The Samsung Galaxy S8 has just been unveiled in New York City, after months of widespread leaks and intense speculation. A lot is riding on Samsung’s new flagship, especially after the failure and recall of the Note 7. Does the Galaxy S8 live up to its hype? Let’s find out.
Galaxy S8 – new flagship, new features
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is the eighth flagship in Samsung’s well received and critically reviewed Galaxy S series.
Samsung’s Mobile Chief, DJ Koh, admitted that the past year was challenging and filled with lessons for Samsung (no doubt due to the Note 7 crisis), but reiterated that they have never stopped pushing the envelope in terms of design, power and innovativeness for its loyal consumers.
The product of their efforts comes in the form of a redesigned, sleeker, sexier flagship – the 5.8 inch Galaxy S8 and 6.2 inch S8+.
Although the screen sizes on the S8 and S8+ sound absolutely massive, fret not – Samsung’s new approach to screen design ensures that they can pack a larger screen in a still ergonomic, manageable form factor. Samsung calls this newly designed screen the “Infinity Display”. In curving the glass of the display around the edges of phone, Samsung achieves a very clean, almost bezel-less look on the S8 without having to increase the physical size of the phone. Samsung has done this before with the Galaxy S6 and S7 edge, but the implementation on the S8 seems to be more smooth – the curve appears less ‘sharp’, and more gradual. To further increase the available screen area, Samsung has gone with software buttons instead of physical buttons, and relocated it’s branding and fingerprint sensor to the back.
The screen to body ratio is pretty impressive, and the design looks really clean.
Samsung’s once again used its signature Quad HD+ Super AMOLED displays, which sport a resolution of 2960×1440 (570 ppi on the S8 and 529 ppi on the S8+). However, the phones will ship with a default resolution of Full HD+ in order to maximize battery life out of the box. The device also supports the Mobile HDR10 standard by the UHD alliance, which enables consumers to watch higher quality, vibrant content on platforms which support it – such as Amazon Prime Video.
So far, it looks pretty impressive – but we’ll reserve our full judgement to when we see it ourselves in person. We hope that Samsung’s used stronger glass this time round, as it’s curved displays and all-glass body have always seemed really fragile to us, without a protective case on.
Samsung has once again used a Dual Pixel 12MP AF camera. The camera features a F1.7 Aperture and OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), but doesn’t feature anything outstanding like the rumored 1000fps slow-mo shooting mode.
Although the megapixel count has stalled at 12MP, Samsung has increased photo quality on the S8. They have improved upon the Dual Pixel camera found in the S7 and Note 7 series, and implemented a new multi frame image processor technology – which uses multiple pictures taken by the camera to reduce noise and increase brightness in all shots taken. As for the front camera, the S8 sports a 8MP AF shooter, with a F1.7 Aperture and 80 degree field of view.
Audiophiles will be pleased to hear that the Galaxy S8 comes with AKG branded earphones called Pure Sound by AKG, which use the standard 3.5mm headphone jack standard and feature a durable, tangle-free braided bottom section. According to Samsung, these earphones are premium quality – they are worth USD$99 and apparently offer much better sound quality that most entry level in-ears in the market today. AKG will also be selling these separately, which is a good indication of the confidence they have in their audio.
As for the Galaxy S8’s on-board audio, music lovers will be glad to know that Samsung has included ultra high quality audio playback with a digital to analog converter supporting UHQ 32-bit & DSD – with a PCM: Up to 32 bits and DSD64/128. Bluetooth split audio is also available – the S8 can connect to two Bluetooth audio devices and play audio through both devices simultaneously.
OS, security and software
The S8 runs Android 7.0 with a very interesting set of custom additions.
The phone now supports more biometric authentication methods with facial recognition and iris scanning. The traditional fingerprint sensor, passcode, PIN and pattern locks are still present as well. Along with Samsung Pay comes Samsung Pass – a new software standard which allows users to login to native and third party applications, such as banking apps, websites and e-commerce platforms, with the biometric authentication methods available on the S8. Samsung’s KNOX security is also available on the S8, so users can have peace of mind when using the phone for work.
Samsung Health is also present to help users track their fitness statistics, such as their steps or calories burnt. This year, they’ve partnered with Amwell to offer consumers an avenue to talk to real-life experts and doctors about their fitness – but this feature will only be available in Korea, China and the US at launch.
Also featured is Samsung’s new virtual assistant, Bixby. Like Google’s Assistant, Bixby understands context, and hopes to serve its user useful information when he or she needs it, throughout the day. It will contextually display information such as transport details, articles from websites, stocks and more at appropriate times – such as notifying you of your steps in Samsung health when you reach home after a day’s work. You can also control Samsung’s smart home IoT devices through Bixby.
