Samsung Galaxy S9 review

Samsung has done some pretty impressive upgrades on the Galaxy S9. It’s got a slightly more compact yet almost identical design, a more practical placement of the fingerprint scanner and an inclusion of stereo speakers.

Samsung Galaxy S9 review

YOU GOT TECH - Abe Olandres (The Philippine Star) - March 5, 2018 - 12:00am

At first glance, not much has changed between the S8 and the S9. Most of the improvements are all under the hood, where it matters the most.

The Galaxy S9 follows the same design signature as its predecessor. On the surface, there are only a few noticeable changes from the Galaxy S8 to the Galaxy S9. The dimensions only changed slightly, not obvious enough unless you put them side by side.

The Galaxy S9 is a bit shorter than the S8 due to the narrower top and bottom bezels. The placement of the physical buttons is the same but not exactly identical, which makes the case of the older S8 not compatible with that of the S9.

The power button is on the right, volume controls on the left along with the dedicated Bixby button. The SIM card slot is up on top along with the noise-canceling mic while the Type-C charging port is at the bottom, flanked by the 3.5mm audio port, primary mic and the speaker grille.

There are no physical buttons at the front while the sensors, speakerphone and front camera are all squeezed in the top corner. At the back is the lone 12-megapixel rear camera with a dual-tone, dual LED flash right beside it.

The only significant physical modification Samsung has made is placing the fingerprint scanner below the rear camera instead of beside it. That simple change in placement certainly made a lot of sense as it made it easier to reach with the finger when unlocking the phone.

The device also has IP68 dust and water resistance of up to 1.5 meters in under 30 minutes.

The Galaxy S9 retains the 5.8-inch display from the S8 although this time, Samsung managed to shave off a few millimeters on the dimensions of the body, giving the S9 a higher screen-to-body ratio of 84.2 per cent as opposed to 83.6 per cent on the S8.

Samsung employs the same Super AMOLED display so expect the same vibrant and rich colors, crisp details and high contrast. Outdoor visibility is pretty good, too. It’s got the same HDR 10 compatibility for better viewing with HDR-enabled services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

The Galaxy S9 features a high screen resolution of 2,960 x 1,440 pixels, giving it a pixel density of 568ppi. The resolution can be natively adjusted though, with options for full HD+ and HD+ depending on user preference. Lowering the resolution also prolongs battery life.

Protecting the display is Gorilla Glass 5 with the back panel also using the same for better resistance against scratches and accidental drops. Same as before, the glass curves toward the edges to give it that seamless look.

The S9 now sports stereo speakers – the first one is placed at the bottom where it is usually found and the second one comes from the top corner on the speakerphone. This gives the phone a much better sound coverage when listening to music or watching a movie. The volume is also much louder but does not distort even at the highest level. The box also comes with an AKG earphones that’s comfortable and sounds pretty good.

The rear camera of the Galaxy S9 looks impressive on paper, something we have not seen implemented before.

The 12-megapixel sensor has a variable aperture that goes wide open at f/1.5 but can be adjusted to f/2.4. At f/1.5, the camera can see much better at low-light than the naked eye.

It also allows it to shoot an object with a creamy bokeh in the background. At f/2.4, it allows just enough light to not overexpose especially in very bright situations like during high noon.

The camera adjusts the aperture in Auto mode while you can set the aperture manually in Pro Mode. With the built-in optical image stabilization, the camera can shoot with less shakes or blurry images. The wide aperture allows it to shoot at higher shutter speeds, making shots more accurate. 

On top of the usual 4K video recording, the Galaxy S9 can now shoot slow-mo of up to 960 frames per second. The resolution is 720p and the capture time of 0.2 seconds is stretched to about six seconds in playback.

The front-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with f/1.7 aperture with 1080p video recording. Selfies are great with enough blur or bokeh to separate the subject from the background. Facial details and skin tones are accurately captured.

The front camera has an entertaining feature called AR Emojis, which analyzes the user’s face then creates a virtual avatar similar to what we’ve seen with the iPhone X’s Animoji feature.

The Galaxy S9 runs on Android 8.0 Oreo right out of the box and this is heavily customized by Samsung Experience 9.0 UI.

Powering the S9 is a new Exynos 9810 chipset with a Mali G72-MP18 GPU. The high-powered Custom CPU clocks in at 2.7GHz per core while the power-efficient processor is composed of a quad-core ARM Cortex A55 running at 1.8GHz.

 It is blazing fast, performs in tiptop shape and smoothly handles everything we threw at it. This is paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of UFS 2.1 internal storage.

In terms of connectivity, the same set of options are available – fast WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS and 4G LTE connectivity.  The LTE modem is now Cat. 18 with support for up to six-carrier aggregation and a combined speed of 1.2Gbps.

There is dual-SIM support but it’s hybrid so the second nano-SIM tray is swappable with a microSD card of up to 400GB.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is packed with a 3,000mAh internal battery. Samsung has not changed in its last three iterations so we’re not expecting much difference from previous models in terms of battery life. The phone supports fast wired charging via USB Type-C as well as fast wireless charging. Charging time is about 75 minutes from zero to fully charged.

Samsung has done some pretty impressive upgrades on the Galaxy S9. It’s got a slightly more compact yet almost identical design, a more practical placement of the fingerprint scanner and an inclusion of stereo speakers are all nice. The Galaxy S8 already had a great design so there’s not much that needs to be added on the Galaxy S9.

The core focus of this update is the improvement of the camera system and the Exynos 9810 chipset. This pushes the Galaxy S9 on top of the charts again in terms of performance and camera quality.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 has a suggested retail price of P45,990, available in black or purple and will be released in the Philippines on March 16.

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