So, it's finally here: Samsung's latest and greatest Galaxy S9. While this handset currently rests at the pinnacle of smartphone tech in the Android field, it still lags a little behind the iPhone X in single- and multi-core processing. Nonetheless, user experience comes before all else, and a better benchmark doesn't necessarily mean that a phone will perform more smoothly. For the nerds among us, it's worth noting that despite falling behind Apple's own flagship in certain crucial areas, the S9 manages to top its AnTuTu of 226,000 with its own 241,000: roughly 70,000 (or one whole Galaxy S6) ahead of the S8 and Note 8.
The S9 doesn't stand too far apart from the S8 family, but its value is outstanding and provides an excellent, if iterative, update over its predecessors in all respects, especially the camera. In this review, we'll go in-depth with the hardware between the glass and aluminum chassis and give an idea of what to expect from Samsung's newest brainchild. Let's take a look!
Processing and Storage
Whether you're getting the Exynos or Snapdragon model of the Galaxy S9, one fact holds true: This is currently the most powerful Android handset on the market. This means that you can expect butter-smooth app-launching, seamless multitasking and more than enough RAM to keep everything running without forced close-outs. The RAM is Samsung's own LPDDR4, the fastest and most efficient type available, and this mixes with UFS 2.1 storage to create an incredibly well-rounded processing experience without hold-ups during even the most intensive usage.
The Snapdragon 845 and Adreno 630 are the most recent developments inside their respective brands, which is no surprise coming from Samsung. You have complete hardware compatibility with the latest features in Android apps and games, meaning that you're also getting top-of-the-line graphics rendering for your favorite titles. Overall, the Galaxy S9 brings significant developments ahead of the S8 family and the Note 8, but you'll hardly feel a difference when those handsets were — and still are — insanely fast.
Keep in mind that the S9's support for microSDXC means that it can theoretically handle cards up to 2 TB in size. We don't think you'll still be using this phone by then, but as a testament to Samsung's craftsmanship, we wouldn't be too surprised if you were.
- SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SDM845
- CPU: 64-bit octa-core 2.8 GHz Kryo 385, 10 nm
- RAM: 4 GB LPDDR4
- GPU: Adreno 630
- Inbuilt Storage: 64 GB UFS 2.1
- MicroSD Support: Yes, up to 2 TB
This is the area that everyone keeps talking about. First off, we finally have 4K video recording at a complete 60 FPS, bringing it level with the iPhone X. Next up, you have the large 1.4 μm pixels, meaning photo and video exposure will be excellent on this handset much like the Galaxy Note 8. When you throw in the standard and expected array of OIS and HDR, you have a complete camera suite that delivers on the finest in smartphone technology currently.
However, the real talk is about the variable aperture. Everyone's excited to see more features of a proper, professional photography suite finding their way into the pocket-sized world of smartphones, and this is evidently the next step. A variable aperture allows you to control your exposure and bokeh functions, which are inversely commensurate and benefit from allowing user control as a result. Dropping to an impressive F1.5 gives the S9 an exposure advantage over the Note 8 — even better nighttime shots, in other words.
- Photo Resolution: 12 MP back, 8 MP front
- Video Resolution: 4K UHD 60 FPS back, 2K QHD front
- Aperture: F1.5-F2.4 (variable setting)
- Pixel Size: 1.4 μm
- Camera Features: Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), High Dynamic Range (HDR), Panorama
As usual, the S9 is an indisputable victor in the display department, delivering the height of resolution and pixel density on Note-like real estate, nearly bezel-less screen-to-body ratio and the expected YOUM curves off either edge of the panel. Samsung's proprietary Super AMOLED brings the best in efficiency, crispness and color saturation on the market while shining a stupendous 700 nits on manual settings, which cranks past 1,100 nits in direct sunlight with auto-brightness enabled. The Note 8 is the only handset that beats it in this regard, topping 1,200 in the bright outdoors, but that's a trivial fact.
- Screen Size: 5.8 inches
- Resolution: 1,440 x 2,960 (2K QHD+)
- Pixel Density: 568 ppi
- Screen-to-Body Ratio: 84.36%
- Display Technology: Super AMOLED
- Brightness Range: 2-700 nits (normal), up to 1,130 nits (ultra-bright mode)
- Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass 4
Samsung long ago quit the capacity game and decided to play it tactically with average-sized batteries that are slow to drain thanks to efficient hardware and software combinations while Fast Charging and Qi support pick up the slack in your downtime. Plugging in the S9 for a few minutes can extend your charge time by a few hours, so don't be afraid to give it a mid-day rest to get a 15-20 percent gain on the juicer.
- Capacity: 3,000 mAh
- Removable: No
- Technology: Li-ion
- USB: 3.1, Type-C (reversible)
- Features: Fast Charging, Qi wireless charging
Design and Features
Let's just say that we're not surprised by what we found here. From the moment you pry this device from the box, you have the latest version of Android, including its features and security patches. The S9 sports a fairly standard glass and aluminum design scheme that's nearly identical to the S8, but it's too soon to be upset about that yet. The device dimensions are optimal for a comfortable fit in the palm, and you have IP68 certification to keep the handset safe during spills, drops and rain. The most notable adjustment here is the repositioned fingerprint scanner, which now sits in a more accessible location on the back as opposed to the S8.
- OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
- Material: Glass body, aluminum accents
- Dimensions: 5.81 x 2.70 x 0.33 inches (147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm)
- Weight: 5.75 oz (163 g)
- Ruggedness: IP68 water- and dust-resistance
- Features: Dual speakers, back-mounted fingerprint scanner, front-facing iris scanner, pressure-sensitive touchscreen (home button only)
- Colors: Gray, Black, Blue, Purple
While the changes are on the iterative side of the fence, Samsung made it up on the jaw-droppingly parsimonious price tag. It's hard to justify purchasing a more expensive device at the moment unless you take issue with Samsung's craftsmanship in general. Overall, the Galaxy S9 provides hands-down the best value on the market right now with the newest in camera, screen and processing technology all in one and the latest version of Android to boot.