Samsung Galaxy S8 review: The good, the bad, the beautiful
Samsung sent me a Galaxy S8 to review a month ago, and my personal T-Mobile orchid gray model arrived just a day after my review went live. I've been using that device as my daily driver ever since.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is an evolution of the S7 Edge and Note 7, but since the Note 7 was pulled from shelves the S8 offers significant improvements over the S7 Edge.
The removal of the physical home button is revolutionary for Samsung as that home button was iconic and something that set the Galaxy line apart from most phones, other than the iPhone.
As I look back over the last month of use, here are several reasons to consider the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus:
- Display: The Infinity Display is the killer feature of the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus with it earning the first A+ rating from DisplayMate. You get a stunning 6.2-inch 18.5:9 experience in a form factor smaller than the 5.5 inch Apple iPhone 7 Plus. Samsung takes advantage of all the space on the front to fill it with screen and this helps provide an amazing platform for productivity.
- Design: Samsung uses Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back of the S8 Plus with an aluminum frame sandwiched between the glass panels. The S8 Plus is available in a few colors with the orchid gray offering a new color scheme that looks great.
- Innovative technology: The Galaxy S8 Plus offers fast charging and fast wireless charging, Samsung Pay with MST, Bluetooth 5.0, a microSD expansion card slot, ANT+ for connectivity to fitness devices, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. You won't find another phone today packed with all of this technology in a single device.
- Always On Display: It's a subtle feature on the Galaxy S8 that is found in a few other devices, such as the LG G6, but once you have it on a device it is tough to go back to something like the iPhone 7 Plus where you cannot just glance over and see basic status and notification information with no effort required by you. I also like that you can double tap on a notification to jump directly into the app that originated the notification.
- Water resistance: While working in the field, I often spend time communicating with others and taking photos in the rain. Water resistance has become a new requirement for any phone I purchase. I need my phone to work where I need to be and I can't worry about carrying my phone in a plastic bag or some kind of bulky case. While I don't plan to swim with my phone, it being able to handle some elements is essential to my work.
- Camera: The Samsung camera was great on the Galaxy S7 and the S8 camera provides much of the same. There's no dual camera, but the S8 camera is quick to launch, and output matches what we see in other flagship devices. The Galaxy S8 Plus is also one of the best at capturing macro shots.
- Galaxy apps: While Google offers core apps in Android, I would argue that Samsung's own apps are better for productivity, efficiency, and functionality. Some argue against anything but stock apps, but in this case using the Samsung apps on a Galaxy S8 Plus is a better choice.
- Edge panels: I found the edge panels on the Galaxy S7 to be useful and continue to use them on the Galaxy S8. I hear people state they never use them, and you don't have to, but the edge panel widgets can help you be a bit more efficient with your time and improve the overall Samsung Galaxy S8 experience.
- Ecosystem: You can use a Samsung Gear 360 or Samsung Gear VR to enjoy immersive experiences, but only if you have a compatible Samsung smartphone. There are new versions of both of these devices and both are nice improvements over last year's models. The Samsung Gear S3 Frontier is also best with a Samsung phone and it is a stunning smartwatch that continues to get better with continued rollout of third party apps.
- Samsung DeX: While we continue to investigate use cases for Samsung DeX, it has proven to be useful during business travel and as a home office computer replacement. As people continue to look to their phone as their primary computing device, devices like DeX will become more useful. DeX offers the best phone as a PC experience to date.
There is the potential that Bixby could be another significant advantage on the Samsung Galaxy S8, but until the voice control part of the system launches we cannot make that determination. I can't wait to see if I truly can just tell my phone to send a photo to my friends without ever touching my phone. If Bixby lives up to the hype, it could be my favorite feature of the S8.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus isn't perfect. The mono bottom speaker is acceptable, but the dual stereo speakers on other phones are much better. The battery life is very good and gets me through a full day, but I still get better battery life with my Apple iPhone 7 Plus doing the same kind of things throughout the day.
But overall, the Samsung Galaxy is a great choice of a smartphone, and one you should consider.
Related ZDNet Samsung Galaxy S8 coverage:
- Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review: Stunning large display, balanced design, and advanced technology
- What I love and hate about Samsung DeX as a business user
- Eight reasons the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are good for business
- Samsung removes the physical home button: The Galaxy S8 is better as a result
- Samsung keyboard cover for Galaxy S8 Plus: A physical keyboard when you need it