Samsung Galaxy S8+ hands-on: the luxuriously curved phablet – Hardware reviews


Samsung’s new S series flagships have finally been unveiled. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are a natural continuation of the Korean firm’s prior successes, but these two devices also have something new to offer users. Here is our preliminary hands-on review of the larger of the two devices, the Galaxy S8+.

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Samsung Galaxy S8+ release date and price

The Galaxy S8+ will be available from April 21, and pre-order deals have already begun for around $850. It will be available in three colors: Orchid Gray, Midnight Black and Arctic Silver. All major carriers in the US will offer the device, and pre-ordering is now available via the Samsung website. Some carriers are offering a free Gear VR with purchase, as well as other special discounts. Dual SIM capability will be available in some markets, but it doesn’t appear to be available in the US.

Samsung Korea has confirmed a variant of the S8+ with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage. All other specs will still be the same. For those who pre-order the device, the DeX station will be bundled with it, but the price for this version is still unknown.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ design and build quality

Anyone who picks up the Galaxy S8+ for the first time may be reminded of the Galaxy Note 7. The symmetrical body, with its thin aluminum frame and curved glass looks great and feels incredible in-hand. Everything flows together seamlessly, even with the pre-production model we tested for this hands-on review. Sure, the Galaxy S8+ is a bit slippery, but it is a real luxury phone.

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The Samsung Galaxy S8+ has incredible curved edges. / © AndroidPIT

USB type-C has finally made its appearance in the Galaxy S series. The buttons on the sides of the S8 are easy to reach, and work smoothly. Despite its size, the S8+ is still pleasantly thin and lightweight, so it doesn’t attract too much attention in your hand or pocket. The camera doesn’t protrude from the back and only a thin frame is there to protect the glass covering the camera lens. It also has IP68 certification.

One of the most controversial aspects of the S8 and S8+ is the placement of the fingerprint scanner, which now finds itself located on the back of the device. Unlike its smaller counterpart, the sensor is far from intuitive on the S8+. While the home button stays within reach of the thumb, your first finger just can’t reach the sensor next to the camera easily. I doubt one could get used to this in everyday life. Alternatively, though, you can unlock the phone with the iris scanner. While this is an exciting feature, it is by no means as quick or comfortable as using the fingerprint scanner.

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The buttons on the Samsung Galaxy S8+ are well placed. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy S8+ display

On paper, the Galaxy S8+ is huge. At 6.2 inches, the display is significantly larger than the S7 and most phablets on the market. Thanks to the curved screen and the narrow frame, it isn’t overly bulky. The Super AMOLED display panel, like the smaller S8, has an aspect ratio of 18.5:9 and a resolution of 2,960 x 1,440. This results in a crisp display and a pixel density of 530 ppi.

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The huge display of the Samsung Galaxy S8+. / © AndroidPIT

The curved display edges, called Samsung Edge, are almost imperceptible when looking at the S8+ from the front. They add beauty without obscuring your view or being distracting. The Edge functionality is still available. At first glance, the display is vivid and bright, and even the smallest fonts are sharp. The Galaxy S8+ looks great from all viewing angles. The screen has Mobile HDR technology, and thus a wide range of colors.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ special features

DeX: the Galaxy S8+ turns into a desktop PC

Smartphones have a lot of power that can be taken advantage of. Like Microsoft’s Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile, Samsung is on its way to replacing your PC with a smartphone. Samsung DeX’s docking station works with the Galaxy S8 and the S8+. The S8+ plugs in via USB type-C, and gives it an HDMI output and two USB ports.

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DeX: with a mouse and keyboard, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ becomes a PC.  / © AndroidPIT

After being plugged in, the S8+ will display a desktop view on the monitor, and the user will be able to use a keyboard and mouse with it. The interface is based on the multi-window features of Android. The performance, including multitasking, was fine but it didn’t quite rival that of a true PC.

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Samsung DeX: this is how the desktop looks. / © AndroidPIT

Bixby: Samsung’s digital assistant

Digital assistants are all the rage at the moment, and Samsung is adding Bixby to the growing list that already includes Siri, Google Now, Amazon Alexa and HTC Sense Companion. As a result, Samsung has to do nothing less than revolutionize voice controls to differentiate itself. At the demonstration, it wasn’t able to always hear words correctly, but Samsung has a little while longer to work on this before the devices hit shelves. For a real evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses, we’ll do a full review and give both the user and assistant an opportunity to get used to one another.

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Wine recognition à la Bixby / © AndroidPIT

There will only be around ten of Samsung’s apps available at launch that will work with Bixby, since app developers haven’t yet been given access to the SDK. 

