When I reviewed the Galaxy S7 last year, I called it, “easily one of the best Galaxy S phones since the launch of the Galaxy S in 2010.” But it seems Samsung one upped themselves this year, by making improvements to their winning formula, to make the S8 & S8+ even better than the S7.

I’ve been using the Galaxy S8 for a few weeks now along with the new Gear VR with Motion Controller, and it’s one of the Android smartphones you can buy right now.

Editor’s Note: Even though I tested out the standard Galaxy S8 for this review, the S8+ is virtually identical aside from display size and battery capacity.

Design & Hardware

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The Galaxy S8 has a similar design to the Galaxy S7 from 2016. The body is made of metal and glass and the new Infinity Display is curved fits to the shape of the phone. The standard Galaxy S8’s Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display is 5.8-inches with a resolution of 2960 x 1440 and 570 ppi while the Galaxy S8+’s display is 6.2-inches and has the same resolution and is 529 ppi.

The S8 is also IP68 water and dust resistant just like previous models. On the top of the device, is where you’ll find the SIM tray and microSD card slot. The right side is where you’ll find the power button. The bottom is where the 3.5mm headphone jack and USB Type-C port are. On the left side of the device, is the volume rocker and the Bixby button, which I’ll get to later.

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Since Samsung made the Galaxy S8’s screen bigger, they had to move the fingerprint sensor to the back of the device. This is where my first gripe begins, the spot where Samsung chose to place the fingerprint sensor was a terrible one. It’s located to the right of the camera and if you’re right handed like me, you’ll be reaching your finger across the back of the device and cover the camera when you press the sensor.

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A better place for the fingerprint sensor on the back would have been somewhere in the centre like on the Google Pixel. Because of the fingerprint sensor placement on the S8, it would hardly recognize my finger. I had to rely on the new iris scanner or using a pattern lock to unlock the S8.

The screen on the Galaxy S8 looks great from all angles and videos especially look amazing.

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The Midnight Black Galaxy S8 is a fingerprint magnet, especially on the back of the device. I would recommend getting a case or a decal/skin.

The S8 feels great in the hands but can sometimes feel a bit slippery and the S8 has slipped out of my pocket while sitting down. The Galaxy S8’s 3,000 mAh battery does last all day and charges quickly too. The device also supports wireless charging.

The Galaxy S8 is being powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM. The device could easily keep up with the most demanding tasks and games. There is also 64GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot.

The S8 is available in two colours in Canada, Midnight Black and Orchid Grey and costs $1,035 CAD off-contract while the S8+ is $1,115 CAD. For 2-year contract pricing, the S8 starts at $249.99 CAD while the S8+ starts at $319.99 CAD.

Software

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are the first Samsung smartphones running Android 7.0 Nougat. And like previous models, they’re running the company’s Samsung Experience software (formerly known as TouchWiz).

The version of Samsung Experience on the S8 is somewhat toned down than previous versions but it’s still not anywhere close to the stock Android experience on the Google Pixel or Moto Z devices.

I’ve been using the Google Pixel XL as my daily driver and come from that to the Galaxy S8 and using the Samsung Experience skin on top of Android can be frustrating at times. Like if you wanted to remove an app from the home screen, instead of just holding and dragging to where it says remove, on the S8, you’ll have to hold and press the app and a small menu will pop up.

That’s so much more of an annoyance than clicking and dragging. And even in the Samsung Experience’s app drawer, if you want to add an app to the homescreen, it takes much more effort than a simple click and drag. You first need to hold the app you want to add, then drag it to the bottom of the screen then choose what home screen page you want it on.

With Android 7.0, you get features like the Google Assistant which can use to ask Google questions or control your smart home devices. There is also improved battery, memory management and more.

The Galaxy S8 also comes with a physical button to get access to Bixby which is Samsung’s revamped version of S Voice. When Samsung first introduced Bixby, I thought they were using the tech that was developed by Viv Labs, the same people who created Siri. But it turns out, Viv’s tech is still sitting on the shelf, waiting to be used.

The addition of the Bixby is supposed to give quick access to the Bixby voice assistant but it only has recently come to the US and South Korea and still no word on when it will come to Canadian Galaxy S8 users. For now, when you press the Bixby on a Canadian Galaxy S8, you’ll get access to Bixby Home, which I found to be pretty useless. Bixby Home is just trying to replicate the Google Feed (formerly known as Google Now) but it does a terrible job at doing that.

The Bixby voice assistant was originally set to launch soon after the Galaxy S8 released but that came and went and then it was delayed and delayed, partly because Bixby reportedly had trouble understanding English. So for all the countries beyond the US and South Korea, the Bixby button is pretty useless for Galaxy S8 users.

Also since the Galaxy S8 has a taller 18.5:9 aspect ratio, there are a few software tweaks to help make apps take up the whole display and not showing any black bars.

Camera

The main rear-facing camera on the Galaxy S8 is a 12-megapixel F1.7 Dual Pixel camera while the front-facing camera is 8-megapixels. Samsung didn’t change the camera by a whole lot.

The S8’s camera is able to take great photos and video. Samsung claimed that the S8’s camera is great for low-light which was somewhat true but I found the Google Pixel to take better low-light pictures.

Beyond low-light photos, photos taken on the Galaxy S8’s camera show lots of detail and colours really pop. The camera app on the Galaxy S8 is fairly simple, with access to basic functions like flash, video mode etc. There are few modes to choose from including a Pro mode to let you change the camera’s manual exposure settings, and ability to capture in the RAW format.

Videos taken on the Galaxy S8 look great and the S8 is capable of taking 4K video at 30 fps, 1080p at 30 or 60 fps and even slow-motion video at 720p 240fps. You can also take hyperlapse video and take 9-megapixel photos while recording in 4K.

Final Thoughts

Midnight Black

Overall I really like the Galaxy S8, the improvements that Samsung makes it a worthy successor to the Galaxy S7. Even though the S8 has a few minor annoyances like the Samsung Experience skin, (currently) useless Bixby button and the body being a fingerprint magnet, the Galaxy S8 is still a great smartphone for anyone.

Pros

  • Beautiful display
  • Premium design and build
  • Great camera
  • Expandable storage
  • IP68 water and dust resistance

Cons

  • Samsung Experience skin can be frustrating
  • Bixby is currently useless
  • Fingerprint magnet

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