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Samsung Galaxy S8 review: The best phone ever made, only smaller

Updated 05/31/17: You can now buy a fully unlocked Galaxy S8 and S8+ from Best Buy stores,, and, as well as through carrier stores.

If you haven’t yet read our extensive review of the Galaxy S8+, you should. Nearly everything said about that phone applies to the smaller Galaxy S8. It’s got the same gorgeous design, the same best-ever display, the same awesome camera, same processor, memory, storage, features…it’s just smaller.

The display is 5.8 inches instead of 6.2, and the battery is 3,000 mAh instead of 3,500. These differences, and a price tag about $130 lower, are all the separate the Galaxy S8 from the S8+. 

That means the problems with the S8+ are apparent here as well, namely an unbelievably bad fingerprint sensor location and the lackluster debut of Samsung’s Bixby AI assistant. Both are annoying, but generally avoidable, and thus only slightly tarnish the Galaxy S8’s shine.

Speed and stamina

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are the first phones to hit the market with Qualcomm’s new 10nm Snapdragon 835 processor. The results are impressive. It delivers faster benchmarks than the Snapdragon 821, especially in multitasking and graphics performance. In many apps you won’t necessarily feel the difference, as we’ve reached the point where software optimization means more to how a high-end phone “feels” than processor performance. But it’s the energy efficiency that impresses me.


Particularly in 3D graphics tests, the new Snapdragon 835 outpaces the 821.

The Galaxy S8 has a smaller display than the S8+, whose lower power requirements help to offset the roughly 17 percent smaller battery. I had no trouble getting through a full day of moderate-to-heavy usage, leaving Wi-Fi, cellular, and Bluetooth turned on, along with adaptive brightness and all the other sub-optimal settings that regular people use. The larger phone will probably last a little longer in real-world use, if only because the greater capacity will give it more standby “screen off” time. Our battery test, run with displays always on and fixed at 200 nits, showed both phones to have similar excellent battery life.


Battery life is better than you’d expect from a 3,000 mAh battery. The phone easily lasts all day.

Kitchen sink included

But great hardware is about more than just fast processor speeds and long battery life. It’s future-proofing features like support for gigabit wireless (carriers will roll it out over the coming year). It’s wireless fast charging, with support for both Qi and PMA standards. It’s USB-C and really fast wired charging—I went from zero to 73% in one hour with the included charger. It’s 64GB of storage standard, with support for microSD cards to expand it. It’s Bluetooth 5, which promises longer range, higher bandwidth, and faster connection times. The Galaxy S8 is the first phone on the market to include it.

Jason Cross/IDG

Samsung fit a ton of hardware into a tiny package, with almost no bezels, and waterpoofing, and didn’t remove the headphone jack. Take that, Apple.

The IP68 waterproofing can be a lifesaver, and Samsung didn’t have to kill the headphone jack to provide it. The GS8’s speaker quality is only so-so, but the 32-bit DAC produces clean and detailed audio from the headphone jack. In fact, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ ship with a pair of AKG earbuds in the box that are far and away best pack-in earbuds I’ve ever used. Samsung says they’re worth $100, and from the excellent build quality (dig that braided cord) to the clear and punchy sound, I think that price is about right. They’re better than some $100 headphones I’ve used, but not the best in that price range. To get this quality included in the box is outrageously awesome and puts all other premium smartphone vendors on notice.

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