Unlike Alexa, Bixby won’t be listening for a trigger word constantly, but instead, it will be activated by a dedicated button on the side of the phone.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ software

The Galaxy S8+ ships with Android 7.0 Nougat. No longer as colorful or bloated as previous versions of Samsung’s custom UI, it looks quite modern and elegant. Samsung has stayed more true to the look of stock Android, but it still makes significant adjustments to the system settings and notifications. The app drawer will also be accessible with a swipe gesture, just as we’ve seen with the Pixel smartphones.

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The home button works even if it is not visible. / © AndroidPIT

The physical home button is gone, so Samsung has adopted Android’s virtual navigation buttons, but these have an added twist. The home button will be in the middle, as usual, but the location of other two has been reversed. The recent apps button will be on the left, and the back button will be on the right.

Luckily, the button order can be changed in the settings, along with the ability to customize how hard you have to press to activate the virtual home button.

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The appearance of the UI is familiar from Nougat on the Galaxy S7… / © AndroidPIT

Following the release event for the Galaxy S8+, Samsung confirmed that a “Microsoft Edition” of the S8+ would be available for sale in all Microsoft stores based in the US. The Microsoft Edition is now available for pre-order from Microsoft, and comes loaded with Microsoft apps and services. This is essentially a Microsoft customization, and has the potential to provide a great productivity experience thanks to the inclusion of Office, Cortana, Outlook and much more.

Neither company has indicated why they have taken this move, as the regular S8+ handset will not include these features. That said, as this is an Android device, you can always install these in your own time. Most importantly, nothing else is different about the Microsoft Edition: it looks the same and costs the same amount.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ performance

The S8+ performs impressively. The one we tested had an Exynos 8895 processor, which is said to have 10 percent more processing power than its predecessor. It also has a Mali G71 GPU for fantastic graphics. In the US version, the S8 is equipped with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 835.

A high-end smartphone in the year 2017 needs a respectable amount of internal storage. The Galaxy S8+ comes with 64 GB, and those who need more can expand it with a microSD card up to 2 TB. Samsung has opted not to make the jump to 6 GB of RAM just yet, so the S8 and S8+ both have 4 GB. In our brief test of the device, there were no hiccups or slowdowns. Everything ran quickly and smoothly as expected, including the home screens, apps, websites and games.

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Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+: powerful smartphones with Exynos 8895. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy S8+ audio

The headphone jack is still around, despite the addition of the USB type-C port. The headset comes from AKG, and seems to be of high quality. It also has a mono loudspeaker, which we will evaluate the quality of more closely in our full review.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ camera

Samsung hasn’t followed the dual camera trend with the S8+, it has opted for the standard single lens for the main camera. The dual-pixel technology introduced with the Galaxy S7 is here to stay, which provides for fast focusing. As with its predecessor and the S8, the S8+ also has 12 MP. It has an aperture of f / 1.7 so a lot of light is able to reach the sensor. For even better shots, the S8+ takes several photos at once and combines them for a better end result. This multi-frame processing shouldn’t change the camera’s speed, and it will happen automatically in the background so the user won’t even know it’s happening.

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The camera of the S8 + was somewhat boring. / © AndroidPIT

Selfies fans will be pleased to find the S8+ has an 8 MP front camera with auto focus. Samsung, however, has avoided front LED flash and other gimmicks. 

Samsung Galaxy S8+ battery

The Galaxy S8+ has a larger display and a battery to match. This larger smartphone will have a non-removable 3,500 mAh battery, versus the 3,000 mAh of the S8. The Galaxy S8+ will have wireless charging capability. Fast charging and adequate battery life for about a day are to be expected here, but we will do extensive real-life testing and benchmarks in our full review. 

Samsung Galaxy S8+ technical specifications

Dimensions: 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm
Weight: 173 g
Battery size: 3500 mAh
Screen size: 6.2 in
Display technology: AMOLED
Screen: 2960 x 1440 pixels (531 ppi)
Front camera: 8 megapixels
Rear camera: 12 megapixels
Flashlight: Dual-LED
Android version: 7.0 – Nougat
User interface: TouchWiz
Internal storage: 64 GB
Removable storage: microSD
Chipset: Samsung Exynos 8895
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.3 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth

Early Verdict

Leaks about the S8+ were as regular and consistent those we saw for its little brother, but that doesn’t stop our collective fascination with the device, thanks to its fantastic design and eye-catching display. At first glance, the wow factor of the S8+ is comparable to that of the Note 7. It is undoubtedly a luxury smartphone that will come with a price to match its superior performance specs.

On the other hand, the technical prowess of the phone has yet to be proven. Incremental improvements won’t be enough to put the device far ahead of the competition. Bixby, which is meant to be a game changer, still has a big question mark hanging over it at this stage. So, we’re really looking forwarded to getting a chance to do a full review of the device and see just how powerful it really is!

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