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Great build quality
Performance is excellent
Bixby still needs refinement
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Samsung needs no special mention no matter in which part of the world you are in. The brand is relatively very famous not just for its smartphone segment but also consumer electronics. While the budget and mid-range segment phones fall on one-side, it is the flagships that always stand out from the pack. The brand consistently retained its position in the top 3 worldwide including India which is shaping up to become one of the key players in the worldwide smartphone market. The Samsung’s S-series flagships are always the best sellers, and they never cease to amaze us as they follow the trend of adopting latest and greatest in the technology space. One good thing about Samsung is that it doesn’t take much time in launching its flagships in India once they are announced globally. The S9 and the S9+ are no exception. The company launched the S9 and S9+ in India earlier this month with a gap of 10 days from the global introduction.
While there might not be any substantial design changes in the S9 from the S8 series, it is the internals and other hardware additions that need to be reviewed before we conclude how majestic the flagships are. While the S9+; the bigger brother of the S9 pack's dual-rear cameras, the S9 has a just one-single sensor. Without any further ado, let’s get started with our review of the S9.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 sports a 5.8-inch Quad HD+ (2960 × 1440 pixels) Super AMOLED Infinity display with 570ppi and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection. It is powered by the Exynos 9 Series 9810 Octa-Core processor with Mali G72MP18 GPU. It has 4GB LPDDR4x RAM with 64GB or 256GB storage that is further expandable up to 400GB with microSD. It runs on Android 8.0 Oreo with Experience U.I 9.0on top.
Talking about the camera, the S9 packs a 12MP Dual Pixel rear camera with LED Flash, f/2.4-f/1.5 variable aperture, 960fps super slo-mo. An 8-megapixel autofocus front-facing camera with wide-angle lens, f/1.7 aperture. It also has an IP68 rating for Water and dust resistance, Stereo speakers tuned by AKG, Dolby Atmos, and Fingerprint sensor. Connectivity features include 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11ac (2.4/5GHz), VHT80 MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 5 (LE up to 2Mbps), GPS with GLONASS, USB 3.1, NFC, MST. A 3000mAh battery with fast Charging support.
Unlike the mid-range and budget segment phones, the premium flagship Samsung phones never compromised on build quality and design. It is the S8-series that put Samsung in a very commendable position thanks to its infinity 18:9 full-screen display. In fact, the design of the S8 was a rage last year when it launched which also made competing brands like Apple, LG, Huawei adopt the trend. The ultra-slim bezels on all corners on display combined with Samsung’s AMOLED panel resulted in an impressive product called the S9. In fact, the bezels on all edges are a little narrower compared to last year’s S8 series. The aluminum & glass body combination made the Galaxy S9 most elegant looking phone ever. However, beauty comes at a cost. The glass body design is prone to fingerprints easily and is also very fragile which might result in breaking it altogether if you drop it accidentally which might cost a fortune to repair it up again. Not that we are the biggest fans of using back cover on a smartphone of this magnitude, but we had to protect the phone from breaking. At 5.8-inches size, the Galaxy S9 is most comfortable for one-handed usage thanks to its ultra slim design. We never had issues reaching out all corners of the phone with one-hands.
Moving to placements, Up front, you have the 8MP front camera, the usual set of sensors, and tiny LED notification. Down below the beautiful infinity display, are the three capacitive buttons which are present on the screen. On the right, you find the power button and on the left is where the Bixby button, volume rockers are placed. Up top, you find the SIM tray and microSD card slot. On the bottom, you have the speaker grill, USB Type-C port, and 3.5mm audio jack. Flipping the device to the rear is where you find the single 12MP rear camera, LED flash, Samsung branding and Fingerprint sensor below the rear camera module. Overall, the Galaxy S9 is a beautiful looking Samsung flagship.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 sports a 5.8-inch Quad HD+ (2960 × 1440 pixels) Super AMOLED Infinity display with 570ppi and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection. Whenever there is a new Samsung flagship launch, we are mainly interested in seeing how impressive the display is going to be; such is the level and beauty of Samsung’s OLED panels. Like always, this time to Samsung nailed it with the display of the S9. The colors are pitch perfect with deep blacks and vivid colors. The viewing angles are top notch, as we were able to view the content on the phone from any angle. The 2K Quad HD+ panel of the S9 combined with a perfect wallpaper results in outstanding user experience.
