The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a continuation of the path the South Korean company started last year with the Galaxy S8. Both devices are very similar and nearly identical in look and feel.

What’s different this year, aside from the requisite change in colors, are various fine-tuned elements and refinements that add up to a more cohesive handset that’s also more refined.

More of the same but better. While it seems Samsung just refreshed last year’s model, I think they should be applauded for refining their idea and sticking to a concept. Despite the similarity in appearance to its predecessor, the Galaxy S9 features reinforcements all around. It has 20 percent thicker front glass that strengthens this phone’s weakest point. The rim around the edge of the Galaxy S9 reportedly has a stronger grade of aluminum which is less prone to deformation when dropped.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a delightful smartphone in almost every conceivable way. The design is fluid and tight. There’s no hint of compromise or half-measures here. The Infinity Display reigns supreme as one of the best implementations of a bezel-reduced design.

The glass and aluminum on the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are so organically fused that these devices appear seamless and are a joy to touch even though some sort of protective case is needed.

Sound and vision. Back to the Infinity Display, this 5.8″ Quad HD+ Super AMOLED (2,960 x 1,440) display with 570ppi is hands down the best display on any smartphone today.

Watching videos and looking at photos simply showcases the sterling color accuracy, wide color gamut, and stunning brightness of this display, which I also found great for reading text such as ebooks, email, and news. Once you’ve spent time with this display, it becomes an ordeal to go back to other displays that suddenly feel washed out and dull.

Samsung’s enhanced the audio as well with stereo speakers which are surprisingly loud. Tuned by AKG, I was delighted to play back various Dolby Atmos demo videos and hear the immersive sounds of frogs croaking, wind sweeping through leaves, and crickets in surround sound.

‘Reimagined’ camera. Samsung’s always been great at their cameras, but they’ve really aimed high this year with the Galaxy S9. The 12-megapixel camera features a dual aperture feature that, much like the human eye, can adjust depending on the lighting conditions.

This is done with a f/1.5 mode for letting in more light in dark conditions (and creating some sweet bokeh) and a more standard f/2.4 mode for general conditions. Samsung has increased the RAM dedicated to the camera and because of this it can take better photos.

This is also the reason why you can now take jaw dropping super slo-motion video at 960 frames per second at 720p HD resolution. This is a leap forward for sure and does capture moments slo-mo unlike any other device I’ve tried. The caveat is you need lots of light to get a good video.

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The Galaxy S9 doesn’t have the dual-camera of its larger sibling, so getting 2X optical zoom and 10x digital zoom is reserved for those who opt for the larger Galaxy.

I found the Galaxy S9’s camera to be outstanding for most casual photography. It is fast enough to deploy, responsive in most lighting conditions, and the Pro Mode opens a vast array of options if you’re willing to put in the time.

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You can get great portraits with the Selective Focus feature, which gives you the option to add blur pre- and post-shot.

Samsung’s also added the option to create your own emoji stickers that they call AR Emojis. So, instead of animating cute animals, aliens, or crap, you can use your own face as an avatar. This works well and does manage to create a suitable facsimile of the user.

Bixby bites back. Samsung’s Bixby smart assistant, which was delayed last year, is now fully realized on the Samsung Galaxy S9 not just as a voice assistant with deep app integration but as a whole new layer of interaction.

Swiping to the right brings up a dedicated Bixby page with a variety of apps and features pertinent to your user account. Bixby Vision is also available and integrated into the camera. Moreover, it can do live translation (shoot a photo of a sign or foreign text and Bixby will translate it). Bixby Vision can recognize 54 languages for translations and will provide results in 104 languages. This feature works as advertised and allowed me to read various texts in Swedish, Spanish, and other languages.

The nitty-gritty. The Galaxy S9 is the first device to feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor and it has 4GB of RAM. Samsung says to expect 25 percent better performance.  I found performance, multi-tasking, running through various apps to be quick and lag free. Loading apps and accessing videos streaming from a NAS (Network Attached Storage) was instantaneous. This is on a device that’s not stock Android and which has various layers of Samsung apps and security services running in the background.

Used as my daily driver, the Samsung Galaxy S9 acquitted itself well with above average battery life for a full-featured Android device with a pixel dense OLED display. It was refreshing to experience fast wireless charging using Samsung’s Fast Charge dock.

VERDICT

This is a smartphone that connects with users on an emotional level and brings a plethora of experiences and options in the user interface. More than a step-up from last year’s flagships, the Samsung Galaxy S9 propels itself at the forefront of Android flagship domination.

DISPLAY 5.8” Quad HD+ Super AMOLED (2,960 x 1,440 resolution)
SIM Dual
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 8.0 Oreo
PROCESSOR Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, Exynos 9810 (market dependent)
MEMORY 4GB RAM
STORAGE 64GB internal, expandable up to 400GB via microSD
CAMERAS 12MP rear w/1/2.55” AF sensor, 1.4µm pixel size, f/1.5 & f/2.4 dual aperture, OIS, 8x digital zoom, selective focus, 4K video, super slow-mo video; 8MP front w/ 1/3.6” AF sensor, 1.22µm pixel size. f/1.7 aperture
CONNECTIVITY & I/O PORTS Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot; Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE, aptX; GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO; NFC; USB 3.1, USB Type-C
OTHER FEATURES Iris scanner, fingerprint sensor, Samsung DeX support, Bixby, IP68 certified
BATTERY Non-removable Li-Ion 3,000mAh, Quick Charge 2.0
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT  147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5mm, 163g
PRICE P45,990
Test: Samsung Galaxy S9
Form Factor9
Build Quality8.5
Ease of Use8
Performance9.5
Value For Money8.5
8.7Overall Score

About The Author

Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Gadjo is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. He has covered technology, business and lifestyle for a variety of publications. He currently a technology columnist for international magazines, newspapers and websites.