Samsung has just recently introduced their newest flagship devices – the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus – to compete in the crowded smartphone market, although Samsung is entrenched at the top with Apple. We are doing a comparison of these new Samsung models to see just how they stack up with the Google Pixel 2 XL, the OnePlus 5T, and the Razer Phone. Because this comparison is to look at the new Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, we want to answer the question: did Samsung do enough with the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus to make it a viable competitor in the crowded smartphone market?
Based on the specifications, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus will be intimidating devices for other manufacturers to compete against in today's market. The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus were some of the most beautiful devices ever released, and while the S9 and S9 Plus look similar to their predecessors, there are subtle changes. Samsung chose to concentrate their efforts on improving the mechanics, rather than doing a design change – why mess with a winner. You will notice those subtle changes looking at the front, where a slight change to the side bezels make it easier to pick up and hold without accidently opening an app. If you flip it over you will notice a new positioning of the camera and fingerprint sensor and if you flip over a Galaxy S9 Plus and you will see a new dual camera affair, much like the Note 8.
A much needed addition is the arrival of AKG stereo speakers that will make a huge difference in sound. Samsung will be shipping a pair of AKG headphones to use in that 3.5mm headphone jack – yes Samsung is keeping this feature. There are improvements to the same size 12-megapixel cameras and the dual cameras on the Galaxy S9 Plus, along with a new camera app that is much easier to use than previous versions. Pricing is on par with the Galaxy S8 models – $720 for the S9 and $840 for the S9 Plus.
Please take a thoughtful look at the detailed specifications comparison chart below and here you will see just how these five devices stack up against one another. After that, we will look at the devices in greater depth and point out some of its pros and cons.
The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus look much like their predecessors since Samsung did a more radical makeover when it introduced the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. The physical size of the new Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are not much different from their predecessors. All five of these devices are similar in size because their displays are similar in size, as well as the fact that the Pixel 2 XL and the OnePlus 5T also use the 18:9 aspect ratio – the Razer Phone still uses the older 16:9 ratio. Screen size only varies from 5.72-inches on the Razer Phone to 6.2-inches on the Galaxy S9 Plus.
Four of these devices use the Gorilla Glass 5 on the front except the Razer Phone, which uses the older Gorilla Glass 3. The S9 and S9 Plus looks sophisticated, sleek, and modern, where was the Pixel 2 XL and the Razer Phone looks more utilitarian in design with the OnePlus 5T falling somewhat in the middle. The S9 and S9 Plus have the smallest bezels, followed by the OnePlus 5T, the Pixel 2 XL, and the Razer Phone has the largest bezels. The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus use Gorilla Glass 5 for the back of their phones, the Pixel 2 XL uses a combination of polished glass at the top and metal for the bottom three-quarters of the device. The OnePlus 5T and Razer Phone use a metal backing.
Samsung moved the improved camera to the center of the device, along with the flash to its right. The placement of the fingerprint sensor was moved below the camera lens – hopefully, this will prevent smudges from getting on the camera lens, but it would be nicer to see them lower the sensor even more. The Galaxy 9 Plus now has two 12-megapixel cameras for increased photo opportunities. The Pixel 2 XL uses one camera, but uses it to perfection for some beautiful photos. The OnePlus 5T uses a dual camera design with good results, and the Razer Phone uses dual 12-megapixels producing okay photos.
Samsung upped the sound quality by including AKG stereo speakers and kept the 3.5mm headphone jack. The Pixel 2 XL uses a stereo speaker setup, but has no headphone jack. The OnePlus 5T has a single speaker but provides a headphone jack. The Razer Phone provides stereo speakers but no headphone jack. All devices offer expandable storage except the Pixel 2 XL and the OnePlus 5T.
The displays on these five devices vary slightly in size and technical advances. The new Galaxy S9 measures in at 5.8-inches, while the larger S9 Plus comes in at 6.2-inches. Both use Samsung's Super AMOLED display with a pixel resolution at 2960 X 1440 set in an 18.5:9 aspect ratio. Both devices are protected by Gorilla Glass 5, are HDR10 (High Definition Range) Compliant, and use the Always-On technology for notifications.
