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Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ review: An evolutionary step up

By James Lu & Alvin Soon - 15 Mar 2018

Performance Benchmarks, Battery Life, and Conclusion

Just how powerful is that new Exynos 9810 chip?

As usual, there are two variants of the S9 and S9+, each using different processors. The US and China get Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 processor, while everyone else gets Samsung's own Exynos 9810.

Like the 845, the Exynos 9810 is a 10nm 64-bit octa-core processor running on a 4x4 big.LITTLE configuration. It uses four high-power Mongoose M3 cores clocked at 2.7GHz, and four high-efficieny Cortex-A55One cores, clocked at 1.8GHz. The 9810 uses a Mali-G72 MP18 GPU. The S9 has 4GB RAM, while the S9+ has 6GB RAM.

  Samsung Galaxy S8 Samsung Galaxy S8+ Apple iPhone X (256GB)
  Samsung Galaxy S8 Samsung Galaxy S8+ Apple iPhone X (256GB)
Launch SRP
  • From RM3699
Operating system
  • Android 7.0 Nougat with Dream UX
  • Android 7.0 Nougat with Dream UX
  • iOS 11.1
Processor
  • Samsung Exynos 8895 octa-core (4x2.3 GHz & 4x1.7 GHz), 10nm process
  • Samsung Exynos 8895 octa-core (4x2.3 GHz & 4x1.7 GHz), 10nm process
  • Apple A11 Bionic hexa-core
Built-in Memory
  • 4GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
Display
  • 5.8-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (570 ppi) / Super AMOLED Infinity Display
  • Always-On Display
  • 6.2-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (529 ppi) / Super AMOLED Infinity Display
  • Always-On Display
  • 5.8-inch Super Retina HD / 2,436 x 1,125 pixels (458ppi) / OLED
Camera
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, f/1.7, 1/2.5" sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size, phase detection autofocus, OIS
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/1.7
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, f/1.7, 1/2.5" sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size, phase detection autofocus, OIS
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/1.7
  • Rear: Dual 12-megapixel, (f/1.8, 28mm & f/2.4, 56mm) with phase detection autofocus, OIS, and quad LED (dual-tone) flash
  • Front: 7-megapixel, f/2.2 FaceTime HD camera
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 9 (up to 450Mbps), Bluetooth 5.0, VHT80, MIMO (2x2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 9 (up to 450Mbps), Bluetooth 5.0, VHT80, MIMO (2x2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G+ LTE Cat 12 (up to 600Mbps), dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v5.0, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector
Storage Type
  • 64GB internal storage (UFS 2.0)
  • 256GB (MicroSD)
  • 64GB internal storage (UFS 2.0)
  • 256GB (MicroSD)
  • 256GB internal storage
Battery
  • 3,000mAh
  • Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging
  • Wireless charging
  • 3,500mAh
  • Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging
  • Wireless charging
  • 2,716mAh
Dimensions
  • 148.9 x 68.1 x 8 mm
  • 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm
  • 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm
Weight
  • 155g
  • 173g
  • 174g


Sunspider Javascript

SunSpider JavaScript measures the browsing performance of a device when processing JavaScript. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is for delivering a high-speed web browsing experience. 

The S9 and S9+ were marginally faster than their predecessors in this benchmark, but the difference is so negligible you won't notice. In actual browsing performance, the S9 is just as snappy as any other smartphone (iPhone X included).

 

Basemark OS II

Basemark OS II is an all-in-one benchmarking tool that measures overall performance through a comprehensive suite of tests including system, internal and external memory, graphics, web browsing, and CPU consumption.

Surprisingly, the S9 and S9+ also showed only small gains on this benchmark, and still trail quite far behind Apple's iPhone X.

 

3DMark Sling Shot Unlimited

3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes impressive volumetric lighting and post-processing effects. We're running this benchmark in Unlimited mode, which ignores screen resolutions.

Again, we only saw marginal performance gains on this benchmark, and Samsung's Exynos processors still trail far behind not just the iPhone X, but also the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835.



 

Battery Life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

Like last year, the S9 uses a 3,000mAh battery, while the A9+ has a 3,500mAh battery. Battery life on both models remains excellent, although we didn't see much improvement from last year. In fact, the S9+ was a little worse than last year's S8+.


So should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+?

Yes, but only if you're not already using an S8, S8+ or Note8.

Last year's S8 and S8+ were huge jumps forward for Samsung. Those phones introduced us to an exciting new design, and new features like the Infinity Display and Bixby.

This year, it's hard to feel the same level of enthusiasm for the S9 and S9+. These phones feel more like refinements to an already stellar package than anything genuinely new and exciting. The stereo speakers are great, but they're a feature that's been long overdue for Samsung. New software features like AR Emoji and Intelligent Scan work well too, but it's hard to get too excited about them when they just feel like Samsung's versions of Apple's Animoji and Face ID. Creating your own personalized AR emoji is great, but it's not exactly new either - the Bitmoji app offers something similar and has been around forever. The one difference could be that AR emoji does it faster from mapping your face. The new Bixby features are also nice, but they don't do anything you can't already do with Google Translate and Google Assistant, and unlike Google, you need an Internet connection for them to work.

The best new feature in the S9 and S9+ is its dual aperture rear camera. But does it fundamentally change what you can do with your smartphone camera? Not really, but it does let you take better low light pictures, which many users will appreciate.

The same is true with benchmark performance, the S9 and S9+ score better in every test, but not by much, and it's worth noting that they're still trailing Apple's A11 Bionic chip in every test.

Ultimately, that's the story of the S9 and S9+: slightly better, but not a lot better. The S9 and S9+ don't re-invent anything, they're evolutionary, not revolutionary, and they mainly build upon the foundation laid last year.

Finally, it's worth noting that the price of Samsung's S range is slowly creeping up. Last year, the S8 retailed for S$1,148, while the S8+ was S$1,298. This year, the S9 is S$1,198, and the S9+ starts at $1,348 for the 64GB model, and goes up to S$1,498 for the 256GB model. That's S$100 more than last year's Note8 (albeit it was only made available with 64GB internal storage).

These are still the best phones Samsung has ever made, and by far the best Android phones available right now, but they're getting really pricey.

Our Final Ratings
Samsung Galaxy S9+

Click for detailed results break-down.

Samsung Galaxy S9

Click for detailed results break-down.


What should you do next?

  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • User-Friendliness 8.5
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 7
The Good
Gorgeous, color-accurate AMOLED display
Stereo speakers
Excellent dual rear camera setup
AR Emoji
The Bad
Looks exactly the same as last year
Benchmark performance only slightly better
Slightly worse battery life than last year
Very expensive