Samsung Galaxy S9 review
SAMSUNG GALAXY S9+ REVIEW
- PROS – Stunning design still shines • Fabulous dual-lens camera • Curved display is one of the best in the business • Much-improved fingerprint scanner placement
- CONS – Very high price • Face unlock still struggles • Battery life could be better • Android Oreo needs to be left alone
Samsung could do not wrong in 2017 producing some of the greatest smartphones the word has ever seen.
So how do they top that?
The Korean technology giant is hoping to continue this monumental success with the launch of its all-new Galaxy S9+ flagship.
This device has been packed with new features and updates which Samsung hopes will be enough to convince consumers to take out their wallets and make the switch.
However, with a very similar design and vastly inflated price tag, is it really a worthy successor to the S8+?
Express.co.uk took delivery of our S9+ soon after it was announced at Mobile World Congress and we’ve been putting this latest flagship through its paces.
Here’s our full Galaxy S9+ review.
DESIGN & DISPLAY
When you first set eyes on the Galaxy S9+ you’ll be excused for wondering what has actually changed.
This new phone keeps Samsung’s iconic curved design and appears almost identical to the previous generation Galaxy S8+.
In fact, the only big difference comes in the form of the new dual-lens camera and repositioning of the fingerprint scanner which, thankfully, has now been placed slap-bang in centre of the device making it far easier to use.
Samsung won every award going in 2017 so it’s no wonder they haven’t tinkered too much with the look of S9+.
And you can’t really blame them for this decision as their new flagship still has bucket-loads of appeal.
The clever design also means Samsung can cram its huge 6.2-inch AMOLED Infinity display into a phone that doesn’t actually feel too big to handle.
This screen covers almost every inch of the S9+ and continues to offer one of the best experiences on the market.
Samsung leads the field with its screen technology and the S9+ features a superior level of colour, brightness and contrast.
We genuinely love the look of the S9+ and there’s no question this will continue to be one of the best looking devices of 2018 but it’s not radically different from the Galaxy S8+ and simply doesn’t feel as exciting as when that device launched last year.
It’s also worth noting that, despite Samsung’s unique curved design, the S9+ is a big smartphone and if you’re looking for something that will slip in your skinny jeans you might want to look elsewhere.
Like most devices that are covered in glass the rear cover is also a magnet for fingerprints making it pretty hard to keep it looking box fresh.
One of the biggest changes on the S9+ comes in the form of its new dual-lens camera.
And there’s no question that this double snapper is truly fantastic.
Not only does it now allow users to add DSLR-style depth of field but, like the Galaxy Note 8, Samsung has included a mode called Live Focus.
This basically allows the bokeh blur effect to be edited and changed long after the original photo was taken.
Another new feature that lands on S9+ is Super Low Light mode which allows the camera to drop to an aperture of F1.5 – the lowest in a smartphone.
This lets users capture detail in almost total darkness with some clever software even able to reduce the noise that often occurs when shooting in low light.
Samsung says its Dual Aperture (F1.5 – F2.4) automatically lets in more light when it’s dark and less light when it’s too bright – similar to the human eye.
In reality it works pretty well and certainly make shots taken in poor light look a lot cleaner and brighter.
Another bonus of the Dual Pixel 12MP camera is its Super Slow-mo mode which can film footage at 960 frames per second.
Shooting the ultimate slow motion footage is great fun but it does have its limitations.
That’s because you need almost perfect lighting if you don’t want the movie to look like a grainy mess.
And even when conditions are good the end results can seem a little poor as the S9 can only shoot at this speed in 720p resolution.
The Super Slow-mo mode works well but the quality can be poor
It can also be pretty tricky to capture the perfect moment as you only get two seconds at this ultimate slow speed.
What is nice about Samsung’s slow-motion is what you can do with the footage once it’s been shot.
Samsung allows quick sharing to instantly send these videos to friends or post them on social media and there’s also a nice option to use a snippet of the movie as your phone’s screensaver.
There’s even an option to instantly add some rather obscure and cheesy music to your creation.
Other features that you’ll find on Samsung’s new camera include the Pro Mode which helps user deep dive into the settings for more control over their photos.
And there’s also the usual Panorama, 4K video capture and Hyperlapse.
We’ve been left pretty impressed by Samsung’s camera and there’s no question that you’ll get some very nice family memories from this latest smartphone.
The fingerprint scanner is now in a much more convenient position
SPEED, BATTERY LIFE AND SECURITY
Tucked under the hood of the S9+ is a new 2.7Ghz processor which is quite a boost over the 2.3Ghz version you’ll find in the S8+.
