Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: Almost Perfect
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is hands down the best flagship yet from Samsung. Its elegant, beautiful, and an outright beast in performance while being incredibly reliable thanks to its almost delicious and mouthwatering display and its massive battery. Samsung has completely reimagined the Galaxy Note 9 smartphone to what productivity should be.
The note 9 is comfortably delivering on Samsung’s promises at the galaxy unpacked even this August and its pen makes it even more so. Our hands-on time with the Note 9 has got us convinced: this is a true redesign of not just the Note series, but of the average smartphone from top-to-bottom, edge-to-edge, rear camera, S-Pen, battery and all those good stuff.
This is our full Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Design
Generally, Samsung excels at smartphone designs and the Note 9 makes the statement clear. though Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is extremely similar to the Note 8, it is unique in subtle ways that make a big difference, allowing the Note 9 function and feel much better than the Note 8 during daily use.
The sides of the Note 9 are much flatter than the Note 8, making it easier to hold without a case. When you set a Note 9 next to a Note 8 face-up, you can’t tell them apart. The Note 9 is imperceptibly wider and thicker, which is a necessity due to the also imperceptibly larger display The device has slightly smaller bezels than the Note 8, increasing the size of the display to 6.4-inches from 6.3 inches. Those smaller bezels make the phone look a bit more modern. The phone 6.4 inches long and 0.34 inches deep just like the note 8 but it is a tiny bit heavier than the Note 8 (7.1 ounces versus 6.9 ounces), but I couldn’t feel the difference when holding both devices.
The back of the note 8 has that subtle difference that makes it just work. The fingerprint sensor has been shifted below the camera visor, the camera itself is slightly smaller, a secondary dual-aperture lens which helps the phone look much more premium. The glass remains a fingerprint and smudge magnet.
Samsung is not known for their bold color choices, but they decided to shake things up with the Note 9. The most eye-catching color here is a blue handset with a sharp-yellow S Pen. I love it – and feel it’s a real step forward for a device that in the past has been known for being businesslike, it makes it fun and playful to use which is refreshing for a device like the note 9. Other colors include a lavender purple, a fairly standard black, and a copper hue that won’t be available in the US/UK yet.
On the right side of the device, you’ll find the power button, but it’s just a bit too high up for people with small hands but this placement shouldn’t be an issue if you’ve got the fingerprint sensor enabled, but it can be frustrating to lock the device when you’re done using it.
The left side of the phone houses the volume rockers, and just underneath them, you’ll find a dedicated Bixby button. Just like every other person who has used the note 9, really wish this button was remappable to something like Google Assistant. Not only that, it’s positioning less than ideal as gets in the way more often than not.
The bottom of the device features a headphone jack, speaker grill, and S-Pen. The bottom bezel on the Galaxy Note 9 is still smaller than most other flagships on the market right now, and the S-Pen is nearly three quarters the height of the device itself.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 – Display
Samsung has for years had the best displays on any phone on their phones and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is no different. Its hands down the best display on any phone right now.
It’s a 2960 x 1440 quad-HD resolution panel, with sloping ‘Infinity’ edges and support for HDR content. You can also use a number of different resolutions on this device. By default, the phone runs at 1080p, but you can change it to 1440p and even 720p if you really want to save battery life.
The displays Samsung produces for its own handsets (alongside those of other phones, such as the iPhone X) are the best for a number of reasons. The Note 9 uses an OLED panel. Compared to LCD, OLEDs use less power and only power on the required pixels, therefore displaying perfect blacks. This means that when you’re watching content with plenty of dark scenes, they’ll actually look black rather than slightly washed out.
The Note 9’s display really passes the eye test. This screen is fantastic in every situation, and I absolutely love looking at it. DisplayMate describes it as “visually indistinguishable from perfect” and I can’t disagree. Aside from being massive, the Galaxy Note 9 screen offers deep, rich and bright colors. It reproduces 224 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is better than the But the S9+ (231 percent) the Galaxy S9 (220 percent), Note 8 (204.8 percent), the Pixel 2 XL (120 percent) and the iPhone X (128.6 percent).
