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Samsung Galaxy S8 UK Review: The best Android phone yet

Written by  Sep 21, 2017

The Samsung Galaxy S8 represents the pinnacle of smartphone technology today. It’s beautiful, fast, has a seriously good camera, a fantastic display and has loads of extra features. Ii could well be the best smartphone ever made.

Introduction

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a 5.8" flagship smartphone, which has a stunning design, blistering Snapdragon 835 processor, an incredible display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio and an impressive camera make it the best Android phone today.

It is, however, let down by its battery life, which is a slightly lower than the Galaxy S7 - and sure is expensive. Still, but if you're looking for the best Android phone on the market, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is it.


Design

There will be no Samsung Galaxy S8 Edge this year, as this phone comes with curved edges already and they have done quite a job of it.

The result is the best-looking phone on the market. Samsung has created an 18.5:9 “Infinity Display” that looks like no other. The front of the phone is 100% glass, with the slimmest of bezels nestled above and below, resulting in an impressively high screen to body ratio of 84%, the best yet from Samsung.

samsung galaxy s8 device 6

This phone feels easy to hold, lightweight, smooth and doesn't feel too big. However it is tall, which causes some problems during use. Hold the phone in your hand as if you want to unlock it using the rear fingerprint sensor and you’ll struggle to reach the home button. Grasp the device so you can reach the home button, however, and icons at the top of the screen become unreachable withour readjusting your grip.

There is, at least, a 3.5mm headphone jack here, which is great to see despite many rivals removing it. To take advantage of this, Samsung is also including a smart pair of AKG earphones in the box, delivering music with a clean, clear and balanced sound.

They're comfortable, didn't sound distorted at high volumes and, a worthy addition to the Samsung package. They are much better than non-branded earphones supplied by it's rivals and maybe the only headphones you will need.

See also: Google Pixel 2 XL UK Review: A phone worth some serious thought

Display

  • Size: 5.8"
  • Pixels: 1,440 x 2,960 pixels (570ppi)
  • Super AMOLED
  • Always-on display

The screen on the S8 is awesome, as you’d expect of a Samsung Super AMOLED unit. Colours are bright and vivid, and it’s readable in all light conditions. In everyday use in the browser, I recorded a very impressive peak brightness of 569cd/m2 on a fully white screen with auto-brightness enabled, and 415cd/m2 with auto brightness disengaged; sRGB coverage is an impressive 99.9%; and contrast, since it’s an AMOLED panel, is spot on.

Perhaps more significant is that it’s the only mobile phone screen currently that’s been certified by the UHD Alliance to the Mobile HDR Premium standard. That means, like a high-end TV, it’s capable of playing back HDR video content, meaning brighter highlights – up to 1,000cd/m2, according to DisplayMate – for a superior quality image.

Samsung-Galaxy-S8-1

The screen is curved along both long edges and this brings into play similar screen functions to previous Samsung Edge phones. Swipe a finger in from the right and you can access shortcuts to your favourite apps and contacts, plus various other Edge screen apps.

Camera

The camera is exactly the same as the S7 – at least the specifications are. Surprisingly, Samsung has continued with the same 12-megapixel rear camera complete with f/1.7 aperture, dual-pixel phase-detect autofocus and optical image stabilisation.

But the chipset has been slightly improved in the form of multi-shot image processing. Every time you press the shutter button, the camera captures three frames, merging them together to form the sharpest image possible.

In terms of quality, there is a difference. In good light outdoors, noise handling sees as a slight improvement, there's a tiny bit of extra contrast at the pixel level resulting in crisper-looking shots, and a refinement in colour reproduction. But the difference is minimal.

s7 s8 photos

The Samsung Galaxy S8's shot is on the right here, and shows better control over noise and better brighter details are captured on the S8's

Security

There are six secure ways to unlock the S8:

  • Fingerprint
  • Facial recognition
  • Iris scanner
  • Pattern
  • PIN
  • Smart Lock (unlocks at trusted locations)

The facial-recognition part is new, although Samsung has also repositioned its fingerprint reader due to lack of space on the front of the phone, and it also says that it’s improved the accuracy of its iris-recognition system too.

In all honesty, none of the Samsung’s biometric unlocking schemes are particularly easy to use. The problem is that you have to manipulate yourself to fit their requirements, which is not ideal.

See also: HTC 10 UK Review: Is it still worth buying?

Samsung-Galaxy-S8-2019-w782

As an example of this, when the S8 is sat on a table facing upwards, none of these options can be actioned. You need to hold the device up and bring it to eye level for the iris scanner to kick in, or lift the phone and point the selfie camera towards your face. (Note, you can’t use both the iris scanner and new face recognition interchangeably; so you have a choice to make.)