We’re curious to know if Bixby is only exclusive to Samsung, and if its implementation works better than Google Now and Siri. One of the biggest problems with virtual assistants across different ecosystems is the inability to work with third party apps well. We hope that Bixby solves that issue of fragmentation and incompatibility, and we’ll be looking more closely at it and other artificial intelligence assistants in the future.
Processor, RAM and Storage
We were spot on in our initial rumor roundup – the Samsung Galaxy S8 will run the Octa-core Exynos 8895 processor, clocked at 2.3GHz + 1.7GHz, while the S8+ gets a slightly faster one at 2.35GHz + 1.9GHz. We speculate that this extra boost is to help drive the larger display on the S8+ more effectively. US models will sport the Snapdragon 835 in order to cater to users on CDMA. Although the processors are from different manufacturers, they should offer comparable power. The enhanced processor will mean better battery efficiency and marginally higher processing speeds as compared to the previous generation – Samsung promises a 10% more faster GPU and 50% more capable GPU as compared to the S7. Both phones feature 4GB of RAM and 64GB of fast UFS 2.1 internal storage with MicroSD support.
The S8 will support a variety of LTE bands. To cater to each market, two variants of the S8 will be shipped – a single SIM variant, and a dual SIM version, which supports two Nano SIMs or one Nano Sim and MicroSD card. Here in Singapore, we usually receive the dual-sim versions of the flagships.
The S8 has a suite of other connectivity options, supporting Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz),VHT80 MU-MIMO,1024QAM, NFC ANT+, and a plethora of location methods (GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou, varies by region.) Bluetooth has been upgraded to v 5.0 (LE up to 2Mbps) as well.
The phone also sports a 3.5mm headphone jack and USB Type-C port. Unfortunately, we can’t confirm at the moment if this is Type-C at the slower USB 2.0 speeds or at the much faster 3.1 standard.
Closing thoughts on the Galaxy S8
This looks like a fantastic phone on paper, and is definitely one of the top contenders for the best smartphone of 2017. We are very impressed with the look of the infinity display, and applaud Samsung’s decision to relocate branding and buttons for a better user experience. Premium audio is also a big plus, and we love that AKG earphones are now included in the box.
However, the one thing that we’re not really sure about is the 3000mAH and 3500mAH battery. It takes a great deal of juice to power the massive 5.8 and 6.2 inch screens on the phones, not to mention the rest of the power-hungry components such as the processor and camera. Previous Samsung phones have achieved an average of 3-4 hours of screen on time on 10 hours of use – good enough for one day. Increasing the size of the screen without increasing battery capacity could mean that the S8 might have less battery life than we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s flagships. However, we’ll give this the benefit of the doubt for now as software optimizations and new hardware could help improve the energy efficiency of this phone.
Another issue is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. The sensor is placed right beside the camera lens, which is very high up and slightly difficult to reach. Apparently, the odd placement has been getting on the nerves of many reviewers. We’ve also spotted some people accidentally placing their fingers on the camera lens as well, leading to unintentional fingerprint smudges on the camera lens. However, it is prudent to note that users might not need to use the fingerprint sensor that much after all, since facial recognition and iris scanning seem like much more convenient authentication options.
Despite our doubts on the battery and some ergonomic design choices, we must say that the S8 does live up to it’s hype.We think that it will be a very strong contender in the premium smartphone market and it can hold it’s own against the likes of the LG G6 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium for sure. However, time will tell if this phone will be enough to make up for Samsung’s Note 7 catastrophe.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be available starting April 21st. Unfortunately, there is no word yet on the price in Singapore.
New accessories will be launched alongside the S8, including the 2017 Gear 360, Gear VR and Bluetooth controller, as well as a variety of cases, power banks, and wireless chargers. We’ll take a closer look at these new offerings once Samsung has confirmed the local availability and prices – but in the meantime, stay tuned to Thirty Seven Tech for the latest tech news and insights.
|Galaxy S8||Galaxy S8+||Benefits|
|SOC||Exynos 8895 / Qualcomm 835 processor
|27% faster, 40% less energy consumption compared to previous generation|
|Storage||64GB UFS 2.1 Internal Storage
MicroSD card support (Dual Sim Version)
|Optics||12MP Dual Pixel main camera
8MP Front facing camera
Iris Scanner and Facial Recgonition
|Better front-facing camera|
|Display||5.8” QHD+ SAMOLED||6.2” QHD+ SAMOLED||Bigger, higher resolution screens|
|Connectivity||2×2 802.11ac / 802.11ad WiFi
USB Type C + DeX Docking function
|Much faster download and bluetooth, and wired transfer speeds over type C
Use phone like a PC with an external monitor
|OS||Android 7.0/7.1 with KNOX, Samsung Pass, and Bixby||Secure OS, easier multitasking, new virtual assistant|
|Battery||3000mAH||3500mAH||Fast charging, doesn’t explode (hopefully)|
|Body||IP68 Dust and Water Resistant|
|Price||To be confirmed||To be confirmed|