Sam­sung Gal­axy S9

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Android Advisor - - Contents -

It’s no sur­prise that Sam­sung an­nounced a new flag­ship at MWC 2018 and it’s even less of a shock that it’s called the Gal­axy S9. The S8 was al­most a per­fect phone so can Sam­sung re­ally make it even bet­ter? Read on to find out.

De­sign

It’s im­me­di­ately clear that the Gal­axy S9 is very much a new ver­sion of the S8, rather than a rad­i­cally new

de­vice. Like a point up­grade in soft­ware terms if you like, so this is es­sen­tially the Gal­axy S8.1.

With an al­most iden­ti­cal de­sign to its pre­de­ces­sor you’d be hard pressed to no­tice the dif­fer­ence, es­pe­cially from the front – the bezels above and be­low the screen are a frac­tion smaller. The de­vice is also a lit­tle shorter than the S8 and it’s a bit thicker and heav­ier at 8.5mm and 163g, but none of these are things you’ll re­ally no­tice.

At the rear, the change is more ob­vi­ous with the fin­ger­print scan­ner mov­ing to be­low the cam­era. Sam­sung clearly lis­tened to feed­back on this, so not only does it look nicer, it’s also much eas­ier to reach and use. You might still smudge the cam­era up oc­ca­sion­ally but it’s bound to hap­pen far less.

Ini­tially there will be three colours to choose from: Mid­night Black, Coral Blue and a new Lilac Pur­ple. We’ve also spot­ted what looks like Sam­sung’s Orchid Grey (see be­low) colour in some im­ages, so per­haps this will ar­rive at a later date.

Hard­ware

As we’ve touched upon, the Gal­axy S9’s de­sign isn’t very dif­fer­ent in de­sign from its pre­de­ces­sor, so is it a big jump in specs and new tech­nol­ogy? Well not re­ally, but Sam­sung has made im­prove­ment to what was al­ready a very im­pres­sive smart­phone.

Dis­play

The screen is one area that hasn’t changed since the Gal­axy S8, so it’s still 5.8in on the reg­u­lar model and jumps to 6.2in if you get the S9+ ( page 21). Both phones have the curved In­fin­ity Dis­play, so you only need to choose which size you want.

Sam­sung is stick­ing to its 18.5:9 aspect ra­tio, Quad HD+ res­o­lu­tion and Su­per AMOLED tech­nol­ogy. It’s still one of the best screens on the mar­ket and com­pared to our S8, looks a lit­tle brighter.

Pro­ces­sor, mem­ory and stor­age

With a new flag­ship comes a new pro­ces­sor and Sam­sung has fit­ted the Gal­axy S9 with a new Exynos 8910 pro­ces­sor. It’s still an octa-core chip with four 1.7GHz ef­fi­ciency cores, but the faster four have jumped from 2.4- to 2.7GHz. We’re con­fi­dent the new SoC is per­fectly ca­pa­ble of han­dling all you can throw at it, es­pe­cially as we didn’t have any is­sues with the Gal­axy S8 or ear­lier mod­els.

Like the Gal­axy S8, you get 4GB of RAM and 64GB of in­ter­nal stor­age, and al­though you can find more else­where (even in cheaper phones like the OnePlus 5T) it should be enough for most peo­ple. If it’s not enough stor­age, then there’s a 256GB op­tion and a

mi­croSD card slot that can now take up to 400GB. If you are more of a power user, then the S9+ has 6GB of RAM with the same stor­age op­tions.

Con­nec­tiv­ity and Au­dio

There’s not much Sam­sung or other man­u­fac­tur­ers can do to im­prove con­nec­tiv­ity on a 2018 flag­ship smart­phone. Like the S8, the S9 has all the things you’d ex­pect, in­clud­ing 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, USB-C, and a head­phone port. Sadly there’s no Quad DAC like the LG V30, but Sam­sung has im­proved the au­dio in terms of the speak­ers. There are now stereo speak­ers, with the usual down fir­ing one on the bot­tom and another where the ear­piece is above the screen.

