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Review 11 min read 12 comments

Galaxy Note9: the smartphone of your dreams for a steep price

Now the time has come and the next chapter in the Samsung Galaxy Note story has arrived. The market leader in smartphones isn't daring to take any optical risks, but is now equipping the Galaxy Note 9 with a new S-Pen, a larger battery and finally the fingerprint sensor is in the right position. And what else? Find out in our review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9!

Rating

Good

  • Display
  • Improved battery
  • S-Pen
  • Camera with telephoto lens
  • Design and craftsmanship

Bad

  • Battery still not perfect
  • Camera doesn't perform well in the dark
  • Dimensions
  • Slow biometric authentication
  • Price

A price that is no longer surprising

In this day and age, it’s no surprise when a smartphone with the features of a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 exceeds the 1,000 dollar barrier. The device’s predecessor, the Galaxy Note 8, already scratched at this limit. For the basic version of the Note 9 with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal memory, Samsung is charging $1,000, and the version with 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of memory will cost you $1,250.

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Samsung flagships always come super well-equipped. / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

Still the winning team

Samsung’s design team didn’t have to recreate much on the 6.4-inch phablet, and it's much more focused on improving the details. The huge high-resolution Infinity display dominates the front of the panel , and on the back Samsung has finally moved the fingerprint sensor to a more convenient position.

The back stands out a little more in comparison to the previous model thanks to the repositioning of the fingerprint reader. It's now easier to reach, but as is the case with previous models, it does not stand out for its speed.

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The fingerprint reader is easier to reach, but it is still an awkward shape and isn't always responsive. / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

Compared to the Note 8, the Galaxy Note 9 is slightly shorter and slightly wider and thicker, but the difference is minimal. Samsung has succeeded in introducing a larger screen and a larger battery capacity. And as a result, the device is a bit heavier.

Attractive and elegant design

Due to its size, it is virtually impossible to use with one hand. The Note series has always been a representative for the world of phablets and this is nothing new. Interestingly, Samsung has added a touch of originality to the S-Pen by introducing new colors. The Ocean Blue coloring with the yellow S-Pen is truly unique and aesthetically pleasing.

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A look that's always premium and always elegant. / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

The best Infinity display ever

With a 6.4-inch display, the Galaxy Note 9 is 0.1 inches larger than its predecessor. In terms of visualization technology, Samsung is known and acclaimed for its SuperAMOLED panels characterized by absolute contrasts, brilliant and accurate colors as well as unparalleled brightness.

The infinity display is all the more impressive because the screen is 0.1 inches larger, but also because the top and bottom edges of the device have been further trimmed. According to our colleagues over at DisplayMate, the Note 9 mounts (surprise, surprise) the best display on the market. In our article you can learn more about the Galaxy Note 9's display:

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Notch? No thanks! / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

The S-Pen makes the Note 9 unique

The S-Pen has always been the distinctive feature of the Note series. The Note 9 is no exception and is coming to the market with a stylus. Equipped with the Bluetooth 5.0, the S-Pen incorporates new useful features . You can use the button as a remote control for photos.

Samsung has opened the API for S-Pen functions so that app developers can integrate the stylus functions in their app programming. The S-Pen is designed for about 200 minutes of autonomy, and it takes just 40 seconds of charging to get 30 minutes of use. To charge the S-Pen, just insert it in the dedicated slot at the bottom of the device.

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The S-Pen has always been the distinctive element of the Note series.  / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

Bixby and Dex: two delights from the Korean flagship

The Bixby button is located on the left side and can no longer be deactivated. Get ready to crash into the Bixby interface every time you unlock your smartphone after pulling it out of your pocket, just like on the previous Galaxy models. Bixby is still Bixby: don't expect much more.

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I'm on my knees Samsung: can you at least let us disable Bixby? It's annoying!  / © AndroidPIT

One of the more appreciated novelties, especially for professional people who want to carry their workplace in their pocket, is the option of using DeX without any special accessories. All you have to do is connect the Note 9 to a display using a USB Type-C / HDMI cable and you can start using desktop mode.