The fingerprint sensor is located on the rear of the phone, so you have to pick up the device to use that and, the fingerprint sensor is located on one side of the camera, which makes it easy to smear the lens with your finger which will happen, it is an oversight by Samsung in real world usage.

Battery and charging

The Samsung battery life is a little disappointing as we were expecting improvements that haven't happened, the battery performance of the S8 is actually less effective than the the S7 and S7 Edge.

In our battery test – playing a looped video with the screen set to 170cd/m2 brightness in flight mode – it lasted 16hrs 40mins. While that’s still impressive, it’s nearly an hour worse than the Samsung Galaxy S7 (17hrs 35mins) and over two hours short of the S7 Edge (18hrs 42mins).

samsung-galaxy-s8

The Galaxy S8 charger is fast. It charged the phone from 0% to 36% in 30 mins, which is pretty good, and goes some way towards feeling a little let down by the battery life.

Back in mid-resolution mode, and using the S8 without any battery-saving modes selected, I found that normal use would see the level dip to around 30% by early evening. Turn on battery-saving mode to “MID” level and this figure rises by about 15%. But this comes at a price: reducing screen brightness by 10%, capping CPU speed, disabling background network use and disabling the handy always-on display.

Image of Samsung S8 64GB SIM-Free Smartphone - Midnight Black (SM-G950F)

Samsung S8 64GB SIM-Free Smartphone - Midnight Black (SM-G950F)

£537.00 Buy now

Performance

The S8 has the fastest, most advanced internal components available - as you would expect with a new top-of-the-range smartphone from Samsung. In the UK and the rest of Europe get the S8 equipped with Samsung’s Exynos 8895 processor, while in the US handsets are equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835.

Both of these are the first ever mobile phone chips to be manufactured on a 10nm process, which provides greater efficiency and potentially faster performance, and both offer the possibility of connecting at up to Gigabit 4G/LTE speeds as and when the networks upgrade.

Unsurprisingly, it feels super-fast to use and that it tops the tables in all the benchmarks as well. In the Geekbench 4 multi-core test, it flew past the LG G6 and the iPhone 7.

As for graphics performance, it is in a different league. Mobile games play smoothly with no lag and just keep on going, it's a joy to go racing on the S8. The competition will need to work hard to improve on these graphics.

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Bixby

Samsung’s alternative to Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant. But it still needs work.

Since the launch of the Galaxy Note 8, Samsung made the voice-assistant available to Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus owners.

Unfortunately, the accuracy of Bixby varies far too much. Bixby was completely lost by an Adidas training shoe, but successfully recognised a bottle of Hellman's mayonnaise (I suspect GPS helped with the mayonnaise). Bixby’s photo-recognition mode is more of a gimmick than a genuinely useful tool and I suspect that it will be little used in its current form.

But it does have its uses. Swipe left from the homescreen and you’ll be able to access the other thing Bixby offers – a tailored list of cards that summarise what’s happening across different parts of your phone. Here, you’ll get a snapshot of your calendar, the news, your Twitter feed, the weather, but it doesn't compete with the competition; work in progress.

Price and competition

 

At launch, the Samsung Galaxy S8 was an eye-watering £610 but has since dropped in price, and can now be found for around £537. This makes it considerably more expensive than the similar LG G6 that costs around £450.

Another option if you are willing to comprimise on screen size is the iPhone 7 costs £579.

Is it worth the cost of buying this premium phone it? If you want the very best smartphone on the market, then it''s a yes. It has waterproofing and an excellent camera. It's has the looks over its competitors, such as the Google Pixel XL, has a microSD card slot so you can expand the storage, and there's more storage as standard as well. It's better than the LG G6 and the iPhone 7, too, in almost every way. 

The S8 price is too high, Samsung is not the only smartphone manufacturer raising UK prices to this level, as you can see by the prices of its rivals. In fact, it's part of a general trend that has going on for some time now. The reality today is paying £600 or thereabouts for a top-end smartphone is what you will expect to pay.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S8 represents the very pinnacle of Samsung’s design transformation. The S8 is all about its 5.8in 1.85:9 curved-edged display and its beautifully polished finish. The phone does look fantastic and packs a punch in gaming.

Usability is a little disappointing. The battery performance has gone backwards a tad, and unlocking the device has become trickier.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is the fastest phone around, oh yes. It’s definitely looks the part, and the camera is smarter than its predeccesor. It doesn't come cheap, but with all this firepower it may well be worth it, that's your choice now.

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