Samsung Galaxy S8


That the last 6 months have been long for Samsung. First with the setbacks of Galaxy Note 7 and then months of rumors about its next flagship, the aptly named Galaxy S8. Smartphone oh so important to restore the firm’s image, slightly blackened by the flames of Note 7. After long advertising campaigns to reassure the crowds about the safety of its products and the reliability of its tests, it was finally on March 29th that the brand presented its new flagship… which had already been widely rumoured.

It’s quite simple, almost everything was known on the smartphone, starting with the famous on-board screen, the main new feature of this 2017 Galaxy S vintage. A novelty that has a significant impact on the overall design of the device.

As has been the case for the third consecutive year, Samsung offers two terminals that differ in screen size: 5.8 and 6.2 inches for the Galaxy S8+, a name not unlike the one used in 2015 with the Galaxy S6 Edge+, an enlarged version of the GS6 Edge. Apart from this difference in size, the terminals are identical except for a few details.


 

So the normal Galaxy S8 is the one to look at first. Since this S8 is a premium smartphone, it is obviously priced premium. Especially since its main novelty is eye-catching and gives a feeling of renewal that Samsung can charge without too much trouble. The Galaxy S8 will cost you 809 euros, more expensive than an iPhone 7 (but with 64 GB of storage compared to 32 at Apple). After the surprise of the screen, what is the Galaxy S8 worth? Answer in this test.

Beautiful borderless

The Galaxy S8’s (almost) edge-to-edge screen has forced Samsung to change its design, but the firm still retains many of the aesthetic codes initiated with the Galaxy S6. We thus find this glass at the back, which gives advantageous reflections to the object. The model we received for testing features the new Orchid Grey colour, a new colour that intersperses between the classic black and light grey. The shade has slightly mauve highlights, but it is actually more of a dark grey. The polished metal edges are also a bit purple. The result is quite pleasing to the eye. The logic is the same for the other colours, the black version has black edges and the grey version retains the natural colour of the polished metal.

Undeniably successful aesthetically, the Galaxy S8 is likely to be more criticized for the location of its fingerprint sensor to the right of the (not prominent) photo sensor The back is not a very convenient location, but it is also quite difficult to find and does not fall naturally under the fingertips. This is an ergonomic problem that is fortunately counterbalanced by other methods of unlocking, including facial and iris recognition.

Still in terms of ergonomics, there is a certain tendency to slip hands. During our big week of daily use, we have several times been able to catch it in extremis from a fall that could have caused damage, even though the product is generally solid as shown in our Crash Test. Fortunately, the width of the phone is limited, for a better hand.

 

The front end is unsurprisingly flawless with this screen that occupies almost the entire surface. Only two small black stripes are visible, top and bottom. There is no room for buttons, so you will have to interact via softkeys. At least one physical button is always preferable, but a choice has to be made. To give a physical feedback, Samsung has nevertheless provided a small vibration when you press the Home button strongly, a bit like a Force Touch Trackpad on the latest MacBook. It’s surprising, though, that that’s all this technology is used for. Samsung offers no interaction based on this pressure sensitivity unlike the iPhone 6S/7. Only this place is sensitive to it. It’s a shame we didn’t go further.

At 8 mm thick, the S8 is not among the thinnest phones on the market. However, the lateral curvatures of the screen and the rear panel help to visually and manually limit this slight stoutness. Paradoxically, the G6, although 0.1 mm thinner, seems much more impastoed. Beautiful control of Samsung on the weight with 155 grams, little for this screen diagonal.


 

So, when you take it out of the box, the S8 undeniably delivers a wow effect. For the second time this year after the G6, which, as we said above, is still less aesthetically refined than Samsung’s terminal.

Perfect display, a format that imposes compromises

The main course of this S8 is therefore the screen. It covers most of the front end, and as we’ve seen above, it has governed the aesthetics of the smartphone, for the better. This is a little less the case in use, because Samsung does not actually exploit this monumental screen. Worse still, it is not free of inconvenience.

Before talking about usage, Samsung uses on its S8 a 5.8-inch Super AMOLED screen with a maximum definition of 2960 x 1440, aka WQHD+. This gives us a resolution of 567 ppi. This is obviously much more than necessary for an accurate display. This resolution can be adjusted to have FHD+ (2220×1080) either 425 ppi, or HD+ 1480 x 720 or 283 ppi. If the difference between WQHD+ and FHD+ is imperceptible, the HD+ will create a slight blurring of the elements. We will therefore advise the FHD+, which is the best compromise, because increasing the resolution will have an impact on the autonomy, we will see later.


 

We know the quality of Samsung’s screens, after a Galaxy S6 of rarely seen quality, then an S7 slightly below, the S8 returns to the quality of the S6. It’s very simple, the screen is almost flawless, both on the blacks (of course) and the accuracy of the colors. Some users have reported a tendency for the screen to shoot red, we found nothing on the Galaxy S8 and S8+ that we received in test. As usual, Samsung offers several color rendering modes; as usual the Basic mode is to be preferred for those who want the most neutral rendering.

But what does this oversized screen bring to use? The main advantage of this long screen is that it improves the reading comfort of web pages and various applications displayed vertically (mail, twitter etc.). On the other hand, the bastard 18.5/9 format is less suitable for video playback and games. These last two contents being generally intended for 16:9 screens (or 21:9 for films with a cinema ratio), a choice will have to be made. If you hold your phone in landscape mode, you will have either black stripes on the sides or trimmed ends of the screen. Not always ideal, as it may hide some buttons, but it is difficult to do otherwise while waiting for developers to optimize their applications for this format, if it becomes widespread.


