Samsung does not need to revolutionize the smart phone industry in 2018, it needs to repeat all the hard work it did with the Galaxy S8 line last year. But with the added pressure of the 10th anniversary iPhone on the market, Samsung is not just resting on its laurels.
The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus bring both iterations in the design of the Galaxy S8 and some new features much in demand, but is the company’s focus in the right areas?
Samsung Galaxy S9 review notes: We’ve been using the Galaxy S9 Plus on Vodafone’s network in Barcelona, Spain for roughly a week and a half. Our review unit is running Android 8.0 Oreo, Samsung Experience version 9.0, and build number R16NW.G965U1UEU1ARB7 on the February 1, 2018 security patch. We’re holding off on adding review scores until we can put both the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus through our full suite of tests, the results of which will be coming in to a deep dive review in the near future.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus – Design
If you’re not careful, you can confuse the Galaxy S9 with an S8, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus were two of the most beautiful phones to launch in 2017 (or, dare I say never), and the S9 further refines the design. Both the S9 and the S9 Plus feature curved glass panels from the Samsung signature on the front and rear, separated by an aluminum frame. These curved pieces of glass make the devices feel extremely comfortable to hold, almost as if they were resting on the palm of the hand.
The curved edges on the front panel are less intense than on the Galaxy S8, which makes it easier to slide from the edges of the screen.
The big change in the design this year is the location of the fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint sensors of the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 were in the worst place imaginable, to the right of the camera’s sensor. It was uncomfortable and not at all well thought out. The sensor is now where it should be, just below the camera in the middle, where your finger falls naturally when you hold it.
All buttons, ports and slots are in the same places as the S8. The SIM tray is on the top, the power button is on the right and the left side contains the volume key and the dedicated Bixby button. At the bottom, you’ll find the USB Type-C port, 3.5mm headphone jack (yes!) And a slightly retouched background speaker grille (later on the speakers).
The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are slightly smaller in general than their predecessors. This is because Samsung reduced the top and bottom frames, which makes the S9 1.2 mm shorter than the S8, and the S9 Plus 1.4 mm shorter than the S8 Plus. However, both new models are heavier: the Galaxy S9 weighs 163 grams compared to the 155 grams of the S8. and the S9 Plus weighs 189 grams compared to the S8 Plus’ 173 grams. The differences in weight are actually quite noticeable.
Samsung gave us the Midnight Black model for review, but the S9 and S9 Plus also come in Coral Blue, Titanium Gray and the new Purple Lilac, which has been our favorite since Samsung announced these phones.
Whichever color you choose, be prepared to make the Galaxy S9 an absolute fingerprint magnet, which is common with crystal telephones.
Fingerprints are not the only things you should worry about. These phones are fragile. Our review unit did not take long to get some marks on the screen. The top layer of Gorilla Glass 5 is already worn, which is easy to see when the screen is off. This also happened to some of our other Samsung glass-on-glass devices in the past. However premium they may be, they are not perfect.
These phones are fragile
The design may not be durable, but at least these phones have IP68 rating for dust and water resistance. This means that they can survive a dunk in fresh water at 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus – Screen
Samsung has had the best smartphone screens on the market for years, and the Galaxy S9 line is no exception. Both Super AMOLED panels offer deep blacks, vibrant colors and great viewing angles. Seriously: these screens are a joy to observe day after day, no matter what you are doing.
Although the Infinity Display is a recurring feature of all of Samsung’s flagships, the immersive aspect is a bit marked because the left and right sides no longer bleed to the edge. This minimizes the amount of accidental palm presses that users experience when they reach the opposite edge of the phone’s screen.
The screens are also 15 percent brighter than the Galaxy S8 line. In fact, they are so bright that turning the brightness up is too intense for anything other than viewing outdoors. Fortunately, they also get very dim, which makes them ideal for reading on your phone before bedtime.
The Galaxy S9 has an aspect ratio screen of 18.5: 9 of 5.8 inches. The Galaxy S9 Plus comes with a larger 6.2-inch screen. Both screens have a maximum resolution of Quad HD + (2,960 x 1,440), although they are set to Full HD + out of the box. They can also be reduced to HD + if you want to save some battery.
