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Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Review: Enter the Snapdragon 845

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Not Just a Better Camera

Samsung’s updated Galaxy phones are available now, and while the external designs - while beautiful - look the same as last year, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ feature faster internals and an improved camera system. Is it worth an upgrade over the Galaxy S8? How does this new flagship from Samsung compare to Apple’s more expensive iPhone X? Read on to find out!

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During the Galaxy S9 at Samsung’s “Unpacked” event unveiling the new phones, much was made about the GS9’s camera - and particularly its video recording capability, which features an ultra slow-motion mode. While camera is a vital part of the experience, and can make or break a handset for many people, it is the application processor that constitutes a bigger upgrade from last year’s Galaxy S8 phones.

In the USA, Samsung is using Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845, while many of the international versions of the phone use Samsung’s own Exynos SoC. We took an early look at performance with the Snapdragon 845 during Qualcomm’s recent media day, and now with shipping hardware and far more time for benchmarking we can really put this new mobile platform to the test. You can take or leave synthetic benchmark results, of course; I can offer my own subjective impressions of overall responsiveness, which is as much a test of software optimization as hardware.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Specifications (US Version)
Display 6.2-inch 1440x2960 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (SDM845)
CPU Cores 8x Kryo 385 up to 2.8 GHz
GPU Cores Adreno 630
RAM 6 GB LPDDR4X
Storage 64 / 128 / 256 GB
Network Snapdragon X20 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0; A2DP, aptX
USB 3.1 (Type-C)
NFC
Battery 3500 mAh Li-Ion
Dimensions 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm, 189 g
OS Android 8.0

Samsung has opted to bring back the same industrial design introduced with last year’s Galaxy S8/S8+, but this was already a class-leading design so that is not a bad thing.

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Continue reading our review of the Samsung Galaxy S9+!

The phone is not exactly the same as last year, however, as the fingerprint sensor is now below the camera on the back, rather than next to the sensor (this is a significant improvement with the smudging of the camera issue now mitigated). But there is a less obvious change, and quite important: a new and thicker glass is being used over the screen for added strength. This adds only slightly to the overall weight of the phone, which went up from 155 grams to 163 grams for the smaller S9, and from 173 to 189 grams with this larger S9+. The thickness of both handsets also increased with the more substantial glass, from 8.0 mm to 8.5 mm with the S9, and from 8.1 mm to 8.5 mm with the S9+.

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The fingerprint sensor has been moved, and is now below the camera sensor

Slightly larger dimensions/weight aside, the displays have the same size and resolution as the previous Galaxy S8/S8+, with 5.8 inches for the S9 and 6.2 inches for the S9+, and a screen resolution of 1440 pixels wide and 2960 pixels in height. Pixel density is therefore stil outstanding, particularly from the smaller S9, which offers 570 ppi compared to 529 ppi with the S9+. Both of these numbers are so high that it is not necessary to even use the handsets at their native resolution to have a “retina” effect, and as a matter of fact Samsung’s defaults for these Galaxy phones are to set them to a smaller, non-native resolution to improve performance and battery life.

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The iPhone X (left) and Galaxy S9+ (right)

In contrast, Apple’s iPhone X has a lower pixel density of 458 ppi, with a typically odd resolution of 1125 x 2436 at “5.8 inches” (though the display is approximately the same size as the Galaxy S9, Apple’s screen has the infamous notch at the top, which does lower the available display size).

As to color accuracy with Samsung’s AMOLED panel found in the Galaxy S9+ we have for review, I defer to DisplayMate, which has published their findings on the Galaxy S9 (with their highest-ever rating for a phone, no less). In person this is just as impressive a display as last year's, and it rates even higher than before for color accuracy.

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Image credit: DisplayMate

Next we will take a look at phone performance for this Snapdragon 845-equipped version using standard benchmarks, beginning with the CPU.


April 18, 2018 | 04:54 PM - Posted by M3sGotMuchWiderCoresLikeTheAppleA7Through11Series (not verified)

Why the Kryo 385 cores when Samsung has the M3 Mongoose-3 cores(1) that are just as powerful as Apple's A series core designs.

