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Samsung Galaxy Note9 performance: old chip, freshly optimized

It’s a new smartphone with the same chip. That's right, Samsung is using the same hardware it used on the S9 and S9+ on its latest top-range Note series, which should improve the software and cooling system. Will it make a difference? Find out in our performance test.

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The platform doesn’t change and neither do the tests

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 doesn’t radically alter the smartphone landscape with a new chip. Instead, it focuses primarily on optimization in heat loss and software. We’ve tested these changes and evaluated the progress of the Korean brand by doing the following tests:

In addition to these benchmark tests, we’ve of course evaluated the performance in everyday life and in demanding situations like long gaming sessions on Fortnite or Asphalt 9.

You can't always have the best

As we’ve already seen on the S9 and S9+, the American version of the Note 9 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip that you'll find on almost any top-range device from 2018. The international version uses an SoC produced by Samsung itself, the Exynos 9810. The octa-core CPU (4x2.7 GHz Mongoose M3 and 4x1.8 GHz Cortex-A55) accompanied by 6GB of RAM proved once again to be unbeatable in our benchmarks. The Mali-G72 MP18 GPU seems not to be able to keep up with Qualcomm’s Adreno 630, at least in the benchmarks.

I was already suspicious of the S9/S9+ when I tested the performance of those devices, so it’s no coincidence that the Note confirmed those suspicions in the benchmark results. The Note 9’s graphical benchmarks were lower than the flagships from 2017 with Snapdragon 835. If we were to look at benchmarks alone, that would be a disaster...

Samsung Galaxy Note 9: CPU and GPU benchmark results

  OnePlus 6 Galaxy S9+ (QHD+) Galaxy Note 8 (QHD+) Galaxy Note 9 (FullHD+) Galaxy Note 9 (QHD+)
3D Mark
Sling Shot ES 3.1
4073 3257 2561 3379 3351
3D Mark
Sling Shot ES 3.0
3275 3910 2130 2884 2857
3D Mark
Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0
62113 38302 33586 41354 41533
Geekbench CPU
Single core
2448 3771* 1984* 3753*
Geekbench CPU
Multicore
8970 8923* 6607* 8998*
PassMark Memory
(RAM)
12465 24164* 8296* 10040*
PassMark Disk
(Storage)
73927 67765* 71966* 71197*

*Not affected by a change of resolution

Fortunately, we know that benchmarks are only indicators and should be taken with a grain of salt.

The software has improved, but let’s not call it a gamer’s smartphone

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 I’ve often noticed on the S9+ have in fact almost disappeared with the update that came a few days after the release of the Note 9. The Korean brand still has a lot of work to do to improve their software but, apparently, Oreo 8.1 and Samsung Experience 9.5 go quite well together.

AndroidPIT android pie 0095
Who knows when Android 9.0 Pie will arrive... / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

We tested the international version of the device, and with the most demanding games (such as the acclaimed Fortnite, PUBG or Final Fantasy), the performance is not the greatest. Let’s be clear, all these games are perfectly playable, but a smartphone equipped with Snapdragon 845 (like the American version of the Note 9 does) manages to get higher and more stable frame rates than smartphones with the Exynos SoC.

Everything under control

Samsung does seem to be aware of the problem and has been running for repairs to try to cool the internal components of the Note 9 more efficiently in order to avoid unnecessary throttling. The Korean brand’s new heat sink should bring significant improvements to the next generation.

However, Samsung seems to be aware of the problem and has been running for repairs trying to cool the internal components of the Note 9 more efficiently in order to avoid unnecessary throttling. The new heat sink used by the Korean brand brings significant improvements over the previous generation, the one installed on Note 8:

  • The size of the heatpipe was increased from 2mm to 5mm.
  • The coolant content increased from 0.02g to 0.05g.
  • The thermal conductivity is 3.5x higher.
  • The capacity to absorb heat is 3x greater.

You’ll feel the change when you use the Note 9. During normal operation, your smartphone is always cool, and during gaming sessions, it tends to warm slightly in the area of the SoC. This takes place, however, not on the side of the heatsink, but on the display side. Compared to the S9+ and the other flagships I’ve tested, you can appreciate the result without having to resort to temperature measurement with special instruments.

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The Note 9 looks great under the hood! / © Samsung

The price temperature control in the device has a positive impact, even when the smartphone isn’t being used. The lower the temperature, the freer the SoC is to use more energy, even if just for a few moments.

Too much chat.. It’s time to get to the point!

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is perhaps the best smartphone you can buy right now. I’ll explain my rationale in our full review, but for now know that despite some missteps with the Exynos 9810 SoC, the user experience is great and after all that is what counts.

The benchmarks scores, the technical specifications, the type of cooling: nothing matters if the experience is bad and Samsung has worked hard to make the Note 9 enjoyable for every kind of user and every type of use.

The Note 9 isn’t ideal for gaming and leaves you with some uncertainty from time to time, but it is able to please everyone and only nerds like me will be able to notice the difference. Game launchers and all the functions related to the world of gaming and streaming are perfect. These functions are hard to find with other manufacturers.

So if you’re looking for a smartphone that can primarily function as a portable gaming console, you might want to shift your interest to other devices...

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