The Google Pixel 2 XL sports a 6.0-inch P-OLED display with a pixel resolution of 2880 x 1440. The Pixel 2 XL also uses an 18:9 ratio and retains Gorilla Glass 5 for protection. The Always-On technology is also found on the Pixel 2 XL. The OnePlus 5T also sports an AMOLED display – it is 6.01-inches with a pixel ratio of 2160 x 1080 and an 18:9 aspect ratio. The OnePlus 5T uses 2.5D Gorilla Glass 5 for protection and the look of slightly curving edges. The Razer Phone departs from the other flagships by choosing to use a 5.72-inch IGZO LCD display. It does keep the resolution at 2560 x 1440 pixels, but has the older 16:9 display ratio, as well as the older Gorilla Glass 3 for protection.
The displays that use the 18.5:9 or 18:9 aspect ratio gives the user a slightly narrower display, but the trade-off is a better viewing experience when watching videos, movies, or gaming. It also allows the display to form two perfect squares for multi-window tasking. The Always-On displays float a dimmed image on the display (moving it around so there is no burn-in) of the time, date, battery percentage left, and images of notifications. This saves battery life and is a convenient way to let the user know important information. Based on the notifications, the user can then wake-up the phone and check for more details.
The US models of the new Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus use the latest SD845 octa-core processor clocked at 2.9GHz and the newest Adreno 630 for outstanding graphics. As far as memory goes, after the Galaxy Note 8 offered 6GB of RAM as standard, many users thought that Samsung's new standard going forward would be to use 6GB. However, Samsung is only giving the S9 Plus 6GB of RAM, while the S9 will get the usual 4GB of RAM, the same as the Galaxy S8 series. Samsung will offer a 128GB and a 256GB model of both devices, but securing one may be up to your carrier. The Pixel 2 XL, the OnePlus 5T, and the Razer Phone all use the Snapdragon 835 octa-core processor clocked at 2.35GHz and an Adreno 540 for graphics. All five models use 64GB of internal storage as the base, but via a microSD card slot, the Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, and the Razer Phone offer expansion.
Samsung made some real adjustments to the cameras on the Galaxy S9 and especially to the Galaxy S9 Plus. The camera was moved to the center of the back, the Dual-Tone flash to the right, and the fingerprint sensor is now placed below the camera in an effort to eradicate finger smudges on the lens. Both the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus use a 12-megapixel lens with a new Dual-Pixel technology and Auto-HDR, with the real change in the Galaxy S9 Plus adding a second f/2.4 wide-angle camera lens, much like the one on the Note 8. Samsung included a faster Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF), and a Dual Aperture feature for the main camera that will use an f/1.5 for low-light pictures or an f/2.4 for brighter light situations. The new S9 and S9 Plus also have a Dual-Tone LED Flash for balancing the color temperatures and providing a brighter flash.The S9 Plus also packs 2x Optical Zoom. The front-facing camera (FFC) uses an 8-megapixel lens with a large aperture of f/1.6 for low-light shots, Auto-HDR for more detailed shots, and Autofocus for sharper shots. Samsung's FFCs have more specifications than most – offering great selfies or video chatting.
The main camera on the Pixel 2 XL is also a 12-megapixel affair with a large, f/1.8 aperture, OIS and EIS for stabilization, with both Laser and PDAF, HDR+, and a Dual-Tone Flash. It also has an 8-megapixel FFC with an f/2.4 aperture and Fixed Focus. The OnePlus 5T uses dual cameras – one is a 16-megapixel with EIS and the other a 20-megapixel – both have an aperture of f/1.7, Dual-LED Flash, PDAF, a Pro Mode, and Digital Zoom only. It has a large 16-megapixel FFC with and aperture of f/2.0, EIS, and Auto-HDR. The Razer Phone uses dual 12-megapixel camera with the primary camera using an f/1.8 aperture and the secondary camera set at f/2.6. They use PDAF. A Dual-Tone Flash, and 2x Optical Zoom. For the FFC it sports an 8-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.0.
