Like mechanism, Samsung has launched the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, the big-screen, stylus-toting cousin of the Galaxy S9 and S9 plus. It looks a lot just like the Note 8, but despite the hype, we predict the upgrades are essential enough to make this Samsung’s best phone alongside the S9 plus.
While headline changes are the (variant depending) yellow S-Pen with Bluetooth, a much bigger battery and improved cameras, the overall look, feel and performance of the Note 9 means this can be Samsung’s most refined Note so far.
Since the launch of the iPhone X, the concept of a £1000/$1000 phone is less alien now, and that’s roughly the price you’ll pay if you would like a Note 9 off contract. However, it’s such a pleasure to use, such a complete smartphone, that it feels even as justified as Apple’s price tag.
Like any phone tho’, it’s not without its flaws. Here’s our full Note 9 review.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: price and availability
As expected, the Note 9 was unveiled at an Unpacked event in new york on 9 August.
It’s on the market to buy currently and starts at £899. That price can get you a 128GB model however you’ll prefer 512GB if you can afford £1,099.
In the USA it’s on sale for $999 or $1,249 counting on your storage preference.
Galaxy Note 9: design and build
- New colors
- No notch
- Keeps earphone jack
- New fingerprint scanner placement
The Note 9 could be a stunner right out the box. Yes, it’s a giant phone. However, we expect that by now with the Note range. By slimming the edge ever so slightly, Samsung has stretched the screen up from 6.3in to 6.4in. However, the size of the phone is practically the same as the Note 8.
The Note 9 comes in midnight Black or Lavender Purple with matching S Pen, and Ocean Blue with a yellow S Pen. There is additionally a metallic Copper option in some countries.
You’re probably going to need the blue one with the yellow pen. However, we also love the purple, that could be a light metallic hue and looks nice. Samsung continues to use Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back. The rear of the blue and purple models shimmer fantastically, whereas the black version remains duller.
We were hoping for an on-screen fingerprint scanner as phones like the Vivo NEX have already got this tech. It appears we’ll have to wait for the Galaxy S10 to induce it from Samsung. However, the device is in a far better place below the cameras instead of next to them as it was on the Note 8. It’s still a slightly little, fiddly sensor compared to other phones though.
The Note 9 has those acquainted Samsung curves with the alleged infinity display. However, it has put on weight. It’s 205g, and we typically do not like it when a phone seems like we’re carrying a brick, but there is a sensible reason for it here, and also the phone is light enough to feel manageable – however, this is a two handphone for many tasks.
At 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm it’s going to stretch most pockets, but its heft makes it feel completely premium. A bigger 4000mAh battery, up from 3300mAh, is the primary cause for the weight increase. If there is something we do not might additional weight for, it’s longer battery life.
The phone feels even more luxurious than the Note 8, with grippier metallic edges to the chassis and an improved oleophobic coating to the back of the device which means perceptibly fewer fingerprint smudges though it still gets pretty greasy back there.
It’s fascinating to note (ha) that Samsung continues to buck two significant trends within the phone world. The Note 9 features a headphone jack but does not have a notch within the screen compared to the iPhone X and lots of other Android phones this year.
We’re happy with both these things and hopefully signals that notches aren’t always necessary, seeing as Samsung will deal so elegantly without them.
Its sides are graced by a speaker, USB-C port, S-Pen silo, volume and power keys, and a pesky, unmappable Bixby button.
Galaxy Note 9: Specs and features
- Better S Pen
- New processor
- More RAM
- Up to 512GB storage
Although Note 9 may look pretty similar to the Note 8, it comes with a variety of upgrades and new features that go some way to justifying the upper value.
The screen is more significant at 6.4in however that is solely marginally different to the 6.3in size used before. It’s a 2960 x 1440 Super AMOLED and the level of detail, brightness and clarity is gorgeous. Samsung has managed to outdo itself again, and this is, at release, the most straightforward display ever on a smartphone.
The acquainted infinity display means curved edges with a Quad HD+ resolution and also the best brightness in direct sunlight of any phone on the market alongside the LG G7 ThinQ.
Processor, memory, and storage
The new model conjointly gets specs to boost within the engine room. Samsung has stuck with a split strategy for processors in numerous markets; numerous countries will get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 whereas the united kingdom and others can get Samsung’s own Exynos 8910 (the model reviewed here).
