SuggestPhone Review - Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
Samsung Galaxy S9: Stalely Great, Boringly Perfect.
In the smartphone world, each company has its own flagship device - The one device they bet their everything on. It is fully loaded with killer specs and is provided with enough ammo to take on other flagships from different companies out there, looking for the same crown - ultimate domination. For the Android world, this crown has been quite predictably held by Samsung for quite some time now. Things have started to turn up differently for Android since Google - The company behind Android quit on Nexus and came up with something extremely amazing - The Pixel. Many would agree with us that the Pixel is now at the helm of the Android world, but the remaining ones would still align with the old ruler - Samsung.
Samsung Galaxy lineup still holds a major share of the flagship market and since we are all quite done with the Galaxy Note 7 blow up jokes. It's time to commend Samsung for being Phoenix and coming up with one of the most stunning phones of all times - Galaxy S8. Well, the expectations were at all-time high this year, but deep down we had a hunch that Samsung is gonna launch something colossal yet boring. The Galaxy S9 which caught all the spotlight at MWC - Barcelona, was Samsung refining the already pristine - Galaxy S8. While some are grumpy about this iterative version of Galaxy S8, we are good with Samsung taking time to refine the S8 and shipping it as Samsung Galaxy S9 and if you have already been impressed by these insane flagships, take a look at the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung S9 Plus at its exclusive partner Flipkart.
It is time to give our take on the Samsung’s predictably great yet colossally boring Samsung Galaxy S9. It gets what you expect it does It misses what you expect it to miss. So let’s dive in.
Design & Build
There’s an old saying - ‘Don’t fix, what’s not broken’ and Samsung has done exactly that with the Galaxy S9. The smartphone is a replica of Galaxy S8 with a few minor changes if you don’t have keen eyes - you might mistake it for a Galaxy S8. That doesn’t hold us off from saying that this smartphone is totally gorgeous. It follows the same glass sandwich design where a metal body is sliced between two large glass panels at front and back. It makes the smartphone look breathtaking - in a literal sense as well as once you slip this one, be ready to spend a fortune fixing those glass panels at front and back. It's not all gimmicky though, the glass back enables Galaxy S9 to support Qi-enabled wireless charging and since Apple is now pushing wireless charging, believe us Its gonna be a big thing if it's not now.
The Galaxy S9 is almost identical to S8 but gains a little here and there. Its 8 grams heavier too, if you can observe it. Upfront is the defining feature of Galaxy S9 and S8 as well - The Infinity Display. The edge to edge, Super AMOLED display that spans across all of the front of the device except minor bezels at top and bottom, thank god It's not inspired by Apple’s top-notch design this time. The 5.8-inch display is no short of stunning with a resolution of 1440 x 2960 pixels, making a pixel density of 570PPI. Its protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. The display is not only HDR10 compliant, It is also the best display according to DisplayMate, toppling our favourite iPhone X.
Being Super AMOLED, you have the assurance that if not the best, its one of the best displays around right now and will be for a major part of 2018. It is all not similar to Galaxy S8 though. Major welcome changes come at the back of the device. The fingerprint sensor is now at the bottom of cameras and is again weirdly small cutout and while Samsung did show the courtesy of placing it at the bottom of the camera - It is still too close to the cameras and still, your fingers might rub on camera while unlocking your Galaxy S9. Samsung could’ve done better.
The back as good as it looks is still a big-time fingerprint magnet and by now you should get used to it. One other thing that caught our attention up front is the inclusion of new stereo speakers - the first on any Galaxy smartphone. The stereo speakers sound fair enough, they are not the loudest but are still better than the ones of Galaxy S8. On the bottom, you’ll have cherishing sight of a 3.5mm headphone jack. It is really great of Samsung to keep a port which is getting rarer by each new smartphone in 2018. In all, Galaxy S9 has no new design from previous years Galaxy S8 but there are some significant refinements that take the already beautiful design forward. On the downside, It is still slippery, It is still very breakable and yeah, be sure to keep a cloth to keep this beauty free from the barrage of fingerprints and smudges you’ll be finding all over it after just a few hours of use.
Hardware & Performance
Being a 2018 flagship by none other than Samsung, you expect a thundering performance by Galaxy S9 and It doesn’t disappoint. As always, Galaxy S9 comes in two variants worldwide - one with a Snapdragon 845 at its heart and other with the homegrown Exynos 9810. For India, Galaxy S9 will be housing a Snapdragon 845. A quick refresher on Snapdragon 845 - Its Qualcomm’s latest and greatest mobile SoC manufactured using 10nm FinFET process. Snapdragon 845 is an octa-core processor like Its predecessor Snapdragon 835. Qualcomm is using all new lingo this time around, though. Kryo 385 cores on the Snapdragon 845 are of two types - gold and silver. The basic idea is same, Gold cores are clocked at 2.7GHz to provide lightning performance and are based on Cortex A75 (Surprise!) while the Silver cores are clocked at 1.7GHz and are meant for power efficiency and are a customised version of Cortex A55.
