Editor’s note 25/02/18:Samsung has just unveiled its next-generation Galaxy S9+ flagship. We’re expecting the Galaxy S8+ to get a price drop shortly and will be re-reviewing the phone in the context of the current market. Check back later for our updated verdict.
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ has been on shelves for close to a year, but is it still a great pick?
If you’re yet to decide between the Samsung Galaxy S8 or the Galaxy S8+, then there’s only one thing you need consider: how big do you want your phone?
For most people, the smaller 5.5-inch S8 will be best. It’s more manageable in one hand, and will comfortably fit in your pocket. But if you’re accustomed to larger handsets such as the iPhone 8 Plus or Google Pixel 2 XLthen I’d suggest opting for the S8+.
It’s a masterclass in engineering and performance, and comfortably the finest big smartphone you can buy right now.
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is stunning from every angle. It’s easily the slickest Android phone I’ve ever held, and makes the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus feel old-fashioned in comparison. It’s futuristic – but it doesn’t sacrifice usability for style.
The 6.2-inch screen size sounds huge, especially since the majority of larger handsets stick to screen sizes between 5.5 and 5.7 inches. The last flagship phone I can remember to sport a 6-inch display was the Motorola-built Nexus 6 – and that was a nightmare to use. But it’s a different story here. This is a big-screened phone that feels great, and credit has to be given to Samsung for crafting a phone that feels this good.
The curved front and back help it to nestle in your hand, and the narrow design means your palm isn’t stretched quite so much as it is when holding an iPhone 7 Plus. It’s actually about the size as an iPhone 7 Plus – although that has only a 5.5-inch display – and it’s shorter than the hulking Sony Xperia XZ Premium.
As a result of the tall screen, I’ve found myself struggling to move my thumb comfortably from the bottom to the top of the display in a single motion, leading to me gripping the device with two hands. However, the biggest issue with the size is the placement of the fingerprint scanner. In a move that screams of running out of time to embed it directly into the display, the S8+ sensor is tiny and crammed next to the camera. It’s hard enough to reach on the smaller S8, but here it’s virtually impossible without dislocating your thumb.
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Along the sides of the device sit your typical volume rocker and standby buttons, but they’ve been joined by a dedicated Bixby key for quick access to Samsung’s new voice assistant. Considering how limited Bixby is, it seems a waste of space giving it its own button. Thankfully, you can easily disregard it – unless you accidentally hit it when you’re trying to lower the volume. There’s a SIM and microSD card slot along the top of the phone, and a headphone jack and mono-speaker flanking the USB Type-C port on the bottom.
Just like the S7, the S8+ is IP68 rated for water-resistance and can be submerged in 1m of water for about 30 minutes. Unlike the S7, however, Samsung has ditched those hardware buttons and gone virtual. The home button even features a haptic response and can be accessed from anywhere by just pushing down on the lower portion of the display.
My review unit is the ‘Midnight Black’ option, and it’s a deep black all over, with slightly shiny sides that blend into the display. The phone feels like one complete piece, with the glass, screen and metal all combining seamlessly.
The S8+ is available in an equally attractive ‘Orchid Grey’ option, too, which is light grey with a hint of blue and a black front. I’m glad to see Samsung ditch the white front completely, especially since it would have detracted from the “infinity” look it’s trying to achieve.
A word of warning: it would be wise to invest in a case for the Galaxy S8+. Even though there’s Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and back, this is a delicate phone and I can’t imagine that things will end well if you drop it on a hard surface. I’ve been using the official Alcantara case and it’s suitably slim, plus it improves accessibility of the fingerprint sensor by separating it from the camera.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ – Screen
The display is arguably the most striking part of the Galaxy S8+, and it’s the feature that really sets this device apart from the competition. In my review of the Galaxy S8, I said the handset made me feel excited by phones again – and that’s mostly down to the display.
There’s no Edge variation this year, and that’s because both the S8 and S8+ sport those eye-catching curved sides. They’re not as steep as before, though, and as such are more of a design trait than a practical feature. If you were put off by the edges on the S7 Edge, don’t let that sway you here.
Samsung has also further optimised its software to do a better job at rejecting accidental touches along those edge portions of the handset, something that was needed.
Also striking is how the display is pushed to almost each corner of the device. There’s no chunky bezel and this results in a big change to the aspect ratio. Most phones use the typical 16:9 aspect ratio, but the S8+ pushes that to 18.5:9. This gives the screen a taller look, and a narrower feel.
If you’ve ever used a Samsung flagship before then you’ll know they always have excellent displays, and the S8+ is the best yet. It’s an AMOLED panel, with a resolution of 2960 x 1440, and it’s the only phone so far to have been ‘Mobile HDR Premium’ certified by the same UHD Alliance that will certify HDR TVs. HDR (high dynamic range) is a big step up for televisions, offering better contrast and a brighter picture – and while it’s great to see it trickle down to phones, neither Netflix or Amazon Prime have updated their apps to support it yet.
As with any AMOLED panel, the best attribute is the colour reproduction. It will display the deepest black and brighter shades such as red and green are gloriously vivid without being oversaturated. Like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the Galaxy S8 can display the entire DCI-P3 cinema-grade colour gamut – and, in certain cases, it will go beyond 1000-nits of brightness.
Interestingly, out of the box the phone defaults to 1080p rather than 1440p. I assume this is to save battery, but it looks good nonetheless. Although, if you’re happy spending £700+ on a phone then I’m going to assume that you’ll want to get the most out of it. You can hop into Settings to up that resolution.
The screen is a joy to use outdoors as a result of that impressive brightness, and even though the curved edges do reflect the sun a little more than would be the case with a flat screen, it certainly isn’t something I notice regularly.