In a post-Galaxy S8 world, the Be aware eight is secure, predictable and arguably overpriced. But it surely’s nonetheless one of many best possible Android telephones you should buy proper now.
Till just lately, the final Galaxy Be aware I might truly purchase within the UK was a mannequin launched nearly three years in the past. 2015’s Be aware 5 by no means reached European shores, and the Be aware 7 was canned simply earlier than the official Euro launch might start. It has been a tough couple of years for the sequence that introduced large telephones to the mainstream — and, for higher or worse, launched “phablet” into the smartphone lexicon.
Except for simply being launched and never catching on hearth, the Galaxy Be aware eight wanted to remind consumers — notably within the European market, the place the sequence was met with such large early success — what was essential in regards to the Be aware model. When everybody has a fairly good, fairly large cellphone, why select the largest and costliest?
For the Be aware eight, the reply is a component excessive expertise, and half fan service for the Be aware sequence’ devoted core following.
The existence of the Galaxy S8+ required Samsung to go actually, actually large with the Be aware eight. As in years previous, the Be aware eight takes the design fundamentals of the present Galaxy S mannequin, and blows it up into a bigger dimension, with a extra angular aesthetic.
I did not spend a lot time with the ill-fated Be aware 7, however the sheer dimension distinction on this 12 months’s mannequin is putting. (Keep in mind that the Be aware had caught on the 5.7-inch mark for 3 years at that time.) You already know it is a large cellphone, on account of that 6.Three-inch show dimension, however now it is a large, tall cellphone, in a approach that dwarfs even the S8 Plus, on account of its barely chunkier brow and chin, and the much less curvaceous chassis.
The Be aware eight is a gorgeous cellphone, nearly as a result of it is such an unapologetically enormous chunk of expertise.
Utilizing it with one hand is problematic, even if you happen to’re used to historically giant handsets; you may wish to change into acquainted with the elective one-handed mode, enabled within the Settings app, fairly shortly.
Nonetheless, you’ll be able to’t deny that the Be aware eight is a gorgeous cellphone, nearly as a result of it is such an unapologetically enormous chunk of expertise. The minimal aspect bezels and tall 18.5:9 side ratio convey a cellphone meaning enterprise, whereas the comparatively chunky eight.6mm depth measurement give it extra heft than thinner, lighter telephones just like the LG V30.
Except for the sheer dimension of this handset, the Be aware eight is an aesthetic marvel for a similar causes because the GS8. The most recent evolution of Samsung’s metal-and-glass design language brings us an aesthetic, symmetrical chassis that appears phenomenal in lighter colours like gold and blue.
Samsung’s biometrics are nonetheless trash, however I hate the fingerprint scanner lower than the S8’s.
In the event you’re after one thing ergonomic and straightforward to wrangle with out bringing a second hand into play, that’s not this cellphone. However then you definitely’re studying a Galaxy Be aware overview, so that you most likely already knew that.
The Galaxy S8’s…. unlucky… biometric state of affairs returns, with a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner you may have a tough time reaching, an iris scanner that does not work in vivid daylight, and a face-scanning system that fails in low mild. I have been utilizing Good Lock along with my Huawei Watch, which has served as a workaround.
That mentioned, I (surprisingly) do not hate the fingerprint placement fairly as a lot as I did on the S8+. It is nonetheless unreasonably excessive up. (One competitor tells me Samsung probably made that call to liberate house for the battery.) However the added clearance offered by having the center price sensor and different biometric gubbins between the fingerprint sensor and the cameras means I am much less paranoid about gunking up the lens, and I am free to succeed in to the scanner at a extra pure angle.
Do not get me flawed, it is nonetheless unhealthy. Simply not as unhealthy as it’d’ve been.
On the within, it is a repeat efficiency of the Galaxy S8 on nearly all counts, save for a bump in RAM (to 6GB) and a slight battery hit (Three,300mAh, down from Three,500) in comparison with the S8 Plus. Apart from that, you realize the rating: Snapdragon 835, 64GB storage, microSD expandability.
The total loadout of additional niceties we have come to count on from Samsung telephones can also be included — wi-fi charging, adaptive quick charging (suppose Qualcomm Fast Cost 2), IP68 water resistance, and the more and more endangered Three.5mm headphone jack.
Extra: Samsung Galaxy Be aware eight specs
I am a bit upset to see one other 12 months cross and not using a important bump in wired charging speeds. (Samsung has caught with the identical taste of 9V/1.67A fast charging for the previous three years.) Nonetheless, the added comfort of wi-fi charging goes a way in the direction of compensating.