Delta-E which rates displays on a true-to-life color basis scored the note 9 at 0.34 on the Delta-E rating (numbers closer to 0 are more accurate). The Note 8 scored a 0.5. The iPhone X’s OLED panel isn’t quite as rich or colorful as the Note 9’s, but its colors are more true to life with a Delta-E score of 0.27 (or 0.21 when the iPhone’s True Tone setting is toggled on).
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Performance
The note 9 has most of the same hardware components as the S9/S9+ and other recent flagships but the note 9 does seem to perform more than the rest.
We put the Galaxy Note 9 through Geekbench 4, AnTuTu, and 3DMark benchmark tests. You can see the results below.
But they only show statistics and figures. Optimization makes every phone behaves a little different from others with similar specs. The point Samsung is trying to prove with the Note 9 is that optimization is king. Though but it doesn’t quite hit that level of touch latency offered by the Pixel 2 when it first launched(but greatly falls short with use over time), the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has one of the smoothest Android experiences you’ll find today
The Galaxy Note 9 is without a doubt the fastest and highest-performing Galaxy I’ve ever used. While the Galaxy Note 9 has the same hardware as the S9 and S9+ and its memory benchmarks have lower scores, it is extremely fast at opening apps and switching between open apps. Samsung’s UX proved to be more optimized, and the lags that you will often notice on the S9+ have in fact almost disappeared with the update that came a few days after the -release of the Note 9. Not to say its perfect because there is still room for improvement especially with Samsung experience, I think Samsung Experience could be a little less bloated.
For a phone equipped with Snapdragon 845, the Note 9 does manage to get higher and more stable frame rates playing games like Fortnite, PUBG or Final Fantasy.
Galaxy Note 9: Hardware and Battery
Aside from software optimization that pushes the device to a new level of smoothness, The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has been upgraded internally in almost every department, but the big two updates everyone seems to be talking about are the storage and battery capacity.
Pec wise the Galaxy Note 9 comes in two variants. The baseline Galaxy Note 9 carries a 128GB internal storage, but the higher variant holds a mindblowing 512GB, not forgetting supports for microSD expansion up to 512GB so you can get a Galaxy Note 9 with up to 1TB of storage. It would come in handy if you want to store your entire media library on this phone.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 sports a Snapdragon 845 processor for the US version and Exynos 9810 in the international variant, 6GB of RAM and supporting radios for LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. It has the stereo speakers, headphone jack, microSD card slot, USB-C port, buttons and fingerprint sensor. Dual main cameras and a single selfie shooter. It charges at the same max speed, both wired and wireless. It’s IP68 water and dust resistant.
Samsung has finally bumped up the battery all the way up to 4000mAh, 14% larger than the Galaxy S9+ and 21% larger than the Galaxy Note 8.
The extra battery capacity has translated directly to battery life that’s above-average for the flagship segment and enough for a complete worry-free day of use.
Samsung isn’t making any claim of faster charging speeds, either wireless or wired, despite the increase in battery capacity. It still ships the same Quick Charge 2.0-capable “Adaptive Fast Charging” USB-A wall plug we’ve seen since the Galaxy S6. But there’s more to this story.
|BODY||Dimensions||161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm (6.37 x 3.01 x 0.35 in)|
|Weight||201 g (7.09 oz)|
|Build||Front/back glass (Gorilla Glass 5), aluminum frame|
|SIM||Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Hybrid Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)|
|– Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified)
– IP68 dust/water proof (up to 1.5m for 30 mins)
– Stylus (Bluetooth integration)
|DISPLAY||Type||Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors|
|Size||6.4 inches, 103.2 cm2 (~83.4% screen-to-body ratio)|
|Resolution||1440 x 2960 pixels, 18.5:9 ratio (~516 ppi density)|
|Protection||Corning Gorilla Glass 5|
|– HDR10 compliant
– Always-on display
|PLATFORM||OS||Android 8.1 (Oreo)|
|Chipset||Exynos 9810 Octa – EMEA
Qualcomm SDM845 Snapdragon 845 – USA/LATAM, China
|CPU||Octa-core (4×2.7 GHz Mongoose M3 & 4×1.8 GHz Cortex-A55) – EMEA
Octa-core (4×2.8 GHz Kryo 385 Gold & 4×1.7 GHz Kryo 385 Silver) – USA/LATAM, China
|GPU||Mali-G72 MP18 – EMEA
Adreno 630 – USA/LATAM, China
|MEMORY||Card slot||microSD, up to 512 GB (uses SIM 2 slot) – dual SIM model only|
|Internal||512 GB, 8 GB RAM or 128 GB, 6 GB RAM|
|MAIN CAMERA||Dual||12 MP, f/1.5-2.4, 26mm, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS
12 MP, f/2.4, 52mm, 1/3.4″, 1µm, AF, OIS, 2x optical zoom
|Features||LED flash, auto-HDR, panorama|
|Video||2160p@60fps, 1080p@240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR, dual-video rec.|
|SELFIE CAMERA||Single||8 MP, f/1.7, 25mm, 1/3.6″, 1.22µm, AF|
|Features||Dual video call, Auto-HDR|
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: S-Pen
The S-pen received one of the biggest updates on the note 8 and that is a feature that much thought isn’t given to in the note line updates. It is now a huge part and a defining feature of the phone. This retractable stylus has been the most obvious differentiating factor between the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S series since the beginning, and Samsung has been working to increase the value and convenience of the pen year over year.