Our unit was the 6GB RAM/128GB storage option however the more expensive version on the market hits 8GB/512GB. It’s of the first phones to possess 512GB on board and underlines Samsung’s belief that the Note customer needs additional storage than several modern laptops.
Samsung calls the Note 9 ‘1TB ready’ as you’ll add up to 512GB via the microSD card slot. That’s some severe media management should you wish to carry around whole music and video collection with you at all times.
In our use, the Note 9 was impeccable for performance and finally feels as quick as a pixel 2 XL and OnePlus 6. the sole slowness we saw in comparison is Samsung’s use of animations between app switching and opening, which might make the software feel slower than the bare bones approach taken by OnePlus.
We benchmarked the phone against the Note 8 and S9 plus, also as the iPhone X, OnePlus 6 and Huawei P20 pro – phones using those companies’ choice of a high-end processor at the time of the Note 9’s launch.
The Geekbench test measures pure processing power, GFXBench looks at different levels of GPU processing and frame rate, whereas Jetstream could be a browser benchmark. It’s clear that the Note 9 is a speedy phone here and also the variations are negligible. Even though it’s just like the iPhone is more powerful, you won’t notice a distinction in real-world use – we didn’t.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Benchmarks
Connectivity and audio
This phone has every additional feature you’d hope for considering the price: fast charging, wireless charging, IP68 waterproofing, NFC and 4G LTE.
It’s a bit dissatisfactory that the Note 9 ships with a fast Charge 2.0 charger once android rivals mostly ship with 3.0 and are even compatible with 4.0. It implies that while not as slow as a bundled iPhone charger, Note 9 can charge slower than the OnePlus 6, pixel 2 and others.
A brilliant upgrade on the Note 8 are the stereo speakers – one on the bottom edge and one within the earphone. Like most phones, the drivers are too tiny to recognize actual stereo separation. However, the additional volume boost is way appreciated.
Call quality is top notch with voices coming through significantly clear over 4G and Wi-Fi. And Intelligent Scan, Samsung’s melding of face unlock and iris scanning, is quicker than ever.
It’s top-notch specs all around (without the particular notch), and Samsung has gone one more by improving the already incredible S-Pen. Adding Bluetooth Low Energy tech, you’ll be able to currently use the stylus as a remote for things like taking photos and selfies and clicking through presentations.
It’s also entirely customizable (unlike the Bixby button on the left edge of the phone) therefore you’ll be able to use it however you wish.
The S Pen solely takes 40 seconds to charge once slotted into the phone and lasts for a half-hour for its remote control duties. You can still use the previous direct-to-screen functions once it’s dead, though.
Hovering over menus and icons usually displays what the action will be before you tap, and having the ability to take the S-Pen out once the phone is locked to scribble a note down is still fun and helpful. However it’s still a niche thing to require from a smartphone, and while some would possibly see it as convenient, the majority will prefer to continue using the regular notes app and writing stuff in.
If you would like to take group selfies (or luxurious head to toe selfies, natch), then the S-Pen is your best friend, operating as a remote shutter correctly.
But the S-Pen is still something that’s relatively black and white – you’ll either like it or forget that it’s there. The advantage of note-taking by typing is you’ll be able to copy and paste it quickly cross-apps or write whole passages on your phone.
Samsung needs you to write notes down with the S-Pen and save them, and if that works for you, then you’ll like it, however, what you can then do with those notes is limited. As an artistic tool, even a 6.4in display is relatively restrictive. You’ll be more happy with the 10.5in Galaxy Tab S4 if a drawing is your game.
Like the S9 and, the Note nine has twin rear cameras with twin aperture and government agency. They’re the same precise sensors: the variable aperture 12Mp f/1.5-2.4 main and a 12Mp f/2.4 for 2x optical zoom and depth sensing.
New technology for Note 9 specifically includes Flaw Detection and Scene Optimiser, which in less complicated terms tell you if you’d taken a blurry picture and selects the simplest scene mode for the shot.
The low-light prowess of the S9 plus is ported over here, and it’s an understandable step up from the Note 8 for this reason. Pictures are splendidly crisp, devoid of the saturation that mars the otherwise beautiful shots on the Huawei P20 pro.