Even with a smaller battery than the S8+ — that S Pen take up worthwhile inner house, bear in mind — the Be aware eight nonetheless performs satisfactorily in day-to-day use. Even whereas roaming, and utilizing my unit’s twin SIM performance, the cellphone offers me between three and 4 hours of display on time, with between 14 and 16 hours of time per cost on LTE, with the At all times-On Show function enabled.
That is a far cry from multi-day longevity, however broadly consistent with opponents just like the LG V30 and (OG) Google Pixel XL. What’s extra, the aforementioned wi-fi charging makes opportunistic top-ups all through the day much less of a chore.
For a cellphone with such an infinite, lovely, vivid show, such endurance from a run-of-the-mill battery capability represents a strong efficiency.
The unequalled brightness of Samsung’s display is an actual differentiator.
The Be aware eight builds on the spectacular AMOLED display of the S8, with even brighter pixels able to reaching a staggering 1200 nits in daylight mode. Within the UK in early autumn, that is not a function you may depend on with a lot frequency. However having used the Be aware eight in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Taipei over the previous couple of weeks, the assure of with the ability to see the show, even within the brightest daylight situations, is a plus.
Samsung continues to push curved AMOLED via its Edge Show, which supplies the Be aware eight a symmetrical profile, whereas permitting for slender bezels. The curve is much less pronounced than in Notes previous, however there’s nonetheless some slight colour shift across the edges. It is simple to disregard, however undeniably current.
Nevertheless, the one a part of the show I have been upset in is its susceptibility to smudges and gunk. The oleophobic coating on my unit has began to put on very visibly, notably across the house key, after simply a few weeks. (I noticed an identical development on my S8 Plus, solely after a number of months.) All telephones will finally succumb to this, because the smudge-resistant layer wears off. However the truth that I am seeing it after lower than a month is troubling.
I am additionally not blown away by the Be aware eight’s built-in, bottom-firing speaker. Little progress appears to have been made for the reason that S8, and whereas the speaker is fairly loud, it is also pretty tinny. That looks like a missed alternative in a cellphone with such an superior show.
The main differentiator of the Be aware sequence, now that many telephones can match Samsung on show dimension and digital camera high quality, and beat it on battery life, is the S Pen. We have reached the purpose the place no one is even making an attempt to compete with Samsung on the subject of stylus enter on a smartphone, leaving the corporate uncontested on this house.
After all, there are technical enhancements to the pen: Stress sensitivity has doubled in comparison with the Be aware 7.
And Samsung has a wealth of S Pen software program options organized across the Air Command menu — the little radial dial that seems once you undock. These vary from helpful to pure gimmickry. (There is no motive, as an illustration, why recording a piece of the display as a GIF ought to require using an S Pen.)
Except for the added precision that the pen offers me in comparison with a stubby finger — in impact, permitting me to pinpoint areas of the UI the identical approach I do with a mouse on a PC — essentially the most helpful S Pen options I’ve discovered concentrate on multitasking and fast data retrieval.
Good Choose, as an illustration, permits you to pin captured areas of the show to the highest of your display for reference. In the meantime “Look” mode offers you a fast shortcut button which you’ll hover over to refer again to a specific software.
And sure, note-taking continues to be a factor on the Be aware, with as much as 100 pages of doodles or grocery lists now supported in Samsung’s Display-Off memo function. Pull out the pen with the display off, take a observe, then reserve it to the Samsung Notes app, or pin it to the At all times-On Show for fast reference.
The sheer amount of S Pen options makes it laborious to separate out the sign from the noise.
The one downside with all that is that the sheer amount of options could be overwhelming. Have been I not on this job, I most likely would’ve sidestepped a lot of the S Pen options fully. I’ve to query what number of Be aware eight house owners will actually wish to go digging within the S Pen and Air Command menus to seek out issues like Direct Enter, which helps you to write immediately into textual content fields in any app.
Exterior of the S Pen, the Be aware eight’s software program expertise is virtually similar to that of the GS8. You have acquired some new animated “Infinity Wallpapers,” with visually spectacular star fields that scroll into view as you energy on and pan via house screens. And we’re now as much as Samsung Expertise eight.5, which mixed with the additional 2GB of RAM permits for a extra fluid UI, and fewer app reloads than Samsung’s different flagships.
Samsung’s present UI stays one amongst my favorites, with a slick sci-fi aesthetic that is absolutely differentiated from vanilla Android, and extremely polished.
