My vacation is over, but I returned to the office to find a nice surprise had arrived. I've never been a huge fan of the Note series or its unique S-Pen, so I wasn't dying to get my hands on the Note 9. Nevertheless, it was on my desk waiting to be reviewed. After spending just one weekend with the device, it managed to win me over. Here are my impressions after 48 hours with the Note 9.
Biometrics are still a nightmare with Samsung
This point applies to all of Samsung's recent premium smartphones. With the S8/S8+ and Note 8, the company needed to overcome problems with fingerprint sensor positioning, and the biometric unlocking systems haven't improved much with the S9/S9+ and Note 9.
The fingerprint reader is more easily accessible but the rectangular shape doesn't seem ergonomic, I still prefer round fingerprint readers. In addition, the speed of the sensor itself leaves something to be desired, and even when it finally decides to recognize your fingerprint, the delay in unlocking is quite conspicuous.
The iris scanner and facial recognition join forces with Intelligent Scan, but it has some issues. Like the S9 and S9+, the Galaxy Note 9 unlocks instantly when you don't need or want it to. But, when you're actually trying to unlock the smartphone, you can stay on it for minutes without anything happening. Need a quick look at the notifications on the lock screen? It will unlock in a blink of an eye, forcing you to manually open the notification area.
Not just a big smartphone, but a great one
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a great big chunk of phone. Its huge 6.4" display is certainly not among the most comfortable to use with one hand, but the Note 9 is not designed to be used in this way: one hand should hold the phone, the other should hold the S-Pen. The weight of over 200 grams doesn't help, but given the size of the phone and the quality of materials used, it's appropriate.
Frankly, I'm not wild about the square shape. I prefer the curves of the Galaxy S range, but it must be said that Samsung has done a great job in making this huge smartphone as handy as possible while facilitating the use of the S-Pen. It boasts many advantages over the competition, including a large battery, a camera that does not protrude from the back, a headphone jack, wireless charging and more.
Speaking of battery...
I hope the battery life I experienced this weekend is how things are generally with the Note 9, because I was very impressed. After disconnecting the smartphone from the charger on Saturday morning, I didn't have to plug it back in until Sunday evening. And no, I did not spend the weekend avoiding using it.
The Galaxy Note 9 surprised me with an amazing result of almost 9 hours of screen-on time and two days of use with all my synced accounts, social media, messaging, a little gaming and many videos. We'll have to see in a full review whether or not this is always the case, but it looks promising.
The new cooling system seems to be working
The new liquid cooling system from Samsung seems to work properly. Despite intense gaming sessions of Fortnite and Asphalt 9, the Exynos 9810 SoC ran incredibly cool. Only after playing for ten minutes with the smartphone connected to the charger did it manage to warm up slightly, but the heat was barely perceptible on the display, and the back of the Note 9 was still cool compared to other smartphones in comparable conditions.
This has guaranteed the Note 9 impeccable performance throughout the weekend, avoiding any annoying throttling moments during the most intense usage. Again, I reserve the right to change my mind after a full review, of course.
The feature that struck me the most was the one that interested me least
As already mentioned at the beginning of the article, I'm not a fan of the Note series, and it's from this point of view that the final review will be written. I have never felt the need to have an S-Pen for the way I use a smartphone, but this new S-Pen with Bluetooth has some interesting aces up its sleeve.
I still think that the stylus isn't really the most comfortable way to interact with a smartphone because of its short length that makes it uncomfortable to use it for a long period of time. The extra features have managed to convince even a skeptic of the S-Pen like me.
The ability to launch the camera and snap a shot remotely is a convenient addition to help you avoid unnecessary finger gymnastics when taking selfies. And, controlling Spotify with it is more useful that one might think. True, listening to music with headphones that have controls is simple, as is using the dedicated buttons on the device itself. But, I still found it interesting to use while listening at home.
With the Galaxy Note 9 left resting on your desk, you can play Spotify from a distance even with your Google Home Mini, all with the S-Pen in your pocket as a remote control while messing about in the kitchen. It's a particular use case I never thought about, but it's nice given the IP68 certification of the stylus.
The only detail to keep in mind is that the S-Pen now has a battery to recharge and does not last as long as the smartphone battery: if you use the S-Pen a lot as a remote control, you'll have to store the pen to charge earlier than you'd think, but on the other hand, it's not designed to stay out of its housing for a long time anyway.
Of course, all the classic features are present, but I must admit that I have not had many opportunities to use them in these 48 hours.
The Galaxy Note 9 is not a major revolution, but the quality of the smartphone is unquestionable. And after the first 48 hours, I'm happy to give it a chance. Even if I was skeptical of it at first, after this opportunity to spend some time with it, I've been won over.
What do you think about the new Samsung phablet? Do you think it's worth it or is it just another Galaxy without too much innovation?