Phone Comparisons: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs Galaxy S9+ vs LG G7 ThinQ vs OnePlus 6 vs HTC U12+

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By Cory McNutt August 09, 2018, 4:34pm
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Introduction

Samsung has now announced its newest flagship device, the Galaxy Note 9, to compete in the crowded smartphone market. In the Android world, Samsung is positioned at the top thanks to the continued popularity and sales of the company's Galaxy ‘S’ and Note models. We are doing a comparison here on how four other models compare to Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note 9. The other models are the Galaxy S9 Plus, the LG G7 ThinQ, the OnePlus 6, and the HTC U12 Plus. Although a lot of the comparison will focus on the similarities and the differences between the new Galaxy Note 9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus. As well as taking a look at whether Samsung has done enough to make the Galaxy Note 9 a viable competitor in the crowded smartphone market.

The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus were some of the most beautiful devices ever released, so the Galaxy S9 Plus was very similar and the Galaxy Note 9 is also similar – not only to the previous Galaxy Note 8, but also the Galaxy S9 Plus. Samsung chose to concentrate its efforts on improving the mechanics, rather than 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 accidentally opening an app. If you flip it over you will notice a new positioning of the camera and fingerprint sensor, as well as new dual camera setup on the Galaxy Note 9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus.

Samsung has long neglected the speaker(s) on its smartphones, but all that changed when the company added AKG stereo speakers on the Galaxy S9 Plus, and now on the Galaxy Note 9. Samsung will be shipping a pair of AKG headphones to use with the 3.5 mm headphone jack – yes Samsung is keeping this feature. The dual 12-megapixel cameras, with an aperture that automatically adjusts to dim or bright light, is on both the Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. Samsung has also included a new camera app that is much easier to use than previous versions.

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 their pros and cons.

Specifications

Design

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are very similar in design and this design goes back to their predecessors. Samsung decided not to mess with a good thing, although it's nice to see some sort of change. The physical size of these two devices is very similar, as is their Infinity display sizes. The left and right edge design has been improved to make it easier to pick up and hold without accidentally opening an app. The backs all have a centered camera area with the LED flash off to the right and the fingerprint sensor below the camera to prevent finger smudges. All five of these devices are similar in size because their displays are similar in size, as well as the fact that they all use an 18:9 or similar aspect ratio.

Four of these devices use Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back with the exception being the HTC U12 Plus - which uses the older Gorilla Glass 3. All five smartphones have a sophisticated, sleek, and modern look to them. There was a time when Samsung’s Infinity display has the smallest bezels, however, these newer devices are all very close to Samsung, especially if you hide the display notch found on the LG G7 ThinQ and the OnePlus 6. One of the main reason for using a glass back is to facilitate an IP68 certification for protection against dust and water – all but the OnePlus 6 include this certification. Another good reason for the glass back is to include wireless charging. The Galaxy Note 9 and S9 Plus offer quick wireless charging for both the PMA and Qi formats. The LG G7 ThinQ offers standard wireless charging for the PMA format, while the OnePlus 6 and HTC U12 Plus do not include any wireless charging capabilities.

All five devices include the Snapdragon 845 processor along with an Adreno 630 GPU. All of the devices come with a base of 6GB of RAM except the LG G7 ThinQ which has 4GB -  although a 6GB option is available in some places. Storage starts at 128GB for the Note 9 and 64GB for all of the other devices with all the others also offering expandable storage - except the OnePlus 6.

The trend towards multiple cameras is quite evident here with all five of these flagships equipped with a dual camera setup. Each manufacturer uses different size sensors, camera placement, optical zoom, features, and camera software. The HTC U12 Plus even has dual FFCs. Speaking of the FFC, all models use an 8-megapixel sensor except for the OnePlus 6 which uses a 16-megapixel sensor.

Samsung upped the sound quality on its latest offerings by including Hi-Res audio, AKG stereo speakers, and even throws in a pair of AKG stereo headphones. This is all in addition to keeping the 3.5 mm headphone jack. The LG G7 ThinQ uses a less orthodox stereo speaker setup (Boombox) that uses the body of the phone to resonate the sound along with a headphone jack. The OnePlus 6 has a single speaker but provides a headphone jack. The HTC U12 Plus provides stereo speakers along with the company's famous BoomSound, but has no headphone jack.

