Written by Amber

Expert review of the Samsung Galaxy S9

A variable aperture, powerful stereo speakers, and recording in super slow motion: that's the Samsung Galaxy S9 in a nutshell. In terms of appearance, the smartphone is a dead ringer for its brother, the Galaxy S8. Under the hood on the other hand, there are a number of upgrades. Is the S9 just as groundbreaking as the S8? I tested the phone for a week.

In short: the Samsung Galaxy S9

  • 64GB storage capacity
  • 5.8-inch Quad HD scherm
  • Android 8.0 Oreo
529,-
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  • In the evening and in daytime, I can take bright pictures thanks to the variable aperture.
  • The fingerprint scanner is below the camera, allowing me to reach it easily.
  • The Dolby Atmos stereo speakers provide powerful, clear sound.
  • The depth-of-field effect in photos isn't always optimal.

Out of the box

When I take the S9 out of the packaging, I immediately recognize the S8's design. The smartphone has a 5.8-inch infinity screen with curved bezels and a stylish casing around them. The smartphone seems to have gotten a little thinner, but this is hard to see with the naked eye. On the back, there's a single camera with a flash, with the fingerprint scanner having taken up its old familiar place below it. On the bottom, there's a USB-C connector, a headphone jack, and a stereo speaker.

Camera specifications highlighted

With this new flagship, Samsung has focused completely on the camera. Since I take a lot of photos with my smartphone, I was very eager to test the camera. For example, I went out with the S9 in my hometown, Rotterdam, and took photos of a number of tourist attractions. Other than that, I was curious about the following functions: the variable aperture, the selective focus function, and creating a 3D avatar with AR Emoji.

Camera

Samsung Galaxy S9 camera

The S9's variable aperture now has one more fan. The photos I took at night are very sharp. This is because when it's dark, the camera switches to a larger aperture, catching more light. That way, there was no need to blind anyone with the flash. Do you enjoy taking photos with a depth-of-field effect, like me? With the selective focus function, you can use software to create this effect. Bear in mind that this won't fully blur your photo's background in some cases.

Selfie camera

Samsung Galaxy S9 selfie camera

The selfie camera, thanks to its selective focus functions, allows you to take self-portraits with a depth-of-field effect. The function works well, until you take a selfie with backlight. For example, some strands of my hair got blurred as well, while they should have been in focus. Another of the selfie camera's functions is AR Emoji. How does it work? I took a selfie, after which my head was converted into a 3D animation. Creating the avatar is fun to do, but I prefer using WhatsApp emojis.

More specifications highlighted

When it comes to performance and user-friendliness, too, a number of improvements can be noticed on the Galaxy S9. For example, the fingerprint scanner is back in its 'old' place, which makes me and many other Samsung fans happy. According to Samsung, the speakers have a louder and better sound. Did I experience this as well? You'll read it below.

Fingerprint and iris scanner

S9 fingerprint scanner

By moving the fingerprint scanner to its old place, Samsung has made unlocking the S9 easy once more. On the S8, the scanner was next to the camera, which caused me to regularly put my finger on the camera instead of the scanner. Unlocking can also be done using the Intelligent Scan: a combination of iris and facial recognition. To be honest, I didn't use this much, since my finger is already almost on the scanner whenever I grab the device.

Stereo speakers

S9 stereo speakers

As someone addicted to watching series, the stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos sound got me excited. The sound is louder than on the S8, which allowed me to watch a series while cooking without any problems. The actors in my favorite series easily drowned out the kitchen noises. The combination of the stereo speakers with the 5.8-inch Quad HD infinity screen makes watching movies and series on the S9 a pleasure.

Sample photos

Conclusion

To answer the question: is the Samsung Galaxy S9 just as groundbreaking as the S8? No, it's not. Samsung has put all the good things from the S8 into the S9, though. It's good to see that the focus is on the camera on this smartphone. I'm enthusiastic about the variable aperture, but slightly less so about the selective focus. I definitely recommend the S9 nonetheless, especially if you take a lot of photos with your phone, like I do.


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