With the upper limit of what consumers will pay for a handset continuing to rise, Samsung were emboldened to push the boat out a little. The Galaxy S9+ is specced out in practically every direction. Samsung are offering a true Android iPhone X where others are content with superficially mimicking Apple’s €1,200 device.

Flipping through some old snaps, a user may wonder when they went on holiday and how they got their living room to Portugal

The Samsung brand has established design notes that are carried in the Galaxy S9+. That curved-corner oblong slab only needs to whisper ‘Samsung’. The wraparound screen and self-assured visual simplicity are here and worn with class. The S9+ does look a little too like the S8, Note 8 etc., the design is conservative. Some might say safe, others would argue that it’s ‘classic’.

Our black review model is very suited to the look – the glossy rear glass cover and front-filling AMOLED screen look bold without being loud. ‘Coral’ grey, ‘Lilac’ purple and ‘Titanium’ blue round off the selection though I have not seen these in person.

The 6.2″ 2K+ display on the Samsung Galaxy S9+ carries the same blown-out colour by default as other S/AMOLEDs but with a little tinkering, it’s a marvel

Glass Worries

Samsung Galaxy S9+ feels good in the hand. The glossy texture grips the fingers while the weight distribution and fingerprint scanner placement (centre-rear, 3/4 of the way up) make it easy to work with single-handedly. At 8.5mm thick with a very slight bump for lenses, it is pocket friendly and unimposing. An IP68 rating gives our Galaxy S9+ some water-resistance and dust-proofing.

The build quality in undoubtedly stellar but the laws of physics can only be suspended so much. The almost entirely glass front and rear demand a case. Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on both sides is of some comfort with its greater shatter resistance. However quite a few manufacturers provide cases in-box now, some are even of excellent quality; Samsung could do worse than providing one.

Without the hideous ‘notch’ the screen offers a well-realised ‘full-screen’ experience that doesn’t ruin 16:9-only apps/sites or cut off the extra real-estate

AMOLeader

This tech writer is not usually a fan of the oversaturated ‘showroom floor’ colour of Super AMOLED displays. On many occasions I have preached about the natural quality of high-quality IPS LCD screens.

The 6.2″ 2K+ display on the Samsung Galaxy S9+ carries the same blown-out colour by default as other S/AMOLEDs but with a little tinkering, it’s a marvel. It’s crisp, has incredible contrast and is tanning bright. All of this from the power-friendly curved SAMOLED. HDR content looks superb – it handles the extra colour-depth with care. It can also upsample SDR video content but it just doesn’t look good.

The utility of the ‘edge’ is open for debate. The tab is useful for those who use split-screen often. Or those who copy-pasta to-and-fro on the reg. Personally, the habit of use didn’t come naturally, this writer preferring to tap ‘home’ or ‘other tabs’ rather than the pull-in menu. The gorgeous shape and 85% screen/body ratio are probably impressive enough for most people. Without the hideous ‘notch’ the screen offers a well-realised ‘full-screen’ experience that doesn’t ruin 16:9-only apps/sites or cut off the extra real-estate.

The added software is actually useful; no bloatware here

NSFW Smartphone Spex

A few of you are already aware of the immense raw power that the Samsung Galaxy S9+ carries. The almost over-engineered chipset and the RAM that laughs at your laptop are widely-distributed facts. However, it must be pointed out that the range offers two chipsets – in the EU and Asia (except China) you will be treated to the Exynos 9810 SoC, a second-generation 10nano set-up.

This is by most metrics the weaker of the two chipsets but the Exynos 9810 is still beastly. The CPU is an asymmetric octo-core chip with 4x Mongoose 2.7GHz cores & 4x 1.8GHz A-55 Cortex.

The GPU, CPU and 6GB of RAM is a undoubtedly overpowered for most users but the smoothness of operation and snag-free split-screen will be appreciated by everyone. Samsung Galaxy S9+ is a joy to play games on – the Mali-G72 MP18 is a highly capable GPU that nothing could bother. There were no dropped frames at max. settings, 4K video playback and clip editing was seamless.

A RAM buffer in the camera arrangement helps speed up multiple hi-res HDR shots

The OS Question

Samsung’s take on Android Oreo 8.0.0 is relatively simple but with noticeable UI and menu changes. The added software is actually useful; no bloatware. Bixby Voice will scarcely replace the default Google service but the other Samsung apps are tempting. Bixby Vision is a camera add-on more than an app. BV uses location and image data to read signs, QR codes, make suggestions for images etc. Secure Folder and Samsung Notes are excellent for their purpose.

