The smartest, fastest, baddest do-it-all rugged phone

Highs

  • Excellent Performance
  • Excellent Display
  • Excellent Camera

Lows

  • Commands a price premium

Rating and Price

  • Rating: 10/10

The Galaxy S8 Active was released in August 2017 and was initially targeted at the high-end rugged phones market. At publishing time, the Galaxy S8 Active was priced at USD 849 (exclusively from AT&T). Even if this product was created to address the high-end market, the reality is that many products will shift segments as their price are pushed down over the years.

As we evaluate this phone, we looked for a potential competitor, both in terms of price and features. Because it is a niche market, the crowd is small. There are maybe ~20 recent phones with a MIL-810 certification, and most of those are near-obsolete and bulky. Others might be certified, but couldn’t remotely compete with the S8 Active in terms of durability. In the end, we narrowed the competition down to the LG V20, S7 Active, S6 Active and LG X Venture. As you can guess, going to previous generations saves money.

Industrial Design

Comfort

With a width of 74mm (2.91 inches) and a thickness of 9mm (0.35 inches), the smartphone feels somewhat comfortable in hand. We use U.S M-size gloves for male hand-size reference, so this will vary from person to person. The device weighs 208.1 grams (7.34 oz), and we would consider that weight to be a bit heavy for its size, but not surprising since it has additional protection.

Build Quality

The Galaxy S8 Active is quite different from its older sibling, the Galaxy S8. While they share most of the same electronics, the S8 Active has a different chassis, built to withstand things that a regular S8 handset could not even remotely handle. The Galaxy S8 Active is essentially an armored Galaxy S8.

"ESSENTIALLY AN ARMORED GALAXY S8"

The frame loses the curved screen and therefore the glass that is present on the Left/Right edges of the S8. Although beautiful, the side glass made the phone much more prone to cracks if dropped.  Instead, the Galaxy S8 Active has a strong metal rim going all round. That is the backbone of its structural integrity. This design makes the phone very hard to bend/twist and is highly resistant to edges and corner shocks.

Additionally, Samsung has added hard plastic bumpers that protect the top and bottom, including the ports and SIM/micro-SD trays. Plastic is good because that gives additional protection because repeated drops can weaken the ports, and threaten the water-resistance of the phone.

After considering how the S8 Active is designed, we estimate that the risk of breaking during a landing on a hard surface to be minimal. You can refer to our detailed LG V20 design article about how phones could be designed to avoid cracks upon drops.

Durability: MIL-STD-810 + IP68

With an IP rating of IP68, this handset is protected from elements in this as follows: Dust tight, no dust can penetrate. Up to 3-meter immersion waterproofing. In some cases, waterproofing means that “some” water can penetrate, but without harming the device.

Learn moreWhat is MIL-STD-810G? And what is an IP Rating?

The MIL-STD-810 Mil-Spec certification of this phone means that it will survive U.S military battlefield storage and transportation. This is not the same as battlefield usage, but it does reveal a certain level of resistance that many phones cannot reach.

The competing LG V20 also has a MIL-810 certification and was built around a lot of the same principles for shock-protection. However, it is not water-proof (immersion).  That said, one of the LG V20 design goals was to look like a regular phone (business-like). That is not the case for the “Active Series,” even when you get them in black or grey.

Even if several handsets pass some MIL-810 tests, you should see it as a baseline, or lower-limit. The construction of the S8 Active seems WAY more durable/resistant than the V20, or the LG G6, which also passes some MIL-810 tests.

Design Ingenuity

This handset design has excellent performance in relation to its size. From another viewpoint, the amount of battery capacity the buyer gets is one of the best for a phone of this size. The screen display-to-body ratio of 76.4% is also excellent for a rugged phone.

The S8 Active may not sound extraordinarily compact when compared to regular consumer phones, but in the “rugged handsets” world, it has a relatively slim figure and an incredibly powerful hardware. The S8 Active may have roughly the same 3D-size as the S7 Active, but it packs an additional 0.7” of display diagonal. This is a big deal!

Overall product rating: 10/10

Filed in Cellphones >Reviews. Read more about Rugged, Samsung, Samsung Galaxy, Samsung Reviews and Smartphone Reviews.

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