Hands-on with Samsung’s Galaxy S8 – Something to prove

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Samsung has finally revealed the Galaxy S8, as well as its bigger, beefier brother the S8+, and it really had to turn the knob up to eleven and then break it off to make up for the events of 2016. We’ve had some time to actually handle the phone and we’re able to conclude that Samsung has probably achieved what they’ve set out to do.

Most of our being is crying out for this handset right now, but there’s a small, terrified banker tucked away in a corner of our souls sobbing about that this is all going to cost us. (It’s at least R15,500, or as much as R17,500, depending which model you spring for).

Design — Where have all the bezels gone?

Seriously though, Samsung, what have you done to the bezels? The Galaxy S8 is more screen than ever before, with the practical section of the 5.8in display dominating the handset’s front like no other Samsung front has been dominated before. If you’re after a little more screen real estate then the Galaxy S8+ will do the same thing, just with a massive 6.2in of screen. Thanks to the tiny bezels, though, even with the giant display, the footprint of the S8+ is still slightly smaller than that of the iPhone 7 Plus. Wowser!

The lack of substantial bezels just draws the eye (in a good way). The physical button (for both versions) has also been done away with, and it’s going to take us a little getting used to. That said, it’s not going to take us a whole whack of time to do that. That’s because it’s hard to look away from the S8, even during normal usage or just swiping between apps. It’s a truly beautiful device.

Round back, the posterior of the phone is just as attractive as the front, except there are fewer moving bits to attract the eye and more visible fingerprints. Still, we’re happy that the S8 is just so handily grippable. It feels… like it would slip off a smooth surface with ease, but like it’s less likely to slide out of our hands than previous “edge” handsets. Even with its 5.8in display the S8 doesn’t seem all that large in hand, and it certainly feels much lighter than it looks.

Internals — Looking pretty powerful

Okay, so we haven’t had time to do much more than boot up and start swiping, loading the odd app and looking for telltale stutters and hitches. Turn be told, we weren’t expecting to find any. At all. Samsung has outfitted the Galaxy S8 with an Exynos 8895 octa-core, which is a mighty powerful chip on its own. There is indeed a Snapdragon 835 version coming, but it’s reserved for the States.

We didn’t get a chance to run any benchmarks, that’ll have to wait for a more thorough testing, but we couldn’t detect even the slightest hint of lag in the handset, even after opening every app, game, and window we could. And that’s what we like to see. It’s also what we should see considering this is meant to be one of the best phones money can buy. So far, so good then.

Camera — Fast off the mark

Samsung’s cameras are being used for more than just unlocking your phone (via the various new biometrics options). Samsung has added an updated version of the Note 7’s (amazing) 12MP camera to the S8 and we’ve had a bit of a fiddle. Images are fast, detailed even in the grubby light of the launch venue, and we suspect that we could coax even better performance out of it if we had more than a few minutes with it.

The front-facer has seen a more substantial upgrade, with resolution now bumped up to 8MP, and Samsung have chucked a few new features in the direction of selfie fans to boot. We didn’t follow up on all of them but we can’t recall ever seeing facial distortion correction (read: you might have a funny shaped head) before. Actually, it corrects lens distortion caused by weird angles and if it’s one thing selfies are good at it’s weird angles.

Initial Verdict

Early impressions are very positive for Samsung. The S8 is certainly a beautiful slab of glass and the trimming of the bezels and the removal of the Home button make for a very clean device. We suspect it’s going to be among the most powerful phones you’ve ever used, as well as one of the most attractive, and Samsung’s security features, camera upgrades and specs in general make it a serious contender for phone of the year. Samsung needed something big and, honestly, this is looking like it. We’ll let you know more once we’ve got one to properly put through its paces.

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