Tuesday, June 25, 2019
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Samsung Galaxy S9+ review

The Samsung Galaxy S9+ has every ingredient in the book to firmly cement its place as, one of the best high-end Android flagships of 2018. In fact, it’s got every ingredient in the book to firmly cement its place as, one of the best high-end flagship smartphones of 2018. There are no two ways about that. You can say that last year’s Galaxy S8+ was no different, but, come to think of it, it did fall short — by a couple of tricks — of getting there. Not the Galaxy S9+. The Galaxy S9+ is a beauty. It can be quite a beast, as well, when the time is right. Not just in terms of raw fire-power. But, in all the areas, that one can imagine. All this despite the fact, that the Galaxy S9+ isn’t all that different from the Galaxy S8+.

One look at the all-new Galaxy S9+, and you’ll be hard-pressed to make out, what’s new. There’s a lot actually, but, you’ll have to be as observant as Sherlock, and let Samsung’s all-new Galaxy S9+, do the talking for itself, without judging it on mere first-look. It is then that you’ll realise that, the Galaxy S9+, is a whole new ballgame altogether. You’ll just have to get past its all-familiar exterior to experience that Samsung, for the first time in a very long time, has tried — and also managed — to check all the (right) boxes here, bringing the Galaxy S9+, a step closer to perfection.

The Galaxy S9+ is Samsung’s definitive masterpiece, and Samsung should be immensely proud of all the things that its engineers have been able to accomplish with it. Both in design, and in hardware. Having said that, although the Galaxy S9+ represents a quantum leap for smartphones, especially in the camera department, it is certainly not without its flaws. And because the Galaxy S9+ represents the high-end of the flagship smartphone spectrum, it’s only fair, that one points them out too.

Design and build quality

The Galaxy S9+ maybe an incremental upgrade to the Galaxy S8+, but, dig a little deeper and you’ll find so much has changed on the inside. Not so much on the outside though, which is fine since there wasn’t anything wrong with the Galaxy S8+, in the first place. Which means, calling the Galaxy S9+ gorgeous will (still) be an understatement. Available in Midnight Black, Lilac Purple, and Coral Blue, the Galaxy S9+ will easily pass off as a limited edition device, the kind that only a high-profile fashion company could conjure. And charge you nothing short of a bomb for it.

 

The Galaxy S9+ comes with Samsung’s hallmark bezel-less Infinity display and an unusual aspect ratio of 18.5:9. It’s carved out of glass — Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 — and metal. The metallic centerpiece that joins the front and back is virtually non-existent, much like it was in the case of the Galaxy S8+. And it’s polished in a way that it gives out the impression that the whole thing is one continuous sheet of glass. Upon close examination you’ll find Samsung is polishing this metallic edge further still, giving it a smooth matte texture that feels really, really good in the hands.

The Galaxy S9+ measures roughly the same as the Galaxy S8+, as far as thickness is concerned. But here’s the thing. Although, the Galaxy S9+ is tad heavier (189 grams as opposed to the Galaxy S8+ which weighed in at 173 grams), it somehow feels way more balanced to hold than the Galaxy S8+. I am really not sure how Samsung is doing that, but, the Galaxy S9+ — despite its increased weight — doesn’t feel like it weighs as much as it does. It’s easy to manoeuvre, and this is coming from someone who prefers pint-sized 5-inch phones, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Being all-glass, however, has its downsides. The Galaxy S9+ attracts fingerprints and smudge by the millisecond. It can also be super glossy for some. But, it surely isn’t slippery. Because, it isn’t slippery (enough) you can afford to play around with it without having to worry about accidentally dropping and breaking its glorious curved screen. Should you, however shatter it, you must know Samsung isn’t offering any accidental cover.

You’re allowed to drop it in the shower though because the Galaxy S9+ is IP68-certified for dust and water resistance.

The front, in the case of the Galaxy S9+, is clean and without any physical buttons. Samsung says, the Galaxy S9+, offers roughly 1 per cent more real estate — increasing the screen-to-body ratio to nearly 84 per cent — although you’ll be hard-pressed to make out the difference. One change that’s likely to breathe in a sigh of relief among potential buyers is a re-positioned fingerprint scanner. While in the case of the Galaxy S8+, the fingerprint scanner rested in an awkward position next to the camera module, in the Galaxy S9+ it is placed below it, so reaching out to it isn’t frustrating any more. It’s fast and accurate too, so full marks there.