Really is Samsung Being limited because of the other radio IP that it has to license from Qualcomm but that Samsung M3 core is much wider than any Arm Holdings cores even the ones that are semi-customizied by Qualcomm.

Why does the US market not get the Really Wide Samsung Cores.

(1)

"Mongoose 3 (M3) - Microarchitectures - Samsung"

https://en.wikichip.org/wiki/samsung/microarchitectures/mongoose_3

April 18, 2018 | 05:12 PM - Posted by WideButLikeAFatChickCompletlyUndesirable (not verified)

because the Exynos variant sucks balls and is overhyped. Check out the Anandtech review where they do a deep dive on both variants. The Exynos variant is almost as bad as last years SOCs

April 18, 2018 | 06:22 PM - Posted by ImTalkingMongooseCoreNotPhoneSKUs (not verified)

Maybe that's more to do with the Apple Bionic's other processor IP compared to the M3 in that Samsung Phone SKU that makes use of the M3 mongoose cores in that Exynos 9810. And Qualcomm has It's DSP IP that's available through its device API for apps to make use of. The GPU IP on the Samsung phone may not be there but the Single core benchmarks on the M3 based Exynos 9810 are not that bad.

I wish that Anandtech would take the Time do a REAL deep dive Apple's later cores(Not Phone SKUs) after the A7/Cyclone and even wikichip lacks more complete Apple A series cores beyond The Apple A7/Cyclone series cores that Anand Lal Shimpi did when he did that last detailed Deep Dive for Anandtech before he left the publication.

Where are the Wikichip entries for all of Apples A series cores i'm not finding the and It's like Apple has gone all double top secret with it's CPU cores specifications.

The M3 based Mongoose M3 cores in the Exynos 9810 are just a little behind the Apple A10 cores in single threaded performance and that's not the fault of the M3's cores as most of those Phone SKU bemchmarks are testing GPU/other IP and I'm only talking about that M3 core wikichip info as it relates to a wide order superscalar design that's has 6 wide instruction decoders just like Apple's designs since the A7 and the M3' execution engine if fatter than Apple A7 designs.

There is not enough information on Apple's later A series CPU core designs as Apple keeps that under tight wraps and Apple did hire Anand Lal Shimpi to keep him quiet concerning any of Apple's later core designs. The Apple A7 cores hardware features where very well sussed out by Anand using the available software testing tools in addition to some tools Anand wrote himself.

That Wikichip on the M3 is a real Deep dive and even Wikichip's Apple series information is lacking and your definition of deep dive differs because any deep dive for the Apple A series cores after the Apple A7 Cyclone cores is still lacking to this day. CPU core Deep dives go into great detail into the decoders, Execution engine, and INT, FP, branch units, load store units, reorder buffer, and other units that make up the CPU's core execution resources and Deep Dives about Phone SKUs are not Deep Dives about a CPU's cores. That M3 Mongoose custom core has a 12 micro-op instruction issue amd that's damn wide.

I'm not interested in any Phone SKU I'm interseted in the CPU core's detailed breakdown and that M3 core looks more like a desktop CPU core no matter the Phone SKU it gets crammed into along with all that other GPU IP, DSP IP and others AI IP that Apple's A11 gets use of. Apple's A11 has a dedicated AI processor also but that's a defferent discussion, I talking about only CPU cores in my posts and not that other IP.

April 18, 2018 | 06:26 PM - Posted by ImTalkingMongooseCoreNotPhoneSKUs (not verified)

Edit: if fatter than
to: is fatter than

April 18, 2018 | 06:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous2n4u4iwb (not verified)

Exynos garbage plus they run hot and thermal throttle unlike snapdragon that can sustain performance for prolong periods.

April 18, 2018 | 08:20 PM - Posted by MoreUsesThanSmartPhoneCrap (not verified)

"Exynos garbage", which version and in what form factor. The M3/mongoose core is not bad and I'd like to see that in some talet form factors and maybe even laptops.

And snapdragon has had its share of thermal issues also. You still appear to thinking about phones whereas I'm more interested in the M3(Mongoose) core in Tablets and Laptops/cromebooks etc.

