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Samsung Galaxy S8 first impressions: A flagship worthy of its name
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is here, finally. This is the smartphone that holds Samsung’s fate in the balance. The one that should defy all limits and boundaries, quite literally.
After facing harsh criticism last year for the flawed battery implementation on the Galaxy Note 7, the company’s new flagship has a lot riding on its shoulders.
The devices officially launched in India today. The Samsung Galaxy S8 is priced at Rs 57,900 and the Galaxy S8+ will come at Rs 64,900.
The phones did create quite a buzz as they were among the most hyped mobile devices this year, probably even more than the iPhone. Speculation, rumours and leaks poured in at an alarming rate.
To be honest, Samsung didn’t have a solid impact when it announced the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ at its Unboxed event. But I think the smartphones speak for themselves.
Build and Design
In a way, the Galaxy S8 feels like an evolution of the company’s ill-fated Galaxy Note 7. The new Galaxy S8 once again uses the same glass and metal finish.
Of course, the first thing you notice is that gorgeous display that tapers towards the edges, covering almost the entire front of the smartphone. It looks like a device from the future. The device is also taller than your average smartphone.
Once you pick up the smartphone, you know it’s a premium device. It is sleek and it is very glossy.
The front, the back and even the chromed edges are so shiny and slippery and such great fingerprint magnets that I ended up wiping the smartphone all day. And with all that glass, the nagging fear in my mind was its fragility. What would happen if I were to drop it? This will probably be one of the biggest problems of the Galaxy S8’s all-glass design.
The metal frame sandwiched between the two curvy glass panels houses the hybrid SIM tray at the top. The power button is on the right and the volume rocker is on the left. There is an additional button sitting right below the volume control keys that launches Samsung’s brand new virtual assistant called Bixby.
The USB Type-C port, loudspeaker, headphone jack and the microphone sit on the bottom. You can also see four antenna bands (Two on top and two at the bottom).
As I mentioned earlier, the front of the device is dominated by the curved edge display, leaving very little space above and below. Samsung has managed to fit the earpiece, the front camera and even an iris scanner into the top bezel, and given how narrow it is, that’s quite an achievement.
The bezel area below the display is empty, making it the first flagship by Samsung to have on-screen navigation keys. Samsung has also used a haptic feedback mechanism for the home button that gives a vibrating feedback, similar to the latest pair of iPhones.
At the back is the primary camera, which is completely flush with the body, an LED flash, a heart rate sensor and even a fingerprint sensor, which is awkwardly placed next to the camera.
In my opinion, it is one of the most innovative smartphone designs and is a notch above its predecessor. The fingerprint scanner placement is odd, though.
The S8 is all about the display. Samsung likes to call it the ‘infinity display’. Sitting on a desk it actually feels as if the entire front is one giant display. It curves just like the Galaxy S7 Edge, and in fact, it feels a bit better and very similar to the dead on arrival Galaxy Note 7. It measures at 5.8-inches diagonally, offering a screen to body ratio of 83.6 percent. This makes the smartphone feel smaller than a 5.5-inch smartphone like the Apple iPhone 7 Plus or the OnePlus 3/3T.
The display is a Super Amoled panel offering a WQHD+ resolution (2960×1440 pixels) which gives it a weird aspect ratio of 18.5:9. Still, it looks great. Colours look great and deep and the contrast ratio is excellent. Samsung has also mentioned that it has used protective Gorilla Glass 5 on the front (and the back). But of course, that doesn’t make it unbreakable.
There have been a bunch of new upgrades for the display, including to the edge screen as well as the always on display feature, which will be covered in the full review.
Chipset, RAM, Storage
The Galaxy S8 runs on Samsung’s latest Exynos 8890 chipset, which is based on a 10 nm manufacturing process. The chipset features an octa-core processor with four 2.3 GHz cores and four 1.7 GHz cores. This is paired to a Mali-G71 MP20 GPU and 4 GB of RAM. There is also a Snapdragon 835 variant, but that was announced for specific regions, including the US.
For storage, you get 64 GB of internal memory which can be expanded further using a microSD card of up to 256 GB.
The handset runs on Android 7.0 Nougat with Samsung’s all new Grace UI on top. It has, however, been dubbed as ‘Samsung Experience’ with version number 8.1 in the phone’s software information. It is buttery smooth and everything seems to work quickly. I’ve seen a lot of UIs on Android devices, but this one is just excellent, and it’s much better than TouchWiz.
The app drawer opens by sliding up from the display, and a slide down from the upper part of the display opens the notification shade. There is a certain design language on the handset that uplifts the overall experience.
Samsung’s own virtual assistant Bixby also makes an appearance and it can be triggered by double tapping on the hardware key on the left or by just sliding to the left of your first homescreen. While voice controlling is still under works, features like Bixby vision and card suggestions are working quite well.
There is still a bit of bloatware on board, though. Yes, there are a lot of Samsung apps including Samsung’s own app store, the Samsung Gear app, Samsung Health, and a lot more. The handset also comes with pre-installed Microsoft apps such as Office, OneDrive and Skype. Compared to older devices, the app selection is not so bad, but one could do away some of them.
The Galaxy S8 uses a 12 MP camera that’s very similar to the one on its previous flagship, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. It has an aperture of f/1.7 with optical image stabilisation (OIS).
While the hardware doesn’t seem to have been updated, the software has definitely improved. The camera app opens fast and even focusing is really quick.
Now there isn’t a massive difference compared to the S7, but some tweaks appear to have been made somewhere. In my limited testing, the camera seems to be handling low light a bit better and the issue of over sharpening seems to have been resolved.
You can still shoot 4K videos as well as slow mo and timelapse.
The front camera is an 8 MP sensor, which also seems to be working really good. Selfies actually look pleasant but a bit soft. Samsung has updated the camera app, which is cleaner and easier to use. There are more swipes than taps and it also includes new Snapchat and Instagram style filters for the selfie generation.
Hold on for a full analysis of the camera in our review.
Battery and Connectivity
The Galaxy S8 features a 3,000 mAh Li-ion, non-removable battery. Thanks to the USB Type-C port, it supports fast charging. It also comes bundled with a 2A charger for faster charging. While the battery size is small, it is said to offer a full day’s charge and hopefully, it will not blow up.
Samsung also claims that a new battery design means that the device will not lose as much overall capacity over time. Phone’s normally lose around 15 percent of capacity within a year. Samsung claims that the S8 won’t lose more than 5 percent in two years, depending on usage of course.
For connectivity, you get the works, including 4G LTE with VoLTE support, Dual SIM, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi direct, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO.
This is the first handset to offer Bluetooth version 5.0, which means that you can pair two audio devices at the same time, say two speakers to enjoy music or two headphones to share the joy.
Samsung has done a great job. In just a few minutes of usage, you start loving the device. Right from the design to the super smooth software. I could barely see any solid flaw that would not make me buy this phone. Of course, that’s just me saying this after a few hours of usage.
Is it better than its predecessor? Well, I still need a thorough testing of the battery, camera and overall performance to conclusively determine that, but I am almost convinced that the Galaxy S8 is going to shine this year.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is priced at Rs 57,900 and the Galaxy S8+ will come at Rs 64,900. When compared the price points at which Apple iPhone 7 /7 Plus and the Google Pixel were launched, it appears Samsung has announced the device at a competitive price point.
It also comes with offers such as free wireless charger for pre-registered buyers, double data offer on Jio, and more. It will start selling on Flipkart from 5 May onwards.
Keep checking for our full review of the Samsung Galaxy S8 soon.