The brightness levels are also at their best; we were able to access the content outdoors even under direct sunlight without worrying much. Since it has an auto-brightness sensor, you need not worry about adjusting the brightness manually. We had an excellent time playing games and watching videos no matter how graphic intensive they are. It also comes with a Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection on the front and back; it can prevent scratches and breaks to some extent but doesn’t necessarily mean it can prevent from breaking the glass. There is literally nothing that we can point out against the S9 display. DisplayMate who usually rates the displays of flagship smartphones rated the S9 screen as the best performing in the world.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 is powered by the Exynos 9 Series 9810 Octa-Core processor with Mali G72MP18 GPU and 4GB LPDDR4x RAM. Samsung Exynos chipsets are equally as powerful as the Qualcomm chipsets, and with Exynos 9 which is the latest and greatest from Samsung, flawless performance is a given. Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy S9 performance is just top notch. Apps open up quick, and they don’t take more than a second to load and become functional entirely. Regardless of how many apps and games we ran, the device just pulls anything we threw at it with ease. Another good thing is that it doesn’t heat up either. With Samsung being the sole power behind the Exynos chipset, there is nothing worth pointing out in terms of performance. Be it switching between apps, or running high-end application at a time; the Galaxy S9 doesn’t slow down even a bit.
The Edge shortcuts do come in handy to launch apps that you frequently use. In terms of gaming, we ran high-end games like Asphalt 8, Nova 3, Need for Speed Run and many others. Regardless of what game we play, the S9 pull through with ease and renders amazing graphics. Not once we noticed any jitters or stutters in the gameplay. The biggest change in terms of the design of the S9 is that the fingerprint sensor is placed below the rear camera module, unlike last year’s S8 where it was found next to it. This makes reaching fingerprint sensor much easy, and you don’t end up hitting the camera lens. Overall, the performance of the Galaxy S9 is outstanding and certainly lives up to the flagship level.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 features a 12MP Dual Pixel rear camera with LED Flash, f/2.4-f/1.5 variable aperture, 960fps super slo-mo. An 8-megapixel autofocus front-facing camera with wide-angle lens, f/1.7 aperture. Though the S9+ comes with dual-cameras, the S9 comes with the just single rear camera. The camera U.I is changed, and it looks a lot like the iOS style now with a slide over toggles. There is new AR Emoji feature that is a replica of iPhone X’s Animoji feature. However, this still can’t compete with the Animoji as the expressions look a bit odd. Coming back to the camera, the Galaxy S9 in good daylight and outdoor conditions can click amazing photos with rich colors and details. Samsung phones are known for overexposing images. However, it is the case with S9 as well sadly. Regardless of how bright the surroundings are, the Galaxy S9 overexposes the image slightly which makes it look a bit artificial.
Moving to low-light conditions, the Galaxy S9 though can’t click in the lines of the Pixel 2, does a great in brightening the image, thanks to the f/1.5 aperture. The variable aperture does what it says; it sharpens the image when the lighting is optimal and brings in more light when the surroundings are a bit dim. The front 8MP is again a decent selfie snapper. Given the good lighting conditions, it performs well, and is slightly low and artificial lighting; it tends to become grainy. The 960 fps is yet again a stunner as it brilliantly slows the down the video where it is required. The video recording is fantastic like always, and it can record up to 4K videos. Overall, the camera of the Galaxy S9 is simply brilliant if not for the slight overexposing the issue.
Samsung Galaxy S9 is one of the very few flagships to have a 3.5mm audio jack in 2018. Not leaving there, the company has included the front-firing stereo speakers and AKG tuned in-ear style headphones. When Samsung announced the flagships at the MWC event in Feb, it is the audio department that caught our attention. Living up the hype, the audio quality of the Samsung Galaxy S9 is brilliant even through the loudspeakers. It is so loud that it can cover an entire room without any distortion in the audio even if the volume levels are maximum. On the other hand, the AKG tuned earphones are one of a kind. They sound very clear, and the bass levels are impressive.
