The Galaxy S9 is fast — not iPhone X fast, but certainly faster than any Android phone we've seen before.
That's what we've found out now that we've had a chance to benchmark the newly unveiled smartphone. The Galaxy S9 leverages a new processor to set a new performance standard for smartphones running Android. But it still can't outpace the A11 Bionic-powered iPhones from Apple, though it does close that gap in performance testing while even beating the iPhone X in a graphics test.
The Galaxy S9 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, the latest mobile processing platform from Qualcomm. As of this writing, the S9 is the only phone to feature the 845, though the chip is slated to power Sony's latest Xperia XZ2 phones arriving later this spring. For now, the S9 is the only Android flagship to feature the 845, with other top models running the Snapdragon 835.
Besides the new processor, the Galaxy S9+ that we tested has another trick up its sleeve. While the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 ships with 4GB of RAM — the same amount found in last year's S8 models — the 6.2-inch S9+ squeezes in an extra 2GB of memory. That 6GB of RAM puts the S9+ on par with phones like the Galaxy Note 8 and the base model of the OnePlus 5T.
You notice the extra RAM in day-to-day use. When my colleague Mark Spoonauer tested the S9+, he was able to play Tekken 2 without any lag, even with 18 other apps open in the background.
It's the Snapdragon 845, though, that gives the S9+ a boost in benchmark testing. In the Geekbench 4 test of general performance, the S9+ scored 8,295. That's a 32 percent improvement over the score turned in by the Snapdragon 835-powered Galaxy S8 (6,295). The S9+ bested the scores of other top Android devices like the Note 8 (6,564) and Google Pixel 2 XL (6,282). The fastest Android phone we'd seen before the Galaxy S9+ was Huawei's Mate 10 Pro, which runs on a Huawei-built Kirin 970 chip. The Mate 10 Pro's 6,784 score was far short of what the S9+ turned in.
And yet, the S9+ isn't our speed king. That honor still goes to the iPhone X, which is powered by Apple's A11 Bionic processor. The iPhone X notched a 10,357 score on Geekbench. Even with the new Qualcomm processor inside, the S9+ didn't come anywhere close to that.
Graphics: 3DMark Sling Shot
It's a slightly different story in graphics, an area where the S9+ proved to be more of a match for the iPhone. In 3DMark's Sling Shot graphics test, the S9+'s score of 5,793 topped the 3,998 score the iPhone X turned in (and beat other Android phones, as you would imagine).
MORE: Galaxy S9+ Review: A Solid Upgrade to a Great Big-Screen Phone
The iPhone X got the better of the S9+ in Sling Shot Unlimited, 4,994 to 4,634. But it looks like the new Snapdragon 845 is more adept at handling graphics than its predecessor was.
The iPhone X still holds a big advantage in real-world testing, but the Snapdragon 845 inside the Galaxy S9 is helping to close the gap. In our video-editing test, we convert a 2-minute 4K video file to 1080p using Adobe Premiere Clip in our video-editing test. The iPhone X blows through that task in 42 seconds. That's nearly 2 minutes faster than the 2:32 time it took the Galaxy S9+.
But compare that result to Samsung's previous phones, the Galaxy S8 (4:07) and Note 8 (3:03), and the improvement is dramatic.
It's the same story with opening apps: The iPhone X is faster in our testing. Opening the Injustice 2 game took the iPhone X a little more than 13 seconds, while the same task took the Galaxy S9+ 20 seconds, roughly the same as the 19 seconds it took the Pixel 2 XL to fire up the app. Seven seconds isn't a big gap, but that extra burst of speed can add up as you use your phone throughout the day.
After we had a chance to benchmark the Snapdragon 845 on a reference design device, we had an inkling that the A11 processor in the latest iPhones would retain its performance crown. But if you opt for the Galaxy S9, you'll at least know you're getting the best-performing Android phone currently available. That, combined with the S9+'s long-lasting battery and improved camera, makes this a phone worth your attention.
Credit: Tom's Guide