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Samsung Galaxy S9+ Review: The best just got better
Samsung Galaxy S9+ brings an improved camera, brighter AMOLED display, snappier CPU and better aesthetics all stuffed in the same astonishing sleek metal design
Samsung Galaxy S8+ was, and is still a great Android smartphone. It offered a gorgeous edge-to edge screen, a great camera hardware, sleek metal profile and lag free performance. However, it was marred by some definite flaws which Samsung has beautifully addressed with the all new Galaxy S9+, within a time span of just 10 months.
- Best-in-class screen
- Lag free performance
- Impressive camera performance
- Premium and durable design
- Smarter Bixby
- A bit pricey
- Bixby button still haunts
Galaxy S9+ brings a brighter screen, better camera hardware, new chipset, improved audio, and repositioned fingerprint scanner for better handling.
These refinements give Galaxy S lineup a big push in the race of best Android mobile devices, and also define the 2018 path for company's value flagship 'Galaxy A' series and mid-range 'Galaxy J' series handsets.
As I have reviewed the Galaxy S8+ and the Note 8, I was quite eager to find out what has improved in last 10 or 11 months in the real-life performance of new flagship Galaxy devices. Here's what I have found during my one week usage of Galaxy S9+.
Design: Refined and much more practical than last year’s Galaxy phones
Little has changed in the overall outlook of the new Galaxy flagships, and I seriously don't mind it as the edge-to-edge design still looks astonishing. The minor changes which are in place have made the Galaxy S9+ much more comfortable and joyable to use.
Conveniently placed Fingerprint scanner
The oddly placed fingerprint scanner now rests beneath the camera module, which is a more convenient place to unlock the handset in everyday usage. Your index finger will still cover the camera lens sometimes but once you get the hang of it, which will not take much time, you will unlock the handset easily without troubling the lens. Samsung Galaxy S9+ is slightly compact but heavier than the last year's Galaxy S8+; however the difference is only marginal and most users will not find any change in real life. The bezels on top and bottom of the screen are trimmed down a bit to offer even more screen real-estate in marginally smaller form factor.
Bixby Button still haunts
Bixby button still rests at the left edge just adjacent to the volume rockers, which still creates troubles sometimes while you stream a video and try to lower down the volume levels.
Like previous Galaxy S handsets, the new flagships are also IP68 rated and can resist the damage from water and dust to a good extent.And besides, the standard Black colour variant, the new Galaxy S9+ is available in Lilac Purple and Coral Blue colors.
Overall, it is the same old gorgeous design but much more practical to use. Galaxy S9+ and the smaller S9 offers better grip in hands than the last year's Galaxy flagships.
Best Screen on a phone you can buy today
Samsung Galaxy S9+ wins the display fight hands-down. The 6.2-inch Super AMOLED 'Infinity Display' on Galaxy S9+ is the best quality screen on a phone that your money can buy. It is brighter than the last year's Galaxy handsets and even pushes more brightness in direct sunlight than the iPhone X, which uses Samsung made OLED panel. I did not face any difficulty in reading texts and streaming videos outdoors in Delhi NCR's weather conditions which can be pretty harsh on smartphone's displays.
The display offers a resolution of 2,960x1440 pixels scattered in 18.5:9 aspect ratio. The result is a staggering 529ppi which makes videos, texts, images look downright crisp and sharp. The display is HDR10 compliant and is also the most colorful screen around. And as Samsung has trimmed down the bezels, Galaxy S9+ offers a lot of screen to use for productivity, multimedia playback and reading.
Camera: Big improvement in low-light photography
The first thing I did with my Galaxy S9+ review unit was to fire up the camera and see what has improved over the last generation. The results were pretty amazing and in most cases, the best-in-class from a smartphone's camera. The best happened to Galaxy S series handset's camera is the dual-aperture technology that has given a big boost to the low-light camera performance.
Better results in low-light
The dual-lens camera on Galaxy S9+ captures better low-light images than any other Galaxy smartphone I have tested in past. The results are even close and in some cases better than the Google Pixel 2 XL's low-light camera performance. The dual-aperture technology makes it possible for camera lens to expand and contract just like the iris of a human eye. The ‘Dual Aperture' works in the range of ‘F1.5 / F2.4' and automatically lets in more light when it's dark and less light when it's too bright. The F/1.5 aperture- which is world's first on a smartphone camera gives S9+'s camera the ability to let in 28% more light and reduce noise levels by using 4-frame image stacking technology to deliver better looking dim and low-light shots.
Crisp images with impressive Dynamic Range
When in daylight, the images show vibrant colors and amazing dynamic range as the Auto HDR kicks in at the right time. As the camera works on the brighter F/1.5 aperture, I was expecting some overexposure here but the camera's settings and snappy shutter speed prevented any overexposed shots. In a nutshell, the images shot on bright sunny days are super impressive and full of fine details.
Live Focus has improved
The bokeh shots are also improved, thanks to the F/2.4 aperture lens. The ‘Live Focus' mode is now snappy and keeps the subject in focus for better depth of field effects.
