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Samsung Galaxy S9+ Review - Almost Perfect!

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When we first got the S9+, we were blown away by the new stereo speakers and the new cameras that may dictate future features for a high-end phone.
Samsung Galaxy S9+ Review - Almost Perfect!
Samsung Galaxy S9+

On paper, it is one of the best spec'd phone out there. The Curved Super AMOLED from Samsung is still unbeatable. It has 6GB of RAM with 64GB ROM and is expandable via microSD card and it now supports stereo speakers.

This is all enclosed in an IP68 certified body that can easily make it one of the best phones out there.

Let's find out in our full review.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Specs

Display: 6.2-inch WQHD Super AMOLED 2960 x 1440 resolution w/ Curved Infinity Display and Gorilla Glass 5 protection at 531 ppi
CPU: 1.79GHz 64-bit Exynos 9810 octa-core processor
GPU: Mali-G72 MP18
RAM: 6GB
ROM: 64GB/128GB/256GB expandable via microSD card up to 256GB
Back Camera: 12MP (f/1.5 / f/2.4) + 12 MP f/2.4 telephoto lens w/ Dual Pixel, Dual OIS, multi-frame, and dual tone LED flash
Selfie Camera: 8 MP f/1.7 w/ AF, wide angle lens, and screen flash
Battery: 3,500mAh w/ fast charging and wireless charging
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo w/ Samsung Experience 9.0
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), 3G, HSPA+, LTE Cat 18, Bluetooth 5.0, OTG, NFC, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, dual SIM (hybrid)
Sensors: Pressure, accelerometer, barometer, gyro, geomagnetic, hall, HR, proximity, light
Others: Fingerprint sensor, IP68 rating, fast wireless charging, USB Type-C, UHQ 32-bit / DSD support, Colors: coral blue, midnight black, lilac purple
Dimensions: 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.3 mm
Weight: 163 g
Price: PHP 52,990 (64GB), PHP 55,990, (128GB), PHP 60,990 (256GB)

Disclaimer: This is a borrowed unit from Samsung Philippines for our honest and constructive take.

Unboxing/Accessories

Everything inside
Everything inside

Inside is the phone with the inclusions of the following: 9V/2A USB Adaptive Fast charger, USB to USB Type-C charging cable, Samsung AKG branded in-ear monitors with braided wires, SIM ejector tool, USB Type-C to USB Type-A adapter, extra silicone earpieces, and the documentation. It doesn't have a free silicone jelly case.

Build Quality/Design

Sleek build!
Sleek build!

The build quality is the best. It is one of the few phones out there that is priced above PHP 50,000 and it actually feels and looks like 50,000. The better grade aluminum used in the S9 and S9+ is noticeably more solid and heftier than the one from the S8 and S8+.
SIM tray on top
SIM tray on top
Headphone jack, USB Type-C, mic, and speakers below
Headphone jack, USB Type-C, mic, and speakers below
Bixby button at left
Bixby button at left
Power button and volume rocker at right
Power button and volume rocker at right

But let's be honest, you get the device for the beautiful and elegant looking curved glass on the back and front and it is still stunning.

Yes it is a fingerprint magnet, yes it is slippery, and yes it is too similar with the S8 and S8+ but why fix something that works?

The button layout remains mostly the same at the most ergonomically placed spots except for the fingerprint sensor. It is now placed below the cameras which make it easier to reach.

We love that Samsung retained the headphone jack but we do wish they bumped up the battery capacity. Though we understand that maintaining the size and design was their priority, we wouldn't mind having a bigger battery.

Display Quality

Amazing viewing experience
Amazing viewing experience

The display is a 6.2-inch WQHD Super AMOLED 2960 x 1440 resolution w/ Curved Infinity Display and Gorilla Glass 5 protection at 531 ppi.

It is one of the brightest displays out there and it can be pushed harder if you wanted it.

Being an AMOLED, it has some of the deepest blacks, vivid colors and strongest contrasts we've seen on a phone yet. This isn't even mentioning the high resolution of 1440p!

Samsung still makes the best phone displays!

As expected, the viewing angles don't disappoint with full coverage and the curved glass adds that level of elegance to the device that no manufacturer has yet to come close with.

It also has a 10-point multi-touch display which makes this versatile for games and apps that make use of multiple touch points simultaneously. It is fast, accurate and responsive. We've never felt that it misread our taps or gestures.

Audio Quality

Now with stereo speakers, the S9 and S9+ is one of the best phones for mobile media consumption.

The main speaker is at the bottom while the secondary one is at the earpiece. The main speaker gets loud enough to fill a large bedroom that is supplemented by the secondary speaker that adds an extra layer of depth from the stereo effect.

The main speaker is still easy to block depending on how you hold the phone. It does however get so loud that even if you cover it, it is audible at the higher volumes.