The wonderful screen always on Samsung also comes back this time. This is still one of the most useful visualization implementations there is. You can display the current time and local time if you are traveling, as well as the battery percentage and all your notifications. When you touch a notification twice, it opens quickly as well.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus – Performance
Samsung has chosen the Apple route with its two smartphones, which offer slightly higher specifications in the larger model. The Galaxy S9 comes with 4 GB of RAM and the S9 Plus has 6 GB. It’s unfortunate to see this, as it feels like a way to make users spend more on the Galaxy S9 Plus just to get that extra boost of power, not because the device really needs it.
Both devices are powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC in the United States, and Samsung’s own Exynos 9810 elsewhere. We have a unit with Snapdragon 845 engine, although we will surely cover the Exynos version soon.
It should not surprise us that we have not had any slowing down or stuttering during the whole trial period. We are sure that the Galaxy S9 works wonderfully too, although at the time of writing it we have not been able to devote much time to it.
Games like Tekken and Final Fantasy IX were performed without problems during our tests, although we had some problems loading Final Fantasy Omnia Opera in our review unit. However, we are confident that this will be remedied quickly.
Whatever model you get, you should be happy with the performance of these phones.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus- Hardware
It would not be a Samsung device unless it is packaged in everything except the kitchen sink. Samsung offers users a large amount of onboard storage with 64 GB, which can be expanded via microSD up to an additional 400 GB.
That extra storage is great news for those who like to charge their devices with lots of music and podcasts. If you are not streaming audio through the Bluetooth 5 connection on the S9, you can connect your favorite headphones to the 3.5mm headphone jack. Correct, although apparently any other manufacturer is removing the headphone jack, Samsung has decided to keep it. After all, everyone still uses it. I, for one, am very happy with this decision.
Samsung also included headphones in the box, unlike some companies. In this case, it included the same pair of AKG headphones in the box as with the Galaxy S8, which is a good advantage.
It also has Dolby Atmos compatibility, to provide a more immersive listening experience than wired audio.
If you’re not listening to music with headphones, you’ll be glad to hear that Samsung is finally focusing on improving the quality of its speakers as well. The S9 and the S9 Plus still have a lower ignition speaker, although now it is accompanied by a front-firing speaker on top of the device, on top of the screen. These dual speakers tuned with AKG are 1.4 times louder than the speakers on the S8 line, which is a welcome improvement.
Because Samsung did not change much in front design, neither the Galaxy S9 nor the S9 Plus have room for larger batteries. They fight the same 3,000 and 3,500 mAh batteries as the Galaxy S8 line. That’s not big news in particular: the flagships of last year did not have a stellar battery life.
The 3,500 mAh unit in our S9 Plus does not work better or worse than the previous generation, at least until now. With intensive use, our Galaxy S9 Plus achieved a maximum of six hours of screen time over the course of a 12-hour workday. The workload consisted of video calls, YouTube and Hulu streaming, sending emails and posting through social networks.
During our heavier camera test days, our S9 Plus sold out quickly. After a full day of taking photos and videos in Barcelona, we managed to accumulate only three hours of screen time, which only consisted of 90 minutes of using the camera. Therefore, you will definitely want to bring a drum kit if you are constantly recording photos and videos.
Of course, until we have to spend more time with it, we can not guarantee the normal battery life of the Galaxy S9.
Samsung at least makes it very easy to load the S9. Both devices are compatible with the Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 standard via cable charging, which means that it will take approximately 90 minutes to go from one digit to more than 90 percent. The addition of fast wireless charging through the WPC and PMA standards is also very convenient as well, although this is generally used when the phone is idle.
Finally, Intelligent Scan is the fusion of two biometric functions, Face Unlock and Iris Scanner. The S9 will automatically search your face or your iris when the phone wakes up. However, it is not an instant unlock all the time. Most of the time, the phone looks for a face, but may not get it because of an incorrect angle or something else, and then switches to infrared light for an iris scan. This takes time.
Several requests appear at the top of the lock screen that tell you how to get unlocked, but for the most part you just have to make sure that the phone is pointing directly at your face and that you are looking directly at the phone. Facial unlocking is not easy for the phone in the dark, but infrared light can always find an eyeball. At night, this has definitely proved useful.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus – Camera
If there is a place that Samsung really focuses on (no pun intended), it’s the camera. Samsung has greatly improved its cameras in recent years, so it was interesting to see where it could bring more innovation. It turned out that there was a lot of room for improvement.
