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Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review - The Comeback King?

Late last year, Samsung announced and released the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and we were lucky enough to have an extended first look and to have substantial time with the phone. We even brought it with us to our sudden trip to Tokyo. Everything about it was great. At the time we saw it as the perfect phone with almost no downside.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ review
Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

We loved power and features. The camera took great photos and the video was substantially great not just because of the image quality but because of the incredible speed and accuracy of the dual pixel autofocus that continuous tracked almost every subject we tasked it to track.

Sure the speakers were okay but that was the only drawback we saw. Several weeks later, the news broke out that several units were one by one overheated and burned itself down. This lead to a wide spread recall of the devices that unfortunately didn't get better. More phones were still burning up. Samsung apologized and took decisive action immediately and owned up to their failure where most other companies would leave it at that. (cough bendgate cough)

It has been months since the fiasco and is about time that Samsung released a new flagship and that time has come. We are especially excited on how Samsung will deal and possibly recover from that world wide incident. 

In fact, when we were invited to see the new Galaxy S8 and S8+, we were so ready. This article will serve as our full review.


Display Quality

Big screen, small size
Big screen, small size

Samsung never disappoints with displays because they simply make the best and this is no different. The screen on the S8 and S8+ are the current best displays on the market not just because of the colors, the resolution and the performance but because it does all these and manage to curve so beautifully!

The best overall display on any smartphone yet!

The previous phones with the curved edge screen always felt a little off for us and mostly served as a gimmick in our opinion. This is the first phone that really adds the jaw dropping elegant curve that made us go: WOW!
Standard flagship multitouch
Standard flagship multitouch

It gets relatively bright that we found ourselves only using 50% brightness most of the time and around 80% when using the phone against bright sunlight. The 10 point multitouch is fast, accurate and fluid. 

We did however experience a lot of ghost touching because of the curved edges and when we were calling. Our ears would always be detected and the notifications would always drop-down mid call. I hope that they can rectify this in a firmware update. Otherwise, it is still the best display around.

Audio Quality

There is one set of speaker grills and therefore only one speaker. It gets relatively loud that is able to compete with our home TV's speakers at max volume without distortion. However, we wished that Samsung could at least made it stereo.

Once we plugged-in our personal RHA S500i in-ear monitors, the audio remains consistent with good bass, mids and highs and powerful volume, in fact, it gets to ear drum bursting loudness at max volume. This isn't for audiophiles but for most people this is more than enough! We like how the mids shine on this device.

It can handle FLAC files with relative ease because of the new HiFi DAC equipped but with some damage to the battery consumption. You will have to watch the battery every now and then. The sound quality is noticeably better than last generation's and is better than phone phones not equipped with HiFi DAC. It is more than acceptable for the casual music lover but may be up to the discerning audiophile.

Samsung pairs this with AKG 100 USD earphones that unfortunately did not come with our review unit. We did however use our personal HiFi earphones to test the new DAC. It passed with flying colors because to our ears, this beats the most of the competition that features High Quality Audio for their phones.


The microphone on the phone and on the stock earphones the other hand is good. I have never experienced complaints from calls I made with the Telco providers or with Facebook messenger or Viber.

Battery Life

PC Mark battery benchmark clocked in at at least 9 hours
PC Mark, 9 hours

PC Mark battery benchmark clocked in at at least 9 hours. That performance is good relative to the high resolution display coupled with 8 cores and 4 GB of RAM. 

In real world use with LTE connected, Wifi connected, e-mailing, calling, texting, casual gaming, Uber or Grab use, and camera stills and video use, our work day would end with 20 to 25% of battery. In the two weeks we had the phone, the only time we reached less than 20% battery was after the PC Mark battery benchmark which is surprising from a phone with specs like these!

Battery life will last through the day!

The Quick charging powerbrick is equipped with 9V 1.6A of charging power which helps charging time to around less than 90 minutes from 0 to 100 percent with the OEM Samsung USB Type C cable. It gets slightly warm but it never gets alarmingly hot. It's no match for the no temperature change of the Oppo F3 plus though. WE wish Samsung could copy the no warming up when charging.

The charging time is inconsistent with Tronsmart USB hubs with  our spare Huawei branded USB 2.0 to USB Type C cable. So off brand cables and charging hubs may give mixed charging times.

So the best way is still charging with the charging brick and cable that came with the phone.

Camera

It's a stunning point and shoot camera!
It's a stunning point and shoot camera!

Contrary to what most people think, Samsung did update the sensor 12 MP f/1.7 camera sensor of the S8 and S8+. There are small improvements that served to refine the overall picture taking experience and the images captured by the phone. It still has  the Dual Pixel, OIS, multi-frame, and dual tone LED flash technologies.
Camera modes and settings
Camera modes and settings

There are multiple modes for different situations like the panorama, hyperlapse, slow motion, and virtual shot modes work relatively well. The OIS helps but keeping a steady hand or using a tripod can yield professional like results.

The Pro mode is fine with the ability to control focus, ISO, white balance, shutter speed, exposure compensation and live filters. The ISO can go down to ISO 50, but can only max out at just ISO 800 in Pro mode while the fastest shutter speed is at a whopping 24000th of a second with the slowest shutter release being 10 seconds meaning this can truly freeze the fastest of motions and can be used well at extremely bright conditions.

The new camera app also features the augmented reality selfie animation overlays that snapchat made famous and was copied by Instagram and Facebook. They are integrated in the app and you can download more from the Samsung app store.

But really, you get this phone because it is one of the best in terms of image quality but you also get it for its incredibly fast, and incredibly accurate dual autofocus tracking with single point and continuous tracking.

