The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ garnered a large amount of attention over the past few weeks. With leaks and rumours (and Samsung’s obvious hints in their series of videos) hinting at the imaging capabilities of the Galaxy S9 and S9+, hoards were excited for the actual reveal of Samsung’s new flagship lineup at MWC this year. At a press event earlier today, VR Zone got a first look at both the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+.
Upon picking up the Galaxy S9, it is immediately striking as to how similar it feels to last year’s S8. Spec-wise, there has been a small increase in weight and a slight change in dimension, but any difference was barely noticeable.
The Galaxy S9+ felt pretty similar to last year’s Galaxy S8+ as well. As someone with relatively small hands, I found it a little challenging to hold the phone securely and reach across the screen at the same time. However, the weight was pretty well distributed and it did not feel like it was going to slip out of my hand at any point.
The screens present on both phones are still the best in business. Samsung’s SuperAMOLED screens have long been known for their vivid contrast and highly saturated colour reproduction, and both were on display here on the S9 and S9+. Despite Samsung claiming that the screens were slightly brighter at maximum brightness this time around, I still experienced some trouble looking at the screen under direct sunlight. This was especially apparent when I placed the phone on the table at looked at the screen at an angle.
One design feature carried over from the last year’s Galaxy S8 was the glass front and back. While this made the phone look and feel premium, it turned the phone to a giant 2-sided fingerprint magnet as well. It didn’t take long for the demo unit to be covered entirely in fingerprints, and due to the reflective nature of the glass used, they were highly visible and not really aesthetically pleasing. But most of you would be slapping on a case or sticking on a skin anyway so it wouldn’t be much of a problem.
My favourite hardware change on the S9 and S9+ has got to be the shifting of the fingerprint sensor. It is much easier to reach now, compared to the S8 and Note 8, where people often smeared their rear camera lenses with fingerprints as they searched for the fingerprint sensor.
On the software side, there were not many changes as well. Running Android Oreo, the user interface (UI) on the Galaxy S9 feels very familiar. Samsung’s own take on Android has not changed much through the generations, and longtime Samsung users should really feel at home here.
Carrying over from last year, Bixby is present in this year’s flagships as well. Although Samsung has slowly begun to roll out new features, many users might undoubtedly choose to use the inbuilt Google Assistant as their mobile assistant of choice. It definitely will not be long before someone once again finds a way to remap the Bixby button on the S9. However, with Samsung’s plethora of Smart Home devices, Bixby could very well fill a niche in the very near future.
Finally, we took a look at the much touted upgraded camera. We were given the opportunity to try out the slow-motion effect, which shoots 720p video at up to 960fps and replays them in slow motion. I tried it out on the super-fast movement of my DSLR camera shutter and mirror box assembly, trying to see if it could capture then the entire movement of the mirror and shutter.
While the results seem impressive, it was a little difficult to get the slow motion feature to trigger at the right moment. Furthermore, as can be heard from the video, Samsung has automatically added a cartoonish background music, which does not seem very professional. It does, however, allow users to overlay their own choice of soundtrack to play in the background of gratuitous slo-mo footage. Despite these criticisms, I will willingly admit that this was a fun feature to use, and it does leave a lot of room for creative effects in the hands of more experienced shooters.
One slight problem with the camera was that it had some focus issues in dark when we were using the slow-motion mode. This is one area we will definitely look into as soon as we manage to get a review unit on our hands.
All in all, the upgrades in the S9 and S9+ feels very incremental compared to last year’s flagship models and I was pretty hard pressed to tell them apart. They essentially felt like the same phone, albeit with a slightly better camera and better placement of fingerprint sensor. With changes to processing and imaging, it might justify an upgrade for a power user, or an avid photographer. However, if you are still holding on to an older generation of smartphone, this phone presents a very good upgrade option for you to step into the world of 18:9-ratio phones.
Do stay tuned for our full review of the Galaxy S9 and S9+.