The Galaxy S8+ is surprisingly usable despite its over-sized screen – but are you better off with the regular S8?
Did we really need to review the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus? It is, after all, much the same as the Samsung Galaxy S8, which we reviewed earlier. It has the same features as its (slightly) smaller sibling; the same internals, camera, storage options, and screen aspect ratio and resolution.
What makes it different, of course, is the sheer size of the thing, so we definitely wanted to get our hands on the phone to see how practical it was to use.
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ screen measures 6.2in across the diagonal. This would make a regular phone practically unusable – but the Samsung Galaxy S8+ is no regular phone.
That’s mainly because the 18.5:9 aspect ratio allows Samsung to add extra screen real estate without expanding the physical width of the phone too much. This means the S8 is actually no less usable than other phablets with nominally smaller screens. Indeed, it feels quite comfortable to hold and use in one hand, which is quite the surprise.
Looking objectively at the numbers, though, this should come as no real surprise. The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is a mere 73.4mm wide, which works out at only 0.8mm broader than last year’s S7 Edge. It’s noticeably taller at 159.5mm (compared with 150.9mm for the S7 Edge), but thanks to incredibly narrow top and bottom screen bezels, it isn’t as unwieldy as it could have been.
Despite this, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ is still not the most pocketable of smartphones. Despite the narrow bezel, this phone is taller than the Google Pixel XL by nearly half a centimetre and it’s pretty hefty, too, at 173g. You’ll need to have deep pockets or plan on keeping it in a bag.
In terms of practicality and looks, these are pretty much the only differences between the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and the regular S8. They’re both available in the same range of colours – gold, grey and black – and both look and feel glorious. There’s Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and rear, although the lack of bezels means it probably will smash if you drop it anyway. It’s IP68 dust- and water-resistant, though, so when you get caught out in a rain shower or drop it down the toilet, it should continue to work.
Just like its little brother, the S8+ also has a microSD slot, and it has a fingerprint reader that’s been repositioned at the rear as well. That’s poor positioning, in my view, because it means you frequently smudge the camera lens with your finger trying to locate it. At least there are other ways to unlock the phone, although both the iris recognition and new facial recognition are less convenient to use because you have to lift up the phone to engage them.
However, there’s no denying that this is one handsome smartphone, largely due to the lack of bezels and the gorgeous curved edges that run up the phone's flanks. No other smartphone looks this good; it’s a pleasure to pick up, use, stroke and fondle – a jewel of a smartphone that’s one step ahead of the rest of the market.
Performance and display
Performance-wise – yep, you guessed it – the Samsung Galaxy S8+ offers much the same as the regular S8, which means to say it’s superfast. You get a 10nm Samsung Exynos 8895 (or Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 in some other countries) and this is paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of UFS 2 storage.
As you can see from the above benchmark graphs, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ matches the regular S8 test for test – hardly surprising given the identical internals.
The Galaxy S8’s display, too, is just what you’d expect from Samsung, which has become a pass master in this area in recent years. It’s an AMOLED panel, so it has perfect black and its performance in every test we put it through was superb.
Colours are perfectly poised – not oversaturated yet still vibrant – and it goes just as bright as you need it to. We usually measure brightness by switching off auto-brightness and then sliding the adjustment all the way up to the maximum; however, with Samsung phones, the maximum brightness can only be achieved by enabling auto-brightness and placing the phone in high ambient light.
In these conditions, with a full white screen, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ is able to push screen brightness up from a maximum of 347cd/m2 to 554cd/m2, which means it will be bright enough to read in most conditions.
That’s still not the full story, however. Since the screen is HDR Premium certified, it should be able to reach higher peak brightness than this and so it proves. With only a small patch of white pixels displayed on the screen, the S8+ pushes peak brightness up to a searing 912cd/m2.
It’s one hell of a display, then, but there are practical issues to contend with. That long-tall screen aspect ratio (or short-wide, depending on how you look at it) means that not all apps and content adapt perfectly. I came across a number of games during testing that left thick black borders at the top and bottom of the screen and, when you turn the phone on its side, it’s a similar situation with movie and TV content.
While YouTube and Samsung’s own video player let you stretch content to fit the wide screen, other apps don’t yet offer the option to do this. Fire up a movie on Netflix, for instance, and you’ll have to put up with black bars to the left and right, with no way to either zoom or stretch the video to fill the screen; perhaps we’ll just have to be patient on this front, but at the moment it’s a little disappointing.
The one area of performance where the Samsung Galaxy S8+ has the potential to be different from the regular S8 is battery life. With a larger 3,500mAh capacity, you’d expect stamina to be longer, although there is the compensating factor of that larger screen.
Anecdotally, this is a long-lasting phone. We used it for around a week and regularly get longer than a full day out of it. Our video-playback battery test backs up this experience. With the phone set to its default screen resolution (1,080 x 2,220), the screen calibrated to 170cd/m2 and flight mode engaged, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ lasted 20 hours 33 minutes before running dry. That’s a very good result, and places it a long way ahead of the Google Pixel XL, LG G6 and even the regular Galaxy S8.