Samsung Lebanon has a couple of demo units of the S8 and S8+ in their showroom while they won’t begin to sell before the end of next week, so I went there to see how good these praised phones are.
These are Exynos version (EMEA)
I will compare it also to my HTC 10 that I like a lot.
All photos in this preview were taken with my Fujifilm X-T10 + 23mmf2
Design and handling:
I was always complaining about the home button Samsung used till the S7 because I found it ugly and it doesn’t differentiate the expensive flagship phone with the cheaper models from Samsung, this time they finally ditched it for a virtual on screen one which is a very good choice as it also help them get these slim bezels on the S8 and S8+.
This year the basic model is the S8 with edges and 5.8” screen while the S8+ is the exact same design but bigger with 6.2”.
The S8 is light, very slim and thanks to the new long format the screen new bigger size doesn’t go in width but in height and on the corners (edges), making the S8’s 5.8” screen usable one handed by most people.
The S8 is about 1mm longer than my 5.2” HTC 10 with its cover on which is crazy when you know it has 0.6” screen more!
Even the S8+ can be usable one handed if your fingers are long like mines, I had no particular problems to reach the statusbar and slide it down.
Sadly the back is still glass and it’s still a finger print magnet galore! You will definitely need a skin or a cover. As you can notice, the fingerprint scanner is now at the back very close to the camera.
Samsung flagships were always known for their crazy good amoled screen and the S8/8+ are not different, the screen is really astonishing with its new HDR 10 tech, colors pop-up even more than ever before and you feel this screen is full of life.
At 5.8” the S8 screen is already huge to fully enjoy videos and VR, though it has a weird resolution of 1440 x 2960 so all your conventional wallpaper and videos won’t match it.
The screen may not be optimal for VR headset like BoboVR Z4 and Fiit VR which are the best actual Google cardboard compatible headset under 25$, because the longer but narrower screen would mean horizontal black bars, so you bet you will need the GearVR device to fully enjoy VR with the S8, as for the S8+ it would be perfect on any of the mentioned headset.
On the negative side: The whites have a pink hue, more pronounced on the sides and edges. Compared to the HTC 10 LCD panel the difference is huge for whites, even with colors like blue there is a shift to purple.
Update: About the pink hue and pinker borders, Samsung released an update that will give you control on white balance of the whole screen and of the edges. From XDA reports it worked with some but many still have uneven red-pink-blue on their screen. Samsung invites you to reclaim a replacement in case the update didn’t fix your screen.
I tried the speaker of the S8 and S8+ in the Samsung showroom in the end of the day while there were only 3 persons left, the volume was acceptable to hear the ringtones but not for playing games, the HTC 10 is obviously louder with games and has more details and bass.
As for the earphones output volume, it was not a surprise to see that it hasn’t evolve enough to reach the excellency of the HTC 10 in terms of loudness, so using a KZ ZS3 and Hifiman RE272 for example will be much louder on the 10 than on the S8/S8+.
The interface of the camera is very close to the one on the HTC 10 with easy access to HDR mode, flashand settings, one button to shoot and one to go into video mode.
Autofocus is fast, as well as Raw shooting which is very nice compared to the HTC 10 slower in that department.
Photo quality is very good on the S8’s screen, will have to check later for the actual sharpness and details on a PC. But all and all it looks very promising.
Here are the Photo and video resolutions for the camera:
As it’s a preview of these phones I can’t give a full everyday usage appreciation of the UI, but I really liked the clock + notifications when the phone is idle, the new virtual buttons that are very discreet and the new icons from Samsung that are not the ugly childish ones we used to see on previous models.
As for the speed of the UI, sometimes it felt blazing fast and sometimes a bit laggy.
When I changed the wallpaper it took at least 5 seconds to do it which is pretty slow if you ask me.
To adapt to the new screen resolution of 1440×2960 you have a new option in the video player bottom right to pan or zoom the image so it matches the whole screen or else you will end up with black bars.
So is this the killer flagship phone you absolutely need to get this year? It depends! If you are an audiophile like me and are not a fan of using an external amp then it’s most probably not the phone you should buy, same goes if you are picky with the screen color accuracy. But for all the rest this S8/S8+ are really gorgeous phones with a head-turner design and a superb amoled screen (put aside the whites). But if you can wait 3 weeks HTC will officially unveil its next flagship called Ocean or U on the 16th of May, so it’s always better to wait a bit more to have all the cards in your hands and pick the right one for you.
What I liked:
+ Design combining a big screen on a smaller body
+ Screen vibrancy
+ Much better UI than old Touchwiz
What I didn’t like:
– Whites are pinkish specially on the borders
– Occasional lags
– Back glass fingerprint magnet galore
Here the different colors that will be available for the S8 and S8+