It might sound a lit­tle odd with both fir­ing in dif­fer­ent direc­tions, but we’ll take it over a mono speaker any day. There’s still tun­ing from AKG and this time Sam­sung has also added Dolby At­mos, which you can tog­gle for a big­ger, more spa­cious sound­scape.

Fin­ger­print and Iris scan­ners

The fin­ger­print scan­ner has been moved to a more con­ve­nient lo­ca­tion be­low the cam­era. It’s also eas­ier to regis­ter each new fin­ger ac­cord­ing to Sam­sung with only three swipes rather than many more touches needed pre­vi­ously. We’d rather the Gal­axy S9 had the fin­ger­print scan­ner em­bed­ded in the screen as the tech is out there but it seems we’ll have to wait.

Sam­sung hasn’t ex­plic­itly said the iris scan­ner is bet­ter than be­fore, which is a shame, but the firm is keen to point out that it’s em­bed­ded in the front of

the phone with­out a notch like the iPhone X. There’s also a new In­tel­li­gent Scan op­tion, which com­bines iris and fa­cial scan­ning. We’re keen to try this out when we have a sam­ple in for re­view.

Cam­eras

The big­gest change on the S9 comes in the cam­era tech, as teased by Sam­sung be­fore the launch with its ‘The Cam­era. Reimag­ined’ cam­paign.

Sadly, it’s the S9 that’s not as im­pres­sive as you’ll have to get the S9+ to get a dual-cam­era setup. We’d like to see dual-cam­eras as stan­dard on both phones, but it’s un­der­stand­able that Sam­sung wants more than just size to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the two.

Still, the S9’s cam­era is im­proved from be­fore even though it re­mains at 12Mp with 1.4μm pix­els and

OIS. The main up­grade is an ad­justable aper­ture that can go down to f/1.5 – the best of any phone on the mar­ket. Sam­sung was al­ready the leader at f/1.7, but now the phone lets in 28 per­cent more light.

We need to test it out prop­erly in the real world, but the idea here is that the phone au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs be­tween f/1.5 and f/2.4 de­pend­ing on the shoot­ing con­di­tions. The phone’s me­chan­i­cal-like DSLR cam­era should mean bet­ter re­sults in both day­light and low light.

What Sam­sung calls the Su­per Speed Dual Pixel pack­age now has DRAM so it can do things faster and more in­tel­li­gently. The cam­era now takes 12 shots to­gether in­stead of three to im­prove noise by 30 per­cent. Fur­ther­more, the S9 can now match Sony’s flag­ship Xpe­ria phones and shoot su­per slow mo­tion video at a whop­ping 960fps. That means 0.2 sec­onds

in real life be­comes six sec­onds of video and Sam­sung has some clever tech­nol­ogy to make it eas­ier to make great slow-mo­tion videos.

With Sony’s phones we found it hard to press the su­per slow-mo but­ton at the right time while record­ing a video of some­thing that hap­pens very quickly, like a bal­loon pop­ping. Since 960fps can only be switched on in a short burst, it’s easy to miss the mo­ment.

The S9 has an auto de­tect func­tion, so you can tell the phone where within the shot to watch for move­ment. As soon as it does, it will kick into the su­per slow mo­tion. You can then share as a gif, do things such as re­verse the video and even set it as a mov­ing lock screen wall­pa­per.

We’re still not to­tally con­vinced by Bixby, but the cam­era part, Bixby Vi­sion, has been im­proved and can now do live trans­la­tion, bet­ter place recog­ni­tion and more food fea­tures, such as calo­ries and recipes. The lat­ter will be mar­ket de­pen­dant.

