When the Galaxy S8 was released last year, it unknowingly set a trend for smartphone design that saw most manufacturers follow in 2017. Samsung pushed the boundaries of what we were used to seeing with smartphone bezels are almost eliminated them on the top and bottom of the device and filling it with screen real-estate.
Fast-forward a year and at Mobile World Congress 2018, the Samsung Galaxy S9 was unveiled with what appeared to be an evolution release as opposed to revolutionary. With that being said, the Galaxy S9 is still an upgrade so we take a look at the differences over the previous model and if it is worth an upgrade.
While the Galaxy S8 and S9 look very similar, the design of the two devices is actually different. Both devices feature a metal frame and curved glass on the front and back, have IP68 certification for dust and waterproofing, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. However, Samsung clearly listened to consumers with the Galaxy S9 and moved the fingerprint sensor to underneath the camera on the rear of the device, making it more centralized. This was one of the biggest criticisms of the S8, especially with the S8+, that saw the fingerprint sensor an uncomfortable stretch positioned at the top of the device alongside the camera. The Galaxy S9 actually has slightly smaller bezels above and below the screen, leading to a reduced height of 147.7mm compared to 148.9mm on the Galaxy S8.
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Both devices have a 5.8-inch curved QHD+ Super AMOLED display with an aspect ratio of 18.5:9. Samsung has taken advantage of the smaller bezels on the Galaxy S9, which allow a Samsung-optimized screen to be viewed entirely in landscape.
The display on the S8 was one of the best available so it is understandable why Samsung chose to stick with the same display.
Under the hood
The specs powering the S9 is where the devices differ the most; in most of the world, you’ll find an octa-core Exynos 9810 with four cores running at 2.7GHz and four at 1.7GHz, while in the U.S the device has an octa-core Snapdragon 845 chipset which can run at up to 2.8GHz. The Samsung Galaxy S8 meanwhile uses an octa-core Exynos 8895 chipset with four cores running at 2.3GHz and four running at 1.7GHz. In the US it uses the octa-core Snapdragon 835, which has four cores running at 2.35GHz and four at 1.9GHz. Both devices feature 4GB of RAM but the Galaxy S9 supports Gigabit LTE.
The battery has remained the same between devices, with the same 3000mAh capacity, fast-charging, and USB-C support.
If you like the latest software then the Galaxy S9 won’t disappoint. It comes with Android Oreo preloaded, but with Android 8.0 rolling out for the Galaxy S8 there’s not a whole load of difference to be found in software.
Samsung made it clear from the outset that the focus on the Galaxy S9 was going to be on the camera. It has a single 12-Megapixel camera on the back but features a variable aperture. This allows the camera to switch between f/2.4, which is ideal for daylight scenes, and f/1.5, which yields better results in low-light situations. Samsung reports it apparently delivers 30% less noise than the 12MP camera on the Galaxy S8, which has a fixed aperture of f/1.7. If camera performance is something that is important to you, then the Galaxy S9 is a no-brainer.
Not only does the still shots see an improvement, Samsung also built in the ability to capture video at up to 960fps, which is four times slower than the S8. The slow-mo won’t record sound at 960fps but can be accompanied by your favorite soundtrack to make for some pretty awesome slow-mo videos.
Visually, there’s not much that sets apart the S8 from the S9, but it’s the subtle changes that make the difference. The movement of the fingerprint sensor, while not extremely significant, makes it a lot more comfortable unlocking the device. The slight reduction of the bezels also allows for the S9 to be used in an optimized landscape orientation, which according to Samsung is the most popular way to use the device. One of the biggest reasons to upgrade is the Galaxy S9 camera that sees the first variable aperture in a smartphone and will result in significantly better results over the S8, especially in low-light.
While there are compelling reasons to upgrade, the Galaxy S8 is still a very capable handset with an extremely good camera. With the cost of the Galaxy S9 increasing over the S8, you may find it not financially sensible to spring for the Galaxy S9 if you already own the S8. However, if you’re coming from the S7, or another device that is a few years old, then the S9 is a no-brainer.
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January 16 2019