Release Date: 4/21/2017
MSRP: $749.99 (S8), $849.99 (S8+)
Colors: Coral Blue, Maple Gold, Midnight Black, Orchid Grey, Arctic Silver
The Good: Beautiful new design, the best screen in the industry, new biometric features have been perfected and work seamlessly, new soft home key is a great new change, best camera on the market, fast new SoC means faster everything else,
The Bad: Bixby is nearly useless right now, still a mono speaker, ultra-widescreen aspect ratio will take time to adjust to in the industry
Well, this is a bit awkward. Here we are barely 6 months after the Note7 fiasco and we have the all new Galaxy S8 series that can be claimed as the final iPhone killer. The Note7 was the biggest cell phone disaster in history and yet somehow Samsung was able to slingshot around all of this over a corruption scandal, exploding batteries, and a well thought out, but failed recall. Relying on sales of the S7 and S6 phones, Samsung poured all the Note7 features into the S7 Edge and called it a day. It kept everyone busy while LG and other manufacturers stole the Note7 market. The Galaxy S8 isn’t just a new and slightly updated Galaxy phone, it’s practically all new in terms of design and hardware. There are more features than the iPhone could ever imagine, it’s sleeker, slimmer, and more robust than the iPhone 7 ever could be. Did Samsung really create such an amazing phone in the span between the S7 and Note7? Let’s find out.
Let’s start with the unboxing of this thing, it’s similar to any recent Samsung box with a SIM tool, instructions, charger, cable, and if you had the Note7, two converter plugs. When you hold the phone in your hand it feels heavy but so sleek and beautiful. The Midnight Black color is by far one of the most beautiful phones to ever be made. The entire phone is glass which is a far cry from the plastic backs and aluminum bodies from the Note 4 and beyond. The entire phone is pitch black, and I mean pure black. It looks like you’re looking into the sky on a clear dark night. Gone is the front physical button replaced by a pressure sensitive home button on the screen. The volume rocker is thinner and sleek along with the power button. The new Bixby button (later) is smaller than the power button and underneath the volume rocker which takes getting used to. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the back next to the camera as well as the heart rate sensor. Now I have to tell you that the fingerprint scanner feels natural as your finger is already resting in that area. LG phones have had their scanners on the back for awhile now so it’s nothing new. It’s just a small rectangle in the back and is more responsive than ever.
The camera is virtually flush with the phone this time and yet Samsung was able to make the phone more powerful. Long gone are the typical Galaxy designs of flat edges and round corners. The entire phone is a seamless piece of glass and the edges are perfectly rounded and blend in with the edge screen. When I have my phone sitting on a surface it looks like a beautiful piece of black onyx as the AMOLED display only turns on pixels it needs for the Always On Display (introduced in the S7). The phone is as dark as the screen is it’s a seamless color which is something that’s never been seen on a phone. Sadly, this illusion is broken on other colors of the phone thus why Midnight Black is my favorite color. The loss of a physical home button lack of front logo allows Samsung to create a much larger screen without making the phone larger in scope, it’s a smart design choice that Apple needs to get on board with.
The Galaxy S8 is the first phone to be powered by Snapdragon’s new 835 SoC that is an eight-core CPU which isn’t a first for a Samsung phone. 4 cores run at 2.4Ghz while the other 4 run at 1.9Ghz allowing for ultra-fast speeds. We get the latest GPU which is the Adreno 540 allowing for games that would cripple the Note7 to run at 60FPS. This is an ultra powerful SoC and that makes the Galaxy S8 the most powerful smartphone on the market. We still have 4GB of RAM but this is faster LPDDR4X RAM which allows for faster bus speeds and loading between apps. The only downside is that Samsung phones are stuck with 64GB of internal ROM, but the upside is this phone supports up to a 256GB micro SD card and has UFS 2.1 ROM which means lightning-fast read and write speeds.
First and foremost, Samsung is the front runner on security and new biometrics have been implemented. While we saw and iris scanner in the Note7 it was slow, buggy, and made the phone run hot. There was also the issue that it took forever to line up correctly. The new iris scanner is lightning fast, has a brighter red LED light that flashes, and doesn’t slow the phone down. In addition, there’s a new face recognition scanner that works wonders as nothing shows up on the screen to unlock your phone. When you try to unlock it the camera recognizes your face instantly and just unlocks as long as you are looking at your phone. It works well and Samsung seems to have gotten these biometric scanners down pat this time around.
Along with all these security features is an updated Samsung Pay which works like you would expect, a new edge screen and overall notification setup which is amazing and the least intrusive I have ever seen. Rather than a card that pops down on the drawer or on the screen, a small strip pops up with just the right amount of info. The entire edge of the phone has a rolling color that flashes and it looks so beautiful and amazing. Samsung seems to roll major gimmicks like palm mute, swipe to capture, and various other gestures as standard features and being more creative and having these gimmicks actually be useful for everyday use. There are still some very minor issues present, however, but they don’t really hold anything back. There is still only one mono speaker, but it does sound a little better than previous phones. With this phone being 18.5:9 aspect ratio you’re going to get some stretching in some games and videos. You can make the content full screen by choice, but ultra widescreen monitor owners will understand this problem. It’s very minor but still noticeable.
I hope that the biggest issue with Samsung phones being constant slowdown over time is eliminated with the more powerful SoC. I have yet to have any slowdown in the three days I have had this phone and with previous phones, it would start immediately. The last feature I want to discuss is Bixby as many people are confused as to what it is. This isn’t your average AI that you can use voice commands with. You can’t say “Hello Bixby” and have it search things for you, Google Assistant is still there for that. Bixby is used to exploring the phones actual features. It’s just an app that pops up that gives you a summary of your Samsung apps, cards and highlights, and that’s about it. It’s very basic and not too fancy, but it does do one thing that Google does not and that’s the Bixby assistant on the camera. Aim it at an object and Bixby can search on Amazon for the product or similar pictures online. I’m sure this will expand over time, but right now it will be useless for most people.
Overall, the Galaxy S8 is the finest phone I have ever used. Samsung continues to push the boundaries that Apple once did and refuses to do in today’s times. The smartphone business is a vicious one and you must constantly and always evolve or you will be left in the dust. I wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung steers toward their own Tizen OS at some point to finally have a proprietary OS that can be tailored to their own hardware like iOS.