Display

The displays on these five devices vary slightly in size and technology, but all use an 18:9 or similar aspect ratio. The new Galaxy Note 9 measures in at 6.4-inches, while the Galaxy 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 LG G7 ThinQ sports a 6.1-inch IPS LCD display with a QHD+ pixel resolution of 3120 x 1140 and an 19.5:9 ratio as well as Gorilla Glass 5 for protection. The Always-On technology is also found on the LG G7 ThinQ, as is the infamous ‘notch’. The OnePlus 6 sports a notched AMOLED display coming in at 6.28-inches with an FHD+ pixel ratio of 2280 x 1080, and an 19:9 aspect ratio. The OnePlus 6 uses Gorilla Glass 5 for protection as well. The HTC U12 Plus uses a 6.1-inch LCD6 display, a 2880 x 1440 resolution, and an 18:9 display ratio, as well as the older Gorilla Glass 3 for protection.

The displays that use the 18:9, 18.5:9, 19.9, or 19.5:9 aspect ratio gives the user a slightly narrower and taller 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 including the time, date, and notifications, at a minimum. This not only saves battery life, but is a convenient way to let the user know an important summary of notifications. Based on those notification summaries, the user can then wake the phone and check for more details.

Processor/RAM/Storage

All five of these super phones use the Snapdragon 845 and the Adreno 630 GPU.  The US models of the new Galaxy Note 9 and S9 Plus use the latest Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor clocked at 2.8 GHz. In the storage department, the Galaxy Note 9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus pack 6GB of RAM as standard, along with 64GB of expandable base storage in the Galaxy S9 Plus and 128GB of storage in the Note 9. Samsung is also offering a Note 9 model with 512GB storage and 8GB of RAM. EMEA countries will get Samsung’s Exynos 9810 processor and the Mali-G72 MP18.

The LG G7 ThinQ, the OnePlus 6, and the HTC U12 Plus all use the Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor clocked at 2.8 GHz and an Adreno 630 for graphics. The LG G7 ThinQ has 4GB of RAM with 64GB of expandable storage or 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage. The OnePlus 6 comes with a base of 6GB of RAM and 64GB of non-expandable storage or 8GB of RAM with 128GB or 256GB of non-expandable storage. The HTC U12 Plus comes packing 6GB of RAM with either 64GB or 128GB of expandable storage. Only the OnePlus 6 comes with non-expandable storage.

Camera Area

Critics had to wait until the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 to get their dual camera package. The Galaxy S9 Plus continued that tradition and the Galaxy Note 9 keeps an improved dual camera setup. Improvements are made each year – for instance, the cameras were moved to the center of the device with the fingerprint sensor moved below the camera lens to cut down on smudges. Now that the cameras are moved to the center of the back, the dual-LED flash is to the right. Both the Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy S9 Plus use a dual 12-megapixel lens setup with a new Dual-Pixel technology and Auto-HDR, but the real change is their ability to use a dual-aperture. The first aperture is a large f/1.5 for low-light photos and a second f/2.4 wide-angle camera lens for bright light situations. Samsung included a faster Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) and a 2x Optical Zoom. The front-facing camera (FFC) uses an 8-megapixel lens with a large aperture of f/1.7 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 cameras on the LG G7 ThinQ use a dual 16-megapixel affair with one sporting an f/1.6 aperture and the other an f/1.9. They use OIS for stabilization, with both Laser and PDAF, HDR+, and a LED Flash. It also has an 8-megapixel FFC with an f/1.9 aperture and Fixed Focus. The OnePlus 6 uses dual cameras – one is a 16-megapixel with OIS and the other a 20-megapixel – both have an aperture of f/1.7, Dual-LED Flash, Laser and PDAF, and Digital Zoom only. It has a large 16-megapixel FFC with and aperture of f/2.0, EIS, and Auto-HDR. The HTC U12 Plus uses dual cameras as well, with a 12-megapixel camera and a 16-megapixel camera. The primary camera uses an f/1.8 aperture and the secondary camera set at f/2.6. They use Laser and PDAF, Dual-Tone LED Flash, and 2x Optical telephoto Zoom on the secondary camera. The FFC sports a dual 8-megapixel setup with an aperture of f/2.0 providing wide-angle capabilities.

Battery

The batteries for this group of flagship phones all stay within 1,000 mAh of each other. We have 3,000 mAh on the LG G7 ThinQ, 3,300 mAh on the OnePlus 6, and 3,500 mAh on both the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and the HTC U12 Plus. While the Galaxy Note 9 features a 4,000 mAh capacity battery. All batteries are non-removable and offer some type of quick charging capability – the two Samsung’s use Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging (Quick Charge 2.0), the LG G7 ThinQ is the smallest at 3,000 mAh, the OnePlus 6 uses their own Dash Charge, and the HTC U12 Plus uses Quick Charge 3. The Galaxy Note 9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus offer Fast Wireless Charging for both Qi and PMA formats, while the LG G7 ThinQ has standard wireless charging for the PMA format, and the OnePlus 6 and HTC U12 Plus do not offer wireless charging even though they have glass backs.

