Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy S9 Hands-On: Same but better

Samsung sets the bar high with a reimagined camera

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When Samsung sent out teasers for its Galaxy S9 launch earlier this month, it promised a re-imagined smartphone camera.  

So it comes as no surprise, now that the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are official, that this year’s new Samsung flagships are designed to be the best smartphone cameras in the biz.

Apart from a new paint job that includes a lovely shade of purple and a few minor adjustments, the new S9 doesn’t necessarily look or feel new. But, it is loaded with plenty of camera improvements meant to impress both casual and serious photography buffs.   

The Galaxy S9 and S8. Can you tell the difference?

Let’s start by addressing the first half of that statement.

Samsung’s smartphone design evolution hit a major milestone four years ago when it first embraced curved displays. Last year, after almost half a decade of iterating on this new and innovative form factor, Samsung found its sweet spot.

We first saw it on the S8; it repeats on this year’s S9, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this trend continued into the next year or so.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, two years in and it’s still one of the most beautifully designed smartphones out there. Like the S8, the S9 is all-glass, with Samsung’s signature, curved Infinity Display, that blends into its sides and back.

This year’s model is a wee bit taller and narrower, button placements are off by a few millimeters, and if you look closely, top and bottom chins are smaller as well. The only other aesthetic change is the position of the fingerprint sensor, now a few millimeters south of the phone’s rear camera.

Also a new shade, Lilac Purple, joins the rest of the standards: Midnight Black, Titanium Silver, and Coral Blue.  

Like the S8, the S9 comes in two sizes, 5.8 and 6.2 inches, dubbed the S9 and S9 Plus respectively. The latter, larger model is the better of the two phones. It’s got two main cameras, more memory, and a larger battery.

Reimagined Camera

If you look at the roster of the current best phones in the world today, one thing they all have in common is a great camera. In some ways, it’s almost the tie breaker that determines which of among these phones is best among the best.     

For more control, dive into the S9 camera app’s Pro Mode

While only extensive tests will prove if Samsung succeeded with the S9, on paper, its camera looks impressive. Let’s throw some specs out there:

A super fast f/1.5 lens, currently the fastest on a smartphone, and the kind you’ll want if you’re looking for great background blur, and great low-light shots, like in a bar on your night out.

That lens is also an f/2.4 lens, and with a feature called Dual Aperture, it is able to adjust between the two to let in more light as needed.  

When it’s dark and you need more light, it will shoot at f/1.5, making dimly lit photos brighter and less prone to blur. And when there is plenty of available light, it will switch to f/2.4 so you get more detail and sharpness.

All of this is done automatically and in the background, but if needed, you can manually switch between the two in Pro mode.

If you get the the larger S9 Plus, you also benefit from a second rear camera, which doubles as an optical 2X zoom lens, allowing you to zoom in closer on subjects. Two cameras also means you get the same feature we saw on the Galaxy Note 8 called Live Focus, which lets you adjust background blur during and after a photo is taken.

This feature isn’t available on the S9, so that’s definitely something you want to consider when choosing between the two models.

Stepping up your selfie game

The selfie camera too gets upgraded, with features clearly targeted at millennial females.

Apart from a software-based Selfie Focus mode, which gives your selfies that portrait-style background blur, there’s also standard selfie mode without background blur but with a bunch of beauty filters that make it look like you’re wearing makeup even if you don’t have any on.

Our Her GadgetMatch team loved how you can adjust the intensity of these effects, so your makeup game is on point without going overboard. You can also dive into each effect to change things like lip color, eyeshadow, and contour. What they didn’t like, however, was that you could not use makeup effects and background blur at the same time.  

Click over here to read more about four fun things you can do with the S9.

Super slow-mo video

One of the new things the S9 can do is super slow-mo video capture — 960 frames per second, to be exact. That’s four times more frames than what the S8 can capture.

While super niche, it’s a cool feature you have to see to appreciate. Check out the samples in our hands-on review below:

Capturing super slow-mo video can be done automatically, with motion detectors that trigger capture automatically once movement is detected. Or manually, which we’d recommended for most situations.

It takes a bit of practice to get your timing perfectly right, but once you do, the results are rewarding.

AR Emoji

It was only a matter of time till Samsung jumped on the animated stickers trend.

Samsung’s AR Emoji are reminiscent of Snapchat’s bitmoji, except that you don’t manually have to pain over crafting stickers after your own likeness.

Does my AR Emoji look anything like me?

On the S9, you can just take take a selfie and the phone does the rest. Apart from an exaggerated mouth, the caricatures are pretty accurate, and you can animate them or send them as animated GIFs on your messaging platform of choice.

The S9, however, struggles to accurately track your facial muscles, so something like say Animoji karaoke with Samsung AR Emoji might not be as successful.  

Refinements and tweaks

While most of the improvements have been camera-centric, Samsung did find the time to address user feedback with some much-needed updates.

Audio for one got a whole lot better. With built-in AKG stereo speakers — one front-firing from the ear piece and the other from its side through the usual speaker location — the resulting sound is louder and bolder. The new speaker setup also supports Dolby Atmos for an immersive surround sound-like listening experience.

On the S9, you still get the usual host of security features like Knox and Iris Scanning, but there’s a now a new setting called Intelligent Scan which merges facial recognition and its iris scanner so that you can unlock your phones easily in the dark or when you’re out and the sun is very bright. They also claim it is smart enough to tell twins apart, something Apple’s Face ID is unable to do.

Finally, addressing many a complaint including ours, the fingerprint sensor is in a new place, below the camera instead of directly beside it. We like this layout better, but think it’s still too close to the camera so it doesn’t quite solve the problem of accidental smudges. It’s not that big of a deal, but considering this is supposed to have fixed last year’s design problem, you’d think they would have done it better.

So is the Galaxy S9 your GadgetMatch?

It’s too early to tell, but clearly Samsung has set the bar high in 2018. They took an already solid phone and made it even better.

Unfortunately, that includes its high price tag. We’re not liking this new trend that sees most flagships priced above US$ 1,000, but from the looks of it, this is just beginning.

One thing we would have loved to see are advancements in the artificial intelligence space. But it sounds like Samsung is sharpening its chops before it rolls anything out.  

If you own an S8 or S8 Plus, the S9 may not offer enough to warrant an upgrade, unless you’re an early adopter, or must have the best smartphone camera money can buy.  

If you’re an S7 or S7 Plus user scheduled for an upgrade, the S9 and S9 Plus are an easy recommendation for us to make (especially with a carrier contract). The S9 Plus especially is a great buy. If you don’t mind the size difference, we’d definitely recommend it.

Accessories

PH3 wireless headphones is a wearable Filipino pride

A limited-edition offering that gives back

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Electronics manufacturer H-Audio has been providing quality products to its market when it comes to audio solutions. While they have a select lineup of offerings, it caters to different types of users.

What we have here is the PH3 that screams Filipino pride as soon as you put it on. Read on and find out if it performs as good as it looks.

It has a straightforward design

Red and blue stripes signify colors from the Philippine flag

Three stars and a sun on each earcup

Can’t get any more Filipino than this

Solid build quality

Headband has a good flex to it

Clasps comfortably on the head

Doesn’t come off easily

Comfortable ear cups

Earmuffs are made of memory foam

What I personally like about the PH3 when it comes to design is how it has a minimalistic kind of approach with just the three stars, sun, and stripes of red and blue. Apart from these Philippine flag-inspired colors, everything else is white. Sure, it might require extra effort to keep it clean, but it’s just something that works aesthetically.

Build quality feels durable and not flimsy which is what I look for next to sound quality. This is made possible by using stainless steel for the headband support and hard plastic for the rest — making it light, but tough.

It has a nice fit around the ears and wearing it for extended periods of time was still comfortable thanks to its memory foam earmuffs. I’ve used it a couple of times while running on the treadmill and the earcups remained snug and in place.

All-around performer

When it comes to sound quality, let’s get to the point — the PH3 delivers. It’s got warm and distinct mids, decent highs, and impressive lows. The overall sound is what you’d expect of closed-back headphones and leans on the muffled side of the sound spectrum.

Active Noise Cancellation option

One thing I noticed, though, is that sound leaks a little to the outside world so you might want to keep that in mind when you’re in an elevator with other people or something.

Connection via Bluetooth was easy and automatically pairs to the phone each time the headphones is turned on. That alone is a big check for me.

Micro-USB port for charging

The company says it has up to 20 hours of battery life. While I was not able to continuously use it, the headphones lasted me about five days with ANC off and mainly using it for music at the gym, walking around the neighborhood, or even just at home.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

H-Audio’s PH3 is a reliable pair of cans with minimal drawbacks. It might require extra care to keep it clean and sound leak at full volume might be an issue for a select few. Looking past those, however, you have a good set of headphones that not only performs well but also looks attractive with its touch of a local theme.

Additionally, its features like wireless connectivity and Active Noise Cancellation make operations easier and add to the overall music-listening experience.

Priced at PhP 7,480, proceeds will go to platforms to raise funds and help the underprivileged Filipino youth. The PH3 is available in select The Loop by Power Mac Center branches. For more list of stores carrying their products, visit their Facebook page.

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Hands-On

Professional home: Panasonic’s ES-LV6Q premium men’s shaver

‘Powerful, reliable, and easy to travel with’

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Are you a fan of a fresh, clean shave? For most, professional gentlemen, an electric shaver is one of their most important grooming tools. Maintaining a look that’s both clean and professional is quick and easy with a good, electronic shaver. Panasonic’s new premium tool — the ES-LV6Q — promises a job done well enough as if a professional did it by hand. So, we put it to the test.

We asked for the help of Sergio, 32, who works in sales here in Germany. He goes to a good number of meetings every week, representing their company. So it’s no wonder that he spends a lot of his mornings, shaving to keep a clean appearance.

“I’ve been using an electric shaver for years but the one I’ve had never really got the job done quickly. I have to keep going over the same spot a couple of times before I get a smooth shave,” he shared with GadgetMatch.

The shaver’s head is flexible and moves up to six directions, making movement along the curves of the face practically seamless. The five blades can also get as close as possible to the skin, without hurting the person using it. One of the blades is shaped like a comb, making it easier to catch each strand. Each area of the face is also clean after going through it just once — no more razor burns. Even during a dry shaving session.

Great for travel

The ES-LV6Q also travels well. An hour’s worth of charging will give you up to 45 minutes of use, making it perfect for business trips. It also comes with a travel pouch and has a blade protection clip that can help keep it safe in your suitcase while traveling.

“With the powerful motor and the blades that get every hair, it takes me a minimum of four minutes to shave. If my hair has gotten a bit longer and it needs a bit of trimming first, I go no longer than six minutes,” Sergio added. “At the speed that I can go with the ES-LV6Q, a full charge can last me up to two weeks,” Sergio added.

The shaver is also completely waterproof making it perfect for wet or dry use. Despite shaving as close as possible with the power of the 14,000 CPM Linear Motor, Sergio reported no irritation on his skin.

Another feature that Sergio liked a lot was the clipper that can be used for sideburns. It’s also great for people who just want to trim their facial hair. “It’s great for weekends or when you want to keep a little stubble,” he added.

Cleaning is also a breeze. It’s easy to do after every shave under the tap. All Sergio has to do is add some hand soap and activate the sonic vibration cleaning mode. This, by pressing the power button for more than two seconds. Removing the gadget’s outer foil section is also an easy task and putting it under running water makes for a thorough rinse. A gentle shake plus a quick wipe down and you’re done for the day.

Sergio’s always ready for a client presentation using Panasonic’s ES-LV6Q shaver. “This Panasonic 5-Blade Men’s shaver has all the features I require in a grooming gadget and more. It’s powerful, reliable, and easy to travel with. I’m really satisfied with the results! ” Sergio concluded.

The Panasonic ES-LV6Q currently retails at EUR 245,99 at Saturn.de and Mediamarkt.de. For more information on the product, visit Panasonic’s website.

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CES 2020

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite Hands-on

For those who want a Note 10 on a budget

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It hasn’t been a year since Samsung released the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+. They even had a Star Wars x Note 10+ collaboration.

In this year’s CES, a Lite variant of the Galaxy Note 10 has been announced — but it’s not lite on features at all.

You can watch the video above to know more. If you’re having a hard time viewing it, click this link to watch our hands-on.

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