The sound quality is good with sharp details, superior separation, balanced mids and treble with a slightly stronger bass.

HiFi grade!

For headphones and earphones, we used the stock AKG branded earphones and our RHA S500i.

The stock earphones provides a slightly superior experience to the standard earphones but is made slightly better by software optimizations. Most people wouldn't notice the difference from when the software optimizations are on or not. 

The RHA S500i however provides a better experience given that it is a third party alternative.

The sound produced is noticeably louder and is more defined with a decent sound stage  that gives a somewhat immersive experience. Like the speakers, the mids and trebles are balanced while the bass is slightly stronger.

The microphones are clean and clear that we had no problems or concerns for calls and recordings. We never had an issue or a caller comment that our voice had concerns during calls.

Battery Life

Not that strong battery performance
Not that strong battery performance

In our usual PC Mark battery benchmark though it was rated for more than 7 hours. This is okay given that it is a 3,500mAh battery capacity but in comparison with the 3,400mAh battery in the Huawei P20, it scored at least 9 hours.

Okay-ish performance!

This is consistent with our daily use of email, texting, calling, social media interactions, YouTube streaming, we were getting 7 to 8 hours of on screen time with LTE and LTE hotspot. We would unplug the phone at 8AM and end our day at 6PM at 10 to 15 percent battery left. 

BUT when we turned off LTE, the phone had significantly better battery life. It might be due to several background process by the Samsung Experience Android skin.

In summary, the Samsung Galaxy S9+ has great battery when LTE is used sparingly. The performance drops significantly when LTE is used more often.

It has the standard battery saving modes where it lowers performance and background tasks to improve longevity. It includes a regular power saving mode that will darken the screen and disconnect you to WiFi, data or Bluetooth and smart-saving that consumes less power.

Without LTE, the difference offered by the standard battery saving options is noticeable by about 3 to 4 hours but when LTE is on, we averaged on an extra 30 minutes of use. 

It also has an ultra power saving mode that limits most apps and allows only the most basic functions to work.

Charging time is one of the fastest around. It isn't as fast as OnePlus's Dash Charging though. It charges from 0 to 100 under 90 minutes! It is fast charge compatible. The adaptive charging plug is a 2 ampere 5 volt charger.

Camera

Dual cam with dual aperture
Dual cam with dual aperture

The 12MP (f/1.5 / f/2.4) + 12 MP f/2.4 telephoto lens w/ Dual Pixel, Dual OIS, multi-frame, and dual tone LED flash main camera is one of the best in the market. In fact, we are confident in saying that it is the best in video and second only to the P20 Pro and P20 in stills.
Pro mode
Pro mode

The UI for the Samsung's Camera app has been significantly improved and you can now see all modes on the opposite side of the shutter button.

The modes for the main camera are food, panorama, pro, live focus, super slow-mo, AR Emoji, and hyperlapse.

Each mode is easy to use and is straightforward. They mean what they say.

The great new thing from these new camera is that in pro mode, aside from controlling ISO (50-800), shutter speed (1/24000 to 10 seconds), white balance, focus, exposure compensation, and aperture from (f/1.5 to f/2.4).

Samsung says that the f/1.5 aperture helps in low lighting conditions while the f/2.4 allows for sharper images in bright lighting conditions.

The improvements in contrast and sharpness when stopped down to f/2.4 is there but not that noticeable. The improvements for low light from f/2.4 to f/1.5 is significant though. You can really see more in low light with it.

The images are stunning. The images are sharp, with strong contrast and saturated colors. It has the standard Samsung look of sharp with vibrant colors in good lighting conditions. 

There are pictures where in I prefer the images from the S9+ over the P20 Pro but there are some situations where I prefer the P20 Pro. 

In lowlight, grain kicks in depending on how little the light is but the resolution of the images is high enough to compensate and there  is minimal color cast. This is the second best low light images I've seen from a phone to date.

The LED flash is there for the main camera if you need it.  It is strong enough to illuminate any subject within 5 feet.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight 1
Daylight 1
Daylight 2
Daylight 2
Live focus
Live focus
Indoor
Indoor
Lowlight 1
Lowlight 1
Lowlight 2
Lowlight 2
Lowlight 2x zoom
Lowlight 2x zoom
Flash
Flash

On the other hand, it carries the secondary camera is a 8 MP f/1.7 w/ AF, wide angle lens, and screen flash. 
Selfie cam UI
Selfie cam UI

The modes for the secondary camera are selfie focus, AR Emoji, and wide selfie mode.
AR Emoji
AR Emoji

The live focus on the secondary camera is good! One of the better ones on the market but it isn't as clean as the main camera. For the best bokeh, we recommend using the main camera.

The AR Emoji by Samsung is polarizing. Either you like it or you don't. Personally we find the Emojis a little creepy.

