Sam­sung Gal­axy S9+

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The Gal­axy S9+ might not be the big­gest up­grade com­pared to the Gal­axy S8+, but it’s per­haps bet­ter than hav­ing to wait longer for a new de­vice. Over­all, you might strug­gle to tell the new Gal­axy S9+ apart from its pre­de­ces­sor, apart from the new pur­ple colour, but there are im­prove­ments namely in the cam­era de­part­ment, which Sam­sung says it has “reimag­ined”.

De­sign

Since the Gal­axy S9+ is an in­cre­men­tal up­grade from last year’s smart­phone, there’s not a huge amount to say when it comes to de­sign and build.

Sam­sung hasn’t changed much about the hand­set at all. In fact, you might strug­gle to fig­ure out which one is the new model in a side-by-side test un­less you’re look­ing at the new Lilac Pur­ple colour.

There’s also Mid­night Black and Blue Coral to choose from and we’ve spot­ted what looks like a sil­ver/grey colour in some Sam­sung demo videos, which we as­sume will ar­rive later this year.

At the front, the phone looks near enough iden­ti­cal to the S8+. It’s re­ally no sur­prise Sam­sung is stick­ing to the gor­geous de­sign that fea­tures the In­fin­ity dis­play. The firm has made the bezels a tiny bit smaller, but it’s not some­thing no­tice­able.

The main give­away that this phone is the Gal­axy S9+ and not an old model is at the back. First, there are dual cam­eras, some­thing that was pre­vi­ously a fea­ture only avail­able on the Note 8. We’ll talk about the cam­era tech later on.

The other tweak is the place­ment for the fin­ger­print scan­ner, which is now be­low the cam­era ar­ray rather than to the side. This was a bug­bear on the S8 phones, es­pe­cially the S8+ where the sen­sor was quite a stretch to reach.

So with a near iden­ti­cal de­sign, Sam­sung is stick­ing to an alu­minium band with glass front and back. The Gal­axy S9+ still of­fers top-end IP68 wa­ter­proof­ing and gladly hasn’t ditched the head­phone jack. We don’t even mind that the de­vice is a bit thicker at 8.5mm.

Al­though the S9+ has more tech to of­fer, it’s worth not­ing that it is still a bit un­wieldy, es­pe­cially for those with smaller hands and weighs in at 189g so isn’t ex­actly a feath­er­weight.

Hard­ware

If you can deal with, or even ac­tively want, the larger size of the Gal­axy S9+, then you do gain var­i­ous ad­van­tages over the smaller S9 model. Yes it costs more, but it’s eas­ily the more tech­ni­cally ad­vanced and ex­cit­ing de­vice.

Dis­play

The screen re­mains the same as last year so opt­ing for the Gal­axy S9+ gets you a 6.2in screen over the 5.8in dis­play on the reg­u­lar S9. It’s Sam­sung’s now trade­mark In­fin­ity Dis­play so you get an 18.5:9 aspect ra­tio and curved edges on both sides.

A Quad HD+ res­o­lu­tion means ev­ery­thing is once again as crisp as you like and it’s no sur­prise Sam­sung sticks to its bright and colour­ful Su­per AMOLED tech­nol­ogy.

As usual the screen is al­ways on, so dis­plays use­ful in­for­ma­tion with­out con­sum­ing much bat­tery while the screen is ‘off’. You also get the edge pan­els, which bring short­cuts to apps, con­tacts and far more by swip­ing in from the side.

Pro­ces­sor, mem­ory and stor­age

Like the reg­u­lar S9, the Gal­axy S9+ is pow­ered by the new Exynos 8910 pro­ces­sor. It’s still octa-core, but gets a bump in clock speed to 2.7GHz for the faster four cores. This is the model we’ll get in the UK, but other mar­kets such as the US and China will get the S9+ with a Qual­comm Snap­dragon 845.

Ei­ther way these are brand-new pro­ces­sors, where ri­vals like the Nokia 8 Sirocco ( page 44) are us­ing the older Snap­dragon 835. Power users will be pleased to hear that the S9+ has more mem­ory and stor­age com­pared to the S9 with 6- and 128GB re­spec­tively. That’s an ex­tra 50 per­cent in RAM and dou­ble the stor­age. We have seen a spec sheet with a 128GB S9 but as­sume it will be hard to find.

So per­for­mance on pa­per is bet­ter and there’s less need to use the mi­croSD card slot, which now ac­cepts up to 400GB.

Fin­ger­print and Iris sen­sors

As men­tioned ear­lier, the fin­ger­print scan­ner has been moved to a much more sen­si­ble lo­ca­tion be­low

the cam­era. It’s a lot eas­ier to find with your fin­ger with­out stretch­ing too much, al­though there’s still a risk of smudg­ing the lens.

Sam­sung has also made it eas­ier to add fin­ger­prints as you only need to swipe three times per fin­ger.

There’s still an iris scan­ner), some­thing, which we’ve not been a fan of on pre­vi­ous Sam­sung phones. How­ever, In­tel­li­gent Scan means you can use it in com­bi­na­tion with fa­cial scan­ning.

We’ve yet to try this out but hope­fully it im­proves the sit­u­a­tion and we’ll have plenty of time once we get a fi­nal re­view sam­ple.

Con­nec­tiv­ity and Au­dio

Top-level con­nec­tiv­ity means the S9+ is packed with the tech you’d ex­pect, in­clud­ing dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 5.0, NFC and GPS.

There are also plenty of sen­sors, in­clud­ing the pres­sure sen­sor in the screen that is used a sort of phys­i­cal home but­ton. The S9+ still comes with fea­tures like a barom­e­ter and heart-rate mon­i­tor.

