Bright, vivid colours - sharp, clear display

The wow factor of the S8 is very much in its design and screen, making it feel like a prettier, souped-up version of past smartphones.
The wow factor of the S8 is very much in its design and screen, making it feel like a prettier, souped-up version of past smartphones.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The first thing that catches the eye with Samsung's latest Galaxy S8 smartphone is the gorgeous, near bezel-less display that fills up the entire front of the phone.

That was what impressed me most at a hands-on session with the new Galaxy S8 phone during its official launch in New York City last week.

The phone comes in two sizes: the 5.8-inch S8, and the 6.2-inch S8+.

Because of the front panel's redesign, the regular S8 actually manages to have a bigger screen dimension while being smaller and slightly shorter than the S7 Edge, which has a 5.5-inch screen.

This is because of the S8's slightly unique screen ratio: 18.5:9. The result is a phone with a slightly elongated look to the display - which is a great thing to have when the quad-HD display looks this good.

Looks make up a good proportion of any first impressions. The S8's bright, vivid colours and its sharp, clear display certainly delivered on that end.

Looks make up a good proportion of any first impressions. The S8's bright, vivid colours and its sharp, clear display certainly delivered on that end... The bigger S8+ feels fine as well, even though it's longer and would require both hands to use effectively.

The S8 is great to just cradle in the hand, too - its thin, metal-and-glass body simply screams premium.

I like the size of the smaller S8, which sits snugly in my palm. The bigger S8+ feels fine as well, even though it's longer and would require both hands to use effectively.

Samsung's user interface is now also cleaner and more minimalist, which brings it closer to Google's own Android design philosophy.

Previous iterations of Samsung's Android skin, TouchWiz, had always come across as cluttered and visually bloated, something that Samsung has improved upon with each new phone. The one on the S8 is its cleanest one yet, which adds to making the display look even better.

The S8 has no real innovation factor save for Bixby, Samsung's virtual assistant - and even that's not new in a world where users have already made the acquaintance of Google's Assistant and Apple's Siri.

From the limited time I had with Bixby, I found that it was able to get my voice commands right most of the time, although there were some discernible lag times between giving the command and having Bixby execute it.

The wow factor of the S8 is very much in its design and screen, which make it feel like a prettier, souped-up version of past smartphones but with no breakout features.

Consumers who want to get on board the modern, bezel-less look will be hard-pressed to choose between the S8 and its closest competitor, the LG G6. But where the G6 is all firm corners and sturdy reliability, the S8 is all about soft, comfortable curves - a design which may give it the edge with some users.

I like how giving up the physical Home button freed up the design space for such a great display. I also like how the fingerprint sensor is now on the back of the phone, which makes it intuitive to unlock the phone while gripping it.

What I don't like is the sensor's position: it's a slim rectangle right next to the bigger, squarer camera lens. I ended up grazing some part of the camera whenever I tried unlocking the phone in my tests.

It's not difficult to get it right after some practice. But, since I expect to unlock a phone tens of times per day, it should be a simple, almost mindless operation where I can just tap and it gets done - not something where I have to be conscious about in order to prevent smudges on the camera.

Lester Hio

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2017, with the headline 'Bright, vivid colours - sharp, clear display'. Print Edition | Subscribe