Samsung Galaxy S8 Unboxing and Initial Impressions

 

Over the last year Samsung has had a very steep hill to climb.

By now everyone knows about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and its predilection to catch fire due to what was eventually identified as a faulty battery and a failed quality control process.

Of course, if you have flown an most any airline within the United States or heading towards the U.S. then you have also heard the ominous announcement from gate agents and flight attendants that these devices, by order of the Federal Aviation Administration, were not allowed to be on the flight due to this fire risk.

Any company would love to have their product mentioned by brand and name exclusively like this but in the case of Samsung's Note 7, this was the worst kind of marketing and the subject of meme after meme across social media.

To say that Samsung needed a win is an understatement.

Well based on first impressions, the recently announced and released Samsung Galaxy S8 could very well be that much needed boost to the companies tarnished brand.

Will it be enough to erase the memories of the failed Galaxy Note 7?

Based on multiple reports on pr-order numbers from Samsung, it appears consumers are willing to move on from the Note 7 debacle, at least to start with anyway.

Those numbers from Samsung showed that pre-orders over a two day period were 5 1/2 times higher than the pre-orders for the Galaxy S7. To compare, the S7 had a record 400K devices pre-ordered and the S8 has seen 550K leading up to its release.

I would say based on those numbers, short of the S8 having serious hardware/battery issues that are yet to be discovered, the company is going to get a chance to move beyond the very ugly Note 7 experience. In addition, the Note 7 issues appear to have resulted in Samsung taking an entirely new approach to quality control of their manufacturing process so I suspect there are not likely to be any catastrophic hardware issues with the S8 waiting in the wings.

Now let's talk about this device. You all know that I like to talk about technology and hardware from an experiential perspective. That means it is based on my own experience and not an expert reviewer or by making assumptions on how you should or should not use the device. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that is exactly what this is all about but it is my perspective and not some arbitrary idea of how a specific device should be used.

In other words, this is my experience and your mileage may vary.

I spent a lot of the last few days while waiting for the S8 to arrive reading over other reviews and opinions of this new handset. I also scanned social media, specifically Twitter, to hear what people had to say about the device since it became available in retail stores and at carriers on Friday the 21st.

The social media reaction was overwhelmingly positive and users were in awe of the hardware and if it was a friend or family who got the device then jealously crept into the picture as they saw the device for the first time.

In fact, it is that first experience of seeing and holding the S8 out of the box that impacted my first impressions. The device has a surface of glass on both sides of the handset and while it feels a bit slippery in your hands, it also feels very premium. While it is not going to be the lightest phone on the market, it is also not the heaviest and I really like the heft of the device. It also has very good balance in the hand despite it being taller than most other handsets. Despite the taller screen it is not big and wide either so it fits comfortably on one hand.

The next thing you notice about the S8 is the 5.8 inch screen. Absolutely brilliant, sharp, and unlike any previous device I have used or owned. I wish I could photograph just how good that screen is but even pictures with my Nikon D5200 DSLR can not do it justice. By default the device ships using a lower resolution, 2220x1080 instead of its native option of 2960x1440 but you can easily change that by going to Settings>Display>Screen resolution.

The other thing that was set by default that you may want to change immediately is the 12MP camera on the back of the S8. It comes set to take 4:3 perspective images at a resolution of 4032x3024 but you can change that to several other resolutions that include 16:9, 18.5:9, or two 1:1 options at different resolutions. I opted to go with the 16:9 option with a resolution of 4032x2268. The camera saves images as JEPG files by default but you can choose to also save RAW images.

I will be doing a camera comparison between the S8, iPhone 7, and the Microsoft Lumia 950 in the coming days to show you the quality of images from this device compared to other smartphones that are known for their solid cameras.

The next thing that impressed me about this device was its speed. Of course, I am using this handset instead of an LG Nexus 5X which came out in September 2015. The two do not even compare when it comes to specs though.

While the Nexus 5X model I was using had 2GB of RAM, 16GB of RAM, and six CPU's (4x1.4 GHz & 2x1.8 GHz) and was pretty fast compared to the Samsung S4 it replaced it seemed to be getting long in the tooth over the last several months. In addition it regularly maxed out its 2GB of RAM and I was always having to manage storage to not run ou on the 16GB device.

The Nexus 5X's slowness became very apparent when I started to setup the S8. Whether I was copying files, contacts, and documents between devices or installing 54 apps in less than 15 minutes from the Google Play Store, the S8 smokes - well not literally smokes - but you know  what I mean. It is blazingly fast and I feel it in every aspect of using the device.

The hardware behind that speed includes eight CPU cores (4x2.35 GHz & 4x1.9 GHz) in the U.S. model. The S8 also comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage as standard. I had about 50GB of storage left after transferring my data over and installing all of my apps. Oh, it is so nice to have some storage related breathing room! In addition, you can add a MicroSD card to add up to 256GB of additional storage to the handset.

The chipset in the S8 is the first commercial handset to use the new Snapdragon 835. This is what is being reported as part of the Windows 10 on ARM devices that are expected later this year. Based on my experience of the S8's performance, Windows 10 should run very well with this hardware.

I could go into a few more things here but this initial impression is already quite lengthy. So my plan is to continue to give you insight into my use and experience with the S8 over the coming weeks including my launcher options, apps, etc. Also, as mentioned earlier, expect a camera comparison later this week.

Let me know in the comments below if you have opted for the S8 and what your initial impressions have been like so far.

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But, wait...there's probably more so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Google+.

 

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