Af­ter some hands-on time we’re pretty im­pressed and there’s more to talk about with the front cam­era, which re­mains at 8Mp with an f/1.7 aper­ture but on the soft­ware side Sam­sung has cre­ated AR Emoji to pro­vide users with some­thing sim­i­lar to Ap­ple’s An­i­moji fea­ture.

In­stead of the phone track­ing your face to an­i­mate var­i­ous an­i­mals and the like, you take a photo of your­self and the S9 will create an emoji that looks like you – 18 an­i­mated gifs are au­to­mat­i­cally gen­er­ated, though you can make your own cus­tom ones. And you can send them to any­one, not just those who also hap­pen to have an S9.

Bat­tery life

We haven’t had a chance to test the Gal­axy S9‘s bat­tery life, but what we can say is that we’re not ex­pect­ing a huge change com­pared to the S8.

This is be­cause the bat­tery re­mains at 3,000mAh and Sam­sung has not made any claims on the sub­ject. The Gal­axy S9 will of­fer fast charg­ing via the USB-C port and with wire­less charg­ing.

Soft­ware

As you would ex­pect, the Gal­axy S9 phones come with An­droid 8 Oreo and Sam­sung’s own user in­ter­face. There’s not a huge change in the way things work com­pared to be­fore, but that’s to be ex­pected.

There are still pre­loaded apps from Google and Mi­crosoft, but Sam­sung has made a few tweaks here and there to tighten up the ex­pe­ri­ence.

For those us­ing var­i­ous dif­fer­ent Sam­sung apps for other de­vices, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s

now one app to rule them all. SmartThings is now the one place where you can man­age all your de­vices and it will also do use­ful things like pro­vide your new Sam­sung TV, for ex­am­ple, with the Wi-Fi de­tails and lo­gins to all your ser­vices.

There are im­prove­ments to Bixby – you can, for ex­am­ple, use the phone in land­scape mode, whether you’re brows­ing the home screen pan­els or your apps. When you are, no­ti­fi­ca­tions will pop up at the top, but in an un­in­tru­sive way.

There’s also a new DeX dock (pic­tured op­po­site), so you can con­nect the phone to a mon­i­tor and use it like a PC. This time it’s flat, so you can use the screen as a track­pad or even key­board.

Ver­dict

So the Gal­axy S9 is only a small up­grade com­pared to the S8 so ex­ist­ing users might not feel the need to up­grade. This could be a trend in 2018 as mak­ers strug­gle to find big in­no­va­tions. The cam­era is the main im­prove­ment here but it’s the S9+ that has the far more in­ter­est­ing dual-lens setup. Still, Sam­sung has im­proved an al­ready elite smart­phone so we’re feel­ing pos­i­tive af­ter some hands-on time. Chris Martin

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.8in (2960x1440, 570ppi) Su­per AMOLED ca­pac­i­tive dis­play

• An­droid 8.0 Oreo

• Exynos 9810 Octa pro­ces­sor

• Octa-core 4x 2.8GHz Mon­goose M3 and 4x 1.7GHz Cor­tex-A55 CPU

• Mali-G72 MP18 GPU

• 4GB RAM

• 64/128/256GB stor­age, mi­croSD up to 256GB

• Iris/fin­ger­print scan­ner

• 12Mp rear-fac­ing cam­era: (f/1.5-2.4, 26mm, 1/2.5in, 1.4μm, Dual Pixel PDAF), phase de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus, OIS, LED flash

• 8Mp front-fac­ing cam­era: f/1.7, aut­o­fo­cus, 1440p, dual video call, Auto HDR

• 802.11ac Wi-Fi

• Blue­tooth 5.0

• A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO

• Mi­cro-USB 3.1 Type-C

• Non-re­mov­able lithium-ion 3,000mAh bat­tery

• 147.7x68.7x8.5mm

• 163g

11

The S9 will be avail­able in four colours

The In­tel­li­gent Scan op­tion com­bines iris and fa­cial scan­ning

The phone’s cam­era comes with some clever tech­nol­ogy

The new DeX dock

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