I really do not care about Phones as I want to see wider custom ARM designs like the M3/Mongoose that can easily be used on laptops. Apple and Qualcomm have other IP on those phones that offload some tasks from the CPU's cores to the DSP/AI/GPU cores so I'll still not Judge the M3 Mongoose cores cramed inside a phone form factor. Apple and Qualcomm mostly have their excess IP(DSPs, AI, other specilized procesors) on their SOCs/modules that is not related to any CPU cores and that's why Apple and Gualcomm can use less power.

You still want to talk about mostly useless smart phones, and I'll talk wider order superscalar Arm Cores like Apple's A series cores(A7 later) and that Samsung M3/mongoose cores in laptops and tablets instead of only phones.

I'm wanting those Samsung M3 mongoose cores to start showing up in Tablets and laptops/chromebooks that have a bit more thermal headroom. Feature Flip-phones are good enough for me but that Samsung M3/mongoose in a tablet/laptop form factor with more thermal headroom is going to be better than that Qualcomm/Windows 10 SOC SKU and those narrow semi-costom ARM cores that are still basically Arm Refrence cores more than they compare to Apple A7-A11 cores or Samsung's M3/mongoose cores.

Exynos(the Exynos 9810) is just one SKU that makes use of the Samsung M3 mongoose cores, the first SOC SKU to do so. There will be other SOCs that make use of the M3/Mongoose cores so I'm not about to judge the M3 in only one tapeout for a phone SKU. Tablets and Laptops are making use of much weaker cores than Samsung's M3/Mongoose and looking at the single core IPC mertics on the M3/Mongoose core in anandtech tells me that it's very close to Apple's A10 and not too far behing the Apple A11. Now all Samsung has to do with the M3/Mongoose is maybe add SMT capabilities and that would be the next step towards a nice ARM based laptop SKU from Samsung if they make use of more GPU cores.

That Exynos 9810 lacks the GPU/AI/DSP functionality that Apple and Qualcomm have so that's not the M3/mongoose core fault and Samsung needs to double down on pairing the M3/Mongoose cores with some better GPU IP and AI/DSP processor IP ato better compete with Apple and Qualcomm.

April 20, 2018 | 04:04 AM - Posted by ChrisGX (not verified)

Anandtech has been doing its best to dispel certain misunderstandings about mobile SoCs. One of the big takeaways from their more recent chip analyses is high peak performance for certain SoCs is not a reliable guide to sustained performance. The SD845, for example, appears to outperform both the Apple A11 and Exynos 9810 when we look beyond peak performance to sustained performance. Mobile chips work with a 'governor' engaged much of the time. That is necessary to stay within thermal limits that must be observed (if users can reasonably expect to hold those devices without discomfort). And, in fact, the 'lower performing' SD845 strikes a better design balance than 'higher performing' A11 and Exynos 9810 parts that delivers higher sustained performance without exceeding thermal limits. The governor on the SD845 has a lighter touch, so to speak, than the the more brutal governors of the A11 and Exynos 9810 chips.

The SD845 also is the better chip in terms of energy efficiency and the balanced design has a lot to do with that. Still, for certain classes of devices, that can tolerate the SoCs running at a level closer to their peak performance capability (without being held back by an invasive governor) the A11 and Exynos 9810 would be better choices. In a direct comparison the A11 seems to have a small peak performance edge over the Exynos 9810. It probably also manages bursts of performance better. That can already be attested by the way the A11 frugally manages battery power in the smartphone context compared to the Exynos chip. It is unclear whether this indicates a definite win of the A11 over the Exynos part in terms of energy efficiency, though. Anandtech haven't explored that question yet, but they have noted that the Exynos chip seems to be weighed down by crummy software controlling the operation of the SoC. So, further optimization might yield better SoC performance or a better performance/energy efficiency balance. Only Anandtech seem to be looking into these matters. Other sites are reporting benchmark numbers that are largely meaningless.

April 18, 2018 | 06:25 PM - Posted by ImTalkingMongooseCoreNotPhoneSKUs (not verified)

Edit: if fatter than
to: is fatter than

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