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Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Review:Incredible On The Inside, Tame From The Outside

After months of leaks, renders and anticipation, Samsung finally released the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. Since the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is simply a “tock” iteration of the S8 and S8 Plus, on the the exterior, the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are identical to their predecessors, the S8 and S8 Plus. In fact, neither of these devices are distinguishable unless you’ve really followed with the improvements Samsung brought to the table with the S9 and S9 Plus.

On the outside, not only did Samsung finally re-position the fingerprint scanner from the S8, but they also added an extra camera sensor with the larger Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. Apart from that, the S8 and S9 Plus are indistinguishable. Internally, there’s some speedy new hardware paired with some excellent extra features that Samsung currently prides itself with. These improvements include a dual aperture camera sensor, 960FPS Full HD Slo-Mo, 4K/60FPS and a ton more. These were just a few of the improvements that are here.

Thanks to Samsung, we finally have the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus for review. What’s worth noting is that we have the Asian variant of the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus that supports Dual SIM and runs on Samsung’s in-house Exynos 9810 SoC. Unfortunately, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus we received was in Midnight Black as I was keen to jack the Coral Blue S9 Plus.

In Malaysia, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus retails for as low as RM3499 ( US $879 ). This means that the pricing of the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus hasn’t been inflated by much compared to its US release where the S9+ currently retails for US $839.

01 | Design & Build Quality

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Like every review we’ve done, we’ll start off with the design and build quality of the device. The Samsung Galaxy S9+ comes with a glass front and black, which is pretty typical for what we’ve been seeing in the smartphone market lately. Copying its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S9+ is sandwiched in between two glasses from Corning, that is, Gorilla Glass 5 mind you. That, alongside the fact that the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus uses 7000-series aluminum simply assures us that this phone would last a beating. While we didn’t test the strength of the glass personally, JerryRigEverything has an excellent test where he pushes the S9 Plus to its limits in the reliability department.

Coming from the Xiaomi Mi 5 (129g), when I first held the S9 Plus, I immediately noticed the heft the S9 Plus comes with. Weighing in at 189g, the Samsung Galaxy S9+ isn’t a light device at all. However, for what it does, its pretty impressive.

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The colors of the S9+ at its launch

Coming over to the design of the device, the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus come in three colors, at least at launch. These colors include Midnight Black, Lilac Purple and Coral Blue. Samsung also introduced an extra camera sensor with the Samsung Galaxy S9+. Not only does it allow it to distinguish itself from its predecessors, but it also helps it to distinguish itself from its smaller brother, Galaxy S9.

For context, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus isn’t a small device. It comes in at 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm. It does seem to be a long device though thanks to its 18.5:9 6.2″-inch curved display, so consider it to be a great device for scrolling through your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

If you’ve used the Samsung Galaxy S8 in the past, the button layout on the Samsung Galaxy S9+ is similar. You have a power button on the right side of the device. While the volume keys and Bixby key lies at the upper-left of the device. Unfortunately, since Samsung wants to push Bixby further by forcing users to use it, the Bixby key cannot be remapped to perform another function throughout the device.

As you would expect, there’s a USB Type-C charging port and a headphone jack at the bottom of the device. Towards the top of the device you would get access to the SIM card tray as well as the MicroSD card tray if you’re really keen on extending your storage options.

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Throughout our usage of the device, I did have my grudges against Bixby and that’s because of the fact that the Bixby key and the volume keys couldn’t be told apart, especially if you’re usually using a case on the device. I had the device bring up Bixby for no reason for the simple fact that I mistakenly clicked it once. However, Bixby isn;t all that bad though if you actually use it. But if you would deliberately force it to come up when I don’t even need it Samsung, then there’s a problem! I’ll talk about Bixby later in this review, but for now, that button is a pain especially when I want to adjust the volume of the device.

02 | Display & Audio Experience

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When it comes to displays, Samsung has always prided itself with its excellent displays. Not only has Samsung excelled in the Television market, but has consistently been known for manufacturing some of the best displays on smartphones hands down!

Now, the Samsung Galaxy S9+ features a 6.2″-inch sAMOLED display that has a resolution of 2960 x 1440, For a 6.2′-inch area, that means that the pixel per inch grudge comes out to be 529 PPI, pretty typical for a Samsung flagship. The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus also features dual curved sides and rounded corners. This not only allows Samsung to differentiate itself from the competition, but also manages to showcase what Samsung could offer with those curved sides.

To be frank, I barely used the edge display during the first week of my usage. However, after I tried it out and added a few of my contacts and Samsung’s edge panels, it was pretty nice to have them around. On top of that, noticing that display spill into an ocean of emptiness simply brought a joy to my heart. There’s an excellent blend between the display spilling and the metal frame at its edge. And thinking back at what Samsung did with the S7 and S7 Edge, I simply appreciate the fact that Samsung has made the curved edges a standard ever since. Just take a moment and imagine an S9+ without the two curved edges.

