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By 30 March 2017 | Categories: feature articles

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There is something to be said for leaked images and the real thing. This was no more evident than it was last night, when we got the chance to go hands-on with Samsung's latest flagship devices - the Galaxy S8 and S8+. The pair of phones are pretty much the same in terms of their internal specifications, with the exception of a larger battery on the S8+, so our focus was mainly on the Galaxy S8. And sure, you can have leaked images, but there is nothing like seeing it in real life. 

Changing dimensions

In terms of looks, the S8 looks quite similar to its predecessor, but hold the two devices next to one another, and the differences become far more evident. One of the first ones is size, with the Galaxy S8 standing far taller than its forebear at 148.9 mm. It also has a significantly larger frame at 5.8", with the addition of the cascading edges of the new infinity display (Samsung's naming) making for a handsome device. Paired with a relatively clean UI and clutter free screen on the demo units on display, the S8 certainly stands out as a beautiful device compared to other Android flagships.  

Along with the infinity display, the physical home button, which doubled as a fingerprint reader, has also been done away with. The advantage of the increased screen real estate is that content, movies in particular can fill the 18.5:9 aspect ratio of the S8. When looking at pics in portrait mode this works well, but we're a little less sold on viewing content that isn't optimised for that particular ratio. As such, the interface for apps, games and YouTube should be interesting to see on the S8.    

Wrong place?

Shifting focus to the rear, things feel a tad less thought-through. The fingerprint reader for example has migrated to the right hand side of the 12 MP dual pixel camera on the back. That seems a bit oddly place in our opinion, as fingerprint readers on the back of phones are routinely placed in the middle of the device. 

The one handed usage claims that Samsung has been espousing then, are harder to carry out when factoring in the new fingerprint reader. This may be why the South Korean manufacturer has opted to integrate an iris scanner for biometric aspects too (as found on the Note 7), but this is a bit of conjecture.  

One other aspect that also stood out for us was the frame, which is aluminium like the Galaxy S7 and S6, but this time round sits more flush with the curved edges of the infinity display. It makes the content on the screen look great, but the frame doesn't feel the same as it did before. In fact it has a plastic-like texture, despite being metal, and makes the Galaxy S8 a tad less premium than it truly ought to be. It's a small issue in the greater scheme of things, but something that immediately jumped out when handling the S8 for the first time. 

Other features

While the design of the Galaxy S8 will likely get most of the attention, the introduction of the new digital assistant Bixby is also worth noting. It is essentially designed to work much like Google's Assistant. To that end, there's a Google Now-esque screen that pops up when swiping left to right from the main home screen. It features a number of cards containing information that Bixby thinks will be relevant to users, as well as peppering in news and social media feeds. 

At the moment it's hard to tell if this system will prove useful in the long run, as much of its functionality will only be experienced when it launches with the phones. For South Africans that'll be 5 May, compared to 21 April for other select markets. As such, we should be able to better gauge Bixby's effectiveness prior to it arriving locally. 

Watch this space

So when can you get your hands on the Galaxy S8 or S8+? Pre-orders for the devices started earlier today, with the colour options of Midnight Black, Orchid Grey and Maple Gold available for the 64 GB models (on both devices). Currently listed on the likes of Vodacom and MTN, the prepaid price is not known for now, but Samsung Mobile South has stated that the S8 should cost around R15 499 and S8+ at R17 499, which is certainly up there in the price stakes. 

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