Performance and battery life

As is customary, the Galaxy S9+ comes with upgraded next-generation hardware. It is powered by an octa-core (with support for Gigabit LTE) Exynos 9810 processor clubbed with 6GB RAM. It will be available in two storage configurations, 64GB and 256GB, in India, with support for expandable storage of up to 400GB via a hybrid micro-SD card slot.

Thanks to the next-generation hardware, the Galaxy S9+ flies like anything. It’s fast, fluid and heat-efficient. I’ll just leave it at that.

Elsewhere, the Galaxy S9+ houses stereo speakers tuned by AKG and supports Doby Atmos sound technology both wired and wireless: firsts for any Samsung phone. They sound really, really good but the HTC U11+ sounds slightly better.

Of all the power inside, it was only obvious, the Galaxy S9+ would come with a big battery inside. While not technically the biggest — and also not technically the most long-lasting — the 3,500mAh battery inside the Galaxy S9+ will last you a full working day provided you’re easy on it. This means, you’ll be better off toning down that display to full-HD and also tone down the always-on panel while you’re at it. Those who really want more out of their phones, should carry a charger at all times. There’s fast and wireless charging here, so it checks all the boxes.

Camera

I know, this is what you really came here for. So here goes. The Samsung Galaxy S9+ is the best high-end flagship camera phone in the market right now. The Pixel 2 — and that’s the only competition that the Samsung Galaxy S9+ has — may be better in certain situations, but, the Galaxy S9+ trumps Google’s phone convincingly, in terms of all-round camera performance. Samsung is promising the moon with the Galaxy S9+ but while the Galaxy S9+ doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel — even though it has some serious camera tech inside and out — it does raise the bar for competition, more precisely, the Pixel 3.

The Galaxy S9+, to begin with, comes with a dual camera system on the rear. The primary sensor — which is an in-house ISOCELL Fast 2L3 sensor — can shoot next-generation dual-pixel 12-megapixel photos, assisted by Optical Image Stabilisation. This sensor has a variable aperture and can shoot between f/1.5 and f/2.4 with the former assisting in low light and the latter jumping in when lighting is ideal. A dual-aperture camera allows the Galaxy S9+ to shoot photos with more detail in low light, and photos without metering — overexposure — issues when lighting is more than adequate, for instance, when you’re out and about in a warm sunny environment. It’s also possible to manually switch between the two apertures using the phone’s pro-mode although it’s not possible to shoot in apertures in between.

The Galaxy S9+ also includes a secondary 12-megapixel tele-photo sensor with fixed aperture (f/2.4) for portrait photography or bokeh — and Samsung’s hallmark Live Focus — much like it’s in the case of the Galaxy Note 8. Not to mention, the zoom lens brings your subject closer, than it actually is.

But coming to that primary sensor. While we’ve come to expect all high-end flagship phones to click amazing photos when the lighting is ideal, it is tricky and low light, where their true potential is realised. I would say, the Google Pixel 2 — with its crazy HDR and massive Google Photos database — is the best camera phone in tricky light, but, low — and exceptionally low — light is where the Galaxy S9+ really shines.

The ISOCELL Fast 2L3 sensor, is not only fast to lock focus and fast to shoot, it is also able to seamlessly switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4, in the blink of an eye. Literally as well as figuratively. At f/1.5, the sensor is able to get hold of crazy amounts of light — from every nook and corner — even though your subject may be in utter darkness, and produce photos that appear brighter, crisper, and with little or no noise. There is, of course, a lot of post-processing going on as well, but unlike Samsung’s previous attempts, the Galaxy S9+ manages to click photos that are far less artificial or animated. The same is true about photos clicked in good lighting, where it’s evident, that Samsung has toned down over-sharpening so its images look more real and true to subject. Not as real as the Pixel 2 though. The Pixel 2, I’ll say, still manages to take better life-like photos, and photos with more detail at the expense of some noise though. But chances are, 9 out of 10 people would be viewing these photos on the smartphone itself, and there’s no denying that the Galaxy S9+ photos look amazing on that Super AMOLED panel. Only this time, even your low-light photos, will have the same effect.

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