Samsung experienced just about one of the most up-and-down years a company can in 2016, excelling out of the gate with the impressive Galaxy S7, before struggling through the back half of the year after the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco.
The South Korean tech giant needed to hit it out of the park with this year’s flagship, and so it took its time, neglecting to reveal the Galaxy S8 during Mobile World Congress in February, and overhauling its safety protocol in the meantime. Now, at long last, Samsung has returned — and made a statement in the process. The Galaxy S8 looks to be one of the most significant leaps forward, particularly in design, of any new product in the company’s flagship lineage.
But last year’s Galaxy was no slouch either, and although the S8’s exterior certainly fits the revolutionary bill, it remains to be seen if Samsung’s latest boasts enough meaningful improvements to necessitate an upgrade — especially when the S7 can be had for significantly less after a year on the market. How do they compare? We put them head-to-head to find out.
Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S8
|Size||142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 millimeters (5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches)||148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm (5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31 inches)|
|Weight||5.36 ounces (152g)||5.47 ounces|
|Screen||5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED||5.8-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED|
|Resolution||2,560 x 1,440 pixels||2,960 x 1,440 pixels|
|OS||Android 6.0 Marshmallow (Upgradeable to 7.0 Nougat)||Android 7.0 Nougat|
|MicroSD card slot||Yes||Yes|
|Processor||Qualcomm MSM8996, Snapdragon 820 (U.S.)
Samsung Exynos 8890 (International)
|Qualcomm MSM8988, Snapdragon 835 (U.S.),
Exynos 8895 (International)
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, GSM, HSPA+||Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+|
|Camera||Front 5MP, Rear 12MP with OIS||Front 8MP, Rear 12MP with OIS|
|Video||2,160p 4K UHD||2,160p 4K UHD|
|Bluetooth||Yes, version 4.2||Yes, version 5.0|
|Other sensors||Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate||Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate, iris scanner|
|Water resistant||Yes, IP68||Yes, IP68|
|Ports||Micro USB, 3.5mm headphone jack||USB Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Wireless Charging||Yes, Qi and PMA||Yes, Qi and PMA|
|Marketplace||Google Play Store||Google Play Store|
|Color offerings||Black, white, gold, silver||Black, silver, Orchid Gray (U.S. Models),
Blue, gold (International models)
|Availability||AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile||AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Samsung|
|Price||$570||Starting at $720|
|DT review||4 out of 5 stars||First take|
In the U.S., the Galaxy S8 trades its predecessor’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 system-on-chip for the newer, more powerful 835. Elsewhere, the S8 will receive Samsung’s new Exynos 8895, replacing the 8890 seen in the international variant of the Galaxy S7. Both the Qualcomm and Samsung chips were comparable in performance last year, and the same looks to be true this time around.
Whichever S8 you buy, it’ll be capable of seriously fast download speeds over LTE — up to 1,000Mbps to be exact. Carriers will soon begin rolling out their gigabit-class LTE networks in limited capacities, and — unlike the S7 — the S8 is future-proof with the necessary hardware to take advantage of the new infrastructure as it proliferates over the next several years.
The Galaxy S8 also utilizes Bluetooth 5.0, which offers improved range and data transfer, though not at the same time. It’s still far superior to the Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity on the S7.
In terms of memory, the S8 retains the 4GB RAM of its predecessor. However, Samsung has thankfully followed the example of Apple and LG and decided to bump up base storage in the S8 to 64GB, up from half of that in the S7. As usual, you can add a MicroSD card to raise that total even higher, if you wish.
The added processing power, future-proofed LTE connectivity, and greater stock storage make the Galaxy S8 the clear winner in the specs race.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8
Design and display
Just as the Galaxy S7 featured a Quad HD Super AMOLED panel, so too does its successor. But that doesn’t mean they share the same resolution — the S8 has a slightly higher 2,960 x 1,440 pixel resolution. That difference is due to size and the Edge display, which both the S8 and S8 Plus utilize.
The S7 offers a 5.1-inch screen, whereas the S8 has a much bigger 5.8-inch curved screen. While that may sound too big, the Galaxy S8 is fairly compact because Samsung massively shrunk the bezels — so you’re getting more display in a similar frame. To make room for this edge-to-edge panel, Samsung had to remove the physical home button. It opted for a pressure-sensitive home button in the display, similar to Android’s on-screen buttons. Meanwhile, the fingerprint sensor was moved to the rear, to the right of the center-mounted camera.
Otherwise, these phones look pretty similar along the sides and the back, right down to the materials. Samsung’s trademark polished glass cloaks the rear of the S8, surrounded by a ring of aluminum.
The screen really is the differentiating factor between the design of both models. The wider, 18:5:9 aspect ratio on the S8 lets you view more content, potentially making multitasking easier.
As long as you can put up with the fingerprint sensor moving to the back, the S8’s luxurious display and astonishing screen-to-bezel ratio makes for a device that is simultaneously more useful and aesthetically pleasing than the one it replaces.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8
Battery life and charging
The Galaxy S8’s battery retains the 3,000mAh capacity of its predecessor, but it will benefit from Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4.0 debuting with the Snapdragon 835. According to the chip maker, this newest iteration of its fast charging tech is 20 percent faster and 30 percent more efficient than the previous one, and can deliver five hours of use in five minutes. Like the S7, the S8 will also support wireless charging.
The Snapdragon 835’s 10nm manufacturing process also makes it a bit smaller than the 14nm chip featured in last year’s Galaxy S7, leading to a 25 percent reduction in power consumption, according to Qualcomm. All of these tweaks should help keep the S8 up and running for longer on a charge than the outgoing flagship, despite the size of the battery remaining unchanged.
When we reviewed the S7 last year, we found its battery life to be satisfactory — if a little unimpressive — and averaged a little more than a day of use. A more frugal processor and improved Quick Charge capabilities mean Samsung’s latest is likely to eclipse that benchmark.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8