Samsung Galaxy S9+ Review: Fantastic And Fast With A Killer Camera

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Samsung Galaxy S9+ Hardware Design And Software

The Galaxy S9+ is definitely not much of a departure, at least from an industrial design standpoint, from the previous generation Galaxy S8+, but that's a very good thing in our opinion. The new design is blacked-out a bit more on its top and bottom bezels, hiding the camera and sensors better, while those bezels are also a just a hair thinner (shorter). And yes, IP68 water and dust resistance is back, tested and confirmed here. 

Galaxy S9 Plus Back in hand rain
Galaxy S9+ IP68 Water And Dust Resistance

Galaxy S8 Plus vs Galaxy S9 Plus
Galaxy S8 Plus vs Galaxy S9 Plus back
Galaxy S8+ (Left) - Galaxy S9+ (Right)

The silver variant of the Galaxy S8+ you see here may look slightly wider but it's not. In fact, the Galaxy S9+ is actually four tenths of a millimeter wider, though it is a little over a millimeter shorter which is a welcomed reduction for one-handed navigation on the device. The GS9+ is also 16 grams heavier, or roughly half an ounce. In general, there's a slightly more efficient use of space with the Galaxy S9+ and yes, thankfully Samsung moved the fingerprint sensor down below the camera array, where it's more naturally in reach of the average user's index finger; in fact, perfectly so, in our opinion.
Galaxy S9 Plus bottom front
Galaxy S9 Plus top front
There's also a newly designed speaker port on the bottom of both the Galaxy S9 and S9+, and now the top earpiece speaker also fires for external audio. This stereo speaker system is "tuned by AKG" with Surround Sound provided by Dolby Atmos. We're not sure about the surround sound effect, but we can say that the Galaxy S9+ is one of the loudest, fullest sounding smartphones we've ever heard. Granted, things still sound a bit thin and lacking low-end response, which is to be expected in a handset. However, in a pinch and for mobile video bingeing, the Galaxy S9+ will get it done (and likely the Galaxy S9 too). 
Galaxy S9 Plus bottom front always on display
Galaxy S9 Plus Back Camera closeup
And that's not dust you're looking at in this shot. Samsung's Always On Display feature for the Galaxy S9+ has a starry night theme going on. The Midnight Black version of the device certainly does look low profile,however, and clean, accentuating Samsung's fantastic Super AMOLED display, which is the real star of this show. In fact, for a device type like this, where the display is the primary user interface feature that affects the experience, we can't emphasize enough how good Samsung premium smartphone displays are. Just like the Galaxy S8+, the Galaxy S9+ is the best 6-inch (or larger) smartphone display on the market right now. It's immediately user perceptible and we're not the only ones that think this display is that good. 

Samsung Utilizes Android 8.0 Oreo Reasonably And Balanced

Remember TouchWiz? Neither do we. However, there's a light Samsung skin here on top of Android 8.0 Oreo and, for the most part, it works quite well. 

Samsung GS9 Home screen Samsung GS9 apps tray
Samsung GS9 Software Samsung GS9 Lock settings

General menu navigation is simply stylized and with minimal drill-down effort. Most menus, like Android Oreo itself, have search functionality. If you can't find a setting you're looking for, just search for it and it should come up. The OS itself, from a performance standpoint, also feels buttery fast and responsive. With 6GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 845 in a Galaxy S9+ you don't wait for anything. 

Samsung Galaxy S9+ And Galaxy S9 Machine Vision And Learning

Samsung GS9 Lock Screen and Security Samsung Bixby

We won't delve much into the Lock Screen and Security functions of the Galaxy S9+, since not much has changed here from the previous gen, though Samsung has finely-tuned them over time. The fingerprint sensor on this phone is extremely fast and responsive. We can't speak for accuracy just yet, but once you register a digit, its just a flick of your index finger for seemingly instantaneous access, and the same thing goes for your retinas with retinal scan. We didn't mess too much with facial scan, since really it's not that secure, but these systems just work, and lightning fast to boot. Bixby is still here as well, actuated via voice or a press of the Bixby button on the left side edge of the phone, underneath the volume rocker. The Bixby AI still feels a little disconnected, to be honest, with Google Assistance a more natural default for day-to-day chores finding local businesses and services, or asking for directions. That said, the Bixby camera function has learned new tricks, courtesy of Google Translation... 

GS9 live translation
Bixby Live Translation Via Google Translate

If you fire up Bixby in the camera app, the Galaxy S9+ (or Galaxy S9) will act as a real-time visual translator, converting machine vision-captured text information, from one base starting language to another. In the above shot we've told the camera to convert from English to Spanish for whatever it sees. Though it can map this information virtually over the image (check our demo video on the first page), we've captured a static translation from English to Spanish above. In a word, impressive. Bixby is also still evolving its ability to recognize objects and scenery for informational, reference and product shopping purposes, but in some ways it still feels like a work in progress, as are all AIs we suppose. 

Samsung AR Emoji - A Little Freaky But Fun

A few folks seem to be a little weirded out by AR Emojis, but Samsung capturing and rendering of your likeness in cartoon form is an interesting feature concept. You first setup your AR Emoji by taking a picture of yourself with the front selfie cam and then the software renders what it feels is generally your animated likeness.  

Samsung AR Emoji character Samsung AR Emoji

In this case, I am personally quite pleased that Samsung felt it fitting to render my avatar with such a complete, rather lush hairline. I'll take it, along with the observable razor shadow and not quite prominent enough dimple in my chin (oh and my also accurately depicted almost complete lack of eyebrows). You can then of course tweak settings for the look of your avatar (or AR Emoji rather) from there, but I swear this is a virgin first render by the Galaxy S9+. From there you can record short video clips, with your emoji likeness tracking your facial and head movements, to send to friends. You can also send AR Emjoi animated GIF stickers that offer a little bit more, shall we say, emphasis to your text dialog (seen above in Google Hangouts). Samsung notes that messaging apps that do not support animated GIFs may send AR Emoji stickers as a still image. AR Emojis are kind of fun, but their usefulness is debatable. However, with the similar avatar sticker trends we've seen on other mobile and social platforms, we can understand why Samsung brought this feature to the Galaxy S9 series. It's also just simply a cool example of machine vision and image capture in action.  

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