Samsung Galaxy S9 Review: Iteration, not revelation

With the Galaxy S9 Samsung, set its sights straight on the Pixel 2 – or more specifically, its camera. Let’s cut to the chase then: the S9’s camera doesn’t definitely beat Google’s, but it is a major leap over the S8. Depending on what you’re looking for, it may very well be one of the best smartphone cameras you can buy.

There’s more to a phone than its camera of course though, and that’s where the S9 – especially the smaller model – becomes a tougher proposition.  Lets looks at the specs, starting with the smaller model:

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (US) / Exynos 9810 (everywhere else)
  • 5.8-inch QHD Super AMOLED display
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 64 GB storage + microSD
  • 3,000 mAh battery
  • 12MP rear camera
  • Variable aperture: F1.5/F2.4
  • 960fps super slow-mo
  • 8MP F1.7 front camera
  • IP68 water resistant
  • Stereo speakers (finally!) tuned by AKG, 40 percent louder
  • Dolby Atmos support
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • AR Emoji – Samsung’s take on Apple’s Animoji
  • Colors: Lilac Purple, Midnight Black, Coral Blue (US). Titanium Grey available as well in other markets.
  • $719

The larger model has mostly the same features, with the following differences:

  • 6GB RAM
  • Secondary telephoto camera
  • 6.2-inch QHD Super AMOLED
  • 3,500 mAh battery
  • $840

This year, Samsung is nerfing the smaller device. No longer are the Galaxy siblings differentiated solely by their screen size. If you want the best Samsung hardware you have to get the S9 Plus.

Samsung was pretty much the only Android manufacturer making a smallish flagship anymore with feature parity. Even the Pixel 2 misses out on the XL’s bezel-less design and longer battery life. I’ve ranted about this change at a greater length here.

One thing Samsung hasn’t changed much is the design. It looks like, well, a Galaxy. Though there are some new colors on board and the bezels are a little smaller, the only difference you’ll really notice is the new fingerprint sensor placement; it’s now in a much more reasonable location below the camera. Thank god.

Samsung’s displays are as good as ever, and the S9 already has the the best smartphone screen according to DisplayMate. Most of the updates in the S9 were to improve color accuracy in different lighting conditions, though it also gets 20 percent brighter too.

I doubt someone used to an S8, Note 8, or iPhone X (which uses a Samsung screen) would notice a difference, but it’ll probably be a marked improvement if you’re coming from anything else. After using the Pixel 2 XL for so long, I’d almost forgotten how far ahead Samsung’s OLED technology is.