This is the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung’s offering that brings all it has regarding the latest and greatest tech to the smartphone market. The Note 9 brings subtle improvements from the Note 8 and brings some of the newest technology from the Galaxy S9 to help build Samsung’s choice for a no-compromise smartphone.
The Note 9 is a big phone – with the phone itself being over 6 inches tall and weighing in at over 200 grams, it certainly isn’t the way to go if you’re looking for a device with a small footprint. Despite the phone’s large size, I still found it comfortable to hold and use even with though I normally use an iPhone 6s which is almost an inch smaller. But I still need to use two hands to use the phone.
The phone itself is extremely nice and feels very premium, which you would expect at the price it costs. It is almost glass entirely, with metal surrounding the sides of the device. The sides are quite thin as the screen curves around the sides of the phone, which makes it feel very immersive. I’ll be interested to see what the next substantial design change to the Note line of products is, as this phone looks excellent.
The glass is very nice to have all around the phone, but it does make it a bit of a fingerprint magnet. As soon as you pick up the phone, it’s going to have fingerprints on it.
On the front of the phone, you have the display, front-facing camera and sensors such as the Iris scanner and proximity sensor. You’ve also got the earpiece here, which will also act as part of the speaker system handling the higher treble frequencies for the Note 9. That’s really all there is on the front of the device, the rest of it is the huge display.
The left-hand side has your volume buttons and the button to activate the Bixby smart assistant. I did find myself accidentally pressing the Bixby button when playing games, so you’ll just have to be careful to make sure you don’t accidentally knock it. On the other side of the phone, you’ll find the power button. But if the power button is too far away or you don’t feel like using it you can hard-press on the on-screen home button to wake the device from sleep.
The top has the slot for your SIM and micro-SD card, which can be up to 512gb in size to expand the built-in 128gb or 512gb of storage. So, you could have up to 1tb of storage if you wanted to. You could also have dual-SIMs in here too. On the bottom, you’ll find the headphone jack, USB-C charging port that supports Quick Charge 2.0 and your bottom speaker. I would’ve liked to see Quick Charge 3.0 on the phone since Quick Charge 2.0 is a little outdated for a 2018 flagship device.
You’ll also find the S Pen on the bottom, which pops out of the device when you want to use it, the S Pen is a bright yellow colour as the phone is blue in my case and I’m quite liking the drastic colour difference of the pen.
The phone is IP68 dust and waterproof. This means that if it’s raining pretty heavily like it seems to do in all of Samsung’s ads for this phone, you’ll be able to get out your phone and not have to worry about it getting water damaged.
On the back, there’s the rear dual-camera array and the fingerprint reader. My experience with the fingerprint reader wasn’t that great as I found it managed to fail to recognise my fingerprint more than it was able to recognise it. I’m not sure if this is because the fingerprint enrolment is so fast or whether it’s how I’m using the fingerprint reader, but I found myself using the face recognition and the iris scanner more anyway as it is far more convenient.
The display on the Note 9 is a 6.4-inch AMOLED display. The display looks fantastic, with a 1440p resolution and 516ppi, everything looks sharp and viewing images and videos looks great too.
The display is also HDR10 compliant and thanks to it being an AMOLED, black and white colours are deep and bright. The display is always-on, so even when you sleep the device you’ll see the time, date and also your notifications on the screen at a glance. This always-on functionality is thanks to the AMOLED display as the black pixels on the screen don’t drain any energy from the battery life.
Thanks to the size of the display, using the phone feels like I’m using one big display rather than using a phone if that makes sense.
The Note 9 comes with Android running the Samsung TouchWiz skin. This isn’t as much of a problem as it used to be as TouchWiz has matured since it has become less bloated and has become a lot more streamlined. Don’t get me wrong, TouchWiz is still everywhere but it feels a lot more like Android than it used to.
I did get some things popping up in the launcher to promote Samsung Pay, but they can be quickly dismissed. The device comes with Android 8.0 Oreo, but there has been no release of Android 9.0 Pie for the Note 9 at the time of this review.
There is a range of Samsung apps pre-installed on the device as well as Microsoft Office. It’d be better to give the consumer the choice of whether they want these installed on their device in the first place, but since the device has so much storage, preinstalled apps aren’t a huge problem.
Software is key for the S Pen, and it has a range of handy features too. One of the handiest things I’ve found is the ability to make notes from the device’s sleep screen. All you have to do is pull out the S Pen and you can use the display as a canvas for your notes or doodles when you’re done, you can then save these into the Samsung Notes app.
The S Pen can also be used as a standard stylus and have extra functionality within Android, or as a wireless function button that can be used to do things such as triggering the camera and skipping song tracks. This extra button functionality does mean that the S Pen now needs to be charged, but it can charge in 40 seconds to give you 30 minutes of use. The S Pen also uses supercapacitors instead of conventional batteries.
Performance on the Note 9 is fantastic, I have not experienced stutters or any lag spikes at all whilst using the device. I was able to play intense 3D games such as PUBG and Asphalt without any issues and the phone also only got a little warm after playing for around 20 minutes.
I wasn’t blown away by the speakers though, they don’t sound that great considering how big this phone is. I would’ve thought that for such a large phone, the speakers would sound a little better. The phone does come with a pair of AKG earbuds, but if you’re looking to play music out loud, don’t expect it to sound amazing.
The camera on the Note 9 is exceptional, the camera has a variable aperture which is a new feature to the phone that helps it perform well in low light situations. The camera has a two-lens system on the back, one normal lens and one telephoto, so if you want to zoom in 2x you can optically without losing any resolution. Both camera lenses have 12-megapixel sensors.
The camera does well in low light and bright outdoor situations, I was very impressed with the dynamic range of the camera as it was able to take good landscape photos showing the grass clearly whilst also correctly exposing the clouds.
The camera also shoots 4K video at 60fps and has a range of higher frame rates for lower resolutions, so you are able to capture slow motion video. The Note 9 also has a super-slow mode that allows you to select part of your viewfinder for where you want to capture the slow-motion action. This feature is a bit gimmicky, but it is fun to mess around with, it would be nice to have some more control over where the slow motion actually happens.
The front-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and it’s pretty good for taking selfies and pictures.
Battery life on the Note 9 is excellent. The battery itself is huge, with a 4000mAh battery that could easily get you through two days of typical smartphone use if you needed it to. The large battery also makes the phone great for gaming, as it can manage to provide good looking graphics quality and solid battery life performance. You’ll also be able to wirelessly charge the battery with any Qi supported wireless charging pad.
In conclusion, I think that the Galaxy Note 9 is a great choice for a smartphone. It has no compromises and has all the features you could need, making it the best choice for an Android smartphone out there if the price isn’t a problem. It has fantastic battery life; a great screen and it is well built.