The Galaxy S9 rumours weren't entirely positive. But don’t be misled: the Galaxy S9 is a serious step up from last year’s effort. In particular, its new low-light camera is set to usher in a monumental shift for smartphone photography.
UK release date and specifications
- 5.8! 18.5:9 QHD+ (2,960 x 1,440) display
- Octa-core 2.7GHz Exynos 9810 processor
- 4GB of RAM
- 64GB of storage (expandable up to 400GB via microSD)
- 12-megapixel rear f/1.5 camera
- Released on 16th March 2018, pre-orders from 8th March at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy S9 Review: Design and key features
It was widely leaked that the S9 would look very similar to the S8, and that has certainly is true: you'll struggle to tell them apart at first glance. That's no big surprise, as Samsung has a habit of coming up with big designs once every few years, and only making minor tweaks in the meantime. And in this case that’s certainly not a bad thing.
Indeed, the S9 Plus is one of the best-looking phones I've seen. The top and bottom bezels have been shaved off ever so slightly, so the screen to body ratio is slightly higher than it was on the S8; other than that, it’s the same handset we fell in love with this time last year.
That means we're once again treated to a 5.8in 18.5:9 QHD+ (2,960 x 1,440) display - and, since this is one of Samsung’s Super AMOLED panels, I can say with confidence that contrast ratios and colour reproduction are practically perfect, even before I've had a chance to turn our colour calibrator loose on a review unit.
On the bottom edge you’ll find a solitary USB Type-C port for charging and (huzzah!) a 3.5mm headphone jack, and there’s a volume rocker and power button on the right. The microSD and nano-SIM card slot is on the left, and the whole thing is IP68 dust- and water-resistant.
The S9 features an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor - if you are in the UK you get, Samsung’s own 2.7GHz Exynos 9810 equivalent. There's no doubt that this will be the fastest handset we've ever seen from Samsung, along with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, expandable via microSD.
Things have changed quite substantially with the camera too. Superficially, the specs are similar to what went before: you get a solitary 12-megapixel sensor with dual-pixel phase-detection autofocus and optical image stabilisation. There’s no secondary 2x telephoto zoom lens on the regular S9.
However, is that this camera is much better-suited to low-light photography than its forebear. The f/1.5 aperture is significantly wider than last year’s, which means much more light gets in - brightening up shots and capturing crisper details. And you don't need to do anything to get the benefit: the camera automatically widens the aperture once the lighting conditions hit below 100 lumens, which is about what you'd get on a gloomy, overcast day in the UK.
For brighter scenes, meanwhile, the Galaxy S9 can switch down to f/2.4 on the fly, so you get a bit more depth of field and don't have to worry about overexposure. And experienced photographers will be very happy to hear that they can select the aperture size for themselves in the camera’s Pro mode.
The video hardware gets an upgrade too. The S9 can now record 720p footage at an amazing 960fps, stretching 0.2 seconds of activity out into six seconds of video. It's extremely easy to set up too: simply draw a box on the screen, and the slow-motion recorder will kick in whenever motion is detected within that space.
Then there is Samsung's version of Apple's Animoji feature. Unlike the Apple implementation, which maps predefined emoji onto your face, Samsung’s AR Emoji allows you to create your own avatar, Bitmoji-style, and overlays it onto your face via the IR camera.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Review: Verdict
The S9 does look very similar to the S8, with no massive changes internally. But if you love taking photos' then the camera improvements alone may well be enough to justify an upgrade.
The only potential stumbling block is that the S9 will be going up directly against the S9 Plus, whose dual-cameras promises even better shots.