We brought the S8 to our trip to Chicago where I decided to test the autofocus tracking on video. I quick launched the camera app and tapped the video record button and selected the subject I wanted to track. It was the busy hallway of Incheon airport and I selected a guy wearing a blue long sleeve button down shirt and I followed him while the phone tracked him quicky, continuously,  and accurately. What impressed me even more is that even though people would walk in between the camera and the subject, the autofocus would quickly re-detect the subject even though there were obstructions!

Picture quality is a tad better than ever!

The other thing that stood out is its capability to automatically adjust exposure when shooting extremely lit scenes. It was able to balance out the shadows and the highlights relatively well. We were testing this phone with the OPPO F3 plus on our Chicago trip and the S8+ consistently took care of blown out highlights that the F3 plus struggled with.

What also surprised us is the even better low-light performance of the S8+. Even though there is noticeable increase in noise in very dim litted situations, the ISO doesn't look too bad. In fact it is workable.

See also: Huawei P10 Plus Vs Samsung Galaxy S8+ - Point & Shoot Camera Comparison

The LED flash on the other hand good enough. It isn't the brightest but it works provided you are within 3 to 5 feet. What surprised was that the flash doesn't fire a flash of pure white light. It was a bit on the warm side which could benefit some artistic applications.

Rear Camera Samples

Outdoor test
Outdoor test
Early morning daylight
Early morning daylight
Close-up outdoor
Close-up outdoor
Close-up indoor
Close-up indoor
Lowlight capture
Lowlight capture
Long exposure test
Long exposure test

The secondary 8 MP f/1.7 camera is very good with sharp details, bright colors and decent dynamic range. We feel that this is one of the better selfie cameras in the market today. We just wish there was a selfie dedicated LED flash although the autofocus may not be dual pixel but it does track very well. Most of the time it would focus on our eyes perfectly when we take selfies. It can also track multiple faces at the same time.

The only drawback we saw with the selfie camera is the significant crop that you get when you switch from still pictures to video. You will notice when you are taking a wide landscape selfie than switching to the selfie video mode. It isn't too bad, we are just being nitpicky, this just means you can't have as much people as you can fit in still pictures. Otherwise, we love it!

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie
Wide selfie outdoor
Wide selfie outdoor
Stickers
Stickers
Selfie lowlight
Selfie lowlight
Selfie screen flash
Selfie screen flash

In terms of video, the image quality is again one of the best out there and is consistent at all resolutions even though there is a minor crop when switching from the still image to video mode and the autofocus tracking carries over. It focus accurately and locks on quite quickly with both selfie and main cameras even in low light! The image stabilization and slow motion only works up to the 1080p which means that when shooting 4K, slow motion and image stabilization won't work.

Video Camera Samples


Performance

Benchmark king
Benchmark king

With an Antutu score of at least 170K, it is above almost all the phones in the market today. The single core and multi core scores also are way above most phones in the competition.  This is due to the fact that the Galaxy S8 / S8+ are equipped with industry leading 2.3 GHz 64 Bit Exynos 8895 octa core processor and Mali G71 GPU. Samsung also loaded this phone with 4 GB of RAM for smooth multitasking.

Performance is a true marvel!

And it shows, because we almost never get slowdowns and we are able to record 4K videos and watch that 4K content without any hitch. Even heavy gaming is possible. 
Cleaner than ever UI
Cleaner than ever UI

It is running the latest iteration of TouchWiz Android 7.0 Nougat that refines last generation TouchWiz. The OS feels snappy with no noticeable lag due to Samsung's initiative to cut down on TouchWiz bloat. It is a lot better than the early versions of TouchWiz but since Samsung still packs their flagship with so many bleeding edge features, the Settings page is always the one that ends up being so cluttered. It is better than before but you can only do so much when the phone is this feature packed.

Aside from changing themes and wallpapers Samsung now offers Icon packs in their Samsung store. We found quite a bit of a selection but unfortunately the best Icon packs are usually paid. A better selection through time may fix this.

The icons are beautiful and the layout of Touchwiz finally feels at home with most apps using the material design concept. If you don't like the stock icons, themes and wallpapers, you can easily go to the samsung marketplace and download new ones.

Samsung also replaced S-Voice with their own digital assistant called Bixby which is integrated will all the Samsung Apps which basically tries to be a Google Assistant alternative. We find Bixby too young and lacking in terms of capabilities compared to Siri and the Google Assistant. Some features like Bixby vision is okay but Google's own did it too. So all in all, we may have to wait a while for when Bixby will be viable.

We've never experienced problems with calling, texting, internet browsing, Bluetooth pairing, and NFC usage and as such, none of the people at the end of our calls via internet or via telco was a problem for them.

Pros - Best curved edge display yet, powerful performance as usual, still the best overall camera performance, water and dust resistance, HiFi DAC is a great addition
Cons - Fingerprint magnet, fingerprint sensor placement, accidental ghost touch when calling and not in use, Bixby is still young and almost nothing compared to Google Assistant, Single Speaker should be upgraded to stereo!

Verdict

We love this phone. It is a world class flagship through and through and worth its high price tag. Performance is amazing, battery life is decent, and cameras are great overall. If you have the money and can live with the fingerprint sensor placement and the occasional ghost touch then this phone is for you!

ALSO Google assistant isn't fully compatible with it. WE updated the Google Search app and we weren't able to get the Google Assistant.

Build / Design - 4.75
Display - 4.75
Audio - 4.25
Battery - 4
Camera - 4.75
Performance - 4.75
Average - 4.54 / 5
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