Let’s start with the fun things: AR Emoji . The Samsung version of the Apple Animoji is a self-personalized avatar that can be a caricature of oneself or a completely different thing.
The Emoji ARs are easy enough to do, no matter what camera you are using, let the camera detect the face and give you a start template. Facial recognition is not perfect, but it probably never was. All face shapes of AR Emoji are more or less the same, so not everyone will get a perfect version of themselves. The tone of the skin, the hairstyle and the clothes can be customized and the final result is saved in the camera application. Users can take pictures with their AR Emoji or even record a video of the avatar’s face moving along with theirs. Only the face is tracked, but try to move even the eyebrows correctly for more precise expressions.
This mode, although it is fun, is far from being a polished product, besides, they are pretty creepy if you ask me. You can also become the character, but following the face is a bit problematic and can cause some strange setbacks here and there.
We are sure that finally there will be more personalization options, maybe sponsored by clothing companies or beauty brands. For now, it’s an easy way to make 18 GIFs of various emotions that can be easily shared with friends on any platform.
Since we are on the subject of personal expression, let’s talk about the front camera. An 8 MP camera with autofocus is in the foreground and should be familiar to any recent Samsung user. The selfies of this camera are good, but they may not be as good as the results of the Google Pixel 2 auto-learning shooter.
Now a type of portrait mode in the form of Selfie Focus is available, which tries to find the cut of the subject and pleasantly diffuse the background. The results are random, even ignoring how smooth the photos are to begin with. In spite of everything, lovers of selfies will have much to enjoy with the Galaxy S9 front camera, even with its peculiarities.
If there is one thing we really want the front camera to have, it is the processing of several frames of the main camera module. While Google Pixel 2 applies its automatic learning to any of the cameras, it seems that Samsung gave this new processing capacity only to the back camera, and only to the main lens.
That said, Samsung is clearly doing its best with the 12 MP rear trigger, which has a double open mode (more on that in a second).
Multi-frame processing is a technical term for the ability of the camera to capture dozens of photos in a split-second and use all the data to correctly process a good end result.
All this work occurs in the camera module itself, where the built-in DRAM stores the data during processing. This has been seen in previous forms as HDR + in the original Pixel. We will soon compare the implementation of Samsung with the algorithmic methods of Pixel 2’s Machine Learning, but there is a clear difference: Google has a massive photo database to extract its data processing, which is a great advantage.
The images from the main shooter look great, even in low light. This is due in part to the f / 1.5 aperture that helps flood an incredible amount of light for a smartphone. The S9 manages to take a good picture of a less than ideal situation before any other previous Galaxy device, using the large aperture along with the processing of multiple frames and the optical stabilization of the image to minimize the blurring effect of the reduced shutter speed .
F / 1.5 is great, but it’s not the only opening you can use in the S9. Yes, double opening is now possible, with real mechanical blades that close over the sensor to provide a f / 2.4 option on the same lens. Photographers will say that this is not a big change, but by exposing a photo in super bright sunlight, everything helps. It is certainly true for the f / 1.5 setting in the opposite direction with dark scenes.
The depth-of-field effects of the f / 2.4 configuration are markedly different, since the background elements are not so blurry. If you want to have that super-soft background, it’s pretty easy to enter Pro mode and change the aperture setting accordingly.
However, some optimization is still required. The camera still prioritizes a lower shutter speed over a higher ISO sensitivity and, therefore, motion blur is common. The use of different openings means that the rest of the configuration must change accordingly, and if the S9 always tries to resolve that on the fly, it simply makes a mistake to do so. The Samsung camera is not perfect, but it has most of the tools to do the job.
If you want all the camera’s tools to be possible, the S9 Plus is definitely the one to look at, the question is if you really need it. The telephoto lens does not seem to have the same processing treatment of multiple frames as the main sensor, which makes sense because the main sensor is developed with the smaller S9 in mind. The telephoto lens is an extra in the larger model. However, having a zoom lens gives the S9 Plus an appropriate portrait mode in Live Focus, instead of the software-based S9’s selective approach. We were able to test the differences between these two and the zoom lens combo clearly produced better cuts and better portraits in general. Selective focus on the regular S9 is as successful or strange as the Selfie focus on the front camera. You must decide for yourself how important the approach and portrait is to you, and if you are willing to pay more to obtain it.
