Samsung Galaxy S9 review: Can you put a price on perfection?

Samsung does it again with another stunner of a smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S9: Battery and charging

The battery, however, hasn't been upgraded, and remains at 3,000mAh. It's possible Samsung is still playing it safe after the whole Note 7 fiasco, but whatever the reason, it's taken its toll on the S9's longevity. As we suspected, the more powerful internal components, coupled with a static battery capacity, has resulted in a battery life that's around two and a half hours shorter than the S8. In our tests, it lasted 14hrs 23mins before the battery fell flat.

This is a bit of a disappointment, seeing as the S8 was also less long-lived than its predecessor, but it's (just about) enough to get you through a full day. Samsung also includes a robust suite of power management tools with its devices, which will perform tasks like automatically optimising brightness, resolution and background processes to conserve battery if you need to eke out a bit of extra time. Happily, fast-charging is also still featured - both cabled and wireless - so filling back up in a hurry shouldn't be a problem.

Samsung Galaxy S9: Camera

The one aspect which has received a fairly substantial improvement is the camera. The S9 and S9 Plus both feature wider f/1.5 apertures resulting in vastly improved low-light photography. It's also twinned with a smaller f/2.4 aperture, and the phone can flick between the two on the fly, automatically detecting the lighting conditions and picking the best one to suit the situation.

The S9 also features dual-pixel phase-detect autofocus and optical image stabilisation, but the S9 Plus is even more impressive, with a dual-lens setup for the first time on a Galaxy S model. This adds an extra telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom to the S9's existing camera setup, both of which support OIS. All of these tweaks have paid off big-time, and the S9 delivers seriously sharp and impressive photos, even beating out the spectacular Pixel 2 in low-light conditions.

There a few neat tricks the camera can do too, such as recording 960fps super slow-mo footage at 720p (although limited to 6-second videos), and iPhone X-style 'AR Emojis' - although they seem just as pointless as Apple's Animojis. Samsung's digital assistant Bixby has also been improved, and can now perform tasks like live translation and offer automatic identification of food along with nutritional information.

Samsung Galaxy S9: Features

As mentioned above, some of the features Samsung introduced with the S8 have been tweaked and upgraded. Bixby's capabilities have been expanded, and the DeX desktop dock - which allows you to connect your phone to it and use it like a desktop PC - has also been redesigned.

Samsung DeX now supports multiple resolution settings (rather than just scaling the display), and you can now apply IT policies to its use, such as only letting DeX open certain apps. You can also apply company branding, so that your corporate logo is set as the wallpaper whenever it's in desktop mode.

The DeX dock itself has been redesigned, too. Instead of being a little stand that your phone slots into, the DeX is now more like a flat horizontal pad that the S9 sits on top of. This allows you to use the phone's screen as a touchpad, which is a nice idea. The ports have also been moved to the front of the device, making them much more accessible for connecting external keyboards, USB drives and the like.

As for the rest of the features, IP68 waterproofing is still present and correct, as are the facial recognition and iris-scanning unlock methods introduced with previous devices. These in particular have been vastly improved. They can now operate as part of one unified mechanism - dubbed 'Intelligent Scan' - which will combine both facial recognition and iris scanning to unlock the device faster and more reliably.

We found that this considerably sped up the process of using Samsung's biometric authentication to unlock the device compared to the S8, which struggled with our glasses in particular. Thankfully, there are no such issues here. Storage remains set at a base level of 64GB and is expandable to 400GB via microSD card. It's also still got a headphone jack, which will be a relief for some audiophiles.

Samsung Galaxy S9: Verdict

Samsung had a challenge on its hands in improving on the S8. When a phone gets that much spot-on, there's not an awful lot you can do to make it better, and this has proven to be the case with the S9. The biggest improvements are to the camera and the processor, but the processor was plenty fast enough as it was, and while the camera improvements are very impressive, we're not sure they're enough to recommend the S9 over the substantially cheaper S8.

With that having been said, the Galaxy S9 is - so far, at least - unquestionably the best phone of the year, and indeed the best phone ever made. It's the fastest Android phone we've ever seen, the screen is predictably gorgeous and the camera is a knockout.

If you can justify splashing out over 700 on the latest and greatest, then the Samsung Galaxy S9 absolutely will not disappoint. If, however, you're more inclined to go for a bargain, then the S8 isn't too far behind - and you can pick it up for less than 450.

Samsung Galaxy S9 provided courtesy of Vodafone

Verdict

Just like the S8 before it, the Samsung Galaxy S9 is the best phone in the world, with lightning-fast performance, a stupendous camera and a lovely design. Unfortunately, it hasn't done enough to surpass its predecessor, which is still almost as impressive whilst being significantly cheaper.

ProcessorOcta-core 2.8GHz Exynos 9810
RAM4GB
Screen size5.8in
Screen resolution2,960 x 1,440
Screen typeSuper AMOLED
Front camera8-megapixel
Rear camera12-megapixel
FlashLED
GPSYes
CompassYes
Storage (free)64GB
Memory card slot (supplied)64GB
Wi-Fi802.11ac
Bluetooth5.0
NFCYes
Wireless data4G
Dimensions147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm
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