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Care/Don't Care: The Samsung Galaxy S8 Active review

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Did you know that every year Samsung makes a sort of secret, extra durable version of its popular Galaxy S phone? It’s called the S Active, and for the S8, it’s back again. So, outdoorsmen and klutzy types: Is this the version of the Galaxy that you should care about?

Don't Care: Design

Pretty simply, the S8 Active is a regular S8 wrapped in a tougher, but far less elegant body.

S8 Active design
The S8 Active is a tank.

Along with the new iPhone X, Samsung’s latest Galaxy phones are among the most beautifully designed handsets you can buy. The Active version of this latest Galaxy? Not so much.

The phone still features the almost bezel-free display found on all the latest iterations of the Galaxy, but it trades those glass curves for a plastic and metal body, which lends it some shock resistance in addition to the regular S8's protections against dust and water. The result is an all-around larger phone – even larger than a regular S8 in a simple protective case, which does a lot of what the Active design is supposed to do, only it’s removable.

I care more about having that option available to me.

Care: Speed and power

The stuff inside the S8 Active almost matches that of the regular S8. The processor, RAM, version of Android, fingerprint reader and front and rear cameras are all identical. The only spec differences are a larger battery and an unnoticeably lower-resolution screen – which combine to give more time between charges and address one of the few complaints I have with the S8.

S8 vs S8 Active
The S8 Active (left) insides match those in the S8 (right), with the only exceptions being a bigger battery and a slightly less pixelous screen.
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When I was using the Active, I easily made it through a full day without having to plug in. Sometimes even longer. If you take into account that this phone can do all the stuff the S8 can, and it can do it for longer, who wouldn't care about that?

Don't Care: Pricing and availability

The S8 Active is out now. But why it’s a lesser-known version of the phone is because, in the U.S., it’s only being sold by AT&T, an exclusive deal that Samsung has had with the phone carrier for the launches of each of its Active handsets since the S4 version.

On top of that limitation, the price of the S8 Active is kind of a bummer. It's $850, well above the standard S8, which has already dropped below $700 by many retailers.

Don’t Care: The Samsung Galaxy S8 Active

Add it all up, and I don’t really care about the S8 Active.

I get that this version of the Galaxy S is supposed to ease my mind when it comes to the fear of dropping and ruining my phone, which I have already done with an S8, by the way. But it really doesn’t provide anything that a phone case can’t (including additional battery power).

A lot of Galaxys
Samsung makes a lot of different Galaxy models. Arguably too many.

Samsung believes in providing lots of choices when it comes to phones, and that’s why it makes umpteen different Galaxy variants every year. But I suppose I like the choice of having my S8 armored up on some days and showing off its good looks on others. And that's even if it means I wind up spending slightly more dough on cases and screen protectors than I would by choosing the big-battery-but-more-expensive-and-permanently-not-great-looking S8 Active.

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