For the gamer in you, Snapdragon 845 also houses Adreno 630 GPU, which is built to rip apart any graphics job on your list. All of this is supported by 4GB of RAM on the Samsung Galaxy S9 and 6GB on the Galaxy S9+. We admire Samsung not pumping up the RAM just for marketing purposes. Enough of the tech-talk, let’s talk numbers now. Samsung Galaxy S9 scores 3759 on GeekBench 4.1 (Single Core) and 8830 on GeekBench 4.1 (Multi-Core). It is still placed behind Apple iPhone 8 and X, well because you know right? On AnTuTu benchmarks, the Galaxy S9 scores a whopping 250156 and believe us these numbers are mind-numbing. With all the flagship ammo baked in, Galaxy S9 is deemed to be one of the best performers in 2018. Even if others are able to catch up, Samsung will have something to overpower them too with Galaxy Note 9. In real life usage, these numbers are not much relevant though, except illustrating the point loud and clear and performance isn’t gonna be on your issue list with this smartphone anytime soon.
Samsung has now copied the one thing, It should have done long ago from Apple (apart from everything else). Samsung did not have a clear distinction between Galaxy S8 and S8+ apart from one being taller, while Apple has been very clever in this regard making the iPhone + models equally successful as the smaller model. Which can’t be said for the S8 and S8+. This time around, Samsung has differentiated S9 and S9+ not only on the basis of screen estate but also on several other aspects such as RAM and more importantly dual camera setup is now only on the plus model, sounds more like the Apple theory of success, doesn’t it?
Let’s talk about the camera on Galaxy S9 because Samsung has given us a lot to talk about here. Samsung’s whole ad campaign for Galaxy S9 revolves around the camera, reimagined! The Galaxy S9 is the first smartphone camera to feature variable aperture. Just wow! right? If you know a little about cameras, you know what aperture is. If you don’t, no worries bruh. Check out this article to get some enlightenment. As said earlier, Galaxy S9 has a single 12MP sensor with two different apertures - f/1. 5 and f/2.4. Yes, you now have the ability to change the physical aperture of the camera. So depending on the lighting conditions, if its low-light you can switch to the wider aperture f/1.5 and If the lighting conditions are good enough, you seek sharpness - switch to f/2.4. The camera is optically stabilised, again if the term optical image stabilisation is new to you, check out this great post. There’s the standard LED flash to accompany the shooter. Samsung showcased 4-frame stacking promising 30% less noise in photos. One major visual difference is the camera app UI on the Galaxy S9, which looks closer to iPhone. It is really intuitive and easy to explore. There is a PRO mode which allows you to manually switch between apertures and a multitude of more modes to tingle with.
Let’s talk about the photos now, the photos on Samsung Galaxy S9 are a well detailed, with nice punchy colours. The dynamic range is fantastic and the 4-frame stacking produces really ‘less-noisy’ images. The colour reproduction is excellent. When the sun goes down, the Galaxy S9 camera goes on steroids. The f/1.5 aperture with 1.4micron pixels results in some exceptional low-light photos. There’s plenty of detail and minimal noise due to better frame processing on the S9. About the third aspect, which has become quite a feature nowadays, is bokeh or artificial depth effect. The camera system on the S9 is not a dual one so you get some weird software mojos. The subject has to be much closer to some good blur effects. The bokeh effect using single sensor is still a new territory for Samsung but the shots are quite impressive. The subject has to be still or It will struggle to say the least. It comes somewhat close to iPhone X is dynamic range and detail but is still a lot behind Pixel 2 for that regard. In a broader sense, we don’t find the variable aperture game to be as impactful as we expected. We mean, yeah the camera has improved but the improvements don’t justify the touted varying aperture. Maybe in future, Samsung would have a lot more to show for the variable aperture than now.
The front camera on the S9 is borrowed from love from Galaxy S8. The same 8MP, f/1.7 sensor and same old selfies as on S8 but with a slightly better image processor. Selfies turn out to be absolutely beautiful with Samsung’s own retouching making you look more beautiful, we hate this with Samsung cameras trying to make me fairer and softer but Its there. The sharpness is impressive with no dearth of details. We love the autofocus on front camera but Its sort of unstable and misses quite many times. The bokeh effect on the front camera is improving but don’t go deeper as It still has a lot of shortcomings, and really who doesn’t? It's not as good as Apple’s or Google’s cameras but Its very close.