Bright and Vivid Selfies
The 8MP selfie camera comes equipped with autofocus and produces bright self portraits with punchy colours. You can also achieve a software driven bokeh effect and can change the skin tone with the built-in Beauty mode.
You also get Super Slow motion with a staggering 960 fps. The results are brighter and somewhat better than the Sony's premium XZ phones that introduced the super slow motion videos concept on a smartphone. Last but not the least, the OIS works well while you shot videos and the telephoto lens' 2X zoom also come handy to capture subjects which are far without losing out on the image quality. The camera can record 4k at 60 fps but OIS and tracking will not kick in. You will have to reduce the resolution to 4k at 30fps to use OIS.
Overall, Samsung has managed to create the best camera hardware in the market with the Galaxy S9+.
Hardware: Lag free computing, gaming and multitasking
The noteworthy changes in the hardware come in the form of latest Exynos 9810 chipset. Samsung's in-house octa-core processor is paired with an 18-core Mali-G72 GPU to handle graphical intensive tasks. Galaxy S9 will have 4GB of RAM, whereas Galaxy S9+ will use 6GB of RAM to handle multitasking. The devices now support expandable memory of up to 400GB with a microSD card. As expected, the smartphone delivers flawless everyday performance.
It can handle everything you throw at it without breaking up a sweat. Games render with no frame drops and videos play without a glitch. The new CPU is built on the 10 nm process and makes Galaxy S9+ the fastest Android smartphone in the market. However; we cannot say the same for the next 4 to 6 months as the overtime usage do take a toll on the speed and efficiency of the Android handsets, especially in the case of Samsung devices. It is something we would really like to test on Galaxy S9+.
Better audio and good battery backup
The audio performance on Samsung Galaxy S9+ is significantly improved as compared to last year's Galaxy S8+. The new stereo speakers are crazy loud but at the same time also maintain the sound structure quite well. The speakers are tuned by AKG Acoustics and also come with support for Dolby Atmos 360-degree surround sound.
The battery backup on Galaxy S9+ is good, if not impressive. In my use case, the smartphone did survive for a day but struggled to cross the one-day mark. I kept the screen on 1080p resolution for most of the part; but bumping it up to full scale, i.e. WQHD+ will also not make much of a difference in everyday life. But the gaming and video playback on the 2K infinity display is indeed a delight.
I really wish Samsung could have used at least a 4,000 mAh battery unit (instead of a 3,500 mAh) as I don't want this gorgeous piece of technology to die quickly with a heavy usage. Thankfully, fast charging has been improved and the new Galaxy S9+ refuels quickly than the last year's Galaxy devices.
Samsung Experience UI: Fluid and full of useful software tricks
The new Galaxy devices run Experience UI 9.0 deployed over Android 8.0. Samsung's new UI is fluid and is fun to use for most of the part. It is full of useful software tweaks that are designed to enhance your everyday mobile user experience. The new Galaxy S9+ also come equipped with improved KNOX 3.1, which is Samsung's latest defense-grade security platform to protect your sensitive information. You get three different biometric authentication options - iris, fingerprint, and facial recognition. I mostly used the fingerprint and Iris scanners as facial recognition on S9+ is still seems like a work in progress.
Care about AR Emojis and Bixby?
Bixby is now deeply integrated into the camera. It can detect where and on what you are pointing the camera and can deliver useful information. For instance, you can check the nutritional content of food, scan QR codes, translate any foreign language to native and can also extract information from text by just pointing the camera on the object. The results are not always accurate and Bixby sometimes just fail to recognize objects; however Samsung is on a right path with Bixby and in future it will make a huge difference in the way we use Samsung devices.
AR Emojis support built-in in camera app
The new Galaxy S9+ also comes with iPhone like AR Emojis that scans your image and creates different GIFs with your lookalike. I am not a big fan of emojis but can't say the same for everyone, so the new feature might excite you, if only for a while.
Galaxy S9+ also supports Samsung Pay, which now comes with new partnerships with more banks, UPI payments, a Gift Card Store and the option to pay bills seamlessly.
Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ have been launched in India at Rs. 57,900 and Rs. 64,900 for the 64GB variant. The 256GB variants of the new smartphones will sell at Rs. 65,900 and Rs. 72,900 respectively. These surely are big figures but with the new upgrades, Samsung has very well addressed the glaring issues that the users were facing with the last year's Galaxy devices. The new big screen Samsung Galaxy S9+ is a smart upgrade over its predecessor and offers an amazing camera, best-in-class display, premium and durable design and a faster chip with more RAM to multitask. Besides, it also takes care of basics. You get the standard 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD card expansion by up to 400 GB, which solves your multimedia problems. You will not find such ground-level useful features in iPhone X and Google Pixel 2XL.
In a nutshell, Samsung Galaxy S9+ is the best value for money and performance driven big screen Android smartphone your money can buy today in the Indian market.