Hands-on with the new Samsung Galaxy S8+

It's official, there is no Galaxy S8 Edge – instead there’s the regular Galaxy S8 flagship and the S8+ phablet, which features a huge 6.2-inch screen. Though it sounds huge, having had some hands-on time with the S8+ I can't help but be impressed and feel it could be the phablet to own this year.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ release date and price

The Galaxy S8+ goes on sale globally on April 28 for £779.

  • Pre-Order:Samsung Galaxy S8+ on EE (7GB) – £25 upfront, £45.99/month

Samsung Galaxy S8+ specs

  • 6.2-inch quad-HD Infinity Display (AMOLED)
  • Samsung Exynos 8895 (Europe and Asia) or Qualcomm Snapdragon (USA)
  • 4GB RAM, 64GB storage (microSD up to 256GB)
  • 3500mAh battery with wireless and fast charging
  • Rear camera: 12 megapixels, f/1.7 aperture and dual-pixel sensor
  • Front camera: 8 megapixels, f/1.7 and autofocus
  • Iris and fingerprint scanner
  • Samsung Bixby personal assistant
  • Android 7 Nougat with Google Assistant
  • Headphone jack, NFC and IP68 water-resistance

The S8+ corners are curved, just like the LG G6, to maximise the amount of space the screen covers and make the _phone_ almost bezel-less. Not having a distracting screen surround makes everything so much more immersive, and that feeling is only exaggerated by the sloping curves that help the screen blend into the metal body.

The display itself is absolutely stunning. The S8+ has an AMOLED panel with a quad-HD+ 2660 x 1440 resolution that looks super-sharp. For me, it’s Mobile HDR (high dynamic range) that could really be the killer addition, however. Samsung says this is the first ever _phone_ with the Mobile HDR Premium stamp. While it wouldn’t go into details about exact specifications, Samsung has had the S8 approved by the UHD Alliance, which bodes well.

Related: Best Android phones

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HDR gives you richer colours, inkier blacks and better contrast, and generally makes things look more realistic on-screen. There were some HDR demos on my device and they looked amazing, but you’ll also be able to stream HDR shows from Amazon Prime and Netflix with an app update. I don’t think I'll be ditching my 4K television to watch everything on a phone, but these new features seriously improve the media bingeing experience.

One side effect of the stretched 18.5:9 display is that there’s no longer space for physical keys on the phone's front. The fingerprint sensor's been switched to a rather awkward position on the back, next to the camera sensor, and the others are now virtual buttons.

Apparently Samsung couldn’t finalise a patent for embedding the sensor inside the actual display, and it certainly shows. Bunging it next to the camera feels rushed, but I'm sure it’s something you’ll get used to.

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The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is a gorgeous phone and comfortably one of the slickest I've ever used, but I still prefer the smaller S8. The S8+ isn't hard to hold, but the various curves and a slightly slippery glass back make it feel ever so slightly precarious in the hand. That said, if you like big phones then you'll love the S8+.

Inside, the 8+ is almost identical to the regular S8, and that’s a good thing. Power comes from either an Exynos 8895 or Snapdragon 835 SoC, and there’s 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. It’s a speedy setup, but for me it'll be the power-efficiency upgrades Samsung's promised that will be most important.

The S8+ has a fairly small 3500mAh battery – typical phablets seem to range from 3720mAh to 4000mAh. As a result the S8+ CPU is going to have to be much more efficient for the phone to last a full day.

Though the Samsung Galaxy S8+ offers impressive improvements over the S7 and S7 Edge in almost every area, the rear camera is pretty much the same.

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The S8+ doesn't have a dual-sensor system. Instead there’s a single 12-megapixel sensor on its back with a wide f/1.7 lens that uses the same dual-pixel tech as the S7. A new multi-frame image processor takes three shots every time you snap, reducing blur and leaving you with a sharper single photo.

The front camera has seen a bigger upgrade. The new 8-megapixel sensor has an f/1.7 aperture and there’s autofocus too, which is still a rarity on selfie cameras.

While a bigger improvement would've been welcome, the S7 still has a fantastic camera and will meet most people's needs. I’ll have to use the S8+ for longer to see if it’s now as good as my current favourite camera-phone, the Google Pixel.

Two of the biggest new additions to the S8 are software-related: Bixby and DeX. The first is Samsung’s new Siri rival, which was actually unveiled a few weeks ago.

Bixby is dotted throughout the OS, in the camera and its own dedicated homescreen. Like Siri, you can ask it questions and it’ll carry out basic tasks, and you don’t have to utter an awkward ‘wake word’, as there’s a button solely to open Bixby under the volume rocker. The UK won’t get the full use of Bixby’s features until later in the year, when the service is optimised for British English. At launch it will only support Korean and US English.

UK: Pre-register for Galaxy S8+ deals at Mobiles.co.uk

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DeX is a stranger addition. On paper it's basically a clone of Microsoft’s Continuum that lets you convert the device into a desktop Android PC using a sold-separately dock. The dock lets you plug the S8+ into an HDMI-equipped monitor.

It sounds odd, but I was impressed with DeX during my demo.The way apps jump between phone and tablet versions on the big screen depending on how you resize them is really slick, as is the system's integration with the actual phone features, such as SMS messaging. I loaded up about 10 browser tabs, opened a load of Android apps and the full Office suite, and the docked S8+ continued to run like a charm.

Fans in the dock help it stay cool, and there are two USB sockets and an Ethernet port on the back for peripherals and the like.

Samsung Connect is another new addition. It works like Apple’s Home, and lets you connect the S8+ to a SmartThings hub and control your entire smart home from one screen. It’s cool, but you’ll need to be heavily invested in the SmartThings ecosystem to make full use of it.

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First impressions

Samsung could have the phone of the year right here – and it’s only March. The S8+ is a stunning piece of tech that redefines what a phone should look like. It also ticks all the right boxes when it comes to hardware, coming with a gorgeous display, refined water-resistant design, expandable storage and a great camera setup.The size might put some off, but others will adore the huge canvas.

  • Pre-Order:Samsung Galaxy S8+ on EE (7GB) – £25 upfront, £45.99/month

These are our first impressions based on initial hands-on time with the new Samsung Galaxy S8+. We'll be publishing a full review of the phone close to the Galaxy S8+ release date on April 28.