The rear camera is capable of capturing videos at 4K 60 fps, which is good for a very smooth motion capture. The videos of the S9 Plus are detailed and aided by the optical image stabilization in the rear module. The camera is also capable of capturing high-speed video at 960 fps at 720p. The lower resolution may not be ideal for smartphone filmmakers, but the result is still eye-catching. In those cases where the moment is difficult to capture, the camera application also has an automatic mode that activates the Super Slow Motion in, hopefully, the appropriate time.
One thing is clear: Samsung knew that photography fans would benefit from upgrading the lens hardware: no one else will really notice the difference. Typical users will like the Emoji AR and the Super Slow Motion, but when it is triggered in automatic mode, the apertures change accordingly without user intervention. The aperture f / 2.4 was a necessary movement to cover the traps of an open f / 1.5 lens. Sure, it floods large amounts of light, but having a super-fine focus is not ideal in all situations. Samsung found a way to design the best of both worlds in a way that most users will not notice and experienced photographers can exploit. In any case, this camera is a great example of Samsung really finding a way to please everyone.
Samples of the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus camera
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus- Software
Samsung chose the mentality “if it’s not broken, do not fix it” with the Galaxy S9, basically leaving all aspects of its Samsung Experience launcher unchanged from the S8. That’s not bad: the Galaxy S8 software was a big step forward compared to Samsung’s previous phones, and we’re happy to see a very similar software experience here. We just want you to run the latest version of Android.
Samsung has an update problem
The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus both have Android 8.0 Oreo ready to use, that at the time of writing this is a version of Android seven months old.
Do not get me wrong: Android 8 is fantastic, but it’s not Android 8.1. Samsung has no excuse to launch their smartphones of more than $ 700 without the latest version of Android, especially when it has been available for three months. The good thing is that this is probably not the case in the future, since the S9 and S9 Plus are ready for faster updates thanks to Project Treble.
One thing that has not changed between generations is the amount of duplicate applications that Samsung includes in its software package. For some reason, the company still considers it necessary to include its own applications when Google applications are perfectly acceptable. Some of Samsung’s applications offer additional features that may not be available in the Google ecosystem, but the fact is that the application drawer is quite full of new features.
For what it’s worth, the Samsung stock app comes with some unique features of its own. The GIF creator feature is a really fun way to extract up to six seconds of an existing video and makes it easy to share on almost any platform. If you give it a little more thought, you can get a funny loop GIF as one of the few that are presented below.
One of the minor changes in the Samsung launcher is that both the application drawer and the home screen can now be used in landscape orientation. This may not be the most striking feature of the Galaxy S9, but it will certainly make some users happy.
The company will not give up its virtual assistant soon either. Bixby returns on the S9 line, bringing only a handful of minor improvements, which probably will not change the way you feel about it. If you used it before, you will probably continue, but if you did not, there is no important reason to start.
Samsung has added some augmented reality features to Bixby Vision, including the ability to translate live texts from other languages. Simply point the camera at some text, touch the Bixby button and (try) to translate the text in real time. The text appears as an AR overlay.
The live translation has not been accurate in our tests, but it could be good enough to help if you’re lost in the translation.
Bixby also has the ability to gather nutritional information for the foods it recognizes. In theory, you should be able to point your camera at a donut, press the Bixby button and receive nutritional information about the donut in just a few seconds. This also does not work extremely well, it has been quite successful or strange at best.
There is also a new Bixby mode that allows you to superimpose Sephora’s makeup, Cover Girl and more, allowing you to see what it looks like on your face before buying it. We will simply leave this here:
You can still access Bixby Home by sliding to the home screen on the far left. This is still a valid landing page for anyone who does not use Google Feed. When you press the dedicated Bixby button, you will also access Bixby Home, but you can disable the button if you do not want to use it.
Holding down that physical Bixby button will trigger Bixby Voice, which slowly but surely gains unique improvements in voice recognition.
Bixby is still one of the only virtual assistants who can recognize multiple commands at once (“add coffee to my shopping list and call my wife”). Bixby is still far from the Google Assistant in terms of voice recognition, reliability and features, but it is progressing.
Bixby 2.0 is likely to launch this year and will presumably bring voice recognition enhancements to better recognize individual voices. If you are not impressed with Bixby in its current form, you may feel differently in Note 9.
