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Review 12 min read 13 comments

Samsung Galaxy S9 review: love and hate

The time has come: Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy S9 and the S9+, the smartphone duo which will set the bar for all the competition this year. The S9 doesn't bring with it a radically fresh design, but under the hood and in the software features, things are different. In our full review of the Samsung Galaxy S9, we give you an insight into the new features the S series is bringing to the table in 2018.

Rating

Good

  • Performance
  • Camera
  • Display
  • Bixby

Bad

  • Unoriginal design
  • Slow unlocking
  • Battery life
  • Bixby wake-up

Samsung Galaxy S9 release date and price

Galaxy S9 pre-order: it can already be yours!

Samsung is now allowing customers to reserve the S9 and S9+ on its US website, and the devices are also available through several carriers. Devices will begin shipping on March 16 in the US. The Galaxy S9 can be pre-ordered in three color versions and two storage configurations. A Galaxy S9 with 64 GB costs $719.99. If you need more internal memory, namely 256 GB, it'll cost you 949 euros, which is about $1167. 

Unfortunately, for now, the US pricing for the 256 GB version is still unknown. The Galaxy S9 is available in the colors Midnight Black, Coral Blue and Lilac Purple. For information about how and where to order them in the US and the UK, follow the link below:

 

Samsung Galaxy S9 design and build quality

My first impression of the Galaxy S9 is that it looks very similar to the S8. In other words, Samsung hasn't done anything particularly innovative in terms of design this year. The 18.5:9 format remains the same, as did the Infinity display, button layout, Bixby button and, fortunately, a 3.5 mm headphone connector is still included. This time, the fingerprint sensor is located under the rear camera, where it should have been on the S8 in the first place. You no longer need to do a little yoga with your finger every time you want to unlock it. This position also makes it easier to use the option of opening the notification bar from the sensor.

AndroidPIT Samsung Galaxy S9 0984
Thanks, Samsung! The fingerprint sensor is now easier to reach. / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

The design pays great attention to detail

In addition to these obvious changes, there are some subtle changes to details. For example, the bottom loudspeaker is recessed in the body. This tweak is probably thanks to the sound professionals at AKG who worked on the audio system and speakers.

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The loudspeaker has a new location / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

A very fine detail that has also been improved is hidden in the screen-to-frame transitions. The gap between the Gorilla Glass 5 to the aluminium frame is even more perfect than in the Galaxy S8, melting together almost imperceptibly. The S9 is also certified to protect against water and dust with IP68 certification.

At the back, Samsung has made another change in addition to the previously mentioned repositioning of the fingerprint sensor. The unpleasant but mandatory CE logo, IMEI and other manufacturer information is now hardly noticeable on the back. Its silkscreen printing is less conspicuous although it maintains a good contrast and is very easy to read if you look at it.

As always, the screen is one of the best

Underneath the Gorilla Glass is a Super AMOLED panel with the famous curved edges and scarcely any bezels. Samsung maintains the impression of a screen almost without bezels and keeps the 83.6% screen-to-body ratio of the S8. The front camera and iris scanner are hidden in the upper frame which is slightly wider than the lower one.

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The Super AMOLED display remains exceptional / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

After an exhaustive analysis of the screen we can almost ascertain the words of Display Mate. Every year Samsung impresses with the quality of its Galaxy S series screens, which therefore become a benchmark for the rest of the industry. The representation of color is tough to beat, as is the visualization, as well as the perfect black and the contrast it gives.

Also, we have a function to improve video playback. The Video Enhancer makes videos brighter and with more vivid colors, as well as giving YouTube support. Apart from enhancing the videos, the S9 screen has four modes for color rendering, but you can also adjust the temperature and RGB spectrum manually.

For an in-depth review of the Galaxy S9 display, check out our article here.

Thank AKG and Dolby: The Galaxy S9 finally sounds good!

In terms of audio output, there was hardly a Galaxy S smartphone from the past which could touch the S9. In the Galaxy S9 and also in the larger S9+ model, it is apparent that Samsung has made a strategically good decision for the S series through the acquisition of Harman Kardon and the audio specialists from AKG. 

