Samsung's dazzling display

Noel Campion finds plenty of positives and some jarring niggles in Samsung's latest phones
Samsung's dazzling display
Samsung Galaxy S8

The new Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ have finally arrived and both phones share an almost identical specifications sheet with the only difference being screen size and battery capacity (3,000mAh S8, 3,500mAh for 8+).

If you’re one of those people who didn’t really like the edge screen then you may be out of luck because if you want the S8 there’s not non-edge version. However, the edge screen isn’t as pronounced and Samsung has improved the issue with accidental touch on the edges.

What you do get in both S8’s is stunning Super AMOLED displays the S8 being a 5.8-inch and the S8+ sporting a massive 6.2-inch. This sounds massive and ordinarily, it would be on most other phones but Samsung has managed to keep the overall dimensions down by making the screen as close to the four sides as possible. To put this in context, if you size up the iPhone 7 plus with the S8+ which is less than 1mm taller, less than 1mm thicker and a little over 4.5mm less on the width so the S8+ is slightly smaller over and yet it has a 6.2-inch display versus the iPhone's 5.5-inch. Where the iPhone 7 Plus has large top and chin areas, the 8+ has the bear minimum.

The Plus version of the S8 is 10mm taller and 5mm wider than the S8 and both feel great in the hand but for many, the S8 will be more than big enough. Personally, I prefer the larger display and but if you’ve got small hands then you will struggle to reach areas of the Pluses screen one-handed.

The S8 is all about the screen and that’s what will impress most people and rightly so. It’s the best screen on any smartphone, period. Apart from the size, the biggest differences to last year’s S7 is the aspect ratio, brightness, colour accuracy and the inclusion of HDR, plus the screen corners are now round instead of square. Making a screen that practically fills the entire front of a phone meant that Samsung had to make some difficult decisions and so the physical home button had to go. Instead, you now have a pressure sensitive home button built into the screen. This works well and I didn’t miss having a physical button. However, as a result, the fingerprint scanner was moved to the back beside the camera lens.

I don’t have a problem with fingerprint scanners being on the back in general but I found myself having to turn the phone around to see where my finger was so that I could correctly position my finger over scanner. Invariably you'll end up smudging the camera lens with your finger because it’s hard to differentiate between the camera lens and the scanner. That all being said, there are lots of ways of improving the experience and make things even easier.

Firstly, you can use the Iris Scanner which basically means you must square up the phone to within 25 to 35cm of your face. The scanner looks at your irises and boom, your phone unlocks. This works great most of the time but I found that sometimes, if it was too dark or to bring on a sunny day it struggled a little to unlock. Face unlock is another option and that works well too but it isn’t as secure. Finally, you can add trusted devices like the Gear S3 smartwatch which means that if it’s connected and in range, you only must swipe to unlock. You can also add a location like home so again, just swipe to unlock when you’re at home, safe and sound.

The S8’s screen is simply stunning and both sizes use the same Quad HD (2960x1440) resolution. By default, the screen runs at FHD+ (2220x1080) to improve performance and battery life but if you’ve got 20/20 vision then you can up this to Quad HD or even drop it to 720p.

The screen aspect ratio is unusually tall at 18.5:9 but when watching videos, you get the black bars on left and right rather than the typical top and bottom. You can zoom in to fully take advantage of the entire screen. This will cause cropping but it’s worth it to get the full experience. watching video much better as you don't get annoying black bars if you format to the screen. The videos I watched from Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime video looked fantastic as did phones and videos shot on the phone.

Both S8’s come with Samsung's Exynos Series 9 8895 chip, an octa-core processor with 4x 2.3GHz and 4x 1.7GHz clock speeds. You also get 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage with the option to add a micro-SD card up to 256GB. In terms of connectivity, you get all the latest specs including dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, Bluetooth 5.0 and 4G and USB-C for charging and data transfer.

I did some speed testing over WiFi and the S8+ returned the fastest speeds I’ve ever seen in my testing. I could get up to 260mbps on my home WiFi and up to 160mbps on 4G+ with Vodafone on download tests.

The selfie camera has been updated to auto-focus, 8mp and f 1/7 aperture. The rear camera, on paper, looks like the same sensor from the S7 but with some software tweaks to the camera app and which now features multi-frame image processing. Overall, the images look fantastic in both low light and well-lit environs.

With such a big display, it would be a shame not to make full use of it and with Snap Window you can. Using a new icon when viewing recent apps, you can select a portion of an app to pin at the top of the display while you carry on using the remainder like normal.

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are remarkable, pushing the boundaries of design and engineering beyond anything else that’s currently on the market making them the most desirable smartphone around. Of course, that isn’t to say they’re perfect but I can overlook the minor niggles until someone makes a perfect smartphone.

Pricing is via the operators, and ranges from €499 to €799.

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