What’s worth noting is that Samsung does offer quite a few customization options with the S9+. These options include changing the display preset and changing the actual resolution of the device. The Samsung Galaxy S9 an S9 Plus are pre-configured to run at 2220 x 1080, or in layman terms, at FHD+. This means that you aren’t going to be taking full advantage of that crispy display unless you increase the resolution of the device. This also means that YouTube videos and many apps would run at FHD+ unless you increase the resolution of the device. Okay, I get it why Samsung has set the device to run at FHD+, but apart from focusing on saving the battery alone, I think if Samsung would add an option to the S9 and S9 Plus that asks the user what resolution to use the device at when you’re setting it up for the first time would be gracious.

Once I increased the resolution of the device, I did find the the display to be a bit better in terms of clarity. While the crispy pixels could usually be noticed by veteran techies, the FHD+ option that’s comes on the device is more than usable too.

Apart from the resolution of the display, there’s also a few screen modes on the device too, these options include an Adaptive Display mode along with a few others to cater everyone’s taste. I personally left the device on its adaptive setting since it did seem to produce better colors to my eyes but I did love the fact that the S9 would understand how much brightness I really need. Despite turning off auto-brightness, I did find that the adaptive display mode did ramp up the brightness pretty well in certain apps. These apps include the YouTube app, the native Samsung Video Player app and a few others. Not only was this a pleasant experience, but it also showed me how well Samsung had thought of every small bit of detail.

Coming over the the viewing experience of the device, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus’s punchy colors, along with its excellent display clarity did offer the best of Samsung. Outdoor usage of the device is also great too. The phone is more than usable under harsh sunlight and should serve as an excellent companion outdoors.

Regarding the sound quality of the device, I was pleased to see what Samsung had did here. While I haven’t used the S8 Plus before, I did use the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge for a while. I did find that the sound produces by the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus was much better and louder compared to the S7. On top of that, with Samsung opting to disable Dolby Atmos out of the box, it simply makes me wonder why would Samsung want to hide these features under the settings drawer? Without Atmos active, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus did produce pretty good audio, but when I figured out that was missing out on Dolby’s Atmos technology, I did make me wonder about Samsung’s decisions. Not only did the device produce better audio with Dolby Atmos activated, but the sound produced by the S9 Plus was much louder than before too. And since the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus does feature a stereo speaker, I was happy to see what Samsung has done here.

03 | Camera Quality

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The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus feature the same 12MP sensor at the back. However, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus does feature a second sensor at its rear for those who want to zoom into their subjects. Samsung also introduced a few more goodies with the launch of the S9 and S9 Plus. The S9 and S9 Plus support video recording at upto 4k/60FPS as well as support Super Slo-Mo at 720p/960FPS. Alongside those improvements, Samsung also introduced a dual aperture setup on its main rear camera that quickly switches between f/2.4 and f/1.5 based upon the lighting conditions as well. Both of the rear camera sensors are stabilized as well.

Images produced by the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus turned out to be very detailed. Not only are they very “Samsungy” with their punchy aggressive colors, but they’re also very well-detailed as you would expect from Samsung. Most of the images taken by the S9 were very pleasing. While I can’t take the DXOMark hype and scores that seriously, I do think that even with phones overtaking the Samsung’s Galaxy S9 Plus, the S9 Plus does offer an excellent 2018 flagship camera experience. Not only does it stand up for itself against Google’s Pixel XL2, but it also offers an excellent all-round camera experience as well that we don’t often see from other brands. Since many brands emphasize their devices for bringing the highest DXOMark scores in terms of photography, what Samsung is offering with the S9 and S9 Plus is an excellent photography experience as well as an excellent videography experience.

During our usage of the device, we noticed that the device does tend to use the larger f/1.5 aperture more often despite the lighting conditions. White Balance is on point 99% of the time while the exposure seem to be very accurate to my eyes.

We also noticed that the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus’s stabilization works very well. While the take on stabilization is pretty aggressive with the S9 Plus, videos and shots taken with the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus appear to be very well detailed even if the phone decides to lengthen its shutter speed.

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Here’s a typical camera UI setup of the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus’s native camera app.

As Samsung has taken the blatant iPhone approach with their S9 Plus. If you’re coming from an iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy S9’s camera UI may raise some eyebrows but should also make you feel at home. But even if Samsung did a blatant rip off, I think it was a great choice to make. Not only did Samsung manage their so-called “camera modes”, but they also managed to clear up a ton of clutter that we hated Samsung for. Now swiping right or left in a simple fashion should enable you to swift between different camera modes.

If you’re keen to see a few shots taken with the S9 Plus, here’s a few.

And if you’re keen about how well the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus shoots at 4K/60FPS, here’s a video test.