As with the Galaxy S8, the S9 also includes an AKG headset in its box. The sound is good enough for an in-ear headset and they also block much of the outside sound if it is not too noisy. With headphones connected to the headphone jack the S9 offers a lot of volume through them, but you will be notified if the level could potentially be harmful.

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AKG headphones, stereo sound and Dolby Atmos / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

On the S9, AKG sound engineers have also designed the device's main speaker and stereo sound. The result is a smartphone that sounds both good and loud, similar to the the Razer Phone or Axon 7 ZTE which can deliver Dolby Atmos virtual surround sound. Leaning on the table gives the impression that the lower frame loudspeaker is more powerful but only due to the reflection of sound on the surface. When we hold the S9 in our hands to watch a video, the sound is perfectly immersive.

An exceptional dual-aperture camera

The camera of the Galaxy S8 was very good, but the demands of users are getting higher. Better image quality is no longer enough to compete and win these days. A potential Galaxy S9 buyer expects new features from Samsung that no other smartphone can offer. There's one such unique feature for the S9 which sits between the lens and the image sensor in the form of a variable aperture.

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The S9 is packing an excellent camera / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

The S9 is one of the first smartphones (together with the Galaxy S9+) to offer variable aperture: between f/2.4 for well-lit environments and f/1.5 for dark indoor and outdoor environments. It is also the largest aperture camera ever mounted on a smartphone with this f/1.5 capable of absorbing a lot of light. Some of the software features include the new noise reduction mode for night photos and now Bixby Vision is included in the camera application.

Sony technology refined with Samsung software

The sensor also has an innovation compared to its predecessor. Thanks to built-in memory in the sensor, the Galaxy S9 can now capture in slow motion with 960 frames per second in HD, according to Samsung. Just 0.2 seconds of real-time recording becomes a sequence of almost 6 seconds. That might sound familiar. Sony introduced the Motion Eye Sensor with the same specs last year with the Xperia XZ Premium.

The main difference is that Samsung incorporates an automatic capture feature that makes things a lot easier. However, you have to keep in mind that it needs practice, preparation and a lot of light to have good results. The system takes approximately three seconds to clear the sensor's built-in cache to be able to shoot again, while still recording at 30 pfs. In addition to slow motion video, we can also create animated GIFs with these sequences.

AR Emoji: a hint of Nintendo mixed with Apple Animoji

Since the presentation of Apple's iPhone X we have a new way to send emojis personalized to the max with Animoji. Now, anyone who owns a Galaxy S9 can also share their "AR Emojis" through WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter or email. These have a more personal touch as an avatar is generated through a facial recognition that automatically applies 18 different moods, which are then available to share as a GIF. We can also record videos where our AR Emojis will imitate our movements. 

Excellent performance with state-of-the-art software

This is another section that warrants a full article, so we'll publish that soon. The Galaxy S9+ is the most powerful smartphone we have tested with regards to this, and the S9 comes in second place. Both pack a Snapdragon 845, if you're in the US, and run on Android 8.0 Oreo customized with Samsung Experience 9.0.

The fluidity of the system in general is good but we have found some roughness in the graphics. For example, in the 3DMark benchmarks we had problems with 3D objects in one of the tests using the game Need for Speed: No Limits, sometimes the rendering of vehicles appears with a scratch. This seems to be due to a software issue that is likely to be fixed with the next update.

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Here the Mercedes looks more like a zebra than a car / © AndroidPIT 

Bixby: unrequited love

I must admit, I am starting to like Bixby more and more, but there is still a long way to go for Samsung's assistant. As the brand pointed out, it has the new function, Bixby Vision, which is capable of even recognizing the amount of calories in food. It's also one of the few assistants that lets you customize responses and change settings or perform custom tasks with your voice. 

