Samsung Galaxy S9+
The Galaxy S9+ isn’t much different from its predecessor, but seeing as that was Samsung’s best-ever-selling phone, that’s not a bad thing. This phone is all about giving you the most features in the most beautiful package. You get top-end specs across the board, plus all of the hardware features you expect: waterproofing, wireless charging, an SD card slot, a headphone jack and more.
The camera is all-new this year, with a sensor that does fantastic processing to remove noise and sharpen fine detail. It’s aided by a dual-aperture lens to get the best combination of light and detail in different shots, and is paired with a secondary telephoto lens for zoom and portrait mode shooting.
Interestingly the Galaxy S9+ has completely supplanted the Galaxy Note 8 just a handful of months later — except for the stylus, of course.
Bottom line: The Galaxy S9+ doesn’t require much thought — it can do everything, and look great doing it, with few real downsides.
One more thing: If you don’t need the extra size or battery, the Galaxy S9 is available — and it’s less expensive.
Best small phone
Samsung Galaxy S9
The Galaxy S9 takes the Galaxy S9+’s proven formula and shrinks it down a bit, making it easier to use in one hand and fit in your pocket with a 5.8-inch display. In terms of quality of experience, things are identical to the larger phone — it has the same core software, features, hardware, and capabilities.
Of course, there are a few fringe differences. The Galaxy S9 doesn’t have a secondary rear camera, meaning it can’t take Live Focus (portrait mode) photos or use the 2X telephoto zoom. It also has a smaller battery, coming in at just 3000mAh, which is perhaps the biggest downside on this smaller body. The GS9 has 4GB of RAM rather than 6GB, which doesn’t make a huge difference now but could matter in a year or so when apps are more demanding.
But if you’re not a power user and don’t want to spend the extra money, the Galaxy S9 will get everything you need done and do it in style.
Bottom line: All of the core Samsung Galaxy experience can be had for about $120 less than the Galaxy S9+.
One more thing: Shop around for deals from various carriers and retailers, as many will have big incentives to get Samsung’s latest phone.
Best with a stylus
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Just 6 months after launching, the Galaxy Note 8 was almost entirely supplanted by the new Galaxy S9+. The Note 8 is a fantastic phone, but with the addition of features and specs, the Galaxy S9+ is the same or better across the board, with a larger battery, newer camera, faster processor, and slightly more compact body.
The only trump card the Note 8 can play is that it has a stylus, which is obviously a big deal for a small number of faithful Note owners. But in order to get the stylus you give up some of the newer features you could get from the Galaxy S9+ — and you’ll probably be paying more to get it.
Bottom line: If you have to have a stylus, there’s no substitute for the Galaxy Note 8.
One more thing: As it has aged, there are some (small) deals to be had on the Note 8 if you shop around.
Best durable phone
Samsung Galaxy S8 Active
The Galaxy S8 Active offers an identical core experience to the Galaxy S8, down to every little feature like wireless charging and specific hardware components. At the same time, the entire outside of the phone is considerably thicker, wider, taller and heavier than the Galaxy S8, with a flat screen and no glass on the back. It also has a plastic-like coating on the screen to make it shatter-resistant, which is great for those who need it but a slight detriment to the rest of us as it picks up casual scratches much easier.
Yes it’s a generation old at this point, but until Samsung releases a Galaxy S9 Active, the S8 Active will be the go-to for those who need a Samsung experience but one that can take a beating.
Bottom line: The Galaxy S8 Active isn’t the best phone Samsung makes, but it’s still one of the best "rugged" phones out there.
One more thing: All of that extra size let Samsung put an extra 1000mAh of battery capacity in, totaling 4000mAh, so you really don’t have to worry about battery life on the Galaxy S8 Active.
Updated April 2018: Now that the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are here, the list has been simplified. The Galaxy S9+ is our top choice, the Galaxy S9 is the best small phone, and the Note 8 is only for those who need a stylus. The Galaxy S7 is removed, as even though it’s cheaper, it’s not worth buying such an old phone today.
April 3, 2018 at 05:03AM