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Galaxy S9 Plus hands-on: 3 ways it tops the Galaxy S9

The bigger Galaxy has a dual-lens rear camera, giving it an edge on the standard single-lens Galaxy S9.

Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt

Editorial Director / CNET Franchises, How-To, Performance Optimization

Jessica Dolcourt leads CNET Franchises, How-To, and Performance. With over 15 years in journalism, her experience includes mobile phone and software reporting and reviews, and delivering advice on expansive topics ranging from personal finance to travel and home. Jessica got her start at Download.com and holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).

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3 min read

Shop for Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus (64GB, Coral Blue)

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

The new Galaxy S9 (left) and Galaxy S9 Plus (right).

Sarah Tew/CNET

For years, the Plus model in any Galaxy lineup has told a simple story: "The same phone, just bigger." You paid a premium for a larger screen and bigger battery, but otherwise the core features lined up with the smaller, more mainstream and cheaper Galaxy S. 

This year, the Galaxy S9 Plus gives you three reasons to spend more: A second rear camera, more screen space and larger battery capacity. The second camera is especially compelling. Building that extra 12-megapixel telephoto sensor into the camera module means you'll be able to take depth-of-field portrait photos that blur the background so that the subject of your photos stands out. 

The one downside to the extra features is the price hike from the Galaxy S9 to the S9 Plus. The S9 Plus costs between $840 and $930 in the US, depending on your carrier. That's about $120 more than the S9. In the UK it'll cost £869 -- £130 more than the S9. Australian prices start at AU$1,349, which is AU$150 more than the cheapest Galaxy S9.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

The S9 Plus stacks two rear cameras directly above the fingerprint reader.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Galaxy S9 Plus is only the second Samsung phone to get a second camera, falling in line after last August's Galaxy Note 8. Samsung came to the trend more than a year late, so its phones are still making up for lost time in standing behind these kinds of shots. The fact that this dual-camera setup escapes the Galaxy S9 tells us that Samsung sees the photo feature as a high-end differentiator.

In fact, by stratifying its own line this way, with the single-camera S9, larger S9 Plus with dual cameras and the Note series with dual cameras and a digital stylus, Samsung is clearly defining and justifying three price tiers that match up with feature upgrades. The model makes sense, and mirrors Apple's own structure with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X.

While not everyone will care about taking portrait photos, the S9 Plus and its dual-camera setup represent Samsung's continued ambitions to dominate the global Android landscape, with only Apple's iPhone as its fiercest rival for our hearts and minds. 

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

The S9 Plus' camera pulls out all the F-stops.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As long as camera quality remains one of the most important deciding factors for choosing one phone over another, Samsung's Galaxy cameras must compete with the best innovations and implementations for mobile phones.

These mobile camera advancements are often carryovers from DSLR cameras. One example is the dual-aperture lens on both the S9 and S9 Plus that physically, automatically shifts to let in more or less light to take clearer photos.

Watch this: Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus: Our first look

Larger screen, bigger battery

The Galaxy S9 Plus' second camera lens makes it the more advanced of Samsung's two new marquee phones, but the S9 Plus also has the advantage of a larger, 6.2-inch screen, which gives you more space to view media and interact with what's on the screen. A bigger screen makes for a more sizable phone in the hand, of course.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus: Sizzling photos from every angle

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Like last year's models, the S9 Plus also comes with a higher-capacity battery than the S9. It's got 3,500 mAh compared to the S9's 3,000 mAh. If the S9 Plus follows last year's pattern, it should also run longer than the S9 on a single charge. Of course, the bigger screen can drain the battery faster, but last year's Galaxy S8 Plus got hours more battery life than the Galaxy S8 and we expect this year's test results to follow suit.

And the rest of the specs? With the exception of weight and dimensions, they're the same. You'll find the same core hardware and software on both Galaxy S9 phones, including that main 12-megapixel dual aperture camera and 8-megapixel selfie cam, super slow motion video, wireless charging and waterproofing, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 processor and those gorgeous purple and coral blue colors (in addition to black and gray).

As a slightly stepped version of the Galaxy S9, the S9 Plus is ready for its moment in the light.

Watch this: Unboxing Samsung's new Galaxy S9 Plus

Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus specs versus iPhone X and Google Pixel 2 XL

Samsung Galaxy S9Samsung Galaxy S9 PlusApple iPhone XGoogle Pixel 2 XL
Display size, resolution 5.8-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels6.2-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels5.8-inch; 2,436x1,125 pixels6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 570ppi529ppi458ppi538ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.81x2.70x0.33 in6.22x2.91x0.33 in5.7x2.79x0.30 in6.2x3.0x0.3 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 147.7x68.7x8.5 mm158.1x73.8x8.5 mm143.6x70.9x7.7 mm157.9x76.7x7.9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.75 oz; 163g6.66 oz; 189g6.14 oz; 174 g6.17 oz; 175 g
Mobile software Android 8.0 OreoAndroid 8.0 OreoiOS 11Android 8 Oreo
Camera 12-megapixelDual 12-megapixelDual 12-megapixel12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel8-megapixel7-megapixel8-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K4K4K
Processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor (2.8GHz + 1.7GHz), or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz)Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor (2.8GHz + 1.7GHz), or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz)Apple A11 BionicOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35Ghz + 1.9Ghz)
Storage 64GB (US only), 128GB, 256GB64GB (US only), 128GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB
RAM 4GB6GBUnlisted4GB
Expandable storage Up to 400GBUp to 400GBNoneNone
Battery 3,000mAh3,500mAhUnlisted3,520mAh
Fingerprint sensor BackBackNone (Face ID via TrueDepth camera)Back
Connector USB-CUSB-CLightningUSB-C
Headphone jack YesYesNoNo
Special features Dual-aperture camera, water-resistant (IP68); super slo-mo video; wireless charging; iris scanningDual-aperture camera, water-resistant (IP68); super slo-mo video; wireless charging; iris scanningWater resistant (IP67), wireless charging, Face IDGoogle Assistant; unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR-ready
Price off-contract (USD) Varies: $720-$800Varies: $840-$930$999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB)$849 (64GB), $949 (128GB)
Price (GBP) £739£869£999 (64GB), £1,149 (256GB)£799 (64GB), £899 (128GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,199 (64GB); AU$1,349 (256GB)AU$1,349 (64GB); AU$1,499AU$1,579 (64GB), AU$1,829 (256GB)AU$1,399 (64GB), AU$1,549 (128GB)

MWC 2018: All the phones and gadgets announced so far

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Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus: Hands-on with Samsung's iPhone X fighters.

MWC 2018: All of CNET's coverage from the biggest phone show of the year.

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