Samsung Galaxy S8 Review: Android Excellence In Performance And Design

Galaxy S8 And Galaxy S8+ Design And Build Quality

If there were two words that come to mind with respect to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, they would be "refined" and "polished." Samsung seemingly has the curved display and unibody design approach of the Galaxy series perfected and the effect is so high-gloss, and so literally polished (not just figuratively), that the S8 series feels like a one contiguous, solid piece of slick, high-density, high-tensile strength glass. And in reality, that's almost exactly what it is; both the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are sheathed on the front and back of the devices completely with Gorilla Glass 5.
Galaxy S8 Jet Black Front
Galaxy S8 Plus back Jet Black Back
A full 80 percent of the front of the device is screen area, leaving only very thin top and bottom bezels, primarily for the camera array and ear piece at the top, then balancing the design on the bottom. Incidentally, up there is also an iris scanner that, in conjunction with the front-facing camera, offers both facial recognition and retina scan security. Also on the bottom of the display are on-screen Home, Back and Recent App buttons. The Home button is pressure sensitive and actually resides underneath the glass. In some apps these buttons are translucent, while in others they're opaque, but the implementation looks clean and feels efficient in function. On the right edge is a standard power and screen lock button, while on bottom you'll find a single speaker port, mic port, USB Type-C port, and yes, that groovy 3.5mm, old-school headphone jack that no one really wants to see go away any time too soon (unless someone figures out how to deliver Bluetooth earbuds with truly decent sound quality and exceptionally long battery life). 
Galaxy S8 Jet Black Back
On the left edge of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ you'll find a volume rocker and the Bixby button that conjures up the not quite ready for prime-time AI assistant that Samsung is still readying and notes will "evolve over time." More on this a little later.  Regardless, you've probably also noticed that, at least with the Midnight black variant, the edge material of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ also has a high polished jet-black finish that provides no contrast against the rest of the device. This is personal preference but we tend to prefer the contrast of some of the other color combinations, like Orchid Gray, Coral Blue and Arctic Silver. Counter balanced against the front display and thin black bezels, the phones just pop more in our opinion when there is some additional contrast. That said, if you prefer the arrest-me dark tinted windows, low rider look, Midnight is definitely your color option. 
Galaxy S8 And S8 Plus backs top

Galaxy S8 And S8 Plusbacks bottom
The other thing to note is that both of these smartphones, except for their physical dimensions, are virtually identical. That is to say that the Galaxy S8 is pretty much just a "mini me" version of the Galaxy S8+, although with a 5.8-inch display, you can hardly call the Galaxy S8 (standard) "mini." In fact, it's impressive how much screen real estate Samsung fit in that device in such a small overall footprint.

Audio Subsystem And Sound Quality

Incidentally, the speaker port on the bottom offers a fair amount of volume, but is noticeably tinnier than some flagships on the market, with very little low-end response. Then again, except for speakerphone calls, high quality built-in smartphone speakers aren't really high on the checkbox item list these days. 
Galaxy S8 DAC
Conversely, when it comes to earbud or headphone fidelity, the Galaxy S8 series is now equipped with 32-bit DACs (Digital To Analog Converters). The result, similar to the LG V20's 32-bit DAC technology, is slightly better acoustic range response and reproduction. With quality source material and decent earbuds or headphones, the difference in audio quality is appreciable. The sound field is slightly more open and lows tend to be tighter though every bit as present. Overall sound quality, with the Galaxy S8 versus the Galaxy S7, is slightly more crisp and less muddy with respect to both high end low-end response.

Galaxy S8 And Galaxy S8+ Camera Hardware And Fingerprint Reader

Samsung Galaxy S8 Rear Camera
And of course, in addition to its 8MP auto-focusing f1.7 wider-angle selfie cam on the front bezel, both the Galaxy S8s sport 12.2MP F1.7 Dual-Pixel cameras on the back that are similar to the Galaxy S7 line in that they offer the same phase-detection auto-focus. However, our devices specifically came equipped with Sony IMX333 sensors, a step-up from the Galaxy S7's IMX260 in our review from last year. While the optics are similar to last year's model, image capture results should be improved and we're also getting new shot modes now with the S8 line, including RAW format right from the IMX333. More on this later. Also back here is the Galaxy S8/S8+'s fingerprint reader, which is off-center of the device, to one side of the camera lens. This location isn't ideal, though with the GS8 it's not a problem as it's easily within reach and locatable. With the Galaxy S8+ it's more of an issue. It's a little further out of reach and will take some getting used to for some people. I personally had no problem with it, but again, I have relatively larger-than-most hands. On the flip side, this system, once your fingerprints are registered, works lighting fast.

Galaxy S8 And Galaxy S8+ - Wide Aspect Super AMOLED Prowess

battle of the bezels
Battle of The Bezels - Left to right: Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6, Google Pixel XL

Finally, perhaps one of the more prominent features of the new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ -- beyond their potent Snapdragon 835 processing engines that we'll be getting to in the benchmarks shortly -- are their curved, thin-bezel, wide-aspect Infinity displays. Indeed, the display takes up nearly the entire front face of the phone, even more so than the new LG G6, and once you've seen a sleek, near-bezelless smartphone design like this (similar to laptops), it's hard to unsee it. Though it's a great device in its own right, and a very capable smartphone with a fantastic camera, the Google Pixel XL looks -- dare we say -- a bit slovenly what with all that unsightly bezel. 

display viewing angles
Nothing beats OLED's brightness, pop and viewing angles...

Then there's the brightness, saturation (we won't say "gobs" don't worry), high contrast and wide viewing angles of OLED and Samsung's Super AMOLED technology is currently tops in our book. Here you can see where the LG G6 falls a bit flat, but the Samsung GS8's and Google Pixel XL's AMOLED displays maintain composure, brightness and viewability at more extreme angles. 

Galaxy S8 Movie Watching
How about a little Baby Groot?

Then there's the media side of the equation. When you consider most content isn't shot these days in 18.5x9 or essentially 2 to 1 format, rather following the 16:9 aspect ratio, you might think, viewing most video content you'll have to deal with the letterbox in addition to side bars on either end of the screen. Fortunately, Samsung offers tools for most video apps pre-loaded on the device, such that stretching and filling the display's full aspect is as simple as a quick tap when prompted. The results here in the Guardians of The Galaxy 2 trailer speak for themselves, kind of like Baby Groot does. 
Galaxy S8 Plus back in hand
Galaxy S8 Plus in Lady Hand
Just be aware that the Galaxy S8+, though about as efficient as we may ever see in terms of display to body ratio, with a 6.2-inch display, is still a large device. For men, one-handed operation is not a problem, and perhaps even for most ladies because of its taller, elongated design. However canvassing that display vertically may be challenging in spots for those with more dainty digits. If that's the case, you'll likely have no issues with the Galaxy S8 and with its 5.8-inches of Super AMOLED screen at your disposal, you'll hardly be pixel real estate-challenged. 

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