Of course, how long your battery lasts is more complicated than just the mAh, with display size, resolution and technology, display brightness, how many apps are running in the background, how many times you turn on your phone, the processor, and of course, how much you use the phone, all playing their part.

Features/Observations

These five devices are the current flagships from these manufacturers – the Galaxy Note 9 is more than a smartphone with its new Bluetooth S Pen and its note-taking and drawing capabilities. The Galaxy S9 Plus is a lot like a Galaxy Note 9 minus the S-Pen. The LG G7 ThinQ and HTC U12 Plus are feature-filled devices, while the OnePlus 6 may have a few less features it offers great value in the crowded field of smartphones.

All of these devices offer some sort of quick charging capability, but only the Galaxy Note 9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus offer quick wireless charging that supports both Qi and PMA formats. All models include NFC and Google Pay, but only the Note 9 and S9 Plus also offer Samsung Pay - allowing for greater convenience. Only the Note 9 and S9 Plus allows connection to Samsung’s improved DeX control that can help to transform your smartphone to a laptop. IP68 certification is available on all models, other than the OnePlus 6. The Galaxy Note 9 and S9 Plus also provide a heart rate monitor, SpO2 sensor, blood pressure monitor and Bixby personal assistant. The LG G7 ThinQ and HTC U12 Plus rely on Google Assistant and the HTC U12 Plus has an improved Edge Sense 2 feature that allows you to squeeze the outside edges to perform certain tasks.

The Galaxy Note 9, the S9 Plus, and HTC U12 Plus have Hi-Res audio – 32 bit/384 kHz – and the LG G7 ThinQ offers quad-DAC capability. The Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy S9 Plus also add AKG stereo speakers to the mix to give a much better listening experience, as well as a set of AKG earbuds. The OnePlus 6 does offer Dirac HD sound, but only has one speaker. The Galaxy Note 9, the Galaxy S9 Plus, and the HTC U12 Plus have stereo speakers while the LG G7 ThinQ uses a single speaker and the body of the phone as a resonance chamber.

The Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy 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 allows a faster and better security. The LG G7 ThinQ provides both facial and voice recognition. The OnePlus 6 offers Face Detection and the HTC U12 Plus also has facial recognition.

All five smartphones use the latest Snapdragon 845 processor, Adreno 630 GPU, and Android’s newest 8.0 (Oreo) operating system. The Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy S9 Plus use the newest version of the Samsung Experience 9.5 (UI). A new addition on the Galaxy S9 Plus was the AR Emoji feature where you can take a picture of somebody and turn them into an emoji. This feature (an improved version) was added to the new Galaxy Note 9. The LG G7 ThinQ uses LG’s latest interface, the LG UX, the OnePlus 6 uses Oxygen OS 5.1, and the HTC U12 Plus uses Sense UI. All models, except the LG G7 ThinQ, provide a base of 6GB of RAM, with the LG G7 resigned to a 4GB RAM base with a 6GB option. More RAM allows for smooth operation and a great multitasking experience.

This is a great group of smartphones with the Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy S9 Plus coming in at the top as far as design and features go, followed closely by the LG G7 ThinQ and HTC U12 Plus, with the OnePlus 6 just slightly below the pack – but then it is much cheaper.

The Final Word

There is no doubt that the Galaxy Note 9 has the most features, but if you do not need an S Pen, then the Galaxy S9 Plus would certainly suffice. They retained the great looks of their predecessors, while making several 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.

The LG G7 ThinQ and the HTC U12 Plus would come in a close second, but the OnePlus 6 is a terrific smartphone and at great value. It may not have a QHD+ resolution, the largest battery or wireless charging, and only a single speaker, but it is a great-looking device and is well-built.

The HTC U12 Plus may be the more different to its predecessor than any of the other devices. The Galaxy Note 9 is an awesome device, but other than the terrific Bluetooth S Pen, what does it have to offer over the Galaxy S9 Plus? The LG G7 ThinQ's most exciting upgrade is using ThinQ. The OnePlus 6 has the latest processor upgrade, but what else makes it that much better compared to the OnePlus 5T?

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August 09, 2018, 4:34pm
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