 

Full-screen mode may create some display bugs (below right, part of the interface is cropped)

 

More power

Behind the screen is an Exynos 8895 processor in the European version. It is an eight-core 10nm etched chip, clocked at 2.3 GHz for the four fastest cores. It is supported by 4 GB of RAM. Graphics calculations are performed on a Mali-G71 GPU. Unsurprisingly, the phone is particularly fast. No matter what resolution is used, it can handle anything without flinching. The opposite would have been amazing. No worries about that.

Samsung is also friendly enough to integrate 64GB of storage into its smartphone. This is the only option you will have, however, no 128 or 256 GB version. Since it is possible to extend storage via CarteSD, the lack of an alternative is less of a hindrance than it would be at Apple for example. It is also always appreciated that the phone is IP68 certified, which will protect it from accidental falls into the water. It’s always a plus.


 

As far as the fingerprint sensor is concerned, when you can put your finger on it, it works fine. Unfortunately for him, it’s so badly misplaced that it won’t be used often. The iris scanner, inherited from Note 7, is a bit more practical, but a bit slow. The unlocking mode to be preferred is, in our opinion, facial recognition (yes, you can relatively deceive it with a – good – photo of yourself), but it is the fastest and most transparent of the three. On the other hand, it works very badly when there is little light, the brightness of the screen does not allow the phone to identify you.

Autonomous… by making concessions

At first glance, we can think that such a screen is more energy consuming, and will therefore have an impact on the autonomy of the smartphone. This is especially true since Samsung uses a 3,000 mAh battery, as much as on the Galaxy S7, but to power a 0.7 inch larger slab.

The result is half-tone and will actually depend on your smartphone settings. We first used the smartphone without worrying about Battery Life with a variety of consumer options enabled, including WQHD+ definition, high brightness and an always-on display provided. Under these conditions, we can count on one day’s autonomy, not much more. That’s pretty low, in the low range of what’s on the market.


 

On the other hand, by lowering the resolution at the FHD+, and with automatically adjusted brightness, the autonomy will be more in line with market standards, or even better, a day and a half to two days of autonomy for the most sober. It is therefore a positive assessment, even if some concessions have to be made, which however, have little impact on the quality of the image.

Dex and Bixby

The other novelty of Galaxy S8 is its compatibility with DeX, a dock that will allow the smartphone to transform into a mini PC offering an interface optimized for a computer screen and above all allowing true multitasking. Well, almost. If it is indeed possible to display several windows side by side, not all of them will be refreshed in the background except for applications that are already scheduled to do so, such as YouTube for example. On the other hand, your games, like Hearthstone, or your applications like Twitter, will not be. As this is primarily intended for professional use, it is not fundamentally inconvenient, as the office suite applications do not need to run in the background. Finally, when browsing the web, some sites will be displayed in mobile versions. 

Still, Samsung is to be congratulated for this feature, which is really well done for a first try. However, it will be offered at a premium price since the Dock Dex will be charged €149. On the dock you have an HDMI socket, two USB ports for connecting mouse and keyboard and one and one RJ45 socket. It also acts as a charging station, which makes sense since the phone will be positioned on a USB-C connector.

The other innovation is obviously Bixby. Sort of Google Assistant made in Samsung that we talked about at length before the release of the smartphone. Well, in practice, this makes it possible to centralize various daily information (music played, agenda, steps taken, Twitter trending topics, news, etc.). Bixby is also a voice assistant and finally a feature similar to Google Goggle: photographing an object to find it on the internet.

In practice you can forget about these last two features: the voice assistant is currently unavailable, and Bixby Vision works erratically, to put it mildly. This leaves us with the daily information, the only real interest of the thing which, we will have understood it, is in the dispensable state.

More generally on the OS it should be noted that the S8 is delivered under Android 7 Nougat, behind the TouchWiz overlay which has been refreshed for the occasion, notably with the use of new icons and new gestures: like the upward sweep to display all applications, it is a direct inheritance of the latest version of Android. TouchWiz having always been a bit behind, each renewal is good to take.


 

Caught in photo

For the photo, it is necessary to know that Samsung uses in the S8 strictly the same sensor as in the S7: 12.2 mpx with photosites of 1.5 µm, OIS, aperture at f/1.7. The performances are therefore logically very similar. Samsung put everything on the screen, and that’s a shame.

For if the S7 was in 2016 among the best photophones on the market, the iPhone 7 and the LG G6 have been under the bridge since then. Resting on its laurels, the brand has therefore fallen behind. We devoted a dedicated article to comparing the three smartphones, and unfortunately, the S8 often lags behind.

We’ll give you an example below, but we strongly advise you to read our photo comparison between Galaxy S8, LG G6 and iPhone 7 Plus to get a better idea.

Before concluding, let’s specify that Samsung delivers with its smartphone AKG in-ear earphones with a perfectly satisfactory rendering for a pair delivered in the box. On the other hand, you must be careful to choose an earmold that fits your size, otherwise you will find yourself with no bass at all.

Under the spell

So this is the Galaxy S8. It is undeniable, the machine is perfectly up to expectations on what makes its salt: the screen. Unfortunately, and it’s a bit of a shame, LG hit slightly earlier, limiting the surprise effect a bit. Still, it is nice to see two new attempts appearing on the market purring, with the advantage for Samsung and its design more worked out than at LG.

As for the rest, the S8 is a high-end smartphone that you won’t find fault with almost anywhere. The performance is there, the autonomy too (well almost) and DeX is an interesting proposition

Two stumbling blocks for this S8, then: Bixby is frankly dispensable, Google Assistant would do the job just as well, if not better, and for lack of innovation in photography, it was caught up by competition from Apple and LG. Too bad. Still, it’s hard not to be seduced by the S8, which is definitely among the smartphones of choice for 2017.

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