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Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus Review: An Exceptional Phone In Every Respect

Nothing beats that new phone smell, and we just took the Galaxy S8+ out of its box!

Rating: 
4.5
Typical Price: 
£779.00
Pros: 
Best battery life on the market; Gorgeously curved, premium-grade metal and glass design; water and dust proof; lightning-fast processing power; well-optimized and polished software package; superb camera and display; great audio quality
Cons: 
UI has some missing bits and gimmicks; fingerprint scanner placement not left-hand friendly; lacks higher-tier onboard storage (128GB) model; gorgeous curved glass design can be tricky to hold and may be fragile - a case is recommended, which sort of diminishes the aesthetics
Verdict: 
A really rather fantastic phone which sets the bar for 2017 very high indeed. It's super expensive, but it's packed with amazing technology and the overall package is highly rewarding to use. Best of all it has unbelievable battery stamina

Update: Samsung has begun issuing an urgent update over-the-air to Galaxy S8 series handsets. The update aims to fix a DQA issue (Device Quality Agent) which is affecting handsets in the US and Canada following the day-one software update. The issue means that users are constantly fending off pop-up warnings between a minute and 30 seconds apart which state "DQA keeps stopping". You can manually update via the Galaxy App Store too.


Update: A Samsung Galaxy S8 Actve Too? Netflix Confirms It

It seems that despite both the current and last generation of Samsung Galaxy flagships being waterproof, Samsung still doesn't want to let go of the "Active" sub-brand of durable and weatherproof phones. Details have leaked online of the Galaxy S8 Active with the codename Cruiser and the model number SM-G892A. Now, however, Netflix appears to have outed the fact that this particular model number supports HD streaming by referencing it in a support document.

Little is known about the phone at this point. We know the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are already IP68 certified for water resistance up to 1.5m and for 30 minutes, just like the Galaxy S7 series. With the Galaxy S7 Active, Samsung added physical control keys to allow input when the phone is wet (touchscreens act oddly when moist) and extra durabilty certification in the form of military grade MIL-STD-810G. The same could be true of the Galaxy S8 Active, as well as the camo paint job, but that's pure speculation. It might be a good thing to have a more rugged model though considering some are complaining the Galaxy S8's corners are particularly susceptible to damage when dropped.

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Say what you want about Samsung, but the company sure knows how to design a good-looking phone.

Last year's Galaxy S7 EDGE was a fantastic looking beast. Ditto the Note 7 before that went south. Increasingly, it is Samsung – not Apple – that is leading the pack with respect to overall design and finish.

Sure, Apple's coming back this year with a rejigged design for its iPhone 8 – a design we've been waiting three years to see. But will it be enough to stop the double threat of Samsung's Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8?

Competition is stiff in the Android space at the moment. LG's G6 has been making a lot of friends since it first launched, and things will almost certainly get more ferocious in the second half of the year with the release of new Pixel phones, Apple's iPhones, a new OnePlus release and also updates from HTC and Android's smaller, bit-part players.

As of right now, though, the Galaxy S8 – and Galaxy S8 Plus – are the hottest handsets on the planet. The handsets that are designed to help Samsung retain its number one status as King of The Phone Market in 2017/18.

I've just spent a little over two weeks with the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus now and we're ready to tell you just what it's like to get to grips with day-in, day-out. Hunker down with a cuppa, as this review's a long one.

So without further ado, let's crack on...

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: Design & Build


Good or bad smartphone visual design is, of course, subjective, and it's fairly safe to say that anyone who's been unimpressed by Samsung's aesthetic to date is probably not going to be swayed by the Galaxy S8+.

Likewise, fans of the firm's prior devices will be just as happy with the latest edition as they were with what came before.


The main thing is that the Galaxy S8 series has only become curvier and more streamlined than its already notably curved predecessors; the corners are completely smoothed and rounded, while the curvature of the edge display follows a continuous line from front to back where it meets a perfectly symmetrical rear panel, with only a thin sliver of bodywork separating the two.

The top and bottom edges are also curved but it's not as pronounced and doesn't curve the display itself along these edges.


Holding the phone it's very apparent that you're gripping what virtually amounts to a solid piece of curved glass - yes there's a metal frame holding it together, but it's barely noticeable.

This actually presents the first stumbling block for the Galaxy S8+; in my time with the device I never felt entirely safe holding onto it; it's slippery as anything and the edges are so wafer thin coupled with the curved slippery glass surface. Samsung allegedly tweaked the edge curvature to improve grip but I don't really feel this has been successful and I'd strongly recommend some kind of case to improve grip more substantially and prevent drops.


That particular gripe aside, the Galaxy S8+ feels incredibly solid in terms of its construction; there is zero wobble or flex in the frame or component panels, and it's got a nice bit of heft to it without being heavy. You've also got the reassurance that it's an IP-rated water resistant handset, so there's no fear in taking it near the wet stuff.

