Last year’s Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was a great addition to the Note series. Not only was it Samsung’s first-ever phone with a dual-camera system, it was also an excellent followup to the ill-fated Note 7. And now, we have the Korean company’s latest Note device: the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.
Looking at the Note 9’s overall design and feature set, there will be more than a handful of people who will say Samsung is playing it safe here. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although the Note 9 doesn’t have any groundbreaking new feature – especially next to the Galaxy S9+ – this is still the best Note device Samsung has ever released.
As expected, many of the Galaxy Note 9’s hardware are taken from the Galaxy S9+. It has the same Samsung-made Exynos 9810 chipset, a slightly larger 6.4-inch 2960 x 1440 Super AMOLED Infinity Display, a 12MP + 12MP dual-camera system with dual OIS, as well as an 8MP front-facing shooter.
Of course, there are a few exceptions here. For one, the Note 9 has a very generous 4,000mAh battery – the largest battery capacity yet in a flagship Samsung device. On top of that, the phone also comes with at least 128GB of internal storage with 6GB of RAM. If that’s that not quite enough for you, there’s even a variant with a whopping 512GB storage and 8GB of RAM.
Oh, the Note 9 also has a microSD card slot for further expansion, not to mention a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Without a doubt the Galaxy Note 9 is a very well-equipped flagship smartphone, and it’s a comfortable device to hold too. Despite sporting a slightly larger 6.4-inch display – the Note 8 had a 6.3-inch screen instead – it doesn’t feel that much bigger than its predecessor.
Now that it features a much bigger 4,000mAh battery, the Galaxy Note 9 has a nice heft to it. I personally quite like this, but I’m sure some consumers won’t be too thrilled about this. Hey, I’ll happily use a heavier smartphone if it means better battery life. After all, Samsung claims an all-day battery life with the Note 9.
Design-wise, not much has changed, but there is one huge improvement on the back of the Note 9: the fingerprint sensor’s positioning. Instead of the Note 8’s odd placement, the Note 9’s fingerprint scanner is now positioned mercifully below the camera module. This makes it a lot easier to access, and you’re less likely to smudge the camera lens with your fingers too.
While I love the new fingerprint sensor’s placement, there is one design element of the Note 9 that I don’t quite like. That’s right, I’m talking about the camera module. The large, rectangular module does not look aesthetically pleasing at all, and the different sizes of the camera lenses don’t have any symmetry either.
Apart from that, the Galaxy Note 9’s front design remains unchanged. There’s no notch to be found here, and the top and bottom bezels remain very minimal. Speaking of which, the Note 9’s Super AMOLED Infinity Display is as excellent as ever. It is very bright, very vibrant, and the viewing angles are – unsurprisingly – very good.
Samsung makes some of the best displays in the market, so it’s really expected for the Note 9 to have such a great-looking screen.
And then we have the signature, all-new S Pen with Bluetooth support. It’s still largely similar to the Note 8’s S Pen, and it works just as well too. According to Samsung, charging the new S Pen for only 40 seconds is enough to return up to 30 minutes of usage or 200 button clicks.
Why did Samsung bother to mention the number of clicks? Well, that’s because you can use the S Pen as a remote control. You can use it to control the camera’s shutter, and if you’re doing a presentation with the Note 9 – especially relevant, now that the phone supports DeX with just an HDMI adapter – a single click moves on to the next slide, while a double click goes back.
These are just some usage scenarios Samsung highlighted with the new Bluetooth-enabled S Pen. In the near future, the company will work to add even more support, especially in third-party apps.
Powered by Samsung’s Exynos 9810 chipset, the Note 9 is blazing fast. In my brief time with the device, there’s absolutely no noticeable performance hiccup, and it can open multiple apps very, very quickly. While I didn’t get to play any mobile games on the Note 9, Samsung did make it a point to mention the phone’s new water-based cooling system.
Sporting a “water carbon cooling system,” the Note 9 supposedly has three times bigger thermal spreader than a conventional smartphone. On top of that, it also has an on-device, AI-based performance adjuster, which provides software tweaks to ensure optimal performance. Of course, there’s no telling just how good these features are until we test it out ourselves.
Finally, we have the Galaxy Note 9’s camera performance. Sporting the same 12MP + 12MP dual-camera system found on the Galaxy S9+ – complete with the much touted variable aperture lens – the Note 9 is a very capable shooter. The camera is fast and responsive, images look great, and it feels very similar to the S9+’s shooting experience.
However, Samsung did add one new feature to the Note 9’s camera: Scene Optimiser. Not unlike the Huawei P20 Pro‘s Master AI feature, Scene Optimiser lets the Note 9 recognise and enhance up to 20 different scenes. But in comparison to Huawei’s implementation, Scene Optimiser doesn’t seem to be quite as fast at recognising different scenes.
Nonetheless, Samsung also mentioned that the Note 9 has better low light camera performance now, especially in Live Focus mode. It’ll be interesting to see just how much better the Note 9’s camera is once we have the device in for review.
Samsung may have played it safe with the Galaxy Note 9, but this isn’t exactly unexpected. The company did the same with the Galaxy S9+, and in retrospect, the Note 9 is almost like the S9+, only with a larger battery and a Bluetooth S Pen.
While the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 isn’t as exciting as the Note 8, it’s still a very, very refined and capable flagship smartphone. For the time being, this is without a doubt the best Note device yet, and I can’t wait to put the Note 9 through its paces in a full review.