high up and right next to the camera.
  • The exceptionally bright Infinity display is a chart-topper in terms of sunlight visibility. Colors are even punchier, as testified by the 'Deep Red' OLED branding.
  • The new ultra-wide aspect is great for playing games or browsing, although scaling issues might be present with certain unsupported apps. Samsung offers a compatibility scaling mode for convenience.
  • Sadly, most video is still not suited for such a wide screen. Viewing 4:3 photos is particularly wasteful of the extra space. Content is moving in the right direction, though.
  • The S8+ is really versatile when it comes to connectivity. Gigabit LTE is a particularly nice treat, although few places have support for such huge bandwidth. Bluetooth audio streaming to two devices simultaneously, although not perfect, is also a neat little trick. We also appreciate the presence of DisplayPort video output over Type-C.
  • The Exynos 8895 variant of the S8+ managed to score a really good 88 hours in our endurance test. This falls in line with expectations, considering the S8+ screen has both larger surface area and more pixels, compared to the S7 edge. AOD takes a massive toll on battery life, whereas running at lower-than-native resolution offfers virtually no benefits.
  • You can either have iris or facial recognition set for unlocking the device, but oddly not both. Iris is blazing fast, but requires some careful alignment. Facial recognition works pretty well, but does require good lighting.
  • Samsung's new 'Light and Line' icons look pretty cool. However, Samsung UX's default light color scheme is still a bit out-there.
  • Samsung really improved upon the default Nougat multi-window functionality. We particularly like the new Crop View that lets you select a portion of an app or web page and have it sit and function on its own. Edge panels could potentially be very useful, if set-up properly.
  • The S8+'s single bottom-firing loudspeaker falls in the Good category in our loudness test.
  • The Exynos 8895 chipset delivers a chart-topping performance in both CPU and GPU synthetic benchmarks. It even outpaces the Kirin 960 in multi-threaded jobs. The Mali-G71 MP20 GPU manages to impress even at the phone's native QHD+ resolution.
  • Audio output from the S8+ is perfectly clean and offers above average loudness.
  • The Dual Pixel camera offers marginal improvements over the S7 one in daylight stills. However, the new Multi-Frame Image Processing delivers noticeably cleaner and sharper low light photos. Video capture quality is also mostly unchanged over the previous generation, but the S8+ now offers EIS all the way up to 4K.
  • The 8MP selfie camera is a major upgrade in terms of image quality and comes with auto-focus. Samsung also included a big collection of filters, stickers and dynamic facial effects to raise your selfie game. Selective focus effect has limited application but does a decent job.

The Galaxy S8+ has plenty of polarizing potential, but that's not necessarily a bad thing - all the best-selling smartphones have their fair share of detractors and, if nothing else, debates do raise awareness. Samsung needs a box-office hit to prove that the Note7 was merely a blip and if early interest is anything to go by, it has scored a homerun with the Galaxy S8+.

But to put things in perspective, let's see what other options you have in the super premium segment right now. The Galaxy S8+ goes for about EUR 850 and while it can go lower with carrier subsidy there are no devices out there that it can really undercut. It never meant to anyway - it wants to win battles on merit rather than budget.

If you are eyeballing the S8+, chances are a bigger screen is what you're after. The Note would normally be your first choice but you'd need to go to the Note5, which is a year and a half old and can't really match the new flagship for camera or performance - even the display quality took a major step forward since. We'd certainly advise against going in that direction.

The LG G6 seems like a more natural alternative, offering another display-dominated front. The LG flagship has a secondary ultra-wide camera to go with that ultra-wide screen and costs a bit less. It comes with last year's Snapdragon 821 chipset though, and lacks the seamless design of the Galaxy S8+ .

LG G6
LG G6

The Xperia XZ Premium could potentially be the closest match for the S8+ once it finally hits the stores. It has the 4K panel and Snapdragon 835 to offer, but it's more than a month away and for all the flashiness of its mirror finish it's no match for the Samsung in terms of looks. The Motion Eye camera certainly has its limitations, but those 960fps videos are the kind of exclusive feature you'd expect from a flagship.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium
Sony Xperia XZ Premium

If you fancy a clean android with timely updates the Google's own Pixel XL is what you should be looking at. It can't match the Galaxy S8+ processing prowess, its body looks like something from a previous era and it's some EUR 100 more expensive. Hardly an easy recommendation here, the Google purebread.

Google Pixel XL
Google Pixel XL

A more feasible alternative comes from Huawei and its dual-curved Mate 9 Pro. It comes with last year's definition of slim bezels, but is a hot-looking device with two Leica-branded cameras on the back. It doesn't have the Galaxy S8+ polish in either design or software, but it can be a decent alternative if you can find a good deal on it.

Huawei Mate 9 Pro
Huawei Mate 9 Pro

Similarly, Samsung's own S7 edge has undergone a couple of price cuts and offers much of the same software experience (although running on last year's hardware) at a far more acceptable price point. It's not going to get the same envious looks from bystanders, it's only the value for money alternative.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

But there goes value-for-money when you're tempted by something beautiful, new and exciting. Okay, the Samsung Galaxy may be too novel and too ambitious for some, but this time around it's not just the next installment in the Galaxy S line. The Galaxy S8+ is following and defying tradition. It's called upon to take over from the Edge and get even for the Note. And if it does succeed in both, the competition will be either reaching for the panic button or flipping through their own sketchbooks for the next big thing.

Reader comments

  • Jess

The Best Phone I've Ever Got..Superb Camera...Nice Body Structure...And Specially The Battery...Hoping To Buy A Samsung S10+ ASAP. Keep Up...

  • zeeshan

samsing the best quality

  • octopaz

Note 8 good