Samsung Galaxy S9+ : Full, in-depth review

A predictably-exellent flagship uplifted by a standout camera

Samsung Galaxy S9+
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Great camera for both stills and video
  • Infinity Display still great

Cons

  • Battery life
  • Bixby still kinda mediocre
  • Your mileage may vary on AR emojis

Bottom Line

With the S9 and S9+, Samsung swing their engineering talent, brand power and their overall focus back towards the camera side of the equation and, while the results of this pivot aren’t by any means poor, the whole thing does come off as a little predictable.

Would you buy this?

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Camera

Of course, as mentioned at the outset, the main event here really is the camera. While the S9 holds its own with a perfectly respectable single-lens setup (albeit one that boasts the same variable aperture found in its plus-sized companion), the S9+’s dual-lens camera means that it's clearly the option with the most to offer here.

Credit: Samsung

Though Samsung’s conformity to the ongoing trend of reserving “The Good Camera” for the plus-sized phone is a bit annoying, it’s hard to complain too much when the results look as good as they go.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Images are sharp, details are crisp and the colors carry just the vivid depth you want them to - even before you’ve messed around with things like exposure or filters.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Like the Note 8, the S9+ also boasts some really impressive low-light capabilities. In some dimly lit rooms, I’d toggle the device between the two apertures and the visible difference in the results was quite striking. There’s still a discernible graininess to the finer details but the takeaway here isn’t really that the S9+ takes flawless low-light photos, it’s that the f/1.5 aperture lens lets it it takes better low-light photos than, at the very least, a large swathe of the competition.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

In terms of the super slow-motion video, yeah, it’s a feature lot of fun to mess with. It opens up some exciting new possibilities, even if it breaks ground that’s already been mined by Sony’s recent Xperia devices. You can use it in either auto or manual mode. In auto mode, the S9 will do the work work you. In manual, you get a bit more control over specifically what part of the frame you want to trigger slow-motion to focus on. Like AR Emojis, this feature seems easy enough to use that it feels like it’s only a matter of time before it is responsible for the creation of some annoying meme.

The only area of the camera experience here that I wasn’t really all that thrilled with was the UI. Theoretically, I love the breadth of options integrated into the S9’s camera app. It can take normal-selfies, ultra-wide selfies, panorama shots, slow-motion video, super slow-motion video, motion stills, AR emoji shots, bokeh portrait shots and more. Samsung have gone for broke when it comes to including everything a smartphone photographer might want here. There’s even a Pro Mode, which gives you extra control over ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Sure, it’s one of those things that you’ll be able to get out of it what you put in - but it’s a nice inclusion regardless.

Unfortunately, in practice, switching between all these different modes is something controlled almost entirely by on-screen swipes and - partially as a result of the edgeless design, I constantly found myself accidentally jumping into the wrong camera mode whenever I adjusted the autofocus or even just my grip on the device itself. This particular issue wasn’t a massive thorn but it did prove recurrent enough that I felt it needed to be mentioned in this review - which means it is something that Samsung should maybe take a look at.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Next Page: Performance, Battery Life and The Bottom Line

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Read more on these topics: samsung, S9, S9+, Samsung Galaxy S9, Samsung Galaxy S9+
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