Although we mention it briefly in the previous viewing section, the user is given a large number of personalization options through the lock screen and the always activated display configuration. Videos created in Super Slowmode mode can immediately be converted to a blocking wallpaper, just like almost any 15-second video. Unfortunately, unless you’re making it work actively, biometric features like Intelligent Scan or the fingerprint scanner make this feature irrelevant, as it quickly moves to the home screen.
Apps Edge remains on the edge of the Infinity screen and several panels allow easy access to most of the applications used, the most contacted people and a host of other functions. Samsung’s own game functions provide Do Not Disturb modes and button locks while playing. Dual Messenger helps users with multiple accounts in social network applications. Features like Secure Folder, Samsung Health, Samsung Notes, and any other application that you can or can not use from previous Galaxy S or Note devices are also here. While the experience can be overwhelming in general, it will be familiar to Samsung veterans.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus – Specifications
|Processor||Octa-core 2.8GHz Exynos 9810|
|screen||5.8in (2.960 x 1.440)|
|Camera||Front- 8- megapixels
|Dimensions||147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm|
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus – Battery life
- 3,500mAh battery
- The same battery life throughout the day as the Galaxy S8 Plus
- Fast loading was faster in our tests
We tested the Samsung Galaxy S9 battery, and it looks a lot like the rest of the phone: it matches what we saw from the Galaxy S8 Plus a year ago. That translates to the battery’s lifespan throughout the day.
It has a 3,500mAh capacity battery, just like last year’s phone, and is still larger than the Galaxy S9 and Note 8 of 3,000mAh and 3,300mAh. It’s the biggest battery you can get in a new Samsung flagship. We were hoping to gain a few hours more courtesy of the new and more efficient chipsets that power the S9 and the S9 Plus, but that has not happened.
Samsung, once again, is not exceeding the limits of its battery capacity, perhaps understandably given its false steps with the Galaxy Note 7. ProLiant, however, has slightly improved loading times, according to our tests.
In our lab test, when running HD video in a loop for 90 minutes, the battery sank from 100% to 87%, the exact 13% decrease we saw from the largest Samsung phone of last year. However, it has slightly improved loading times, according to our tests.
Fast charging The S9 Plus with the included charger for only 15 minutes takes it from 0% to 19%, and 30 minutes takes it to 38%; at 45 minutes, the phone reaches a comfortable 58%. In the end, it takes one hour and 41 minutes to reach 100%, just like the Galaxy S8 Plus. But from a dead battery, it charges faster at those crucial lower levels.
Samsung also supports fast wireless charging and sells a lot of wireless charging pads. Your Qi wireless charging method is still not as fast as cable charging speeds, but it’s faster than you can wirelessly charge an iPhone X.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus – Gallery
The Galaxy S9 is the best that Samsung has to offer to a really big size. Its 6.2-inch curved screen is spacious and elegant, even if it seems that nothing has changed.
The S9 Plus features that have been modified are important. The fingerprint sensor is now in an ideal place on the back, the speakers finally give us a beaten stereo sound on a Samsung flagship and, most importantly, the camera focused on low light captures bright photos in the dark Instead of saddling us with a bunch of disposable, dimly lit items. We also enjoyed the super slow camera. He’s a better camera phone speaker, sure.
The Galaxy S9 Plus also checks all the other boxes for an iterative update: its new chips provide faster performance, it has more RAM and its virtual assistant is smarter, but still has faults. Color us with a face not surprised at AR Emoji.
Actually, we did not care about AR Emoji in any way, shape or face transformation. We’re going to pretend that it does not exist. It’s a fun show to show friends at best, and Samsung’s failed attempt to match Apple’s current technology (but also quite insignificant).
There are three major obstacles to owning the Galaxy S9 Plus. First of all, it is a great phone designed for big hands. If you do not like it, choose the normal-sized S9 for easy one-handed operation, even if you like additional screen space, RAM and battery life. Second, it is more expensive than the S9. It’s a lot to pay 0.4 inches of extra screen space and more power. Third, the Galaxy Note 9 is expected in August, and the Note phones are historically a bit larger and noticeably better than Samsung’s S-level flagships and include a handy S Pen.
Of course, if you want a really big phone at the moment, you will not find a better one than the S9 Plus. It’s our favorite phone for people with big hands and big wallets.