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Pictures don’t do the Galaxy S8 justice

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DJ Koh
DJ Koh

Just when I thought that great design was fading as a big point of differentiation among smartphones, Samsung has triumphantly proven me wrong with its new Galaxy S8. This phone, which I’d already seen from every conceivable angle courtesy of two solid months of leaked photos, wowed me today. Holding it in my hands for the first time, I suddenly shed all of my jadedness and cynicism, and I just felt happy that it existed. Yes, first impressions are fleeting and often misleading, but I don’t really care right now — my gadget lust has been reawakened by Samsung’s glorious new gadget.

For most people, the big headline with the S8’s design will be the bezel-starved screen, but that’s just one part of the delightful first impression that this handset makes. The proportions, weight distribution, and symmetry of the Galaxy S8 are all expertly judged. If you feared that the elongated display might make for a weirdly tall phone (as I did), rest assured that it does not. It actually makes the S8 narrower than most flagship smartphones, which adds to the sense of it being impossibly small for the size of screen that it boasts.

The LG G6 has a similarly minimal bezel to the S8’s, but it feels clumsy and unrefined by comparison. No, Samsung didn’t just shave off the bezels and declare its job done. The S8’s curved sides seem subtler than in previous generations. There’s an understated pattern in the blue version of the phone that lends its appearance an added measure of intrigue. And honestly, that screen is impossible to fully appreciate without being seen in person.

I challenge anyone to pick up the Galaxy S8 and not think it an absolutely gorgeous and sumptuous creation. Quite aside from being a highly advanced piece of technology, the S8 is just a pleasure to hold and play with. I’m less enthused about the S8 Plus, whose dimensions are too large for my tastes, but the regular-sized handset is near perfect.

Now, before you assault my enthusiasm with somber observations about the silly fingerprint reader placement right next to the camera (a totally valid complaint) or the superfluousness of a dedicated Bixby button, please understand that I’m not blind to those downsides and annoyances. This isn’t a review, after all. But even with them, this phone made me happy just by the mere fact of its existence, and that’s worth celebrating.

At this time last year, I declared Samsung a design leader with its Galaxy S7, and the company has kept that legacy going strong with the S8. Granted, there was the big bad Galaxy Note 7 disaster sandwiched in between the two, but that phone was also beautiful to look at, if not particularly safe for human use. I’m willing to give Samsung a clean slate with the S8, which on first impressions looks and feels like a winner.