Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
Samsung had a major burden to carry after its last major product release: its Galaxy Note7 phones were infamously prone to catching fire while charging. Now the company is back with the Samsung Galaxy S8, the first phone in a while that has really made heads turn. That’s because its 5.8-inch bezel-less edge-to-edge infinity display is straight up gorgeous. There isn’t another smartphone in the U.S. like it, and when you see it, you’ll definitely want one. But is the screen just another gimmick, or is this new phone, from a company with a troubled past, actually worth its hefty $720 price?
We say yes. After testing the Galaxy S8 in Purch Labs, we determined it is the best Android phone available. It is made from the utmost premium materials and boasts Qualcomm’s speedy Snapdragon 835 processor. It has remarkable battery life, is comfortable to hold and packed with top-notch cameras.
When you hold the Galaxy S8, you know there is no other phone like it. Its metal frame feels premium and is inviting to touch, and its display is simply remarkable. It’s taller, skinnier and more compact than most smartphones but still manages to fit in more precious screen real estate.
This display has a 18.5:9 aspect ratio that’s noticeably unlike the 16:9 screens that outfit almost every other smartphone today. This bezel-less display does what the LG G6’s 18:9 display could not achieve – make the phone look like you are holding just a screen. While the Galaxy S7 Edge’s 76-percent screen-to-body ratio was impressive, the new Galaxy S8 has an 83-percent screen-to-body ratio. For additional comparison, the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus sits at just a 68-percent ratio.
The S8 is comfortable to hold and doesn’t feel slippery. This is coming from someone who hates large phones and prefers the 4-inch iPhone SE to any model with a “plus” in the name. The Galaxy S8 is the first big phone I didn’t feel like I was going to drop, even though it has an intimidatingly fragile glass body. I even felt confident operating it one-handed, although my thumb couldn’t reach the top of the screen. To compensate, Samsung added a one-handed mode – you can shrink the screen by tapping the home button three times.
This unique design put Samsung in a little bit of a bind. Not only did it have to ditch the physical home button, but it also had to move the phone’s fingerprint scanner to the back. The scanner is awkwardly placed, and because of this, the otherwise stunning smartphone picked up a lot of fingerprints and smudges in our tests. The marks were especially prominent on the midnight black version we tested, but they didn’t show up as much on the orchid gray unit we also reviewed.
In the grand scheme of things, the fingerprint scanner is a minor complaint, and Samsung made more wise design decisions than bad ones. The company kept several key design elements that made its past phones shine, including wireless charging, a MicroSD card slot and a water-resistant body. The AT&T model even touts a FM receiver. Unlike iPhone’s 7 and 7 Plus models, Samsung opted to keep the S8’s 3.5mm headphone jack and make the switch to USB-C for its charging port.
Samsung didn’t really update the Galaxy S8’s rear camera, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it would have been nice to see a dual-camera setup, but its onboard camera is still incredibly impressive – it has the same 12MP sensor with an f/1.7 optically stabilized lens as its predecessor. However, Samsung upped its software processing to be in the same vein as the Google Pixel's HDR+ mode.
Essentially, the camera takes multiple pictures when you press the shutter, selects the best one, and enhances the image with extra details and info from the other photos. This leaves you with crystal-clear, bright and detailed photographs featuring rich, vibrant colors. We found that the Galaxy S8’s camera performs well both in bright environments and those with not-so-great lighting.
Samsung’s camera app is loaded with various modes for shooting panoramas, food photos and slow motion video, and it even has Snapchat- and Instagram-like stickers and filters. Conveniently, you can press the power button twice to quickly trigger the camera, no matter if your phone is locked or you are using a different app. The camera can also be operated with a single hand.
Additionally, the front-facing camera got a bit of an upgrade to up your selfie game. The Galaxy S8 sports a new 8MP camera with a wide-angle lens and auto focus. In beauty mode, you can slim your face, enlarge your eyes and adjust your skin tone. Pro users will appreciate the full-manual control, a feature that’s missing on the Google Pixel.
The S8’s camera shoots 4K video at 30 frames per second (fps) and slow-mo video at up to 240 fps at 720p. Videos are crisp and vivid, and the image stabilization comes in handy when you are moving and recording video simultaneously.
This smartphone is fast and incredibly versatile thanks to its onboard Snapdragon 835 processor. It also comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage space. That’s twice the amount you get from base models of the iPhone 7, LG G6 and Google Pixel. And if you need more storage, you can just pop a MicroSD card in the expandable storage slot.
At Top Ten Reviews, we put every smartphone we review through at least 50 separate benchmarks, gathering over 300 individual data points. Our benchmark tests found that the Galaxy S8 is the most powerful Android phone, and one of the most powerful smartphones on the market. It's a powerhouse, and we never experienced lag.
Tom’s Guide, our sister site, conducted an extensive battery test on the Samsung Galaxy S8. It determined that the Galaxy S8’s 3000 mAh battery lasts for 10 hours and 39 minutes, improving on the Galaxy S7's eight hour and 43 minute time by nearly two hours – the screen may be larger, but it doesn’t affect battery life. These results were obtained with the phone’s resolution set to its max 2960 x 1440 pixels. The phone’s less-demanding 2220 x 1080 setting is enabled by default.
For comparison, the iPhone 7 has a nine hour and three minute battery life, and the Google Pixel lasted for eight hours and 16 minutes in the same test. However, the larger Google Pixel XL still reigns supreme with its 3450 mAh battery, which yields 11 hours and 11 minutes of battery life.
Samsung introduced Bixby, a new built-in assistant that doesn’t have voice functionality yet. For now, Bixby is sort of like Google Now, with information cards to let you know what’s trending online and give you a quick glance at your calendar, the weather and the news. There’s even a dedicated button on the left side of the phone to activate Bixby, though it would be nice if Samsung let users remap this button or at least disable it. Google Assistant, which the S8 also has, is much more capable and powerful. We aren’t much of a fan of Bixby, but to be fair, we aren’t fans of Siri either. Both have significant room for improvement.
The Galaxy S8 has Bluetooth 5.0, which has a longer range than previous standards and lets you play audio from two different devices simultaneously. This comes in handy for Bluetooth speakers and lets you listen to the same tunes as a workout buddy at the gym, as long as your friend has a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
While we’re on the subject of headphones, Samsung throws in a pair of AKG earbuds with every S8. These $99 headphones blow Apple’s EarPods out of the water. To make matters even better, you also get a Gear VR and controller with your Galaxy S8.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is hands down the best Android smartphone. It beats all the competition in terms of performance, design, battery life and features. It's obvious Samsung put a lot of time, effort and soul in creating this stunning device. Sure, the S8 has some minor shortcomings, such as an awkwardly placed fingerprint scanner and half-baked voice assistant, but with its vibrant display, excellent cameras, extensive battery life and speedy processor, we feel confident in giving it the top spot in our review.
Contributing Reviewer: Jeph Preece