Samsung Galaxy S8 Active Review
Samsung’s Galaxy Active series, and increasingly ruggedized wearables, have helped establish the company’s prowess as the only true champion for more active (or careless) mobile consumers. Starting with the Galaxy S4 Active, Samsung began offering IP67 waterproofing – years before it was a flagship standard – and rugged design, which has now expanded to military standard certifications in drop tests, extreme temperatures, and IP68 waterproofing. Year after year these Active variants have been released shortly after Samsung’s Galaxy flagship, often tweaking small aspects of inner hardware to match the outer theme. This year we see arguably the Android phone of the year – the Galaxy S8 – step up 1000 milliamps in battery size, and gain all the rugged military-grade hardware to produce the Galaxy S8 Active. But in a world where IP67 is the norm for flagship phones – some even offer “shatterproof” displays – is the Active series still needed? Let’s examine what it brings to the table.
In the box:
- Galaxy S8 Active
- USB-A to USB-C adapter (female to male)
- Micro-USB to USB-C adapter (female to male)
- USB-C to USB-A charging cable
- Adaptive fast-charging wall plug
- Warranty and Getting Started guide
The Galaxy S8 Active is the first Active device released since Galaxy flagships have crossed over entirely to curved, “bezel-less” designs; no longer are the “Edge” variants alone in this style. As one might anticipate, though, the S8 Active can’t afford to expose that much glass in its edges if it endeavors to survive 5-foot drops, as stated in the Active features. Gorilla Glass 5 encases the display, which is then covered by a “shatter-resistant” shield. Unfortunately, early reports seem to indicate that this shield is very soft and prone to scratches, much like the Moto Z2 Force’s “shatterproof” screen, which garnered similar criticism. Dense metal comprises the sides of the phone, while the corners are reinforced with a hard, rubberized plastic. Bixby still has a dedicated and clicky button underneath the similarly clicky volume buttons, while the power button on our unit had a slightly mushier, and less satisfying click than the other three. Gone is the home button from the S7 Active, continuing in the trend of the S8. We’ll see how this strikes users who may need more rugged, tactile buttons more often than the average user might.
Meeting military specification’s (MIL-STD-810G) for enduring drops, extreme temperatures, and much more, as well as IP68 water and dust proofing, the S8 Active is a phone of solid constitution. The thicker edges of the device not only add durability, but also space for a 1000-milliamp increase in battery capacity. Altogether, the added thickness and weight still leave the device with a good feel in-hand. While of course not as light as the svelte S8 (50 grams heavier to be exact) the S8 Active is only about 20 grams heavier than the S7 Active, with the same thickness and width, while only being about a tenth of an inch taller. Once again, Samsung achieves a sturdy design that leaves no worries in the most fearless outdoor warriors heart, while still making a pocketable device that feels substantial, but not like a brick in the hand (or pocket).
Though the infinity display isn’t in full effect here, with its typically curved design and near-bezel-less edges, you’ll still find the rounded corners and high screen-to-body ratio (75%) which buyers so loved on the regular S8. Though the 5.8-inch screen size is the same for the two, the metal/plastic casing that comprises the Active’s protective bulk brings that ratio down some from the original S8’s 84% ratio.
Samsung’s trademark Super AMOLED technology looks just as good on the Active as on the S8 before it, even without the curved edges. Capable of brightness that can stare back undaunted at the sun’s rays, but also lower far enough for comfortable night reading, we have little to complain about here, although it’s still susceptible to the ills of any AMOLED display. Colors are pleasing to look at, albeit super saturated with less-than-perfect viewing angles which produce a bluish hue as the phone is tilted. Color accuracy can be tweaked to an extent by utilizing various color modes and sliders found in the display settings, though we found most tweaks to affect red balances more than anything, never quite giving us proper color representation. Although somewhat bluish, we found the default Adaptive Display mode to be the most pleasing to look at.
Meeting the same resolution as the S8 and S7 Active, the S8 Active produces 1440 x 2960 pixels. It’s a quite pleasing screen to view pictures and video, or consume content of any kind. But of course, its 18.5:9 ratio still lends itself to cropping or letterboxing in most video-watching scenarios. So, as always, pick your poison.