Colour replica is beautiful on the improved display; tho’ Samsung camera app continues to be too crowded and unintuitive. Sure, you’ll be able to do a lot. However, it’s a steep learning curve to find it all.
You might need to click on the image to look at the album below:
One of the most useful things concerning Note 9 is its battery life. It’s a rustic mile ahead of the 3300mAh cell of the Note 8, packing 4000mAh into an only marginally thicker frame.
The trade-off is entirely worthwhile. On the average we found the Note 9 gave us four and a half hours of screen on time on a full charge with brightness on auto, using tens of apps right away and streaming Spotify to Bluetooth headphones over 4G and Wi-Fi.
Less intense usage sees the Note 9 pushing an hour longer than that, and we never once distressed concerning finding a charger – one thing that often happened when using the Note 8.
In the Geekbench 4 battery test with brightness set to 120cd/m2 and screen not dimming (our standard test), the Note 9 lasted seven hours and twenty-seven minutes. That’s a tad below the Galaxy S9 plus at seven hours fifty-five minutes. However, the screen here is more extensive.
It’s an excellent score considering the OnePlus 6, LG G7 and HTC U12+ lasted for much less time, and it’s nice to ascertain Samsung obtaining a 4000mAh battery into the phone after the Note 7 disaster.
Galaxy Note 9: software and apps
- Android oreo 8.1
- Samsung experience 9.5
- Great S-Pen integration
- Bixby still awful
Straight up, Bixby remains dangerous. Solely available, yet, in the United States English or Korean, it frequently misunderstood our English accent (and some colleagues’ American ones) and couldn’t offer answers.
To add it up neatly, three examples of how to use Bixby appear when you flip it on. For us, one was ‘What is the time distinction between Paris and London’ (we are based in London). We tapped on it, and were given the below screen, wherever it mentioned the time distinction for East London in South Africa:
Bixby sucks, and what sucks more is that on the Note 9 you can’t put off the dedicated Bixby button. It has never been remappable, however on different Galaxy phones you’ll be able to disable it, but not here, which means about a third of the time we pull the Note out a picket, we accidentally press the button and load up Bixby.
Bixby Home to the left of the home screen remains awful, with mainly tiled apps that are awkward and not as customizable as we’d like. Just ignore Bixby and use the Google Assistant.
The Note 9 ships with Android 8.1 oreo and Samsung experience 9.5 (formerly TouchWiz). It’s mostly a similar style language from the last 2 or 3 years of Samsung phones but in its current state could be a pleasure to use – if a long way off from stock android.
We hope it’ll get an upgrade to Pie at some point in 2018. However, Samsung tends to pull its heels somewhat with software updates and also the Note 8 can probably get android P after OnePlus and Sony phones at least.
The software is necessarily the same as on the S9 phones but also as the S Pen features mentioned above, Note 9 has DeX built-in. This implies you do not need to purchase a separate docking station to run Samsung’s desktop experience on a monitor. You only need an HMDI to USB-C cable to plug the phone into a monitor, and the Note can display its software like a Windows desktop.
Of course, you furthermore may get other Samsung things like Bixby and AR Emoji, and in recent years Samsung has become better at pushing Google apps to the user instead of doubling up with Samsung alternatives.
But the software skin is significant compared to stock android, and we found the Note 8 bogged down a tad throughout a year. Hopefully, Note 9 is going to be a distinct story as it zips along out of the box.
The Galaxy Note 9 is maybe the best phone in the world at the time of its launch however it is not for everyone. It’s a power user’s device, with features hidden below the surface that the typical person does not need or want.
It does all the fundamental stuff to an incredibly high standard – the display is unimaginable (honestly) and also the cameras are improved, as long as you wish the way Samsung processes pictures.
If you like iOS you will get the iPhone XS max however if you made it down this far the review, you’ll likely opt for the Note 9, won’t you. Sensible choice.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Specs
- Android Oreo 8.1
- 6.4in 2960×1440 Super AMOLED, 516ppi
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 or Samsung Exynos 9810
- Adreno 630 or Mali-G72 MP18
- 128GB/512GB storage
- 6/8GB RAM
- 12Mp dual cameras, f/1.5-2.4 and OIS, f/2.4
- 8Mp f/1.7 front-facing camera
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- 4G LTE
- Dual nano SIM option
- 4000mAh battery
- IP68 waterproof
- 161.2 x 76.4 x 9 mm