Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: A gorgeous, fast, wonderful thing!

I upgraded recently from an iPhone 6 Plus to a Galaxy S8+.

It’s funny to me that Apple spells out the word “Plus” and Samsung uses a symbol… and here I am already getting off track.

I had no idea this upgrade was going to be so dramatic. Sure, the iPhone 6 is three years old at this point…but I had become so used to its apparent bloated slowness that the S8+ seems even faster to me than it otherwise might have.

It’s the first non-iPhone that I’ve owned since my brief dalliance with the Samsung Focus years ago(Windows Phone 7 Powered, no less!) and I love it.

I’m not really a phone reviewer.

I don’t have any benchmarks to show you, or detailed side-by-side comparisons of photographs, or battery tests. You can get all of that pretty much anywhere else. I just wanted to write about the good time I’ve been having with this phone. I’ve grown bored with phones over the last 5 years, and now I’m excited again.

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Design

The S8+ is a big phone that actually fits in my hand.

This will never stop being good.

I adjusted pretty quickly to the decent girth of the iPhone 6 Plus when I bought it over two years ago, to the point where it made other phones I’d owned seem small. But my hands are on the smaller side of average, and using the phone one-handed was a problem. A problem I dealt with day after day because I needed all the screen.

The ultra-wide 18.5:9 aspect ratio of the S8+ screen, combined with the rounded edges and the near-total reduction of the bezel means that I can actually hold this thing. It was the first detail I noticed when I tried both S8 models in a store a few months ago.

I don’t love the glass back, even though it looks very crisp and it’s easier to keep clean than the metal back of my iPhone.

But the glass back is more prone to damage. I don’t uses cases. I don’t really believe in them. It’s great if you’re into them, but I hate buying a pretty new thing only to add some bulky plastic or rubber to the back of it. So durability can be a concern.

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Screen

I missed you OLED. You were so good in my old Focus and the original PS Vita. Why did I ever let you go?

Some people don’t like the hyper-aggressive colors of most OLED panels. But there’s no denying the pure inky blackness of their black tones.

The S8+ has resolution for days. It actually ships with the resolution set to a wide 1080p, instead of the 1440p the display is capable of. But I bet most people would never notice. The scaling is great. The colors are great. It’s a consistently impressive display. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.

And the “infinity screen” bezel reduction really makes an impact. I wasn’t sure if it would. Most bezel-less screens aren’t truly without a bezel…because you have to have something to hold the screen into the device. The S8+ gets darn close, and it’s very nice to look at. Samsung smartly curved the edges of what little bezel the phone has, so that there’s no hard-edged transition to the edges.

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Sound

Samsung had the courage to include a revolutionary headphone jack in the S8 phones. What a concept!

Not only that, but they included some ear phones that are great.

The mono internal speaker is a little tinny and bright for my tastes…but not aggressively horrible. The stereo speakers on the iPhone 7 have the speaker here beat no question.

But all the other sound features are good. The included DAC is solid. I’ve had fun messing around with Samsung’s surround sound mode and UHQ upscaler. The included EQ works well.

As someone who likes to listen to music and podcasts on the go, the S8+ is a very good audio companion.

Usability

I wasn’t sure how quickly I’d take to Android, considering that I’d never owned an Android phone (just a tablet and the original Nvidia Shield), but I immediately liked several things about it. I like the flexibility of desktop icon placement. I like the task switcher. I like the organization of the notifications tray.

It’s not as simple as iOS. It’s not quite as naturally intuitive. I’ve had to re-learn how to do a whole bunch of things.

But in exchange you get a bunch of “power user” features that speak to my inner PC geek. And it’s not so bloated that a first-timer couldn’t still pick it up. Splitting that difference is hard, but Samsung’s lightly-customized flavor of Android gets it just right.

VR

I’ll write more about this soon….but Gear VR is great! When it’s working. And when the app you’re playing is good.

Gear VR, thanks to its integration with Oculus Home, is the one place where my slightly unwieldy power phone becomes a super-closed system. The transition is quick and easy…but the lack of options inside the headset is a little bit weird. Why can’t I at least peak at my regular desktop?

I’ve had much more fun with this thing than I thought I would. Mobile VR makes infinitely-more sense to me than the more expensive desktop implementations, and Gear VR is a very good version of that.

Final Thoughts

This phone has already been dissected to death by all the big tech sites and Youtubers. And I agree with most of them. It’s super good!

The health app is better than my iPhone. The speed is better than my iPhone. The camera is better than…

I could go on but I think you get the point.

I’m a total convert. I’m not going back. I’ve come a long way since I first walked into an AT&T store ten years ago and bought the original iPhone. That device was revolutionary in its day. It brought multi-touch to the masses.

The S8+ is probably the most excited I’ve been about a new phone since that first iPhone. It does almost everything right, and without feeling like it’s slowing me down. And there are constant promotions from various retailers that make its price super competitive, for being a flagship-caliber device.

If you’re trying to decide between an iPhone and a Galaxy S8+, it’s no contest for me really: Get the S8. Unless Apple goes for a radical design overhaul in their next phone, and changes the way we all see phones, I don’t see how they’ll top this. That’s partly because phones have become a little stagnant…but also because the S8 is just designed so well.

Please click the little heart if you enjoyed this! Thank you!

Written by

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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