Samsung Galaxy S9 review


 

– Here’s the new Galaxy S9 and S9+ from Samsung. And if you squint even slightly. You might think you’re looking at last years Galaxy S8. Because the differences between it and the S9 are minimal at best. (casual music) But this is the Android phone that more people will buy than any other this year. And it does come with a few new things that those people will appreciate. And besides, it’s not like the S8 is a bad phone to start from. The overall design of the S9 in unchanged from last year. It’s still a glass and metal sandwich. It still has curved glass in the front and back. It still has an extra wide by 9 display and minimal bezels. It’s really nice and it’s really well made.

But the glass back is kind of a fingerprint magnet and it can be slippery to hold. The smaller S9 is inch screen. While the S9+ is a inches display. Both are super amulet panels with 2960 X 1440 pixels of resolution. Both are really nice to look at with vibrant colors. Sharp resolution and excellent viewing angles. They’re also slightly brighter this year which is always appreciated if not always noticeable. And they still remain the best displays you can get on any Android phone. They’re even up to par with the screen on the iPhone 10. Provided you don’t mind slightly more saturated colors. The S9 has the same fast wired and wireless charge it had before.

The same IP 68 water resistance as before. And the same millimeter headphone jack as before. And if you’re looking for high end phone with a headphone jack in 2018. Your choices are fewer than ever. So it’s kind of great to see Samsung stick with it for the S9. The big design change is the placement of the fingerprint scanner. Which has been moved from the side of the camera to just below it. It’s much easier to use than the S8. Especially if you’re using a larger plus model. But it’s still weirdly small and too close to the camera. I frequently swipe on the camera lens when I’m trying to use the fingerprint gesture to see my notifications. Which is kind of annoying. And then of course there’s that dreaded Bixby button which is still there. Still in the same spot just below the volume buttons on the left side. Now you can disable it from launching Bixby Now which is progress. But Samsung still doesn’t provide a native way to reprogram into something more useful. Now at its worse, it’s annoying.

And at it’s best it’s a little fidget button that you can press without having to worry about doing anything if you actually disable Bixby. The other new hardware feature is stereo speakers. Which basically catches Samsung up to what everyone else has been doing for a couple of years. They are noticeably louder and fuller than the single speaker on the S8.

And they’re really great for watching video. So I’m not gonna say they’re the best phone speakers I’ve ever heard. But they’re still great and I’m happy to see them here. The rest of the hardware improvements are all on the inside. It’s got Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon E45 processor. Either four or six gigabytes of RAM. Depending on which model you choose. And the new LTE modem that’s of course even faster at gigabytes speeds. Those are specs we’re gonna see in virtually every Android flagship this year. But Samsung is the first out of the gate with them. Performance, at least during my review has been great. Everything is really fast and responsive. And the network performance is just as impressive as last years and to be honest. Noticeably better than the iPhones. Though unchanged in the size of the battery and the internal storage.

You get a 3,000 million power battery in the S9 and a 3,500 million power battery in the S9+. Both of them has 64 gigs of storage and micro SD card support. I really would have liked to see Samsung increase the battery size this year. It’s not to say that the battery life is bad on either model. But it’s not the best you can get and heavy users are gonna even deplete the S9+ battery after a long day. So despite all that sameness. Samsung did upgrade one important aspect of the S9 and it did so in a pretty big way.

The S9 rear camera is all new. It’s got an improved sensor and a new variable aperture lens. That can physically switch between a really bright Fand a smaller Faperture. The S9+ gains a second telephoto lens for portrait modes stuff like Samsung used on the Note 8 last year. On top of that everything is optically image state wise. Samsung claims significant improvements in low light photography over the S8 camera. And it’s true that the S9 definitely can take some really great photos in low light.

The Faperture lets in more light than last years Flens. And the improved processing helps reduce noise overall. And I’m less impressed with the switching aperture feature. It feels more like a parlor trick than anything else. Now since a digital camera can just compensate its shutter speed for how much light is in the room. I don’t really ever feel like I would ever need to shoot at F2.4. Now if you’re in the pro mode of the camera app you can actually switch between the two modes. So here for an example. I shoot this image at 1.5. And then I’m gonna shoot this image at 2.4. And overall there really isn’t much difference between the two images. The Fis a slightly blurrier background than the F2.4. Which has a little bit longer depth of feel. But in terms of sharpness.

It really isn’t any difference there. So, I’m not sure why I would ever shoot an Fon this phone. I’d probably just leave it at and forget about it. The S9+’s second telephoto lens is similarly gimmicky. Samsung’s live focus portrait mode just isn’t as good as Apple’s or Google’s at separating a subject from the background. And in challenging lighting conditions. Image quality is kind of bad. The S9 gives you 4K video at 60 frames per second or slow motion 1080p video at 240 frames per second. Which catches it up with what the iPhone can do. Now both loads produce nice quality video. But you have to make sure you have plenty of light for the slow motion mode.