The batteries for this group run the gamut from 3,000mAh on the Galaxy S9 all the way up to a huge 4,000mAh found on the Razer Phone. In between, we have a 3,300mAh on the OnePlus 5T, a 3,500mAh on the Galaxy S9 Plus, and a 3,520mAh on the Pixel 2 XL. All batteries are non-removable and offer some type of quick charging capability – the two Galaxy S9's use Samsung's Adaptive Fast Charging, the Pixel 2 XL has their own Fast Charge, the OnePlus uses their own Dash Charge, and the Razer Phone uses Quick Charge 4+. Only the two Galaxy S9's offer Fast Wireless Charging for both Qi and PMA formats.
These five devices are the current flagships of these manufacturers – the Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, and the Pixel 2 XL are more expensive, but their devices are top-notch. The Razer Phone is expensive based on its total package. The OnePlus 5T offers a great value for its design and features.
All if these devices offer some sort of quick charging capability, but only the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus offer quick wireless charging that supports both Qi and PMA formats. All models include NFC and Android Pay, but only the S9 and S9 Plus also offer Samsung Pay, which will allow their uses more convenience. Only the S9 and S9 Plus allows connection to Samsung's improved DeX pad that can help to transform your smartphone to a laptop. IP68 certification comes with the S9 and S9 Plus, while the Pixel 2 XL offers users IP67 certification – there is no water protection in the OnePlus 5T and Razer Phone. The S9 and S9 Plus also provide a heart rate monitor, SpO2 sensor, and Bixby personal assistant. The Pixel 2XL is heavily tied into Google Assistant and has a nifty Active Edge feature that allows you to squeeze the outside edges to perform a few tasks.
The S9 and S9 Plus have Hi-Res audio – 32 bit/384kHz – and the Razer Phone offers 24 bit/192kHz capability. The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus also add AKG stereo speakers to the mix to give a much better listening experience, as well as a set of AKG headphones. The Pixel 2 XL does not have Hi-Res audio, but does offer up a decent set of stereo speakers. The OnePlus 5T does offer Dirac HD sound, but only has one speaker. The Razer Phone does have Hi-Res audio, as stated above, and it offers stereo speakers.
The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus have an Iris Scanner and Facial Recognition, but they take it a step further by introducing 'Intelligent Scan,' which is a new biometric authentication feature that is Samsung's answer to Apple's Face ID. Intelligent Scan allows the device to use both the iris scanner and facial recognition at the same time to offer even better security, and it will work well in low light or bright. The OnePlus 5T offers Face Detection, but the Pixel 2 XL nor Razer offer any form of biometric security other than a fingerprint sensor.
The new Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus will arrive with the newest SD845 processor and Android's newest 8.0 Oreo operating system with the newest version of the Samsung Experience 9.0 (UI). An exciting new addition will be the AR Emoji feature where you can take a picture of somebody and turn them into an emoji – adding different bodies and much more. The Pixel 2 XL, the OnePlus 5T, and the Razer Phone all use 2017's Snapdragon 835 – terrific processor, but not up to the capabilities and features found on the SD845. The Galaxy S9 Plus, OnePlus 5T, and the Razer Phone offer more RAM than the S9 or Pixel 2 XL – this make for a better multitasking experience as well as running many apps at once.
This is a great group of smartphones with the Galaxy S9 Plus coming in at the top as far as design and options go, followed closely by the Galaxy S9, the Pixel 2 XL, the OnePlus 5T, and the Razer Phone.
The Final Word
There is no doubt that the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are certainly the most exciting of these five smartphones. They retained the great looks of their predecessors, while making important improvements – Intelligent Scan, better camera and software, better placement of camera and fingerprint sensor, AR Emoji, and AKG stereo speakers. They did all of this while keeping in the same price range as last years' model.
If you must have a pure Android experience, the Pixel 2 XL is your only choice, but for what it costs, you are not getting all that the S9 and S9 Plus offer. The OnePlus is a great value for the dollar and offers a near pure Android experience, as well as offering a quality build. The Razer Phone has possibilities, but it is not in the same league as the other devices, but is a fine first effort.