Samsung also put a lot of weight on slow-mo video capability on the Galaxy S9 which has been all the way up to 960fps which is insane. It puts the S9 in the same league as the iPhone X. What spoils the deal for us is Samsung putting custom music as background music. Which is nice at times but worse at more.
In all, we praise the camera on Pixel 2, we admire the camera on iPhone X and the Galaxy S9 falls somewhere close to iPhone X, We don’t find it leaping it though. You know what? If you are not much into photos and take usual shots here and there you probably might not notice much besides the fact that S9 has one of the best smartphone cameras on the market.
Now here is where I get finicky and you must bear. Software on the Galaxy S9 is a customised Android Oreo with the same Samsung skin on top as in case of S8. The UI is minimal and we kinda love it. What really sets us off is that this smartphone has a ton of bloatware or redundant apps that you don’t expect on a flagship. You have two browsers - Samsung Internet and Google Chrome. Two mail apps - Samsung Mail and Gmail, you get what we mean right? We, l the software is not all bad, Its fast, responsive and beautiful which kind of does it for most users. It's running on Android Oreo and Samsung is one of the worst OEMs. Galaxy S8 is still not on Android Oreo and since Android P developer preview is out, we are not crossing our fingers.
And yeah, don’t forget Bixby. Bixby is eternally there, just at the click of a physical button which is still not reprogrammable. Its still bad and Its still catching up, sort of mixed feelings there. If you didn’t like Bixby earlier, you are not gonna like it now even. It has got some cool features this time around such as superimposing makeup on your face to help you chose and live translation backed by Google Translation. Bixby Vision is still there and it has improved but is still a long way from being real-life-instantly-usable.
And yeah, the last thing. Samsung’s one more thing, where It couldn’t just help ripping Apple’s Animoji off. Samsung calls it AR Emoji. It is different but kinda same. Creates an animated version of you with some customisable features, all using the front camera. You can then send these bitmoji-like animated stickers and have fun. The face tracking is nowhere close to Apple and In my view AR Emoji are a failed attempt. It is cool for the first time but after a few kicks, you are not gonna use it.
Battery & Storage
Samsung Galaxy S9 has a 3000mAh juice pack which is not good enough for a 5.8-inch smartphone in 2018. On average use, It will work along for the day but don’t expect it to last when put to good use. There’s Qi-enabled wireless charging and fast charging as well. On the storage front, you get 64GB of onboard storage in base model which is expandable all the way up to 400GB via MicroSD while the higher version has a 256GB of onboard storage again expandable up to 400GB.
Galaxy S9 is IP68 certified so drop worries about liquid spills or dust getting in. Take it to into the shower if you want. Galaxy S9 also houses front-firing stereo speakers which are the first on a Galaxy smartphone. The speakers are not the loudest and the best ones on the market but they certainly are a lot better than what we had previously.
Pricing & Availability
Samsung Galaxy S9 is priced at ₹ 57,900 for the 64GB version and ₹ 65,900 for the 256GB version. While the S9+ will be priced at ₹ 64,900 for the 64GB version and ₹ 72,900 for the 256GB version. The gorgeous gets more beautiful with 4 shades - Midnight black, Coral blue, Titanium grey and a new one, Lilac purple. Samsung Galaxy S9 will be available in India for purchase starting March 16.
Samsung Galaxy S9 is gonna be the flagship that’s gonna rule the Android world for the most part of 2018. Its a great iteration over Galaxy S8 and frankly we don’t mind it. It brings the best of hardware and software (close!) and Samsung has been correct with timing with S9. You can buy it now and have the best phone until Pixel or Note 8 launches sometime in October. Its predictable and that’s not bad at all, Plus its the best phone on the market with a headphone jack that too in 2018. The camera is definitely reimagined and we’ll be seeing more variable aperture smartphones soon, though at present we find it not that impactful as it should have been. The camera performance is definitely a cut above S8 but It still is not in terms with the iPhone X’s and the Pixels of the arena.
If you already have a Galaxy S8, then maybe S9 doesn’t bring a whole lot more for you to spend on. S9 is a wow smartphone by Samsung which has set new echelons for gorgeousness in the smartphone world - a breathtaking display, an ultra-premium design and a reimagined camera. What more can you ask of an already awesome smartphone? Is this the one you’ve been looking for? Does Samsung Galaxy S9 really transcend the expectations Samsung set in stone with the Galaxy S8? What is your view about Samsung Galaxy S9? Good, bad or great? Do tell us in the comments.
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