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Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review: A big-phone lover's dream that's still a good buy

If you can find it for a discount, it's a cheaper way than the Galaxy S9 Plus to satisfy your hunger for a high-powered phone.

Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt

Editorial Director / CNET Franchises, How-To, Performance Optimization

Jessica Dolcourt leads CNET Franchises, How-To, and Performance. With over 15 years in journalism, her experience includes mobile phone and software reporting and reviews, and delivering advice on expansive topics ranging from personal finance to travel and home. Jessica got her start at Download.com and holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).

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3 min read

The Galaxy S9 Plus is Samsung's top phone right now (the Galaxy Note 9 could soon supplant it), but it's frightfully hard on the wallet. While the S9 Plus fixes the placement of this phone's fingerprint reader, the Galaxy S9 Plus is more about refining the S8 Plus than reinventing it. If you can get the S8 Plus on discount, it'll save you a little cash.


Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

The Good

The Galaxy S8 Plus is a big phone that manages to make a 6.2-inch screen look graceful, even alongside the more current Galaxy S9 Plus.

The Bad

You'll have to reach higher to get to the fingerprint sensor on the back -- a straight day of this gets annoying.

The Bottom Line

Lovers of big phones will find this a slightly cheaper alternative to the Galaxy S9 Plus that doesn't sacrifice that phone's sleek design and most important features.

Update, 2018 

If you believe that more screen equals better screen, you're in luck. The Galaxy S8 Plus is exactly the Galaxy S8 with a larger display: 6.2 inches instead of 5.8.

Enlarge Image

The S8 Plus, left, and S8.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That makes it taller and wider, with a bigger battery (3,500mAh instead of 3,000mAh) and a higher price ($850, £779 or AU$1,349). And... what else?

That's it.

You get all the same core software features and hardware guts as the smaller S8. Like a vast, crystal-clear display, a superspeedy processor and a camera that takes great shots in bright daylight and low light. And upcoming support for Google's Daydream VR headset.

There's no second camera lens like the iPhone 7 Plus, no extra perk that comes in the box. As with the Google Pixel XL, the S8 Plus is simply a larger option for people who like big phones.

And as far as its dimensions go, the S8 Plus is a winner. It's slimmer than you'd expect for a phone with a bigger screen than the iPhone 7 Plus, Google Pixel XL and OnePlus 3T, all with their 5.5-inch displays. That gives you a way bigger canvas for typing, reading, watching movies and gazing at your photos. Plus, the Plus is dead sexy. And it's kind of amazing that it sticks out of pockets just a tad higher than the smaller-screened Google Pixel XL.

But the downside here is that you'll be stretching to reach the vertical fingerprint reader on the back of the phone -- it's awkwardly placed to the left of the camera lens (as you look at the screen; it's on the right if you look at the back, as below).

Enlarge Image

The fingerprint reader is that little pad to the right of the camera lens.

Ariel Nunez/CNET

If I found it hard to cover the entire sensor with my fingertip on the S8, the taller S8 Plus is harder still. I had to angle my hand or arm in weird ways, and it's easy to smear the camera -- the software even warns you to be careful of the lens. Sometimes I got the S8 Plus unlocked on the first try. Other times I had to keep stabbing where I thought the sensor was, to get into the phone.

When this happens a couple times, no big deal. When it happens multiple times a day, for multiple days on end, it becomes frustrating and even a little obnoxious. Especially since there are so many fast, accurate fingerprint readers out there on other phones.

Compare that to the Pixel XL, which has a round target about a half inch lower than the S8 Plus' oblong scanner, and the iPhone 7 Plus, whose fingerprint reader lives in the home button. (The latest rumor is that the iPhone 8 may not even get one.)

Samsung Galaxy S8, S8 Plus and Bixby pix: Come and get 'em

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A case seems to help, actually. It focuses where your finger goes. But there are still some issues with accuracy, and that's just something that other phones don't have problems with.

You don't have to use the fingerprint scanner, of course. You can also use the iris scanner, which has some of its own drawbacks, and face unlock, which I barely count because you can't use it to secure Samsung Pay (it'll work with your prints and iris scan). You get the point.

Still, this is one flaw that, for some, will be completely ignorable. And I like the S8 Plus quite a lot. It's a terrific handset with excellent all-around performance that you can read about here in my full Galaxy S8 review.

If you're into large-screen phones, you'll find here a pricey phone with all the trimmings, that satisfies your phone needs in every way -- except maybe that hard-to-reach fingerprint reader in the back.

Editors' note: This review originally published April 18, 2017, and was updated on May 26 at 3:20 p.m. PT.

Galaxy S8 Plus versus LG G6, Pixel XL, iPhone 7 Plus, OnePlus 3T

Samsung Galaxy S8 PlusGoogle Pixel XLLG G6Apple iPhone 7 PlusOnePlus 3T
Display size, resolution 6.2-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels5.7-inch, 2,880x1,440 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels
Pixel density 529ppi534ppi565ppi401ppi401ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.3 x 2.9 x 0.32 in6.1 x 3 x 0.34 in5.9 x 2.8 x 0.31 in6.2 x 3.1 x 0.29 in6 x 2.9 x 0.29 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 160 x 73 x 8.1 mm155 x 76 x 8.6 mm149 x 72 x 7.9 mm158 x 78 x 7.3 mm153 x 75 x 7.35 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.1 oz; 173g5.92 oz; 168g5.7 oz, 162g6.63 oz; 188g5.57 oz; 158g
Mobile software Android 7.0 NougatAndroid 7.1 NougatAndroid 7.0 NougatApple iOS 10Android 7.0 Nougat
Camera (megapixels) 1212.313 (standard), 13 (wide)12 (telephoto), 12 (wide)16
Front-facing camera (megapixels) 885716
Video capture 4K4K4K4K4K
Processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz + 1.9GHz) or octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz + 1.7GHz)2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 8212.35GHz Snapdragon 821 with Adreno 530 GPUApple A10 chip (64-bit)2.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
Storage 64GB32GB, 128GB32GB32GB, 128GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB
Expandable storage Up to 2TBNoneUp to 2TBNoneNone
Battery (all nonremovable) 3,500mAh3,450mAh3,300mAh2,900mAh3,400mAh
Fingerprint sensor BackBackBackHome buttonHome button
Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-CLightningUSB-C
Special features Water-resistant (IP68), wireless charging, Gigabit LTE-readyGoogle Assistant; unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR-ready18:9 aspect ratio; wireless charging (US-only); water-resistantWater and dust-resistant; portrait image modeDual-SIM, Dash Charging
Price off-contract (USD) AT&T: $850; Verizon: $840; T-Mobile: $850; Sprint: $850; US Cellular: $785$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB)AT&T: $720, Sprint: $708, T-Mobile: $650, Verizon: $672, US Cellular: $597.60$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB); $969 (256GB)$439 (16GB), $479 (128GB)
Price (GBP) £779£719 (32GB); £819 (128GB)£649£719 (32GB); £819 (128GB); £919 (256GB)£399 (16GB), £439 (128GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,349AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB)AU$1,008AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB); AU$1,569 (256GB)Converts to AU$590 (16GB), AU$652 (128GB)

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 9Camera 8Battery 9
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