Samsung released their latest flagships, the S9 and S9+, on the 16th of March but I was lucky to get my hands on it a few days before the official release. With the hype around the reimagined camera, I was really keen to test it out. In fact, it was the first thing I checked out but first let's talk aesthetics.
Design & Display
Samsung always do a good job in the design department; the Galaxy smartphones have always looked good and the S9+ is no different. It features a beautiful 6.2” Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity display (2960 x 1440 resolution) and that’s essentially what makes the S9+. The bezel-less edge-to-edge screen makes all the difference.
The rest of the body is as you’d expect with the standard buttons and ports but the position of the fingerprint sensor has been moved. On the S8, it was placed to the right of the fingerprint sensor (a very bad location) but Samsung made a good decision in moving it below the camera lens this time.
Of course, the rear of the phone also shows off the dual lens camera; the key feature of the S9+, which I’ll talk about now.
The S9+ boasts a 12 Megapixel dual camera (telephoto and wide angle), which you’ll notice as soon as you turn it around. It’s a stunning looking phone and that dual lens just adds to the aesthetics. The photo quality it offers is really impressive; pictures come out very clear and sharp and colours just pop. It’s certainly got the wow factor but that was probably not unexpected, since the S8 camera is also amazing so this was bound to be.
But let’s not forget that the S9+ has a reimagined camera, which means Samsung took the mobile photography game up a notch. The S9+ features dual aperture (f/1.5 and f/2.4). Whilst there isn’t a range between the two, you can toggle from one to the other and it really makes all the difference. The f/1.5 mode lets in a lot more light, so it’s convenient when you need that but in some cases it can make the photo appear a little too bright. That’s where the f/2.4 mode comes in; I found that it makes photos look much better in low-light but it all really depends on what you’re trying to achieve in the photo you’re taking. All I can say is that it’s super awesome having the ability to toggle between the two apertures.
Aperture aside, the S9+ camera’s performance has most definitely reflected its hype and it’s possibly the best smartphone camera on the market. The Pro mode is a bonus since it gives you way more control over the camera than other smartphones.
The S9+ also has an exclusive Live Focus feature that lets you adjust the background blur and once you’ve taken the shot you can choose between the close-up version or the wide-angle version. Nice one Samsung.
As if the camera wasn’t remarkable already, Samsung added a brand-new feature called Super Slow-Mo, exclusive to the S9 and S9+. It basically records slow motion video at 960fps but using this feature means you’re limited to a resolution of 720p (1280 x 720 – standard HD).
It’s one of those features that you’ll use now and again; I don’t see it being used very often but irrespective of that it is downright cool. Watching almost anything slowed down looks really cool. I’m going to just let the video do the talking. Check it out.
The S9+ is powered by a generous 3500mAh battery, compared to 3000mAh on the S9, offering up to 15 hours of Internet usage on Wi-Fi and 4G. With its generous capacity, it definitely lasts between a full day to a day and a half. This is of course dependent on how the phone is being used; some tasks are much more power-hungry than others. It also requires the Always-on display to be turned off, since this will use up quite a significant amount in an entire day. It’s a nice little feature but it’s not worth losing a quarter of your battery life for.
To put the battery to the test, I charged it up to 100% and then adjusted some controls. I set the display brightness to the absolute maximum, turned Bluetooth on and turned Wi-Fi on. Notice how all of these are power-consuming? That’s exactly what I wanted; to really put the S9+ under as much strain as possible. That’s also why this test involved continuous 4K video playback on YouTube.
So with all that set, the test was ready to begin and this was the result:
All in all, the S9+ lasted just under 10 hours during the intensity of the battery draining task (11.25AM – 21.18PM). For its battery capacity, that’s pretty good; it did well under strain. You can only imagine how easily you’d get triple the time from standard use.
The S9+ comes with built-in stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos surround sound that is tuned by AKG. Listening to audio through them sounds amazing with speakers located at the top and the bottom of the phone. There’s not really much more I can say; sound is good.
Fancy animating yourself? That’s exactly what Samsung’s brand new AR Emoji feature entails. Setting it up simply involves the camera app taking a capture of your face, you then select your gender and customise your look e.g. hair style, hair colour, outfit etc. You can then use it to capture your animated self in the form of a GIF or sticker and share it.
The concept is just a bit of fun really and much like Apple’s Animoji but I’m not a fan. I think it looks awfully creepy and I would just never use it. I definitely think my Bitmoji looks much more like me than this does, this is not even close. Check out the S9+ review video to see AR Emoji in action.
Should you upgrade?
I think it’s very safe to say that the S9+ is a top-end smartphone for very good reason. The camera is amazing and the ability to toggle between the dual apertures is an absolute win. It’s most definitely the key selling factor of the phone. Super Slow-Mo is a bonus; it’s not a feature I’d particularly upgrade for, especially since it’s restricted to a standard HD resolution but it’s so cool.
The battery is really good for a modern-day smartphone. It easily lasts a day and a half, sometimes even two days depending on usage and it did really well in my battery test too. 10 hours is not bad going considering the 4K video was constantly being played with the screen brightness pushed right to the maximum.
The stereo speakers are a nice little win but they’re not significant enough to be a reason to upgrade. AR Emoji isn’t either; I personally don’t like it because it’s just way too creepy. So, really the camera is the only feature that makes the S9+ worth the upgrade. It involves so much just within the camera app and having a lot of control over your pictures is more amazing than you’d think.
If you’ve got the S8 then the S9+ is probably not worth the upgrade as they are more or less the same, except the camera of course. If you’ve got an older device then it’s most likely going to be a great upgrade, for the camera, the battery and performance in general. For iPhone users, I think it'd be a worthy switch if you fancy moving to Android and want an epic smartphone camera
If you fancy the S9+, you can buy it here.
I had a lot of fun testing out the S9+ and producing this review and the videos for it. I hope you guys find them fun to watch and be sure to drop a comment with your thoughts on the S9+.
As always, thanks for reading (and watching)
Sadia produces tech reviews, tech tips & tutorial videos at XALIRATE and posts here on Wednesdays and Saturdays
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