Aesthetically I rather enjoy the Galaxy S8+ design, it's still got that quasi-industrial style that is so popular just lately with the punched speaker grille and emphasis on metal and glass, but the added curviness does lend it a certain unique presence that is very futuristic and elegant.

Our review unit is the black coloured model, which Samsung has made entirely black; the glass, the metal surround, the fittings and furniture. Everything is black. This again gives it a very sci-fi, 2001: A Space Odyssey obelisk-like appearance.

It's a "stealth" phone, the kind of thing Batman might design. However, the shiny glossy glass does also show up fingerprints a fair bit, particularly on this black model. It won't stay pristine for very long.

Of course you can get other colour options which are not quite so extreme and feature metallic trim that's a bit more visible. Here the detail of the visual design is a bit more apparent.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: Display

Samsung has been playing the long game as far as display technology is concerned. It started investing heavily in OLED while everyone else was saying it was too complicated or expensive, even though many could see it would outclass LCD if done properly. The firm also started developing flexible OLED way ahead of everyone else and is now starting to reap the benefits of that as a market leader. Rivals such as Apple are now looking to source flexible OLED from Samsung's factories.

Samsung's history with OLED hasn't always been smooth, there have been some tough learning experiences - early on the firm's screens came under flak for some instances of poor colour calibration and pixelation due to earlier PenTile technology.

But it persevered, and is now the undisputed ruler of the OLED market, which also virtually puts it in position as the dominant force in the display market too - OLED is now widely recognised as superior to LCD, so much so that Apple and many others are jumping on the bandwagon.

For anyone who has seen the Galaxy S7 EDGE or the Galaxy S6 EDGE in person, the display of the Galaxy S8+ will be familiar territory. It curves around the edges of the handset just like before, and it has an Always On function so that even when in sleep mode it'll show the time, date, and some notifications while barely consuming any power at all.


However, as the bodywork has expanded on this model, the display size and ratio has also increased. The display is now a 6.2in Super AMOLED - nearly as big as the Galaxy Note - but the screen pushes out to much more of the front fascia, indeed, the phone's front is virtually all screen with an 84% screen-to-body ratio and an 18:9 aspect ratio. As the screen and aspect ratio has expanded, the resolution has increased accordingly to 1440 x 2960 WQHD+ (3K) at 529 pixels-per-inch (ppi).

The image quality is what we've come to expect as typical for a Samsung flagship. In a word; superb.

It's incredibly sharp with no pixelation or blurring to be found. Text in particular is very crisp. It also features a full 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut, the very same one used on 4K TV sets and certified by the UHD Alliance for Mobile HDR Premium. In short, if content has been produced for 4K UHD Premium TVs, it'll look as good on the Galaxy S8+.

A new high saturation "Deep Red" OLED display technology Samsung has implemented here means the Native Colour gamut has a wider range too, well over 100% coverage for both DCI-P3 and sRGB. This, together with the excellent brightness levels (as much as 20% brighter than the Galaxy S7 and peak brightness over 1,000 nits) makes outdoor use in bright sunlight a breeze.

All of the previous standout features from Samsung's Galaxy S7 display have returned, including the excellent adaptive brightness and contrast, user-adjustable colour profiles, performance and power saving modes, and the acclaimed personalised auto brightness control feature.

The customisable EDGE display features, which allow you to configure quick access shortcuts along the curved screen edges, has also been expanded. It's quicker and easier to set up, and you can add applications, contacts, and a selection of smart editing tools, all on three customisable and swipe-able panels; it's a bit like having a whole separate selection of homescreens hidden in the display edge.

From using the phone I can certainly say the colour is rich and vibrant, in Samsung's typical style. Contrast is also fantastic with inky deep blacks and viewing angles are insanely wide.

The long and the short of it is this is a gorgeous display with fantastic visual quality and smooth touch input. I can't really imagine anyone getting tired of ogling or prodding this screen after any length of time, and it's highly tailorable to your needs as the viewer. You really can have it your way by tweaking the settings however you please.

We should note that some users in Korea have complained that the Galaxy S8 has a red hue to the display and tweaking the display colour settings doesn't seem to fix it. Samsung's official response so far is to issue the following statement:

"It is not a quality problem and it can be adjusted with the phone itself. If the color still appears to be reddish, customers can change it at the service center."

It's our understanding that this isn't a problem on every unit, but it is something we'll be keeping an eye on and will update you with as more info emerges.

Update:

According to The Korea Herald, Samsung has now acknowledged the red-tint display problem and is working on a fix, the firm issued a statement as follows:

"Because there are some complaints about the red-tinted screens, we decided to upgrade the software next week for all Galaxy S8 clients."