Even though that it is just 8MP the resolution of the selfie images is still one of the best. It is also one of the few phones with accurate and precise autofocus. The images are sharp with decent contrast and saturated colors.

The lowlight selfies are also one of the better ones. In fact we prefer the Selfie images we get from this camera than most of the Selfie centric phones out there. The amount of detail out weighs the amount of grain. There is also little color casting which is amazing for a smartphone camera.

Selfie Camera Samples

Selfie daylight with portrait mode
Selfie daylight with portrait mode
Lowlight selfie 1
Lowlight selfie 1
Lowlight selfie 2
Lowlight selfie with flash
Lowlight selfie with flash

The Dual OIS of the S9+ with the Dual Pixel autofocus makes the S9+ the best phone for 1080p video with tracking. The footage has barely any hard shakes from hand holding and it tracks the subject flawlessly even if the subject runs out of frame.

4K 60fps, 4K 30fps, QHD, and FHD 60fps does not support autofocus tracking  while 4k 60fps removes stabilisation. So effectively if you want the best tracking and best stabilisation, you shoot 1080p 30fps. You can still have stabilisation until 4K though but loose tracking. 

For the video footage of the selfie camera, it can go up to QHD 1440p but it looses stabilization. The 1080p footage has stabilization and has autofocus. The crop is significant and the field of view from stills may be difficult for people with a shorter wingspan when hand-holding selfie video.

Video Samples


Performance

Benchmark scores
Benchmark scores

The phone packs the 1.79GHz 64-bit Exynos 9810 octa-core processor with the Mali-G72 MP18 plus 6GB of RAM makes this phone perform like a monster! It is one of the highest Antutu benchmark score for an Android phone.

Monster performance!

This phone tears through normal tasks like it is nothing. Games can be played at all high settings with good framerates with out problem. It does get warm after extended play throughs.


The recorded PUBG footage is one of the best graphics for PUBG on a phone we've seen yet. The frame rates are good too!
Samsung Experience 9.0 UI
Samsung Experience 9.0 UI

It is equipped with the latest Android 8.0 based Samsung Experience 9.0 skin. The look is similar with the last version from the Note 8 but with slight refinements like reorganization of settings and tweaked features.

The largest change was in the camera app which we discussed above. The settings menu can still be confusing. Especially when looking for specific settings you want to change. It is just faster to use the search bar for the setting you are looking for.

The themes return and if you already have a registered Samsung Account, you can recover your old themes, icon packs, wallpapers, settings (like Wi-Fi passwords, Tethering settings) and have it like your previous Samsung phone.

The fingerprint scanner is one of fastest we've tested yet while the face unlock is faster and more accurate too! We were surprised at how good the face unlock is on this phone.

We still find the Iris scanner cumbersome because our irises have to be directly facing the scanners. Samsung chose to combine Face Unlock and Iris scanning for a more secure unlocking feature called Intelligent Scanning. It has the cumbersome of the Iris scanning so it can be as unreliable and time consuming like it. 

After being frustrated at how many times it would fail, we decided to settle with fingerprint and Face Unlock and Honestly, it is one of the better Face Unlocks out there. It isn't as fast as the OnePlus 5/5T but it is as fast as the Huawei P20/P20 Pro. It does misread my face in low light more often than the P20/P20 Pro though.

Lastly, Bixby 2.0. We laud Samsung for improving Bixby immensely since it was first introduced but we still find Google Assistant more capable and thus have turned off Bixby and the Bixby Button. We wish we could remap the Bixby button to a camera shutter button or to our personal pick.

Telephone connectivity is good with strong signal and steady 4G data connectivity. There's the usual WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS as well that never failed us. For VR users, the S9+ has gyroscope too. Since it has the best screen around, it has the best VR experience too.

Pros - The best build and designed phone to date, SUPER AMOLED is still the best display, Great Stereo Audio Quality, Great Selfie and Main cameras, Still the Best for Videos with Dual Pixel and Dual OIS, Headphone Jack, Monster Performance, 
ConsSlippery and Fingerprint prone, battery performance could be better, Bixby still has to catch up, cluttered settings menu, price starts at PHP 52,990

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+'s design changes aren't obvious right away but the choice of better grade aluminum is noticeable weight and heft increase when held side by side with the S8/S8+.

But, the new dual camera with one having dual aperture adds to the already amazing stills and videos. On the other hand, the Super AMOLED paired with the stereo speakers make this the best phone for media consumption to date. The AKG earphones and headphone jack make the experience even better. 

The S9 and S9+ is almost the perfect phone with only the battery performance being the largest draw back to it along with the price.

So, if you want the almost perfect phone but can live with the battery performance and the price, the S9+ may be the phone for you!

Build/Design - 4.5
Display - 4.75
Audio - 4.5
Battery - 3.75
Camera - 4.5
Performance - 4.5
Average - 4.42 / 5
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