You can connect your mouse and keyboard via Bluetooth or use the Note screen as a trackpad and keyboard. The rest remains unchanged from what we have already seen from Samsung thanks to the DeX pad Galaxy S9.

Same old story, same old UI

The Note 9 still comes with Android 8.1 and has version 9.5 of Samsung Experience. The Samsung interface has improved in recent years, but some new software would have been a breath of fresh air. Hopefully that will happen with the Galaxy S10 and Android Pie...

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You can choose not to install some of Samsung apps when you first turn the Note 9 on. / © AndroidPIT

The Note 9 is reactive and snappy like no Galaxy before it. Samsung has worked hard to optimize its OS, which is now pleasant to use, although at first glance it could confuse inexperienced users.

The device has all the possible functions imaginable and almost all of them are configurable or can be deactivated. It's true, not everyone will use the million functions present, but as a fan of being able to make personal choices, I was pleased to be able to configure the smartphone the way I wanted to. 

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It's impossible to talk about the software functions on the Galaxy Note 9. There are too many. / © AndroidPIT

Unfortunately, there are still duplicate apps that are redundant. Even if these aren't uninstallable, you can at least deactivate them. It's too bad Samsung doesn't let you just uninstall apps.

Powerful but not overblown

In the new Galaxy Note 9, users can again rely on the performance of Samsung’s own Exynos 9810 , at least in the international variant of the design. In North America, Samsung relies on the Qualcomm 845 SoC, as it did with the Galaxy S9 and S9+. The working memory configuration is 6 or 8 GB. If you’re storing data on the Note 9, the device will have 128 GB or 512 GB, which can even be expanded to 1 terabyte with microSD cards.

Unfortunately, we haven't gotten to test the North American version of the device, which should have impeccable graphics. The international Note 9 has proved be a true flagship and never suffered from issues with dropping apps. It could also multitask very well in demanding situations. 

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Under the hood of the Galaxy Note 9. / © Samsung

Under extreme conditions, the Note 9's performance maintains consistent thanks to its new and improved heat sink. The Samsung optimization on the software also definitely played a role in this. For more details, I'll refer you to our specific performance test where I compared the Note 9's performance to the competition.

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As far as performance is concerned, the Note 9 will certainly not disappoint. / © AndroidPIT

Audio functions for audiophiles and everyone else

There's good news about the audio . Samsung also implants audio features from the Galaxy S9+: stereo speakers that can output Dolby Atmos sound. The Note 9 speakers will satisfy everyone, ranging from hardened gamers to Netflix and YouTube fans.

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The bottom speaker is the most powerful. / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

The volume is high and the quality is good, although the stereo isn't perfect due to the less powerful ear capsule on the main speaker, but this also applies to other flagships with pseudo/stereo speakers. The ear capsule is mainly used for mid-high frequencies while the speaker places more emphasis on the mid-bass frequency range.

There's also a headphone connection available and AKG headphones come with the device. Lovers of of high quality audio will once again find an advanced equalizer with specific effects and the option of changing the audio to their liking: a feature similar to the one introduced on the HTC U11.

The device comes with the codecs AptX, AptX HD and LDAC as well as the ability to control two Bluetooth devices simultaneously thanks to the advanced audio management from Samsung SmartThings.

Cameras are among the best you can find

Samsung didn't give us any surprises with the camera and instead opted for the same configuration as the Galaxy S9+. The Note 9 incorporates a dual 12MP camera with variable aperture between f/2.4 and f/1.5. This isn't a bad choice considering the photographic skills on the S9+.