The most negative point is that Bixby didn't quite work well for voice commands. I've had a lot of problems with Bixby Voice. On many occasions, when you wanted to use it and say "Hi Bixby", only the icon appeared in the notification bar for an instant and nothing else happened. Using the button is ok, but it kind of takes the fun out of using an assistant. The whole idea is not having to touch the phone. 

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Bixby only listens when it wants to / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

We hoped for a bigger battery

The battery is the most important things to consider. It has exactly the same battery capacity as the S8, 3,000 mAh, but this time with a better processor. In the end, the results are not very different, the S9 battery doesn't cope very well with so much power.

The processor has better energy management, and as a result we have a maximum duration of 12 to 18 hours, with a screen time that can vary from about 4 hours playing with demanding games for example, or up to 6 hours watching movies (that aren't too bright).

Luckily the fast charging works quite well, reaching 50% in 39 min and 90% in 75 minutes, and for it to reach 100% it's around 93 minutes. Plus the charger is not as big as the OnePlus Dash.

More options for business customers thanks to Samsung DeX

Many of the features mentioned are very much tailored to private usage of the Galaxy S9. But since the presentation of DeX for the Galaxy S8, Samsung is also increasingly targeting its top smartphones to business customers. Employees on the go can dock the smartphone in the office and virtually conjure up a PC replacement from their pocket. This certainly saves the purchase of additional laptops and software licenses in some situations.

For the Galaxy S9 and S9+, there is a new docking station, which not only looks different, but also brings some new features. On the one hand, a docked smartphone can now be quickly charged up via Fast Charge. For this, however, the DeX mode must be turned off. DeX mode only works without Fast Charge. 

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The resolution can only be changed using the new Samsung DeX / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

Along with the new docking station come the options to use the Galaxy S9 as a touchpad, to change the resolution and - exciting for the IT enthusiasts among you - to restrict the apps available in DeX mode. The new DeX station is said to be available in time for the S9 launch, but Samsung didn't share a price yet. 

Samsung Galaxy S9 technical specifications

Dimensions: 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm
Weight: 163 g
Battery size: 3000 mAh
Screen size: 5.8 in
Display technology: AMOLED
Screen: 2960 x 1440 pixels (568 ppi)
Front camera: 8 megapixels
Rear camera: 12 megapixels
Flashlight: LED
Android version: 8.0 - Oreo
RAM: 4 GB
Internal storage: 64 GB
256 GB
Removable storage: microSD
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Samsung Exynos 9810
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.7 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0

Final verdict

At first glance, the Galaxy S9 looks unspectacular, because apart from the repositioning of the fingerprint sensor, Samsung seems not to have changed anything on the surface. Only after you hold the Galaxy S9 in your hand and compare it side-by-side to the Galaxy S8 are the changes in detail noticeable. In addition, Samsung gave the Galaxy S9 a useful hardware update under the hood. Especially the camera with its dual aperture and Super Slow Motion function, along with the stereo speakers, make the Galaxy S9 a very interesting smartphone for the first half of 2018. 

Overall, the Galaxy S9 is more consistent than the Galaxy S8. Samsung has addressed many of the critiques of the Galaxy S8 and changed things with the S9. In addition, Samsung seems to have looked around the market and observed where the trends are going. The slow motion function and AR Emoji certainly belong to these trends. Bixby has potential but needs some work in the software, and unfortunately the battery leaves a lot to be desired, something that is more difficult to change. We now know that the S9 and S9+ will be updated even before they are released to stores, but this isn't likely to bring any drastic changes.

Overall, my first impressions of the S9 were as good as those I had with the S8, they look the same, but you have to take a closer look at the features.

What do you think of the Samsung Galaxy S9? Was it love at first sight for you?