Samsung also issued instructions to its Service Centres regarding the issue, saying, "There will be an additional update to make color revisions more minutely at the end of April"

Samsung has released another statement on the subject of the red-tint OLED display issue while conducting a conference call. The company's statement was reported by Korean source The Investor. Samsung revealed it has undertaken inspections of Galaxy S8 units, presumably red-tinted screen models returned by early adopters in Korea. The firm said thatin light of these inspections it remains confident about the handset quality and its quality control for production.

"Due to the nature of Super AMOLED displays, there can be natural differences in color. Users can optimize the color depending on their preferences."

In other words, this is just part and parcel of the technology which, using an organic component in the Organic Light-Emitting Diode, seems to have some degree of unpredictability.

Samsung further added that the software update it has promised will give the user greater control in calibrating and optimising their colour settings. Hopefully this means you can actively re-configure the screen to remove the red-tint rather than just mitigating it slightly to a lesser degree.

As of April 27, Samsung has now begun rolling out the promised update to fix the red-tint screen issue. The update has starting landing in Samsung's home region of South Korea, where the problem was first noticed and where distribution of handsets first began. The firm previously said it would deliver the update before the end of the month, and it seems it is taking the issue and its promised quite seriously.

Galaxy S8 owners will see the update prompt for version G950NKSU1AQDG, while Galaxy S8+ units will have version G955NKSU1AQDG.

The update adds new features to the Adaptive Display mode menu which give the user finer control of colour calibration and tuning. The Screen mode menu also has a new EDGE colour balance setting as well.


"Samsung has apparently promised to replace affected devices if their owners aren't satisfied with their colors after applying this update," reports GSMArena.

"Unfortunately the full screen color balance adjustment only works in Adaptive Display mode, so if you want a calibrated setting and the red tint gone, it looks like you're out of luck - so you may want to take advantage of that 'free replacement' promise from Samsung."

The update began rolling out in South Korea, but has now landed in Europe as of April 29. Handsets in the UK and Germany have now started receiving the software update, which is sized at  426MB.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: Battery Life

Long battery life is pretty much the Holy Grail for many smartphone users these days. There are plenty of flagship-grade smartphones which offer relatively good battery life, and a few which offer excellent battery life. It's not too rare now to find devices such as Samsung's Galaxy Note series, the Huawei Mate 8 and 9, the bigger iPhone Plus models, and Google's Pixel XL which will still see you sitting comfortably at somewhere around the 70%-76% range for the battery charge after watching a two hour movie on full brightness.

This sort of usage tends to translate into being able to watch films pretty much for eight hours straight on a single charge. Likewise, you tend to end up with a phone that'll last days, or even a good chunk of a week if largely left idling, ticking away between 7%-10% per day.

But this will probably last a day and a half at most if you're like most of us and are often giving it a poke for some reason or another throughout your typical day. You can bring that down further again if we're talking a lot of intensive stuff like gaming.

So where does the Galaxy S8+ and its 3,500mAh setup fit into this? Well for the two hour movie test using Mad Max: Fury Road, on full brightness, with the film downloaded to storage, and Wi-Fi and other connectivity switched off, it went from 100% charge to, get this, 86%. Yes you read that right, a two hour film on full brightness only cost 14% of the battery charge.

This is madness. I kid you not I have never seen anything quite like this in my time of reviewing smartphones. I reckon upwards of 10 hours of movie playback is not at all unrealistic here. You can easily expect a couple of days of normal smartphone use on a single charge, in some cases perhaps three, and if you leave this phone alone save for a few calls or the occasional email, web browsing session or message, it will last you a good three or four days, possibly more.

In short, the Galaxy S8+ has the best battery of any smartphone I have ever tested. It just keeps going. I've pretty much only had to charge it a couple of times since I got hold of it.

Granted, I am sure you will still be able to burn through it in a day if you really push things, but let's be real here, no smartphone will survive on a single charge if you insist on playing Super Mario Run or Star Wars Lego from dawn until dusk, only taking breaks to watch YouTube in between.

 But for most standard users this is a dream come true. This is a phone you can rely on to be alive and kicking from when you leave the house in the morning right through to the next day, and you don't have to be too careful with it to achieve this, as long as you don't rinse it like crazy. At the very least this kind of battery usage makes it easier to plan around. I have not been caught short by the Galaxy S8+ leaving me high and dry unexpectedly as so many other phones are liable to do.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: Camera


The much-rumoured dual-lens camera for the Galaxy S8+ hasn't come to pass, sadly, which did leave me wondering how much attention the phone's imaging capabilities would receive.

To be clear, however, Samsung camera hardware has impressed me for some time now; the last handful of flagships have always sported very capable cameras which, for me, had the perfect combination of "right stuff".

credict: knowyourmobile.com

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