(Pocket-lint) - With many phones looking like clones, or brands nonchalantly pushing out the same old design year-on-year, Samsung is in that favourable position of offering something exciting in the Galaxy S8. It's a phone that defines flagship design with its visually arresting dual curved edges. Its innards epitomise flagship specification. And its 18.5:9 ratio screen aims its sights at delivering best-in-class entertainment.
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The Samsung Galaxy S8 is the flagship to rule all flagships. From a design perspective it's an unbridled head-turner, delivering design that's a step above any of the competition out there. The 18.5:1 screen ratio is central to a focus on entertainment and will only get better with HDR-compatible apps.
But as much as the S8 is the amalgamation of Samsung's good ideas, it has necessitated some poor choices too: the rear-positioned fingerprint scanner is the weakest in any flagship, by position and by responsiveness; while Bixby doesn't really warrant being a selling point just yet, as it's roughly non-existent and the dedicated button ought to be programmable.
But those points become somewhat moot when considering the iris-scan unlock and the presence of Google Assistant. Add to that the excellent camera experience (which is delivered without too many gimmicks), Samsung's most battery-conscious and customisable software rework to date, and what we have here is the best Android phone of 2017.
In short: the Samsung Galaxy S8 is a masterpiece; one with a few brush-strokes out of place, but a masterpiece nonetheless.
Alternatives to consider...
Samsung Galaxy S8+
Want to go super-sized? Well, the Plus model ought to be right up your street. With a 6.2-inch screen, the S8+ doesn't feel too large thanks to that near-2:1 aspect ratio screen. The larger scale means a larger battery capacity too. Oh, and a larger price point too.
Read the full article: Samsung S8+ review
First out of the gate with this new 2:1 aspect ratio display with HDR was the LG G6. It might have pipped Samsung to the post in announcing its phone, but the Samsung betters the design in our view.
Read the full article: LG G6 review
Google Pixel XL
If you want a big-screen phone without the 2:1 aspect ratio, the Pixel XL is the mac-daddy of Android phones. It's pure, enhanced Android with all of Google's latest tricks packed in to a fast, powerful device with a brilliant camera and exemplary battery life. The design isn't as exciting or eye-catching, though.
Read the full article: Google Pixel XL review
iPhone 7 Plus
If you want it all but without the Android part, the 7 Plus is your current best bet. It feels much fatter in the hand, but iPhones have long offered a consistently good experience. It's excellently built, has a great camera system, lasts more than a day per charge and offers the best apps available anywhere. The design does look dated, though.
Read the full article: Apple iPhone 7 Plus review
Samsung Galaxy S8
- The most eye-catching phone design you can buy today
- Great-looking 18.5:1 aspect ratio AMOLED screen is ideal for entertainment (even more so when HDR comes into play)
- Best Samsung software experience to date
- Decent battery life and optimisations
- Rear camera is excellent
- Fingerprint scanner is poorly placed
- Iris and face recognition logins have limited success
- Bixby button initially useless
- Connectivity can cause issues with perfect playback/graphical functions
- Some features hidden in menus
Best Samsing Galaxy S8 deals
But the S8 is quite a departure for Samsung: it moves the fingerprint scanner from the once staple physical home key position on the front - which has been removed to make way for that unconventional screen - to the rear of the device, launches with a quick-access Bixby button but minus the voice-controlled assistant being properly functional, and costs a small fortune too. Do these points get in the way of what otherwise looks like the perfect flagship Android phone?
Samsung Galaxy S8 review: Design
- Dual curved edges
- Rear-positioned fingerprint scanner
- IP68 water/dust resistance
- 68.1 x 148.9 x 8mm; 155g
Samsung has opted for "Unbox your phone" as the slogan for S8 promo and, well, it's hardly a catchy line. However, upon unboxing the S8 it's immediately eye-catching - even before switching it on - given its shape, shine and meticulous finish. This is as good-looking as phones get. A key reason for that are those curved edges, which appear high-end and give the phone a greater sense of depth, plus added comfort when holding. This is a show-off phone, that's for sure.
The S8 might have a similar screen ratio to the LG G6, but Samsung delivers an altogether more integrated design in our view, as if you are holding the screen and almost nothing besides. As we touched upon, the S8's screen-centric design means there's no longer a physical home button, as there has been in Galaxy S devices for years.
That's a big change for long-term Samsung users: unlocking the device now means reaching around to the rear to locate a slither of fingerprint scanner… a slither that's been placed too high up the phone's rear and foolishly to the side of the camera, so you'll all too often smear that with some fingertip marks. Even after a week of use, we've rarely used the fingerprint scanner to unlock the device, as its response is weak - maybe 70 per cent success rate, compared to 99 per cent of the older Galaxy devices - instead opting only for finance and banking apps as its method of use. Muscle memory might help, but it needs a positional rethink for the S9.
But moving that fingerprint scanner away from front and centre is a big part of how Samsung has made a phone that's dominated by the screen itself, not surrounding bezels and buttons. A trio of Android soft