Where you’ll see a lot of noise in the video. Overall, the S9’s camera is definitely improving and it’s very good on it’s own. But if you weren’t a fan of Samsung’s image processing before. You still won’t like it now. Sure, there’s less noise than before and the colors are pleasing. But all of the images definitely have Samsung’s look to them.

Which is different to what Apple or Google’s camera produced. At this point it really comes down to personal preference. But it’s definitely something to be aware of. And I wish Samsung did spend some time on is the front camera on the S9. It’s the same 8 megapixel camera as seen on the S8. It does have auto focus which no other front camera has yet to replicate. But its portrait mode just isn’t as good as Google or Apple’s. So all of that stuff is great and it’s gonna keep the S9 at the top of phone rankings for most of 2018. But there’s a ton of other things that Samsung is pushing with the marketing for the S9 this year. And to be honest, you’ll probably never use them. It’s almost as if Samsung just couldn’t help itself. The first up is AR emoji.

Samsung’s take on the iPhone 10’s Animoji feature. Here’s how it works. It scans your face and then it produces a bit emoji character based on the hundred points to your face that kind of maybe looks like you. Then it takes this character and it creates a bunch of reaction goes with it. You can then send in messaging apps. Then there’s also some weird looking animals that you can create video clips with. That you can do with Animoji on the iPhone. Now there’s a couple of issues with Samsung’s AR emoji. First off, Samsung isn’t using any special tactic to capture your face or movement. It’s just relying on the camera. So tracking is really bad. Second, the characters it creates are just the wrong kind of creepy. And nobody I’ve tested it with has been like that’s something I like. And then the animals on top of that are just kind of weird. It’s definitely something that Samsung built just to compete with Apple and frankly it’s not very good.

Now Samsung is also trying to ape the iPhone 10 face ID with its new intelligent scan feature. It combines iris scanning and face protection to unlock the phone. But it’s still slow and now it shines a bright red light in your face when it scans. Good thing there’s a fingerprint scanner that’s easier to reach on the back because it’s faster and more reliable than Samsung’s face scanning option. Next is a new super slow motion mode in the camera. The S9 can shoot up to 960 frames per second. Which sounds really neat. But it can only do so for .2 seconds at a time and only at 720p resolution.

There’s two ways you can shoot it. You can try to manually trigger it to capture the .2 seconds of action you want. Or you can use an automatic mode that looks for a specific movement in an area of the frame and then captures slow movement and detects it. But in practice both are really hard to use. And they’re really more frustrating than anything else. Worse, you need a ton of light to make it work and even if you have lots of light. Image quality is kind of crappy. And if that wasn’t enough. There’s the awful music the app overlays on the clip automatically if you don’t bother to edit it after the fact. (slow music) Now Bixby. It’s not new but it’s still here and it’s still bad. It’s got a fresh coat of paint and it’s slightly faster than before. But it’s still way slower than the Google Assistant and it isn’t as good at parsing my voice commands.

There’s a couple of new features like an integrated makeup store that let’s you try makeup out virtually and then buy it directly from Sophora or Cover Girl. But I really can’t image anyone using that more than once. Anyways, here’s what I look like with a face full of makeup. And then there’s the perennial complaint with Samsung’s software. Why are there so many duplicate apps? The unlock the S9 that I’ve been testing has two email apps, two gallery apps, two browsers, two app stores and two payment apps. Now a couple of Samsung apps is good. Mostly the Samsung browser and Samsung Pay. But the rest are inferior to the Google Apps that are also installed on the phone.

Which just makes it kind of annoying. And if you care at all about software updates. Samsung is one of the worst manufacturers when it comes to delivering new versions of Android. As of this review. Last years Galaxy S8 still doesn’t have Android in the US. And that was released by Google over six months ago. Alright, so it sounds like I just took a huge dump on the S9 but like I said. Most of these bad things can be ignored. You can turn off Bixby. Never bother to use AR emoji or super slow mo. And disable most of Samsung’s apps. The only real sticky point for some people will be Samsung’s poor update history. But that leaves the rest of the S9 which is actually really great. Still has a modern design. Has great performance. Great screen and a very good camera. Outside of the display the S9 isn’t a class leader in any category.

But it’s good enough in all of them that the whole package makes for a great phone. Chances are if you’re spending between $700 and $900 on a new phone this year. The S9 is gonna be one of the best options you can get. But if it doesn’t do it for you. You might want to wait for Samsung’s next big thing. – Sick. Wasn’t that cool? .

As found on Youtube