Bixby Voice is now obtainable, letting you exchange contact enter with voice instructions within the handful of supported apps. Exterior of the truth that now you can disable the Bixby Button for Bixby Dwelling (lastly), my place on Bixby hasn’t actually modified since utilizing the Be aware eight. The potential is large, however the execution is simply nowhere close to absolutely baked.
Bixby is not an assistant per se, however interacting with the service so typically appears like being lumbered with a private helper with the IQ of a toddler. Bixby Voice struggles to know many instructions, will get far too many issues flawed, and that is within the few apps it truly helps at current.
The Be aware sequence has typically boasted new digital camera options forward of different Samsung telephones, and this 12 months’s mannequin the glory of sporting the primary twin digital camera setup in a Galaxy handset.
The first digital camera is basically similar to the Galaxy S8, which is each a recognized amount and an excellent smartphone digital camera. Samsung now not has a monopoly on one of the best cellphone cameras, however it did not actually need to push the boat out past the S8 for normal pictures, and I am simply effective with the corporate recreating the identical f/1.7, 12-megapixel shooter across the again of the Be aware.
For extra on the similar digital camera module as we have been utilizing it on the Galaxy S8 sequence, take a look at our overview of that cellphone. Six months on, it stands up rather well.
The secondary telephoto digital camera is the place issues get attention-grabbing. It is an optically stabilized 12-megapixel sensor behind an f/2.four lens, and the OIS offers this digital camera an edge over the likes of the OnePlus 5, and most iPhone fashions in low-light photographs. The result’s the that Be aware eight can seize zoomed-in photographs with extra effective element than both the previous-gen iPhone or the OnePlus 5, regardless of the latter’s higher-resolution 20-megapixel sensor.
Personally, I nonetheless choose LG’s strategy to a dual-camera setup, the place the wide-angle lens used within the G6 and V30 let me immediately seize a wider, extra dramatic discipline of view. However there is not any denying the Be aware’s telephoto lens introduces some distinctive inventive potentialities as properly — and the primary one is Stay Focus.
Stay Focus is getting higher, however it’s nonetheless nowhere close to 100% dependable.
Stay Focus may very well be described as Samsung’s tackle Apple’s Portrait Mode. And on present firmware it does a serviceable job at maintaining your topic in focus, whereas artistically defocusing the background. (Issues appear to have improved in that regard since Andrew first reviewed the Be aware eight on Samsung’s preliminary firmware, which is to be anticipated.) However you can too use it to introduce added depth into nearly any shot, offered there’s sufficient mild. Meals photographs, structure and landmarks, with a bit creativity, could be captured in a approach that does not instantly scream “shot on a cellphone.”
Does Stay Focus journey up every now and then? Completely. The usual obstacles like hair, glass and liquids can confuse Samsung’s depth-sensing algorithms, and Stay Focus nonetheless fails a bit too typically for my liking. However a minimum of when it does fall flat, you continue to get common pictures captured with each the usual and telephoto lenses.
Is the Be aware eight’s digital camera one of the best? No. Is any single digital camera one of the best, within the age of extremely differentiated software program options, computational images, telephoto-versus-wide-angle and different distinctive issues that finally boil down to private style? I would argue no.
Regardless, choose up a Be aware eight and also you’re getting two phenomenal cameras all the identical.
The Galaxy Be aware eight is not one of the best at all the things it does. Massive battery life? Have a look at the Huawei Mate 9, or presumably the soon-to-be-launched Mate 10, relying on how the specs shake out. Fast updates and superior HDR+ cameras? Look to Google’s new Pixels. A giant display in a manageable dimension? Native rival LG is hoping you may contemplate its V30.
That mentioned, Samsung has stayed true to the essence of what made the Be aware particular when it first appeared six years in the past: The most important, greatest display you’ll be able to moderately slot in a smartphone-sized system. Strong fundamentals. Nice cameras. And distinctive, unmatched S Pen options.
If any cellphone is price $1000 to you, check out the Be aware eight.
The principle areas the place this Be aware falls behind is battery life, a minimum of in comparison with rivals placing greater cells in smaller telephones. Samsung’s hesitance to push capacities too far after final 12 months’s battery debacle is comprehensible, however finally it’s going to have to deal with this space. That is most likely my largest criticism of a cellphone which, whereas nice, performs it comparatively secure, and has just a few surprises up its sleeve.
Nonetheless, Samsung has a improbable contender within the Be aware eight. Whether or not any cellphone is price nearly $1000 is a query for one more time. But when that is the sort of money you wish to splash on a phone, Samsung has a tool worthy of your consideration.