Hands on: Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review

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    Samsung’s next really, really big thing

    OUR EARLY VERDICT

    The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus is the biggest phone you may ever consider buying, with a 6.2-inch curved screen – although it doesn’t feel bigger than a Note phone thanks to its nearly bezel-less face. Moreover, the makeover extends to the innards, with a powerful new chipset. The question is, are you willing to pay for these specs and use a giant phone everyday?

    FOR

    • Big, 6.2-inch ‘Infinity’ display
    • Powerful chipset and 64GB of storage
    • Promising new AI software

    AGAINST

    • A big price to match
    • Will be physically too big for some
    • No more front fingerprint sensor

    The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus is the new Android phone that’s impossible to miss, thanks to its massive screen size and elegant-looking curved design.

    If you thought the curved-edge Galaxy S7 looked like a phone from the future, the Galaxy S8 Plus is a phone from the future in a world dominated by giants.

    It has a 6.2-inch Super AMOLED display, yet the nearly bezel-less design keeps the actual phone dimensions closer to those of the Galaxy Note 7.

    This is Samsung’s latest display trick, also employed by the 5.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S8. Both phones feature smarter AI software, faster chipsets and better cameras.

    The S8 Plus and S8 are more than just new handsets though – they also represent Samsung’s long-awaited comeback following the Galaxy Note 7 debacle.

    Watch our video of the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus below

    You’re just going to have to embrace three things in order to love the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: paying a lot of money, getting used to its bigger screen size and trusting Samsung all over again.

    Price and release date

    The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus is going to be expensive. We don’t have the official price yet, but we don’t expect it to be cheaper than the Galaxy S7 Edge.

    In fact, the Samsung Galaxy S8 price across the board may increase from the S7 line’s launch prices, according to the latest rumors. We’ll update this review as soon as we find out.

    In the US, the price will be dictated by carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, and an unlocked Galaxy S8 Plus isn’t likely to be available for four months.

    The actual Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus release date is April 21, with pre-orders starting on March 30. Look for a lot of bundled deals if you order in advance.

    Design

    • Very little bezel at the top and bottom
    • Taller than the Note 7 thanks to a 6.2-inch screen
    • No more physical home button on the front
    • Fingerprint sensor is moved to the back
    • Dust and water resistant at IP68

    Samsung’s Galaxy S8 Plus is another all-glass design wrapped around a thin metal frame, and these edge-to-edge curved sides are accompanied by ultra-thin top and bottom bezels.

    It’s similar to the striking Xiaomi Mi Mix phone out of China. Samsung is using those same design cues, and taking the all-screen idea worldwide.

    The Galaxy S8 Plus just flaunts it even more, fitting a tall 6.2-inch display inside  truly phablet dimensions of 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm. It weighs 173g.

    That’s noticeably taller than the Note series, and you’re going to have to really stretch and juggle the phone in your grip to reach the opposite corners.

    There’s also no longer a physical home button on the front – instead the phone relies on a pressurized on-screen home button.

    This is a big change for long-time Samsung phones users. But on-screen buttons are popular on other Android phones that benefit from more screen real estate.

    The fingerprint sensor isn’t part of this new pressurized home button; we’re not so far into the future that the scanner can be built under the glass yet. One day…

    Instead, the sensor has been moved to the back, adjacent to the camera. Expect to smudge the lens every now and again thanks to this awkward placement.

    Samsung also includes both an iris scanner and face recognition for touch-free unlocking.

    The home button move transitions one of our favorite Samsung Galaxy features – double-tap the home to launch the camera – to the sleep/wake button on the side. That’ll take some getting used to as well.

    You’re not in for a change when it comes headphone jack, thankfully. The usual 3.5mm port remains, along with a single speaker at the bottom for audio.

    Samsung does finally convert its flagship phones over to USB-C, a reversible port replacing micro USB. You can finally plug in your phone in the dark.

    The Galaxy S8 Plus comes in three colors at launch for the US and UK: Midnight, Orchid Gray, and Arctic Silver. Maple Gold and Coral Blue are being saved for other regions.

    Display

    • 6.2-inch display Infinity Display is massive
    • Don’t expect a 4K resolution for VR perfection

    Big is an understatement for this 6.2-inch screen – in fact Samsung seems to think it goes on forever, calling the nearly bezel-less front its ‘Infinity Display’.

    Samsung consistently wins ‘world’s best phone display’ titles every year, and we see the Galaxy S8 Plus earning the company another trophy.

    It’s a superb-looking Quad HD+ display, pushing the resolution to 2960 x 1440 with 529 pixels per inch. It also touts Mobile HDR Premium, akin to your 4K HDR TV set for a better contrast ratio.

    Samsung’s invented 18.5:9 aspect ratio is odd at first, providing a taller screen. But we found this to be a benefit once we tried out multitasking. You can open larger side-by-side app windows and read more on a screen, even with the on-screen keyboard deployed.

    Just don’t expect a 4K resolution phone display. This one is still at the 2K level and defaults to Full HD (adjustable in the settings). We haven’t seen 4K in many phones, although we predict that Samsung will experiment with it on the Note 8.

