This is not a review, but it could’ve been. There isn’t really much difference between this Galaxy and the stellar device it replaces, except in everything that matters. You wanted stereo speakers? S9 has it with tuning by AKG and a dollop of Dolby Atmos capability for good measure. You wanted the fingerprint sensor in a sensible place? Done. It sits below the camera now.
That camera is where the magic happens, though. Mechanical variable aperture blades can shrink the lens opening to f/2.4 or spread it to a smartphone first f/1.5. There’s DRAM stacked on the camera image sensor that enables 960 frames per second slow-mo capture. It’s in 720p and can only do bursts at a time, but that’s the same thing that Sony launched last year. And with all that technology built into the rear camera, there’s still a defiantly absent camera hump. It’s an incredible engineering feat.
The Galaxy S9 Plus camera now sits atop the DxOMark leaderboard for smartphones with an overall score of 99 points (not out of 100), a single point above Google’s all-conquering Pixel 2. Here it obliterates my beloved Huawei P10 Plus for eye candy, but the Huawei retains more texture.
Shot on Huawei P10 Plus
I personally wanted a boost in battery life on the smaller model and a reduction in overall package size. What I got was a 1,2 mm shorter phone with a much more powerful and supposedly efficient Exynos 9810 chipset and, so far, poor battery performance. I’m sure the battery situation will even itself out over time, but dipping below 50 per cent by lunchtime from 4:30am and an hour plugged in for Android Auto on the work commute isn’t great. General responsiveness in the user interface is snappy, albeit with a frequent app crashes and a fingerprint sensor that dies every now and then. Granted, this is a pre-release device and there will most likely be a software update to smooth things out for the retail offering.
Overall I’m pleased with the upgrades. Box contents now include a silicon cover, and finally having Android 8.0 Oreo on the S8 is quite refreshing. I greatly value compact dimensions and this form factor is the closest yet to the iPhone X which I am always quite tempted to buy. Galaxy S9 is a good phone, but not a great upgrade. That said, it still offers the most features on any smartphone (wireless charging, iris+face scanning, dual Bluetooth streaming, IP68 water and dust resistance, two forms of contactless payment and plenty more) and can go toe-to-toe with anything out there. But this isn’t a review, merely a first impression.