Hardware

Review: Samsung Galaxy S8 makes every other phone feel like a cinder block

Samsung is taking a big swing with the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. Based on our hands-on review, the beleaguered smartphone maker hits a home run. Here's what professionals and the enterprise need to know.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is one of the most anticipated devices of 2017. And, based on our hands-on review, it's ready to shoot to the top of the list of the most desired phones for professionals and the enterprise.

Here's our breakdown of the three kudos and two caveats of the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus.

Kudos

1. Highly functional design

For years, Apple has touted "thinner and lighter" as the hallmarks of each new release of the iPhone. With the Galaxy S8, Samsung has beat Apple to the punch in a big way. The S8+ makes the iPhone 7 Plus and the Google Pixel XL feel like cinder blocks by comparison. With an almost bezel-less screen that covers 83% of the front of the phone, the S8+ has a 6.2-inch screen that offers extra functional real estate at the same time. Again, it makes the iPhone 7 Plus and the Pixel XL look outdated by comparison. The final benefit of the design is that it does not need a case. Unlike the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel, which have slippery aluminum backs, the glass back and curved sides of the S8 make it much easier to keep in your hand.

2. Great battery life

Going into testing the Galaxy S8 Plus, my biggest concern was battery life since the S8 Plus actually has a slightly smaller battery than last year's Galaxy S7 Edge (and that phone sometimes struggles to get through a full day). However, because of the S8's new 10nm processor and some nice power management features in the software, the S8 has ridiculously good battery life. The first day I got a testing unit of the S8+, I plugged it in around midday. I did not charge it that night OR the next night. Two days later, the S8 Plus still had 52% of its battery life remaining.

3. Sound quality and headphones

An easy thing to overlook when evaluating phones is audio quality. Professionals still rely on it when using their phones to dial into conference calls or listen to music during the workday or on airplanes, for example. Samsung gives the S8 a big advantage over the competition by including high-fidelity AKG earbuds with the phone. These earbuds make for very clear phone calls, and their performance for listening to music is stellar, with very clear bass and excellent dynamic range.

SEE: Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus: The smart person's guide

Caveats

1. The biometrics disappoint

In my preview of the Galaxy S8 after the launch event, I touted its biometrics as one of the standout features. It offers three forms: fingerprint, iris scan, and facial recognition. Two of them are a bit disappointing. The fingerprint scanner has been moved to the back. And while it's faster and much more accurate than previous Samsung scanners, its small size and its placement next to the camera is not nearly as intuitive as the big circle in the center of the Pixel and the Nexus 6P. As for the iris scanner, it doesn't work with glasses or contacts, and so that definitely limits its usefulness.

2. Software gets in the way

Samsung is still trying to duplicate Google services and user interface elements in ways that simply don't make sense. From Bixby to Samsung Pay to Samsung Health to running its own separate Calendar app, Samsung software too often gets in the way of a good user experience, instead of augmenting it with things Samsung can do well. I'd still recommend following the tips from my video "How to make any Android phone feel like a Nexus."

s8-pixel-iphone.jpg

The Galaxy S8 (center) makes the Google Pixel XL (left) and the iPhone 7 Plus (right) look like they have gigantic bezels.

Image: TechRepublic

Your move, Apple

That's the word on the Galaxy S8 for professionals and the enterprise. We'll see what Apple and Google do to respond later this year.

We'd love to hear your perspective on the Galaxy S8 and its competition. Join the discussion in the comments.

Also see

About Jason Hiner

Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox