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The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a great phone, but one that didn't really kick on from the Galaxy S8, bringing a very similar design and screen to 2017's version. The improved bio-metrics were sorely needed, and the camera is a leap forward, but the amazing low light capabilities have resulted in sacrifices elsewhere. A top, top phone, but the S9 Plus outshines it.

DEAL ALERT: Now it's been knocked off the flagship by its successor, the S10, you can now pick up the S9 at the sorts of prices we haven't seen since Black Friday. If you head to Carphone Warehouse, you'll find a number of awesome deals: with Vodafone, for example, you can get the phone with 15GB of data for a monthly cost of just £30 and an upfront cost of the same amount. Of course, you should read our review below before you make up your mind. 

It’s a sad fact, but the only chance the Samsung Galaxy S9 had to stand out in an ocean of equally competent Android smartphones in 2018 was if its camera was the very, very best – better than all the rest. And, to a certain extent, Samsung has pulled that off with the Galaxy S9...

Samsung Galaxy S9 review: That camera

This year, more than ever, the Samsung Galaxy S9 is all about the camera and for that reason, I’m going to break with tradition in this review and start with that, rather than discussing the merits of the new Lilac Purple colour and its re positioned fingerprint reader.

And, on paper, it’s a winner. The Samsung Galaxy S9 gets a 12-megapixel rear camera with an aperture of f/1.5 – the brightest ever on a smartphone – which is a huge 28% brighter than the primary camera on last year’s S8. Woosh.

At the launch, Samsung demonstrated this by pointing the phone at a box full of flowers lit at a lower light intensity than 1 lux (0.87 to be precise) and comparing the results with those achieved by a Google Pixel 2 XL. Unsurprisingly, given that this was set up to make the S9 look good, the results were impressive, with the flowers looking very dark in the Pixel image but clearly distinguishable on the S9. The noise levels and colour retention were good, too.

But how well does it work in the real world? In some ways, brilliantly. When I got my hands on one for this review, it continued to perform superbly in all conditions and particularly in low light, capturing colours with uncanny vibrancy and managing to keep noise at bay. Meanwhile, in good light, the camera captured sharp details across the board with automatic exposures, in general, judged to perfection.

But this doesn’t appear to be due to the larger f/1.5 aperture. 

In fact, in some circumstances I found that in Auto mode using the f/1.5 setting the camera would actually trigger the use of a higher ISO level than the same scene captured in Pro mode with f/2.4 selected. I’d have thought the whole idea of using a larger aperture with more light-gathering capacity would be to reduce ISO levels and thus produce cleaner, less noisy images. It seems that’s not always the case here.

Should you buy one? The Galaxy S9 and S9+ are over a year old, but they're still solid buys if you like what Samsung offers and don't have the cash for a new Galaxy S10. Go for it.