    You’re not going to see individual pixels here unless you’re using the phone with the Samsung Gear VR, two inches from your face – and that’s where 4K is going to be useful one day soon.

    Bixby and Android 7.0

    • Bixby is Samsung’s new Siri AI rival
    • Google Assistant is also here, oddly
    • Android Nougat and likable Samsung Experience

    Samsung is promising that the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus will take AI to the next level with its brand-new smartphone voice assistant, Bixby.

    Bixby is supposed to rival Apple’s Siri and Android’s Google Assistant, the latter of which is also present on the phone; which one you use is up to you.

    The benefit of Bixby is that it’s a system-wide intelligent interface for the Galaxy S8 Plus. You can control your entire smartphone by prompting Bixby.

    “If you know you can do it with touch, you can do it with voice,” said Samsung. Whereas Siri and Google Assistant can drop the ball, Samsung is supposed to excel.

    In addition to voice, Bixby can do object recognition via the camera to name products and list prices for refills. Reminders and smart home applications are also handled by Bixby.

    Obviously we need more time with the phone to verify Samsung’s lofty claims, but we’re happy to report that the new flagships will run Android 7.0 Nougat.

    This is Google’s latest software, and the latest Samsung Experience interface has been refined well beyond TouchWiz. You don’t have to hate Samsung’s Android skin any more.

    Specs and performance

    • New octa-core chipset is powerful, yet efficient
    • Sticks with 4GB of RAM, instead of 6GB of RAM
    • 64GB of internal storage with microSD expansion

    The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus has next-generation power under the hood to match that futuristic exterior, and that’s thanks to its new processors.

    It has a 10nm octa-core chipset at its heart, and while the model varies (the US gets the Qualcomm 835, almost everywhere else has Exynos), the important thing to say is that it’s much faster, and the chip is smaller.

    Smaller chipsets are more energy efficient, so getting the first 10nm-sized chip in a phone is a huge deal for your battery life, not just processing power.

    We’re looking forward to benchmarking both versions of the phone in the US and the UK in our final Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review.

    There hasn’t been an upgrade to the RAM. We’re still sitting at 4GB (at least outside of China) when other Androids are reaching 6GB, but the internal storage sees a boost.

    The S8 Plus has 64GB of internal storage, which can be upgraded via the microSD slot by another 256GB, depending on the memory card you buy. That’s a value that a company like Apple just doesn’t give you.

    Camera

    • Same 12MP camera sensor as last year
    • Upgrades important post-processing software
    • No dual-lens rear camera tricks here
    • Front-facing 8MP camera with autofocus

    The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are poised to continue Samsung’s best camera phone streak, even if the 12MP sensor with an f/1.7 aperture and OIS is the same as last year. It doesn’t try to change things up with a dual-lens rear camera – there’s just one lens on the back.

    The true upgrade here is behind the scenes, in the post-picture processing, says Samsung. That means better low-light photos, and fewer squinty eyes in burst mode.

    You’re also going to get better front-facing selfies from the new 8MP camera, up from the 5MP sensor a year ago, while there’s smart autofocus too.

    Most front-facing cameras have fixed autofocus, but we’re really interested in testing out the smart autofocus for group selfies at different ranges; no other flagship is doing this yet.

    Battery life

    • 3,500mAh battery
    • 100mAh less than the Galaxy S7 Edge
    • 10nm chipset is more energy-efficient

    Samsung is playing it conservative with the battery capacity – for all-too-obvious reasons – putting a 3,500mAh battery in the Galaxy S8 Plus.

    That’s not an improvement on the Note 7 – in fact it’s 100mAh less than the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. But it shouldn’t matter, thanks to the new chipset.

    Samsung’s 10nm SoC (system on a chip) is supposed to be more energy-efficient, so you’re going to clear a whole day with normal use before you have to recharge.

    Best of all, there’s a new level of fast charging available, so your phone should be able to fast-charge 20% faster than previous models.

    Early verdict

    Whether or not you’re going to buy the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus is a big decision in so many ways. It’s screen size, power and price are all going to be overwhelming.

    And that’s the good and bad of this phone. You’re looking at the flashiest phone of 2017, with curved edges and so little bezel it’s called an Infinity Display.

    The 6.2-inch screen size is unmatched on a mainstream handset, and the screen technology behind it is replete with more pixels and Mobile HDR Premium. Likewise, the power gives us our first chipset in a smaller 10nm package. It’s keeping up with Moore’s law.

    Samsung is maintaining its position as the handset design leader, and according the latest iPhone 8 rumors, even Apple continues to be a follower – what a turn of events.

    But where do you fall in line? Are you supposed to be a follower, too? Your decision may come down to two important factors: price, and whether or not a phone with a 6.2-inch display is suitable for day-to-day use. That’s where our decision may fall, too, in our final Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review.

    Samsung has a great chance to complete its comeback from the Note 7 disaster –  and in the Galaxy S8 Plus it appears to have crafted a compelling new phone to help make you forget.

    TechRadar

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