The phones occupying the loftiest spots in the Consumer Reports smartphone ratings all excel at nearly everything, but there's always one top dog, and at the moment it's the Samsung Galaxy S8+, followed closely by its slightly smaller sibling, the Galaxy S8.

If you want a stunning camera, long battery life, and gorgeous display in a water-resistant package, one of these could be the right phone for you. You just have to be willing to spend the rent money on it: The S8+ starts at about $840, and the S8 at around $720.

Here are the details. 

Tall, Narrow Design

The new phones stand out from previous Samsungs in a couple of obvious ways.

First, they have no bezel on the sides, and only the thinnest ones at top and bottom. The screen curves away like the one on a previous Samsung phone, the Galaxy S7 Edge. (The S7 Edge is similar to the new phones in another way: That phone and the similar Galaxy S7 were the previous top models in our ratings. And even faced with new competition from several innovative models, they still appear in the top 10.)

The look of the S8 and S8+ is minimalist, modern, and elegant—and the design allows for a bigger screen in the same-size device.

Next, these phones are notably tall and narrow when held in portrait mode—similar in dimension to LG's recently introduced flagship phone, the G6. While typical smartphones have an aspect ratio of 16:9, the new Samsungs have an aspect ratio of 18.5:9. (The LG G6 is in the same ballpark—and it's also near the top of CR's ratings.)

Those numbers may not sound terribly different, but when you hold either phone in your hand, it feels novel: easy to grasp even if you have a small grip, but with lots of screen real estate. The S8 is 5.8 inches diagonally (that's the way screens are measured), while the S8+ is 6.2 inches. 

Those are huge numbers by phone standards. The company's previous top phones, the S7 and S7 Edge, were 5.1 inches and 5.5 inches respectively. And the S8+ is now the biggest screen in our ratings, just edging out the Sony Xperia XA Ultra, which feels much bulkier. 

While the S8 siblings are comfortable to hold, you may need two hands for many operations, and these aren't phones we'd order online without first handling them in a store.

"Even on the smaller model, it will be hard for most users to reach the upper regions of the screen with their thumb," lead phone tester Richard Fisco says. 

Finally, the fingerprint scanner on the back is awkwardly placed. You can use the scanner for unlocking the phone, and that works well. But it's right next to the rear camera, and we found ourselves repeatedly poking around to locate it—and smudging the camera lens in the process.

Great Battery Life

Samsung smartphones experienced serious battery problems last fall, when the Galaxy Note7 went through two recalls and was banned from flights by the Federal Aviation Authority.

Those problems haven't affected the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, and these new models provide some of the best smartphone battery life we've seen.

The Consumer Reports labs measure battery life three ways, making use of a dedicated WiFi network plus our very own cellular networks to make sure we test all phones in conditions unaffected by the distance to the nearest cellular tower or traffic in the real-world networks.

1) In our talk-time test, the Galaxy S8+ hit 26 hours, and the S8 reached 23 hours.

2) In a test of battery life while the phone is receiving and transmitting data over an LTE network, the S8+ lasted 17.5 hours, and the smaller phone lasted 14.5 hours.

3) In our test of battery life while browsing the web over WiFi with the display on, the numbers were 14.5 hours for the S8+ and 13 hours for the S8.

The difference in battery life is why the Galaxy S8+ ranks just a smidge higher than the Galaxy S8 in our ratings. Bigger phones typically do better in such tests simply because the batteries are larger.

"If battery life is really the most important thing to you, bigger phones are generally better," Fisco says. "But of course they also tend to weigh more. It's a tradeoff."

Top-Quality Camera

Several phones in our ratings take absolutely stunning photos, but even in that group the Samsung S8 phones shoulder their way to the front rank. The colors are rich and the low-light performance admirable. They take great video, as well.

Samsung deserves a shout-out for reducing the over-sharpening produced by its phone cameras. Smartphones rely on built-in software to create the images you see, and one of its tasks is to sharpen the images. If the software goes too far, this can produce a subtle halo effect along the lines between objects, or an object and its background.

Over-sharpening can help a camera rate well in a quantitative lab test using standard industry tools—to score well on those tests, the sharper the better. Consumer Reports uses these tools and others. But you also need imaging experts to simply look at the photos and judge their quality.

Finally, a few top-end cameras, including the iPhone 7 Plus and the LG G6, have dual rear-facing cameras, to enhance either zoom or wide-angle photography. The Samsung phones haven't gone that route yet—and we don't think they suffer for it. 

Additional Features

For many consumers, the biggest technological advance in recent smartphones has also been the easiest to understand: water resistance. Like several other phones on the market, including the Samsung Galaxy S7, both S8s are water-resistant to at least 5 feet of water for at least 30 minutes. 

We tested the phones to those specs in our pressurized dunk tank, and they passed. (One previous Samsung, the Galaxy S7 Active that was available only to AT&T customers, failed the same test last summer.) So don't worry about taking your phone out in the rain or panic if it drops into a kiddie pool.

We've also used Bixby, the digital assistant Samsung is introducing with these phones. We don't incorporate an evaluation of digital assistants into our ratings, but we do have impressions to share.

Samsung has big hopes for Bixby as an interface that combines touch and voice, and can integrate with Google's abilities in fresh ways. But the digital assistant just isn't there yet. In fact, voice commands have only just started to roll out—and only in South Korea. Our quick take is that most users will find Google Assistant to be more useful. 

Longer-term, it's a bit difficult to see why consumers would prefer to use one phonemaker's proprietary assistant (setting aside the iPhone's Siri, that is). But more of these are on the way. For instance, HTC has recently introduced its own virtual assistant, HTC Sense Companion—and this is starting to look like one of those emerging technologies that leaves consumers facing a splintered marketplace with overlapping-yet-distinct ecosystems.   

If you buy either the Galaxy S8 or S8+, we suggest that you spend some time playing with Bixby—and then, if you decide to simply ignore or turn off the digital assistant, it won't get in the way. 

And you'll still have a top-ranked phone.

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