04 | Let’s Talk About Bixby

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Ever since the release of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, Samsung is keen to push its own take on the virtual assistant game. Samsung’s in-house virtual assistant, Bixby, offers everything you would typically ask Google’s assistant. However, since its in its early stages, it does fall short after asking to set an alarm or two.

Apart from my frustration of having the Bixby button under the volume rocker, Samsung does need a lot of time to improve their virtual assistant. Basic commands aren’t an issue with Bixby. However, once you do ask it a few more questions, such as “What phone is this?” or “What’s new with the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus” it simply acts like Siri and says “Here’s what I found on the web” or “Here’s Samsung’s website”. Not only did this make me feel weird, but it also assured me that Samsung is no where near Google right now. And Google should be considering the amount of data they have. If this is how Samsung’s starting off, I think Samsung could improve Bixby over time and in fact, allow it to do more complex tasks in the future.

I also tried to ask it what does it think about Siri and it seemed like Bixby had a pre-recorded message for anyone to asks about it. Often times I did ask it to lookup a video and it got a few stuff wrong as well, such as “Open YouTube and search for Tech Altar” and it indeed opened the YouTube app, but search for “For Tech Altar”.

During my testing of the S9+, Bixby was able to pickup my voice pretty accurately. Considering that it recognizes my voice pretty well, I think that Samsung has to give it a bit more time before it starts doing your everyday things perfectly. But since Bixby is fairly new, I would love to see how it improves over the next few years when Samsung picks up on more information and updates the actual app. For now, I think its great for personal stuff. I’m going stick with Google Assistant for now.

05 | Battery Life

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The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus comes with a 3500mAh battery. While Samsung has been bugging down the battery capacity ever since the Note 7 went in flames, Samsung’s taking a more conservative approach, but I would say, it’s fine.

Based off of our usage during the two weeks we had the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus lasted us for one and a half day. Now I am no social media fanatic. Call my usage moderate. The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus should easily make it to the next day as well. To be frank, most users would charge their phone overnight anyways. Although, that is if you use your phone moderately.

Charging the phone with the bundled charger required around two full hours to charge that 3500mAh. Whether that’s good enough for is up to you to calibrate, while for me, it seemed a bit slow. With technologies such as OnePlus’s Dash Charge showcasing what they’re capable of, I think Samsung should also come up with up. In mathematical terms, that may require extra AMPs and may deteriorate the battery faster, but for now that’s how it is. Based off of how much Samsung is concentrating on keeping their phones safe, I think Samsung has finally learnt their lesson and should most probably increase the battery capacity next year. Let’s hope so.

06 | Pricing & Conclusion

Now, its evident that the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus isn’t everyone’s cup of coffee. The device retails for a hefty RM3499 ($ 879) which is out of reach for many. While Samsung isn’t going to reduce the price of their flagships anytime soon, I think the way how Samsung is targeting the S9 Plus is pretty well. Often times, phone companies focus on one area but fail to provide an overall package, and the reason I believe is Samsung is consistently being adored is the fact that it provides an excellent all-round experience. I mean, almost every brand could cram the highest-end hardware in different shells and ship it off with an affordable price tag, but what Samsung has been doing really shows how Samsung is able to age well despite all of its Chinese competition.

Now, since the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are from the same generation of S devices, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus would get my absolute recommendation. Unless you’re really short of cash and really want the highest-end of what Android could offer, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus would get my recommendation due to the fact that it has a larger battery and 6GB of RAM. I’ll take the second camera as an extra feature, but a larger battery and 6GB of RAM compared to 4GB on the S9 would absolutely keep me on my toes unless RAM requirements start to take a jump.

I’m still surprised to see what Samsung actually opted to offer 4GB of RAM with the S9 in 2018. Not only would the S9’s 4 Gigabytes RAM keep me on my toes, but it would also make me wonder how long Samsung would want to stick with those 4 Gigabytes of RAM. Future-proofing a device in 2018 is really important, especially for a flagship. But here I go again swaying with the topic. Back to the conclusion of the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus I think would cater and last its users very very well. Its camera performance, battery life, 6 Gigabytes of RAM and sound quality really show me promising signs for what Samsung has planned ahead in 2019. I just hope that Samsung would would rethink what they want to do with Bixby. Additionally, I do think that Samsung has to rework their first-time setup wizard and actually tell users what options are built into the phone. If they don’t users would be missing out on a lot of features that they could have taken advantage of.

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An Excellent Product Indeed

 

Usman Abdul Jabbar

19, Tech Enthusiast, Founder/Managing Editor at GeeksULTD and a Competitive Counter Strike Global Offensive player with aims of learning about web servers, web designing and computer hardware. Believes console exclusives are incredible and is still a strong follower of the PC Master Race. To contact me, follow me, or even constructively criticize me, contact me however you feel is right!
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