In terms of the video department, the S9 was able to play 2K videos regardless of the format easily. With full-screen display and beautiful AMOLED screen, video watching experience is stunning and so pitch clear. Above all, it also has support for HDR video which makes the video more punchy and vivid. For better viewing experience, we installed the MX Player for better playback and adjustment to aspect ratio. Overall, the audio and video experience of the Galaxy S9 is fantastic
The Galaxy S9 packs a moderate 3000mAh battery with support for fast charging both through wired and wireless. With moderate to casual use that includes taking calls, social media, texts, GPS navigation, media consumption and other essential tasks, the battery was able to last one-single day without sweating much. Since it a Quad HD+ display, it uses resources to produce best possible results which in turn affects the battery life slightly. The silver lining here is that it is not an LCD panel, so the power usage is on the lesser side.
On the other hand, with heavy to continuous usage, the Galaxy S9 was able to last a little over until the afternoon which is not what you would expect from a flagship smartphone. In order to maintain the slimness, Samsung had to include a moderate capacity unit which in turn results in pretty average battery life. We did our testing with just single SIM installed, so the results might vary depending on the usage and the number of SIMs you are using. It also supports Wireless charging which needs an extra charging pad. Since it does come with fast charging support, you can leverage on it while on you are on the move. Though there is not much of idle battery drain, it does drop the battery reasonably quickly on heavy usage which is worrisome. Overall, the battery department of the Samsung Galaxy S9 is pretty moderate and has nothing to brag.
With the Galaxy S8, Samsung introduced a brand new U.I dubbed as the Experience U.I. This interface removes the app drawer icon, but it indeed is a two-level interface where you have to swipe up from the bottom of the home screen to access all the apps. Since it is a Samsung phone we are talking about here, there is a dedicated Theme Store app where tons of themes, wallpapers, icons, fonts are present. There is no way you will get bored of the interface with so many themes.
Samsung Pay is also available which is a payment system that replaces the need for carrying debit and credit cards. You will have to have a Samsung account with your cards linked. Like always apart from Google apps, there are tons of Samsung preloaded applications few of which are just duplicates of Google apps making us wonder what it is the point of including them. There is a Bixby button that triggers Bixby which is Samsung’s virtual assistant. Right from setting alarms, to detecting objects and translate. The software even lets you add image or logo to the lock screen which will show up in the always-on screen whenever you receive a notification, or it gets turned on. Since it is a flagship phone, it comes with edge-screen which lets you customize by adding app shortcuts, contacts and many more. It has support for dual-apps, multi-window, etc.
Unlike the S9+, the S9 comes with just 4GB RAM out of which around 3.89GB is usable. The user available RAM is 2.81GB on first boot. Since the amount of free is on the heavier side, there is no lag or stutters in the interface despite being heavily themed. Multitasking is also smooth, and it can handle more than 8-9 apps without sweating much. We didn’t notice any jitters even while switching between them either. Overall, the software department of the Galaxy S9 is impressive, but it needs to be seen how well it holds up in the long run since Samsung phones have a bad name of throttling after a couple of months.
The Samsung flagships are always among the top worldwide, and in India, the reception is on par with Apple iPhones. After Note 7, Samsung was in dire need of a blockbuster phone to come back into the market, and the Galaxy S8 was the Samsung’s answer. This year it is the Galaxy S9 and the S9+ which again are stunning phones with nothing significant to point to it. The display is fantastic; performance is top notch, the cameras are a substantial improvement over the Galaxy S8. Except for the mediocre 3000mAh battery, the Galaxy S9 is bang for buck flagship smartphone. But we have our concerns in recommending the S9; it is still very much similar to the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus in terms of design, though there is a change in the chipset, it has no significant additions in terms of other features. So, if you currently own an S8 or S8 Plus, we see no point in upgrading to S9. However, you can certainly include the S9 Plus in your wishlist since it comes with dual rear cameras.
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