There’s also 6GB RAM with all this extra power meaning the S9+ is an absolute joy to use.
Flicking between apps, playing games and even using it as a portable PC, via Samsung DeX, is unbelievably slick and we’ve seen nothing that this flagship can’t cope with.
Sadly, all this power and large AMOLED display appears to be taking its toll on the battery.
During our initial tests the S9+ hasn’t fared as well as its predecessor which seems odd considering that most new processors are generally more power efficient.
We’re continuing our battery test and will update this review in the coming days.
One other area that’s left us less than impressed is the facial/iris recognition.
We’re still not keen on a phone scanning our eyeballs and the facial unlock is simply nowhere near as fast as Apple’s FaceID.
The rear fingerprint scanner is great, so you’ll have no issues unlocking the S9+, but we feel Samsung needs to do more work on its facial technology if it’s going to beat its biggest rival.
Our AR emoji worked well but we have had some other mixed results
The AR emoji feature
Apple did it with its Animojis and now Samsung wants a piece of this interactive technology.
Using its clever front-facing camera, owners can now make and send something called AR emojis.
This lets users create a character that looks, sounds and acts just like them.
AR Emojis use a data-based machine learning algorithm, which analyses a 2D image of the user and maps out more than 100 facial features to create a 3D model that reflects and imitates expressions, like winks and nods, for true personalisation.
In real-life it’s fun but all a bit of a waste of time especially as we’ve had some hugely mixed results.
Even when it does work it’s hard to know what to do with the unique emojis and we’ve got a feeling this feature is one that most users will enjoy for a very limited time.
The Galaxy S9 is still water resistant
There’s some nice added extras on this new Galaxy with audio fans treated to some very decent Dolby Atmos speakers which have been tuned by experts at AKG.
Samsung is boasting a 360-degree surround sound experience from its latest flagship with it able to produce audio around 1.4 times louder than the S8.
Another important audio extra is that, unlike many new smartphones, Samsung has kept the headphone port and also bundles a pair of AKG headphones in the box.
This is a really smart move from the Korean firm with many consumers still angry that they now need an adapter or new wireless headphones to listen to music.
As you’d expect from Samsung the new S9+ also offers a water resistant design, fast charging and expandable memory of up to 400GB via a MicroSD card.
Sadly, Samsung continues to push its Bixby smart assistant with the S9+ even featuring a unique and in our opinion pointless “Bixby button” on the side of the phone.
There’s no question that Bixby is improving but we’re still not convinced that it deserves as much attention as Samsung gives it.
The Galaxy S9 looks similar to its predecessor
ANDROID 8 OREO
There’s good news as the Galaxy S9+ ships with Android Oreo – something Galaxy S8 owners are still waiting patiently for.
However, despite having the latest operating system installed, Samsung continues its quest to fill its devices with duplicates apps.
Once booted up for the first time you’ll discover two email apps, two web browsers, photos, calendars…the list goes on.
Yes, they can be deleted but we can’t help feeling it’s time for Samsung to follow other manufacturers and offer less clutter and a more pure Android experience.
One area where the S9+ won’t impress is its price.
This new flagship is very expensive with SIM-free deals starting at £869 – that’s £70 more than the original launch price of the previous Galaxy S8+.
Contract prices aren’t much better and don’t expect to pay less than around £45 per month to own this smartphone.
Clearly the S9+ is still a lot cheaper than a £1,000 iPhone X but when placed against the Galaxy S8+ it doesn’t appear very good value for money.
Most people want the newest and best smartphone they can buy but at this high price there’s plenty of reasons to opt for the older S8+ instead.
Samsung is offering plenty of incentives, such as trade-in deals, and prices could drop in the coming months but right now this device is at the very premium end of the market.
There’s no question that the S9+ is a contender for smartphone of the year.
With its stunning curved design it still looks sublime and the display is without doubt one of the best you’ll find on phone.
This new flagship also offers a slick experience with a processor that’s powerful enough to act as your home PC.
The inclusion of that all-important dual-lens camera adds to the appeal especially with the bonus extras of Live Focus and Super Slo-mo modes.
The S9+ is clearly a fabulous smartphone but there are some niggles.
Samsung’s insistence on tinkering with the Android experience is annoying, the AR emojis are a bit of a waste of time and the price could be enough to put some fans off upgrading, especially as the S8+ can be picked up from Amazon for over £300 less.
However, if money isn’t an issue and you want the best Galaxy in the universe the S9+ is definitely the phone to buy.