It has been a few months since the Samsung Galaxy S8 was released. As things stand, the S8 is quite clearly the best looking handset currently on the market (Note: this was written prior to the release of the Galaxy Note 8 and Apple iPhone 8). Perhaps its title as “best looking” as agreed by most major reviewers will be challenged in the coming weeks, once Samsung releases the highly anticipated Galaxy Note 8 and Apple officially releases the iPhone 8. Meanwhile, one can say with confidence that the S8 (and the S8+) are exceptional pieces of technology.
Sleek, stylish and powerful – at the moment of writing, this is the best phone you can buy in terms of the combination of quality, design and hardware.
Granted, there are suggestions that the camera on the S8 is perhaps not quite as good as in the HTC U11 or the Google Pixel. Grade of performance is also up for debate, with some reviewers preferring the OnePlus5 or the iPhone 7. Regarding the latter, it would seem we’re ultimately critiquing fine, if not at times indiscernible, margins.
There is a reason, moreover, why the S8 is labelled the “best phone” on the market by majority of major reviewers (at the time of writing). Over at TechAdvisor, the phone was described as a “fantastic flagship”, even if not perfect. Jessica Dolcourt seems to concur when writing for CNET, calling it “without a doubt the most beautiful, polished phone”. An almost identical review is also read on Stuff. While at Tom’s Guide, arguably one of the most reliable review sites, rate it as the “best phone” currently on the market. Mark Spoonauer writes:
The Galaxy S8 isn’t the first phone to offer a nearly bezel-free design, and yet it looks and feels more modern than the LG G6 (despite Samsung’s awkward fingerprint-sensor placement). And the S8 also runs circles around the Google Pixel’s design while offering faster overall performance and a better camera. The infinity display is simply gorgeous, and the Snapdragon 835 chip lives up to the hype both in speed and battery efficiency.
The screen on the S8 is 5.8 inches (6.2 inches on the S8+). One can say with confidence that it is the best display currently available. In the US, it comes packed with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 system, while in other regions, notes Spoonauer, the S8 will run on Samsung's Exynos 8895 chip. In general, performance isn’t an issue. With 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage, including microSD expansion, the S8 has plenty of space.
Additionally, with improved battery life, the S8 performs among the very best. Tom’s Guide offers a breakdown of benchmark performance:
The Galaxy S8's graphics power was also quite impressive, as it hit 36,508 on 3DMark's Ice Storm Unlimited test. The iPhone 7 Plus came the closest to matching the S8, with a score of 36,104, while other Android adversaries, like the LG G6 (29,611) and the Google Pixel XL (28,182), were farther behind.
There are also improvements to the software in the S8, when compared with previous Samsung handsets. As Max Parker writes, “the software layer on top of Android 7.0 is good-looking and functional. Icons are more mature, and the on-screen buttons – a first for a Samsung S-series phone – are angular and edgy”.
At launch, when this phone was first looked at, Samsung’s highly touted digital personal assistant, Bixby, meant to rival Apple’s Siri, was less than satisfactory. Some went so far to call it “half-baked” and a “disappointment”. The failure of Bixby at launch is widely noted. A lot of the issues relate to Bixby’s voice command, though it appears that as very much a work in progress Samsung has been taking positive steps.
Additionally, one of the biggest and perhaps most universal complaints that one will find concerns the awkward placement of the fingerprint sensor. It basically sits next to the rear camera. The sensor is narrow, and can be difficult to find. This leads to annoying smudges on the rear lens. Additionally, this complaint is coupled with an inconsistent iris scanner / facial recognition functionality.
The S8 also lacks a duel camera. It depends on the individual how much this lack of a feature will be emphasized. At its review price of £689.99, the S8 is expensive.
All one can say here is that while not perfect, these few points of critique are as bad as it gets for the new Galaxy S8 – and that’s not bad at all.
The points of criticism and the points of praise are fairly consistent among major reviewers. A meta-analysis would show that there is a discernible consensus. In spite of its few flaws, the S8 is a market leading handset. That might change, in time, with iPhone 8 due to arrive. We’ll also see over the coming months how the HTC U11, Google Pixel, OnePlus5 and Huawei’s P10 (among others) continue to perform.
ExpertReviews gave the Samsung Galaxy S8 a perfect 5/5. CNET gave the handset a 4.5 / 5, while Tom’s Guide gave it an incredible 9/10. Likewise, over at TrustedReviews the S8 received another 5/5. TechAdvisor and TechRadar both gave it a respectable 4.5/5. And finally, over at Wired, Mark Walton has scored the S8 a top 9/10.
A top quality handset, with ethics to match?
The Samsung S8 is a top quality product. But does the ethics of the product match the quality? This is an equally important question.
Unfortunately, the answer is that Samsung’s ethical score is currently rated the absolute bottom in comparison to other popular mobile phone brands. At the time of writing, Samsung has a 43 on the ethical index, with the most recent report citing human rights concerns among other criticisms.
And this really is the wider issue today. Somewhere, at some point, quality at the sacrifice of ethics has been normalized and deemed ok. It has become routine practice, both for business and consumer. But why can’t we have both?
In conclusion, it would be difficult for one to find a nicer phone. But at what cost? Ethical index score must enter the equation. And for that reason, we’ve given the S8 an overall 68 /100, which combines average overall review rating with Ethical Company Index score.
* To obtain a census view of and average product score for the Samsung Galaxy S8, we assessed a spread of several popular and authoritative productive reviews published in ExpertReviews, CNET, Tom’s Guide, TrustedReviews, TechAdvisor, TechRadar and Wired.