Today's Best Tech Deals
Picked by PCWorld's Editors
Top Deals On Great Products
Picked by Techconnect's Editors
- Impossible dream
- Slim is in
- Fingerprint fumble
- Pure pixels
- Consolidation of power
- All-day pass
- Big bad Bixby
- Seeing isn’t believing
- Flying solo
- Super selfies
As good as the design is when the screen is off, it’s only accentuated when it comes to life. Even if you’ve previously used an Edge phone, the S8+ still feels like something entirely new, with edges that seamlessly blend into the frame and corners that dip elegantly out of view. It’s hard to do it justice with words, but I’ll say this: It makes all other phones, including the similarly svelte LG G6, look positively dull.
By making it a standard feature, Samsung has essentially taken the Edge screen out of beta mode, and it’s absolutely ready for its closeup. Even when purposefully holding one of the sides, it didn’t register a single extraneous touch, and the Edge-specific features only launched when deliberately activated. The panels offer the same customizable access to your favorite apps and contacts, and there are several new ones installed by default (I particularly liked the clipboard one to keep track of all of the screenshots I took). Edge Feeds are nowhere to be found in the Settings or the Galaxy Apps store, so it appears that Samsung has thought better of the ticker’s usefulness. However, the notification lights remain.
Samsung has stuck with a 2K screen for the S8+. However, while it has a slightly higher pixel count (2960 vs 2560) due to its new 18.5 by 9 aspect ratio, it’s hard to imagine a 4K display adding anything more than a tax on the battery. Even when using the default FHD+ resolution (2220 x 1080) the screen is crisp, bright, and stunningly vibrant, especially when watching movies in full screen. And since the S8+ offers the first display to carry the new Mobile HDR Premium certification, once Netflix and Amazon ramp up their mobile apps, it will easily be the best handheld movie player you can buy.
Consolidation of power
The Galaxy S8+ may be pretty on the outside, but on the inside it’s all business. It’s the first phone to be powered by the 10nm Snapdragon 835, and the gains it delivers over the S7 are certainly palpable.
But that’s measuring it against a year-old chip, so noticeable gains are to be expected. The upgrade is less obvious when comparing it to the newer 821 phones like the Pixel and LG G6. To the untrained and unbenchmarked eye, the S8+ could just as easily have an 821 chip inside it, as the real-world differences between the two are fairly inconsiderable. The S8+ feels just as snappy and smooth as other 821 phones, and I didn’t experience any of the dreaded and oft-reported Samsung lag. Benchmarks bear this out, with a measurable but not massive increase over Qualcomm’s predecessor.
That being said, the 835 is the first chip I’ve tested that’s in the same league as Huawei’s in-house Kirin 960, and it even held its own against Apple’s latest silicon. Samsung reportedly worked closely with Qualcomm on the design of the chip, and the optimization benefits can clearly be seen. Until Samsung can refine the performance of its Exynos chips for U.S. networks, this is the next best thing.
The real blow-away improvements in the S8+ can be seen with battery life. After the Note7 debacle, Samsung has promised to put every phone it sells through a strenuous 8-point battery check, but that doesn’t mean it crammed a giant battery into the S8+. There’s actually a smaller 3,500 mAh battery here (compared to the 3,600 mAh one in the S7 Edge), but Samsung has taken advantage of the 835’s power efficiency improvements, along with likely improved efficiency of its AMOLED displays, to squeeze out as much battery life as possible. Benchmark testing consistently showed around 9 hours, and my day-to-day experience matched up, easily getting through a full day of moderate-to-heavy use. The Galaxy S8+ was still ticking hours after the G6 and the Pixel would have needed a charge.
Our battery benchmarks calibrate the display to 200 nits with adaptive brightness turned off but cellular and Wi-Fi turned on, and the phone turned in some impressive scores.
Along with the benefits begotten by the 835 chip, Samsung has also souped up its OS to get every last drop from the battery. For one, the default resolution is “only” 2220 x 1080 FHD+, and Samsung actually warns about the possible increased battery drain when raising it to WQXD+. Android enthusiasts will scoff at this, but the visible difference between the two resolutions is negligible outside of higher-end gaming and VR. Even when I switched WQHD+ on for a full day, I didn’t notice the kind of enormous battery hit that would preclude you from using it.
Samsung has also tweaked the brightness slider to add a “red zone” to indicate the very high levels that seriously impact battery life. Again, hard-core users will grouse about such a warning, but I’d much rather Samsung give us the option than simply cripple the display. Besides, full brightness is almost too much to bear, so most users will be plenty comfortable keeping the levels well below the danger zone.
Head over to the settings you’ll find a pair of battery saving modes that will stretch your usage even further. Both will let you customize how your phone will save battery, offering toggles for brightness, resolution, and chip speed. It’s a definite improvement over Google’s all-or-nothing method, and with the right tweaks you can add several hours without degrading the experience too much. Battery warriors will be bummed to see the multi-day Ultra setting ditched in favor of a less-intense Max mode, but you’ll at least be able to triple your battery life in exchange for some serious limitations on the apps you can use.
With a gorgeous 6.2-inch display and a design that needs to be seen, the Galaxy S8+ truly changes the smartphone conversation.
- Amazing, brilliant, eye-popping display.
- An incredible design that makes a 6.2-inch screen feel like a 5.7-inch one.
- Camera offers nice refinements over the S7, especially for selfies.
- Fingerprint sensor is in a horrible location.
- Bixby isn't very useful or compelling.
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