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6 things I learned traveling with the Galaxy S8 Plus

Travel revelations from Samsung’s super-tall, super-specced flagship.

It takes time to get to know a new phone and understand all of its various quirks, strengths and foibles. Traveling with a device can rapidly accelerate that process, though. Nothing pushes a phone to its limits like juggling airport navigation, boarding passes and in-flight antics — and that’s before you start on however much work or play awaits you at the other end.

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks, first taking my Samsung Galaxy S8+ to San Francisco, then on to Google I/O in Mountain View and back, before hopping on another plane a couple days later to Computex show in Taipei, Taiwan — from where I write this article.

After spending entirely too much time taking the S8+ on and off planes and across borders, I decided to share a few of the things I’ve learned…

1. The camera beats the GS7 where it really matters

If we needed further proof that DxOMark scores alone are a flimsy metric for measuring camera performance, this is it. The Galaxy S8 was recently awarded the same DxO score as the S7 — 88/100 — and while at first glance there isn’t much separating Galaxy S8 photos from pics taken on its predecessor, there’s a lot going on around multi-frame processing that makes the S8’s camera the clear winner. Like the Google Pixel and HTC 10, the S8 takes multiple exposures by default, runs computation on them and conjures up the best-looking image it can, and this gives S8 has the edge in low-light situations, or shots where your hands might be moving slightly.

Where the Galaxy S7 would wash out colors and give its photos a yellowish tint, the S8 can conjure up more accurate hues. Where motion blur could scupper the best low-light Pixel photo, the S8’s OIS provides a necessary buffer. A great example of this is a type of shot I’ve tried again and again to master on a phone camera — shooting out of an airplane window over a nighttime cityscape. At landing, when there’s actual motion in the shot. Even the Pixel struggles with this type of photo, and the S7 wasn’t any better. On the S8 — with a few attempts, granted — I was actually able to get a decent, clear, sharp photo of the approach to Dubai airport.

That’s an extreme fringe case, but the benefits apply to every low-light pic you’ll take with the Galaxy S8 — I’ve seen clear improvements with photos in dark bars and restaurants, as well as night-time landscape shots like the shot of the Bay Bridge above. Plus it’s running the same algorithms even on daylight shots too, even if the improvements are harder to spot in well-lit scenes.

The Google Pixel remains the king of high-contrast photos, where Google’s HDR+ magic is able to pull spectacular color detail out of night shots. At the same time, there’s an argument to be made for the S8’s sharper, more true-to-life images.

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