Samsung Galaxy S8+ review: Do you really need a 6.2in phone?

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Samsung Galaxy S8+ review: Do you really need a 6.2in phone?
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Cameras, software and conclusion

On paper, the rear camera isn’t much to shout about. It has the same resolution as last year’s Samsung flagships, remaining at 12 megapixels, and the secondary specifications are a match as well, with optical image stabilisation, dual-pixel autofocus and a bright aperture of f/1.7.

The only difference on paper is that the camera, via the S8+’s image signal processor (ISP), captures not one but three frames in rapid succession every time you shoot, combining them together in a bid to create sharper images.

It’s like HDR for every shot you take and is Samsung’s attempt to match the Google Pixel phone’s HDR+ technique, which captures up to ten images and combines them in a similar way. What effect does this have on captured images?

Surprisingly – as with the S8 – it improves things significantly over the S7 and, in good light, the S8’s images compare well with the Pixel’s. The main difference is not in detail capture, but exposure, where the Pixel captures much more naturalistic images than the Samsung Galaxy S8+, which has a tendency to slightly overexpose and oversaturate images.

We also noticed in a couple of examples that the S8+ is applying significantly more noticeable sharpening than the Pixel. This is evident only on very close inspection, but it means that the S8+’s images, in some circumstances, can look sharper.

The Pixel XL on the left produces more balanced, natural-looking shots than the S8+, which has a tendency to blow out highlights.


There's a more yellowy, over-saturated look to the S8's shot (right), where again the Pixel produces more realistic images.

In low light, however, the win goes more clearly to the Pixel XL. Its pictures look a little grainier than the Samsung Galaxy S8+ images, but that means it’s better at retaining details. Once again, there’s slightly more naturalist colour capture as well. The Google Pixel is clearly still the king of smartphone photography.

In this low-light image, the Google Pixel XL (left) gets white balance under fluorescent lighting spot on while the S8+ image is slightly too yellow. Close inspection also shows the Pixel's shot to be grainier, but slightly better in terms of detail preservation.

If you value your front-facing camera as much as your rear, though, you’ll be very satisfied with the S8+ snapper. It has a much better selfie camera than the S7 Edge (8 megapixels vs 5 megapixels), although it's again a close-run thing with the Google Pixel XL. The S8+’s f/1.7 aperture lets in much more light than the Pixel’s f/2.4, but the Pixel tends to exposure images more accurately and ends up capturing more natural-looking snaps as a result.

Software, Bixby and DeX

The Samsung Galaxy S8+ runs Android 7 Nougat, which is hardly surprising, and this is overlaid with the usual Samsung launcher software. You might find this intrusive, with its slightly different icons and laundry list of extra features, but I don’t. It’s different, but not unpleasantly so, and although there’s quite a long list of preinstalled apps, the 64GB standard storage allocation and microSD slot mean this isn’t the problem it might have been.

The big selling point of this particular iteration of Samsung’s software is supposed to be Bixby – the firm’s answer to Alexa and Siri – but the voice-driven part of it isn’t ready yet and what we do have is not all that exciting.

There’s an automatically curated feed of personalised news and info to the left of the homescreen that looks uncannily like the Google Now, and Bixby Vision – a plugin for the camera that analyses what you’re pointing the lens at and attempts to provide useful information, be that shopping links for products or information on people and landmarks.

I can’t see myself bothering with either of these in the long run, but since I’m reviewing the phone, I’ve been taking the opportunity to test the features out over the past few days. I can’t say I’ve been impressed.

The newsfeed works well enough, but I can see no practical reason for reinventing what Google Now does. Bixby Vision is of little to no use at all. The shopping aspect I could never get to work; nothing I pointed it at brought up any kind of recognised product. The image recognition was patchy at best. A photo of the BT Tower matched a bunch of towers across the world, but a snap of my face brought up wildly inaccurate match list, topped by a story about Robbie Williams. I’m not sure if I should be offended by that or flattered.

The Place option seems the most useful, but how many times are you going to find yourself in a place wanting to know something about a building that looks famous? I’m guessing not often.

The S8+ in the Samsung DeX dock.

Samsung DeX, on the other hand, is considerably more impressive. This is Samsung’s answer to Microsoft Continuum: slot the phone into the DeX dock (a rather costly £129 extra), connect a keyboard, mouse and monitor, and you’ll be able to use your phone to run a complete windowed desktop environment.

It’s surprisingly snappy and capable, too. I was able to work perfectly happily on just the phone for almost a whole day – until I needed to use Photoshop to do some RAW file editing. It’s certainly a big improvement on Microsoft’s rather sluggish effort.


In essence, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ is the same phone as the S8, with all the things that make that phone great, but with a bigger screen, a bigger battery, a more unwieldy profile and a higher price.

Is it any better, though? In our view, the answer to that question is no, and that’s mainly due to the 6.2in Samsung Galaxy S8+’ size. Although it isn’t over-wide, it’s too tall and although we’d be happy to carry around the regular Samsung Galaxy S8 day to day, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ is just one step too far.

We’ve been here before with big phones, of course. We remember reviewing the first 4.5in smartphone and thinking that ludicrously big at the time, so our opinion might change. Of course, you do get better battery life than the Galaxy S8 as well.

However, the Galaxy S8+ is considerably more expensive – $1,349 versus the S8’s $1,199, while its cheapest 1GB plan is $76 per month (from Woolworths) compared to $72 for the standard S8 (Optus).

If you’re of the ‘bigger the screen, the better’ school of thought, you’ll probably love the Galaxy S8+. For everyone else, the S8 is the better balanced, better value phone.

This article originally appeared at

The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is essentially the same as the regular S8, but with a bigger screen and longer battery life – which makes it an outstanding smartphone. It's probably just a bit too big for most users though.
$1349 AUD outright
2.3GHz octacore Samsung Exynos 8895 processor; 6.2in 1,440 x 2,560-pixel AMOLED screen; 64GB built-in storage; microSD slot (up to 256GB); 12MP, f/1.7 rear camera; 8MB front camera; USB Type-C port; 4G (Gigabit) connectivity; 3500mAh battery; wireless Qi and PNA charging; 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm, 173g; Android 7.0 (Nougat).
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