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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Samsung Galaxy S9 first take: improved cameras lift minor update

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 range is a minor but not insignificant upgrade to the South Korean firm’s flagship smartphone range, with improved imaging and video capabilities the devices’ main draw.

The camera upgrade on the new 5.8-inch S9 and 6.2-inch S9 plus is essentially two-fold; first, even better low-light imaging is promised, and second – perhaps more eye-catching – there’s the addition of super-slow motion video capture.

Samsung cameras’ low-light performance has been excellent for a number of years now. As widely predicted, the S9 range comes with a dual-aperture rear camera system, with an f1.5 setting that allows extra light in for (theoretically) improved pictures in low-light conditions. Tests in a darkened room within the demo area showed very impressive results, however it remains to be seen how much of a difference the new-dual aperture system will make in real-world conditions.

The super-slow motion video capture – first seen on the Sony Xperia XZ Pro at last year’s MWC - allows recording at 960 frames per second, enabling artistic renderings of exploding water drops, glass cracking and all other manner of activities. The feature was a little fiddly in the short time I had to play with it, but produced some fun results, and is something I’m looking forward to getting creative with.

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Other updates are nice to have but not game-changing. The superb design and display of the S8 and S8+ are (thankfully) largely untouched, with smaller bezels but not many other changes to the design. The fingerprint reader now sits below the camera lens as opposed to alongside it, as was the case with the S8s.

There are also some new stereo speakers from AKG, equipped with Dolby Atmos sound, that we look forward to testing out with some bass-heavy tracks.

Also new is an AR Emoji feature that will scan your face and create a 3D personalised emoji, which can be used across messaging platforms in sticker, video and gif format. It’s a neat feature and one that’s quite fun, although whether you’ll use it beyond a few days is uncertain.

There’s also an upgrade to Bixby, Samsung’s AI platform, which can now use augmented reality to tell you more about nearby landmarks, track the calories in the food you’re eating, or translate any text you point your camera at. Once again, such innovations need a little real-world testing to see how effective and useful they really are.

At first glance, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ appear to be fine upgrades from Samsung, thanks to their improved cameras in particular. As always, at this stage in the cycle, they’re probably not worth upgrading to if you’ve got an S8, but those whose Android phones are in need of replacing are unlikely to be disappointed.