Samsung Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S9 Plus: Is bigger always better?

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are finally here, showcasing a number of awesome new features, top-tier specs, and what could turn out to be a pretty ground-breaking new camera. The new phones may not look all that different from their predecessors, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, but they clearly still have a lot to offer.

But which one is the one for you? The Galaxy S9 Plus isn’t just a bigger version of the Galaxy S9 — it also offers a few extra features that might be important. Here’s our comparison of the two phones, aimed at helping you figure out which phone is the best choice for your needs.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S9
samsung galaxy s9 vs s8 r3
Samsung Galaxy S9 PlusSamsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Size 147.6 x 68.7 x 8.4 mm (5.81 x 2.70 x 0.33 in) 157.7 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm (6.21 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches)
Weight 163 grams (5.75 ounces) 189 grams (6.67 ounces)
Screen 5.8-inch AMOLED display 6.2-inch AMOLED display
Resolution 2960 x 1440 pixels (568ppi) 2960 x 1440 pixels (531ppi)
OS Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo
Storage 64GB 64GB
MicroSD card slot Yes Yes
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM 4GB 6GB
Connectivity GSM / HSPA / LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac GSM, HSPA, LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Camera 12MP rear, 8MP front Dual 12MP rear, 8MP front
Video 2160p @ 30fps, 1080p @ 60fps, 720p @ 960fps HDR 2160p @ 30fps, 1080p @ 60fps, 720p @ 960fps HDR, dual-video rec.
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Audio Headphone jack, stereo speakers Headphone jack, stereo speakers
Fingerprint sensor Yes, rear-mounted Yes, rear-mounted
Other sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate, SpO2 Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate, SpO2
Water resistance IP68-rated IP68-rated
Battery 3,000mAh

Fast charging (Quick Charge 2.0)

Qi and PMA wireless charging

3,500mAh

Fast charging (Quick Charge 2.0)

Qi and PMA wireless charging

Charging port USB-C USB-C
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Colors Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple
Availability Samsung, Amazon, Best Buy, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint Samsung, Amazon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
Price $720 $840
DT review Hands-on review  Hands-on review

The two phones feature similar specs, to be sure, but the Galaxy S9 Plus clearly has an advantage under the hood.

Let’s start with the similarities between the two devices. For starters, you’ll get the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, which is Qualcomm’s latest and greatest smartphone mobile chip. You’ll also get the same 64GB of storage, and a MicroSD card slot to expand upon that storage if you so choose.

There’s one big difference here, and that’s the fact that the Galaxy S9 Plus features 6GB of RAM, rather than the 4GB of RAM you’ll find in the standard Galaxy S9. That could help make the larger phone a little more powerful, especially for those that multitask a lot.

The phones are similar, and most will find the Galaxy S9 plenty powerful, but, because of its extra RAM, the Galaxy S9 Plus edges out the smaller phone.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Design and display

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

The phones don’t just feature similar specs. They also offer almost identical designs. It’s a very nice design though. The front is largely taken up by the beautifully curved Infinity Display, with features like the Iris Scanner and front-facing camera in a sleek forehead at the top of the phone.

Around the back of the device, you’ll find the fingerprint sensor and camera. That’s one of the biggest differences between the standard Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus — the Plus model features a dual-sensor camera, and you’ll see that in the slightly bigger camera module on the back. On the back, you’ll also find that the fingerprint sensor has been moved a little, which is a good thing. The sensor is now much more accessible, and should be far easier to use. The phones also still feature the Bixby button, which you’ll probably either love or hate.

The display on the phone is also pretty similar, though it’s bigger on the Galaxy S9 Plus. The standard-sized phone features a 5.8-inch AMOLED display, while the larger phone boasts a 6.2-inch AMOLED display. Both devices feature a resolution of 2,960 x 1,440 pixels, and as a result the pixel density on the smaller device is a little higher. Still, it’s a fair trade-off for a slightly bigger screen, and most people won’t be able to tell the difference anyway.

Winner: Tie

Camera

galaxy s9 hands-on review back top
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The camera is perhaps the biggest point of difference between the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus, though both cameras offer some pretty awesome features. The standard Galaxy S9 features a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera, while the Galaxy S9 Plus features a dual rear-facing camera with a 12-megapixel main lens and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens.

Both devices offer one feature that we’ve never seen on a smartphone before: A variable aperture. What that means is that users can switch the aperture between f/1.5 and f/2.4, which should help make for much better low-light shots, and better control for those that like to dive into manual shooting. You’ll actually see the aperture change on the back of the phone as you switch it — it’s a mechanical feature.

The camera also offers some other pretty cool features. For example, it boasts ultra high-speed video recording at a massive 960 frames per second, though it can only record for a fraction of a second.

As mentioned, the Galaxy S9 Plus offers a dual rear-facing camera, which unlocks a few new features — including a portrait mode, live focus, and 2x optical zoom.

Because of those new features, the Galaxy S9 Plus is the winner here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Battery life and charging

Because the Galaxy S9 Plus is a bigger phone, there’s simply more room for the battery. The standard Galaxy S9 features a 3,000mAh battery, while the bigger phone offers a 3,500mAh battery. It does have a larger display to power, but we think that it’ll still boast longer battery life.

The phones offer a few great charging options. The S9 and S9 Plus, like many Samsung phones before them, feature wireless charging through both the Qi and PMA standards. There’s also fast charging through Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0. Because of the larger battery, we’re awarding this one to the Galaxy S9 Plus.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Software

galaxy s9 hands-on review front bottom
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus feature Android 8.0 Oreo, and over the top you’ll find Samsung’s own software. The phones offer all the features you would expect from Android Oreo — including the likes of picture-in-picture mode. Of course, you’ll also get Samsung-specific features such as Bixby.

In general, Bixby hasn’t been very highly reviewed, and it doesn’t seem as though the digital assistant has been upgraded a whole lot for the new phone.

The software on the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus isn’t all that different from what you’ll find in the Galaxy S8. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — many love Samsung’s take on Android, especially in recent years.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are set to be pretty widely available. The phones will be available for pre-order starting on March 2, with March 16 set to be the date that they become widely available online and in-store. Through Samsung, you’ll be able to get the standard device for $720, while the larger Galaxy S9 Plus comes at $840. The phone is also available through all major carriers in the U.S., as well as unlocked through other outlets. You can check out our full buying guide for the Galaxy S9 here.

The phones are available from all the same outlets — so here it’s down to price. Because of the fact that the Galaxy S9 is cheaper, it’s the winner here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

The better, more powerful phone is the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. Not only does it feature a little more RAM, but it also offers a slightly improved camera.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should go for the Galaxy S9 Plus over the standard version. If you don’t really care about the dual-sensor features, don’t multitask a lot, and don’t need a bigger display, then the Galaxy S9 is still an all-around excellent phone, with a ton of great features.

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