13 comments

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  • Sorry to diverge, my Whatsapp has been hanging, most times I get info that its not responding. What do I do?
    I use a phantom 6 plus


  • I'm not getting either of the s9s. not Worth it. my S8 is only a year old. I'm gonna get something other than Samsung next upgrade. if you are upgrading from the s6 or S7 then it's a good deal. but to spend 800 dollars on the s9or s9+ when you have the S8, or s8+, is nothing spectacular. you see how Samsung can make the S9 have 256 gigs of storage, and a 4000 mAh battery on their other s phones, S7 active had a 4000 mAh battery, that's more than the S8+ s8 note, either s9 device has. 256 gigs os on board storage on the s9s that are for Europe and Asia. see the game's they play? fuck Samsung, I'm sick of their bullshit. stick us with the minimal upgrads. that's why the S8 is my last Samsung phone


  • So overrated,just watched a speed at loading items against the xzpremium and the S9 was slower than the sony.


  • bixby is listed under "pros"? LOL. never met one person that used bixby regularly.


  • So as a postive thing you wrote that it has great performance and as a negative that it is slow? So what is it, great slow performer? I think that you should take more time to test devices and write reviews.


  • I pre-ordered mine but it will come locked to AT&T.

    Do you know guys where should I unlock it? As I want to use it with my Sprint sim.


  • S9 is better or S9+ ? I want to buy one from these.
    www.mobile-phone.pk/samsung_galaxy_s9-9006/


  • Re: U.S. RELEASE UPDATE: 128gb & 256gb version of s9/s9+ - Though Samsung will continue to allow U.S. citizens to purchase the Galaxy S9/S9+ 64gb model (with option to use SD card type memory up to 400gb on top of base 64gb), Samsung will be prohibiting U.S. citizens from purchasing a 128 or 256gb model.

    Instead, Samsung will exclusively reserve the 128 & 256gb versions of the S9/S9+ phone with same option to expand further memory through micro - SD slot, only for those that do not live in U.S. markets, which include those living in Asian & some European markets.

    Samsung's maintains that for U.S. citizens, using expandable memory for the 64gb model will have to suffice, but U.S. citizens will not be allowed to purchase the 128 nor the 256gb base model, as these models are reserved exclusively for non-U.S. citizens/non-U.S. markets.

    Furthermore, any attempt of U.S. citizens to bypass this restriction by purchasing the 128gb of 256gb models for import & use into U.S. markets, will then result in said purchased phone units having other included phone features, such as Samsung Pay, effectively disabled on phone unless returned to origin market, thus maintaining phone's reduced capability by this method instead while being used in U.S. markets. Higher memory models released for use outside of U.S. markets will maintain use of all included features as long as said units are not used in U.S. markets.

    Exceptions for this U.S. restriction will not be made by Samsung-

    For those NOT in U.S. markets, you will be allowed purchase of 128gb & 256gb models with option to add memory on top of that through expansion card memory and full use of all included phone features.
    But for those who reside in U.S. markets who are interested in purchasing the S9 or S9+ without the disabling of any of phone's included features, if they wish for more than 64gb of storage, the memory expansion card option will have to suffice.


    • Not totally accurate. If you live in the US, you can buy a higher storage S9/S9+ directly from Samsung on their website.


  • So pleased with the S8 Plus,and when Samsung only really upgraded the camera and the only thing i have been waiting for ages,is Stereo speakers from Samsung,but the pricing policy as really stopped me getting excited in the S9 phones and with it only early 2018,there could better phones on the way at more affordable price,plus with it being 10 years of Samsung in the mobile market there future S10 or Galaxy X,might be the worth waiting for instead early 2019


  • Not worth the upgrade from the S8, nearly all the new stuff on it has been copied off other manufacturers as usual.


    • Peter, I use the s8+. Have been thinking about upgrading to the 9+. I guess I'm on the fence about it. The camera is certainly an upgrade, the FPS, stereo speaker's with the 845 processer. Plus the 6gb's of ram. The problem is my 8+ is definitely the best phone I've ever used. It's as fast as the day I bought it 11mos ago. So I'm still thinking about it. Maybe!


      • Personally I would first like to thank Sammy. No ridiculous NOTCH. Stereo speaker's & ear buds in the box. Other OEM'S should take notes. The s9 & plus the most feature packed phones on the planet!

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