The Note 9 also features Super Slow Motion, which allows you to shoot up to 960 frames per second without the need to press the shutter release button. You can take a look at the shots from the Note 9 in our in-depth article:

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Two stabilized cameras, one with variable aperture and one with a telephoto lens. / © AndroidPIT

Loads of autonomy but you'll still need to charge it every evening

The biggest improvement Samsung has made in its (probably) last Galaxy Note concerns the battery. After the Note 7 battery debacle, the electronics company just tried to be as safe as possible with the next Note. The Galaxy Note 8’s battery capacity was just 3,300 mAh. The Note 9 now has an energy cell with a full 4,000 mAh , which according to Samsung, should last an entire day of intensive use.

The ability to change the screen resolution is useful to better manage consumption. The Note 9 offers FullHD+ resolution, but you can take it up to 2960x1440 pixels. Personally, I think it's a waste not to make the most of the fabulous display and the difference in battery life isn't so extreme.

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Remember that the S-Pen should also be charged from time to time! / © AndroidPIT

I have to admit that my personal experience with the Note 9 has been confusing with respect to the battery life. I've managed several times to get more than one day of battery life (I never made it through two days though) with more than 8 hours of screen time. The Note 9 battery is a considerable upgrade compared to the Note 8 or S9+, but you still can't get through a whole weekend without seeking out an outlet.

Luckily, the device is once again equipped with a Quick Charge 3.0 charger. It charges quickly, but the charger is a bit bulky. We would have expected more from Samsung, since they're always been at the forefront of fast charging, either with or without cables. It might be obvious, but it's better to be certain: the Galaxy Note 9 supports wireless quick charging.

Galaxy Note 9 benchmark comparison from PCMark

  Battery life Capacity
Razer Phone 10 hours 43 minutes 4000 mAh
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 10 hours 25 minutes 4000 mAh
Huawei P20 Pro 9 hours 33 minutes 4000 mAh
Samsung Galaxy S9 7 hours 15 minutes 3000 mAh

In our battery test, the Note 9 placed near the top of our list with 10 hours and 25 minutes of battery life. In everyday life, it's perhaps not the smartphone that I would recommend to people who want a smartphone that can last more than a day. I managed to reach the end of the day with 15-20% of the charge remaining, but in many cases, I had to recharge my smartphone at dinner time.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 technical specifications

Dimensions: 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm
Weight: 201 g
Battery size: 4000 mAh
Screen size: 6.4 in
Display technology: AMOLED
Screen: 2960 x 1440 pixels (514 ppi)
Rear camera: 12 megapixels
Android version: 8.1 - Oreo
RAM: 6 GB
8 GB
Internal storage: 128 GB
512 GB
Removable storage: microSD
Chipset: Samsung Exynos 9810
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.7 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0

The most complete smartphone 1,000 dollars can buy

The Android flagships have always been special. Despite the fact that everyone tries to be the best, there are always some that excel in certain features that make us fans truly excited. The Note 9 has been accused of being a minor update and an iteration of the Note 9 that isn't worth spending a thousand dollars on.

The matter of price is always subjective and just depends on what you want to spend. But if I had to recommend a smartphone over the $1,000 threshold, I would surely way the Note 9. At the moment it's impossible to find a smartphone that is as complete as Samsung's phablet.

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The Note 9 costs more than its competitors, but for good reason. / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

The best screen in the world, with exemplary performance and enough internal memory for any users. It has lots of RAM, the top cameras in the industry, a huge battery, elegant design, premium materials, stereo speakers, a headphone jack, pulse reader, iris scan unlock, S-Pen, and a billion software features. There's also wide customization options, DeX via HDMI cable, should I go on?

The Note 9 isn't the fastest smartphone. It doesn't have the best battery life in the world and the cameras can lag in some situations compared to the competition, but where will you find another device with all these high-level features? The S-Pen might not be suitable accessory for everyone, but the Note 9 is best complete package on the market, and if I were to decide to invest 1,000 dollars in a device, the Note 9 would be my first choice. 

Are you excited for the release of the Galaxy Note 9? Let us know in the comments!

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