Sam­sung Gal­axy S9

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Sam­sung’s Gal­axy S9 is the first flag­ship to hit the mar­ket in 2018. The S8 was al­most a per­fect phone, so can Sam­sung re­ally make it even bet­ter? Read on to find out.


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 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.


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.


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+. 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.

As pre­vi­ously, you can take ad­van­tage of fea­tures such as the Edge screen, where you can swipe in from the side and flick through var­i­ous pan­els of things like pop­u­lar con­tacts, apps and more. There’s also the al­ways on fea­ture, which dis­plays im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion on the lock screen when the phone is off.

There are plenty more smaller fea­tures, many of which have been around a long time, hid­den away in the set­tings menu, so it’s worth ex­plor­ing what the S9 can do, es­pe­cially if this is your first Gal­axy de­vice.

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.

As you can see from the bench­mark re­sults, the Exynos out­paces the Snap­dragon 845 a lit­tle bit (fig­ures via Qual­comm’s ref­er­ence de­sign), but nei­ther can match the raw power of the iPhone’s A11 chip. We’ve in­cluded the OnePlus 5T so you can get an idea of the per­for­mance on of­fer at a much lower price.

It’s im­por­tant to note that per­for­mance isn’t an is­sue here and the S9 is clearly ca­pa­ble of han­dling all you can throw at it.

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 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.

Un­like most, Sam­sung con­tin­ues to of­fer heart rate mon­i­tor. The S9 can reach 4G speeds of 1.2Gb/s, which is im­pres­sive, but in real life you’re not go­ing to see that. There’s no Quad DAC for bet­ter head­phone au­dio like the LG V30, but Sam­sung has im­proved the

speak­ers on the S9. There are now stereo speak­ers with the usual down fir­ing one on the bot­tom and now one where the ear­piece is above the screen.

It’s the same setup Ap­ple uses for re­cent iPhones, and also one Sony has adopted with the XZ2.

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.

There’s a no­tice­able im­prove­ment com­pared to the S8, par­tic­u­larly in the on-board speak­ers. They’ve got a lot more power but aren’t flaw­less, with the au­dio qual­ity get­ting a bit rough at higher vol­umes. We do like the op­tional Dolby At­mos mode, which can make con­tent a lot more im­mer­sive, es­pe­cially video.

It’s worth not­ing that the sup­plied AKG head­phones are very good, so most users won’t be rush­ing out to find a re­place­ment pair.

Sam­sung’s up­grades in the au­dio depart­ment are wel­come, but the S9 isn’t the best phone around for au­dio – that’s still the LG V30.

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 ac­tu­ally man­aged to reg­is­ter two fin­gers in just two swipes each. The fin­ger­print scan­ner is quick (not the fastest around, but plenty fast enough) and ac­cu­rate and can now

be used to pull the no­ti­fi­ca­tion panel down – just switch it on in the set­tings.

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.

One thing is for sure, there’s a dra­matic im­prove­ment over pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tions. Gen­er­ally, it works quite well, but it’s not as con­sis­tent com­pared to ri­val phones just do­ing face un­lock. Even switch­ing

to just fa­cial scan­ning it’s not as good as phones like the iPhone X and OnePlus 5T.


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.

Huawei tem­po­rar­ily had the fastest lenses (on the Mate 10 Pro) at f/1.6, but the S9’s lens now lets in 28 per­cent more light than on the S8.

The iris is me­chan­i­cal like a DSLR cam­era and 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. DxO has awarded the Gal­axy S9+ a score of 99 for the cam­era, the high­est of a phone to date. The reg­u­lar model might not have the tele­photo lens but it’s still ex­cel­lent on its own.

You can see a land­scape image and a photo taken in low light over­leaf. The Gal­axy S9 might not be

do­ing the same level of clever soft­ware pro­cess­ing that makes images look great on the Pixel 2 phones, but it’s still very im­pres­sive.

Over­all, the S9 has a cam­era that can achieve ex­cel­lent re­sults in all con­di­tions, partly thanks to that dual aper­ture. You get crisp shots in de­cent light – although some can be a lit­tle washed out like our shot of St. Pan­cras (op­po­site) – stun­ning de­tail in macro and most note­wor­thy is how well it copes in low light, with­out ex­ces­sive lev­els of noise.

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.

Su­per slow mo­tion

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 tech 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 such as 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. You can also shoot in man­ual mode, se­lect­ing when you want to do the slow mo­tion shoot­ing which is eas­ier for some sit­u­a­tions. In ei­ther mode, you can shoot 20 dif­fer­ent slow-mo sec­tions within one video.

Sony’s new Xpe­ria XZ2 phones might be able to do 960fps in 1080p, but we’d rather have the func­tion­al­ity of­fered by the S9 to make bet­ter con­tent in 720p.

AR Emoji

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 (although there are some

to choose from), you take a photo of your­self and the S9 will cre­ate an emoji that looks like you.

It’s quick and easy, though we’re not ex­actly blown away with the like­ness (and it can­not han­dle beards at all) – the three col­leagues we got to try it were all given very sim­i­lar char­ac­ters. You can edit them a bit to help and choose from one that in­cor­po­rates the selfie you took or a more car­toon op­tion. Once you’re done 18 an­i­mated gifs are au­to­mat­i­cally gen­er­ated and you can send them to any­one, not just those who also hap­pen to have an S9. They’re pretty cool and easy to ac­cess via the de­fault key­board. How­ever, one of the ideas is that you can an­i­mate the char­ac­ter your­self, but do­ing this is ex­tremely glitchy and the emoji of you spends most of the time flinch­ing. The track­ing on the iPhone X is leagues ahead. It might be fun but let’s face it, this is another gim­mick fea­ture just like An­i­moji.

Bat­tery life

It’s a shame 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, though. With the sup­plied charger, we man­aged to charge the S9 from 0- to 36 per­cent in 30 min­utes. That’s pretty good, although the HTC U11+ beats it slightly at 38 per­cent.

With no change in bat­tery ca­pac­ity, it’s no sur­prise that the phone isn’t go­ing to last you any longer than be­fore. The S9 will last a day of av­er­age us­age and per­haps a lit­tle bit longer for light users. Fast wired and wire­less charg­ing will help you keep it topped up.


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.


We’re go­ing to have to wait for big jumps in tech­nol­ogy, but although the Gal­axy S9 only brings a dis­ap­point­ingly small bunch of mi­nor im­prove­ments it’s still an amaz­ing smart­phone that will be hard to beat in 2018. Sam­sung has ex­pertly com­bined de­sign, hard­ware and soft­ware to make a phone that will

ap­peal to all kinds of users. The in­cre­men­tal up­dates will mean S8 users might strug­gle to jus­tify up­grad­ing. How­ever, those on an S7 or ear­lier Gal­axy will no­tice a huge dif­fer­ence. But might want to sim­ply grab the S8 at a lower price. Chris Martin


• 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


• 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


• Mi­cro-USB 3.1 Type-C

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

• 147.7x68.7x8.5mm

• 163g

Geek­bench 4


Fa­cial recog­ni­tion

AR Emoji

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