The change comes in the au­dio de­part­ment as the smart­phone now has stereo speak­ers. They’re still tuned by AKG and Sam­sung has also teamed up with Dolby to of­fer At­mos, a fea­ture you can tog­gle to pro­vide a big­ger, more spa­cious sound.

Cam­eras

As teased with its ‘The Cam­era. Reimag­ined’ cam­paign ahead of the launch, it’s the cam­era on the Gal­axy S9 phones that’s had the big­gest up­grade.

The rear Su­per Speed Dual Pixel cam­era is still 12Mp, but has an in­no­va­tive me­chan­i­cal aper­ture akin to a ded­i­cated DSLR. This can au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just be­tween f/2.4 down to f/1.5 de­pend­ing on the light­ing con­di­tions you’re shoot­ing in.

The Gal­axy S8 was an al­ready im­pres­sive f/1.7, so this is a nice step up. Sam­sung says it means 28 per­cent more light. The phone can also now use in­for­ma­tion from 12 pho­tos shot at once to re­duce noise by 30 per­cent.

Af­ter some hands-on time with the cam­era it seems ex­cel­lent, and the S9+ has the added bonus of a sec­ond lens not avail­able on the reg­u­lar model. It’s 13Mp tele­photo with an f/2.4 aper­ture. Both cam­eras have op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion so there’s a lot of scope for dif­fer­ent kinds of pho­to­graph and video.

Speak­ing of video, the Gal­axy S9+ can now match Sony for su­per slow mo­tion at 960fps (at 720p),

which means you can watch 0.2 sec­onds of footage over six sec­onds.

Such a short pe­riod of time can be hard to cap­ture, as we found on the Xpe­ria phones, but Sam­sung has a clever mo­tion de­tect, which au­to­mat­i­cally starts the su­per slow mo­tion when it, er, de­tects mo­tion in a user se­lected area of the frame.

Selfie fans will still get de­cent pho­tos from the front-fac­ing 8Mp f/1.7 cam­era which now has a fea­ture to ri­val the iPhone X’s An­i­moji. Sam­sung’s ver­sion is called AR Emoji and cre­ated a char­ac­ter based on you. It in­stantly cre­ates 18 pre­set gifs, but you can cus­tom­ize your own with the front cam­era, wink­ing and frown­ing to your hearts con­tent. You also don’t need to worry about who you’re send­ing them to as they don’t need an S9 too.

Bixby Vi­sion is an ex­ist­ing fea­ture, but it’s now im­proved with things such as live trans­la­tion, bet­ter

recog­ni­tion for places and food fea­tures like calo­ries and recipe sug­ges­tions. It all seems good, but we need to test it in the real world.

Bat­tery life

Another ad­van­tage over the reg­u­lar Gal­axy S9 is that you get a larger bat­tery here, so car­ry­ing around the ex­tra weight might be well worth it. While the S9 has a 3,000mAh bat­tery, the S9+ of­fers 3,500mAh.

We’ll need to spend time with both phones to test how much dif­fer­ence this makes. Once again you have the op­tion to charge over USB-C or with wire­less charg­ing – both of­fer fast charg­ing.

Soft­ware

Mov­ing onto soft­ware and the Gal­axy S9+ comes pre­loaded with An­droid 8 Oreo, the lat­est ver­sion of Google’s mo­bile OS. That’s no sur­prise and nor is the fact that Sam­sung uses its own in­ter­face.

Things are pretty much they same as last year with only small tweaks, the main things come in­side the cam­era app which we’ve al­ready de­tailed.

Sam­sung has pre­loaded the Gal­axy S9+ with plenty of apps, but noth­ing too an­noy­ing or in­tru­sive – they are the usual se­lec­tions from Google and Mi­crosoft, so you’ll likely use most of them reg­u­larly.

Tweaks come in the form of a new land­scape mode so you can carry on us­ing the in­ter­face length­ways to browse your home screen pan­els or your apps. A no­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem means you’ll still see what’s go­ing on but in a sub­tle way at the top.

A new SmartThings app is a nifty way, sim­i­lar to Google and Ap­ple Home apps, to com­bine mul­ti­ple apps into one. It means you have one place to han­dle all the con­nec­tions to and fea­tures of other Sam­sung de­vices like TVs.

Those want­ing to use the Gal­axy S9+ for pro­duc­tiv­ity can make use of the new DeX dock, which means the phone can be eas­ily plugged into a mon­i­tor for a desk­top-like ex­pe­ri­ence.

The dock­ing sta­tion is now flat, so the screen can be used as a track­pad or key­board and it will be around two-thirds the price of the orig­i­nal.

Ver­dict

The Gal­axy S9+ is cer­tainly more at­trac­tive over­all com­pared to the reg­u­lar model, and will no doubt be one of the best phones this year. That said, there’s not a huge amount dif­fer­ent com­pared to last year.

This phone of­fers gor­geous de­sign, dual cam­eras with ad­justable aper­ture, more mem­ory and stor­age

plus a big­ger bat­tery too. It’s all great if you can stom­ach the price and it’s phys­i­cal size. Chris Martin

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 6.2in (2960x1440, 529ppi) 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

• 6GB RAM

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

• Iris/fin­ger­print scan­ner

• Dual rear-fac­ing cam­eras: 12Mp (f/1.5-2.4, 26mm, 1/2.55in, 1.4μm, Dual Pixel PDAF) and 12Mp (f/2.4, 52mm, 1/3.6in, 1μm, AF), OIS, phase de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus, 2x op­ti­cal zoom, 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 3,500mAh bat­tery

• 158.1x73.8x8.5mm

• 189g

The im­proved bat­tery means you’ll be able to play your favourite games with­out wor­ry­ing about run­ning out of power

AR Emoji cre­ates a char­ac­ter based on you

The S9+ has the same screen as the S8+

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