The S-Pen now works as a remote control for the note 9. A long-press on the button can launch any app, depending on the app you can perform additional actions using single and double-clicks of the button. Samsung has configured several of its built-in apps to work with the S Pen. The could remotely control the shutter for the phone’s camera, for instance, a song remote for apps like Spotify and Google Play Music, and even a slide remote while giving Powerpoint presentations, Gallery, Voice Recorder. The button offers configurations of 1-4 different actions for both single- and double-click actions. Samsung is working on getting the S-Pen supported by third-party apps. In this light, developers will also be able to set their own actions for the pen, and apps like Snapchat already have S-Pen functionality at launch. It’s not something you think you will use much but it will gain on you.
The S Pen is the same size and shape as the Note 8’s. But it now has a small supercapacitor (effectively a high capacity, low voltage battery) to provide power for a short period so it can connect to the phone over Bluetooth. It provides 30 minutes of connectivity, and up to 250 clicks before it needs to be recharged. But that’s nothing to worry about, as it goes from 0 to 100% in just 40 seconds while in the phone. Even if the S Pen’s battery dies, it still works as a writing implement on the screen exactly as it does on previous Notes with the fantastic pressure sensitivity and tracking so many people love.
You can also buy the S-Pens separately, in case you want to mix and match color tones. One of my friends loves the combination of black and yellow, so he’s antsy to get a black device and yellow S-Pen to compliment his style. The new Bluetooth S-Pen also comes in midnight black, lavender purple, and metallic copper.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Cameras
As far as the c
ameras go, it is pretty much the same setup as the Galaxy S9+ camera setup. The Note 9’s rear camera is essentially the same 12-megapixel dual-lens shooter Samsung put in the Galaxy S9+, which means you can capture portraits with blurred backgrounds or bokeh. The camera also sports a dual aperture, which can automatically open at either f/1.5 to f/2.4 for brighter low-light images or crisper shots, depending on your shooting conditions. We know from extensive experience that it’s an excellent smartphone camera. The sensors, lenses and hardware support are all the same. Just like the specs discussion above, this isn’t a bad thing, but it’s worth noting that Samsung hasn’t made any hardware upgrades. The only thing that’s changed is the software: there is merely two new “AI” camera features called “scene optimizer” and “flaw detection.”
Samsung isn’t the first company to make its camera smart — LG and Huawei flagships both have intelligence baked in for automatically configuring the camera settings depending on what you’re shooting. The Note 9 recognizes 20 scenes, including snow, sunsets, beaches and backlit subjects, and adjusts the contrast, brightness, saturation, white balance and other settings you’d normally have to manually configure in the camera’s Pro mode. You can turn off Scene Optimizer if you’d rather take photos without its intervention.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: The almost perfect Part
While the Note 9 is an incredible feat of engineering from Samsung, its price is eye-watering. More to that, the much cheaper S9+ offers a lot similar experience if you don’t mind the lack of the S–Pen
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Should I Buy It?
If cost is not an issue for you, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comes highly recommended, it’s the best overall Android phone yet. But if you can’t afford, go for the S9+ if you absolutely have to have a Samsung phone or you could wait and see what OnePlus does with the OnePlus 6T. I have a feeling it’s going to be great.