Dual-Lensed Friend

The main cam shoots a magnificent photo, simply put. The colour, the detail and the contrast are all great-to-perfect across various ambient lighting conditions. The Galaxy S9+‘s ability to work around oddly coloured light, in particular, is very impressive.

The two lenses carrying different apertures means it has a lens for every lighting condition and seems to enjoy the dark rather than merely tolerate it. Dull, indoor shots (common ’round here) seem to have an unseen sun beaming across the subject of the shots. Faces are human-coloured, Penney’s finest keep their temporary hues. Flipping through some old snaps, a user may wonder when they went on holiday and how they got their living room to Portugal.

The asymmetrical pixel sizes and f/ratios of the two lens offer some interesting effects like bokeh, background swaps etc. They also give almost-instant, very accurate autofocus.

A RAM buffer in the camera arrangement helps speed up multiple hi-res HDR shots as well as deliver impressive video capture response.

4K at 60fps, 960fps capture and HDR are a good video features package but they are all done quite well. HDR capture, in particular, delivers a professional-looking capture in most lighting conditions. The 4K capture (although without HDR) is crisp and full-frame panning is never a problem – it’s the same clean video output you would expect from a camcorder. But on your phone. Incredible.

Slo-mo capture has an unnecessary motion-triggered mode that doesn’t really work too well. Why anyone would want to automate this is beyond me – it can even get in the way of regular DIY slo-mo. When you manoeuvre your way to super slow-motion, the results are excellent. Bright, full of detail and sharp even at 720p.

Personalised Emoji GIFs Are Fairly Awful

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ come with an animated emoji maker that can take a user or their willing friends’ faces and draw an emoji based on them. There are dozens of expressions and contexts to apply them to.

Scanning your face into the creator app (or certain other comms. apps) is easy and relatively fast but the resulting approximations of the subjects are vague and could be anyone. Except my friend Adam whose emoji looks exactly like Simon Coveney – Koreans may not be aware of Irish politics but that is a bad thing.

Do not want

The execution of this novelty feature is largely fine but most people really have no need for animated emoji. Many iPhone users bought into the feature only to swiftly move on after the appropriate hour of use had passed. It’s interesting that Samsung would bother to develop and actually promote their own take on the communications fad.

Regular emoji are fine and fit for their purpose – they are basically words now. Complicating and lengthening the message writing process is the exact opposite of the aim of 99% of emoji usage. :-X

Done Sounding Off

The chassis speakers on the slimline S9+ are very impressive. The bass is present and doesn’t struggle to be heard when the volume or mids rise. Trebles are similarly audible at all times – it’s a rounded sound that is better than many low-end Bluetooth portables.

The chassis speakers are stereo with a slight asymmetry to the output from the ear-piece. It helps landscape viewing a lot to have a near-balanced sound from both sides. Stereo music videos are wholly acceptable rather than tolerable as the asymmetric driver set-up often ends up.

The faux-surround is actually quite immersive with some nice frequency shifts and directional phasing. It won’t ever match the quality of Atmos through headphones or any soundbar faux-surround but it’s impressive. With a pair of headphones on, the sound is similarly excellent.

Galaxy S9+

Specifications

  • Chipset: Exynos 9810 Octa EU/Middle East/Asia (except China)
  • Memory: 128GB Storage, 6GB RAM (Other models w/64GB/128GB ROM, 4GB RAM)
  • Display: 6.2″ 2180 x 1440 18.5:9 Super AMOLED, Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • Rear Camera: 2x 12 MP (f/1.5-2.4, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF  + f/2.4, 1/3.6″, 1µm), phase detection autofocus, OIS, 2x optical zoom
  • Front Camera: 8 MP (f/1.7, 1/3.6″, 1.22µm), autofocus, 1440p@30fps, Auto HDR
  • Video Capture: 4K@60 fps, 1080p240 (60fps w/HDR), 720p@960fps
  • OS Version: Android 8.0.0 Oreo
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0 AptX LE, 4G LTE-A (6CA) 1200/200 Mbps, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, MicroSD slot up to 400GB
  • Battery: 3,500 mAh
  • Dimensions: 158 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm
  • Colours Available: Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Titanium Gray, Lilac Purple

Is it a ‘9+’?

While it has improved in certain areas over last year’s offering, the Galaxy S9+ feels like a small upgrade all-round. Improvements to the camera and the chassis speakers are certainly worth mentioning but probably not worth upgrading for. There are no faults or weaknesses in the Galaxy S9+ specifically; it’s a strong all-around device but it lacks the headline-grabbing innovation of previous Galaxies.

As an Android competitor to the iPhone XSamsung Galaxy S9+ has the power, iconic design and almost the price to match.

Review unit provided by PR, Samsung Galaxy S9+ is available now for around €999 sim-free