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Review 9 min read 7 comments

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 hands-on: the last of its kind

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

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 release date and price

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. The Note 9 surpassed the mark, joining the company of Apple’s iPhone X, the Galaxy S9 versions and some noble variants of smartphones from Chinese manufacturers, such as the Porsche Design Mate RS or the OPPO Find X Lamborghini.

For the basic version 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. The official launch of the Galaxy Note 9 is scheduled for August 24, 2018.

The design hasn't changed much, but still looks great

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.

If you hold the predecessor next to the Galaxy Note 9, you’ll notice that the 2018 phablet is slightly smaller, although Samsung has given it a larger display and a battery with higher capacity, which has led the Note 9 to increase in mass and it’s therefore heavier than the Galaxy Note 8.

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The design has been further refined. / © AndroidPIT

Notch haters will be happy about one thing: Samsung remains firm and still uses a display in the Galaxy Note 9 without the very controversial screen notch. The backside is even more exciting than the front, as Samsung learned from the Galaxy Note 8. Instead of “form follows function”, the Galaxy Note 9 and the placement of the fingerprint sensor concentrate on functionality and ergonomics. The relocalization of the biometric sensor to below the dual camera unit is simply better and ensures fewer operating errors. Thanks, Samsung!

The S-Pen is an interesting development for Samsung because the special color gives it a touch of individuality. Is that an indication that the Note series is about to disappear completely? It would be sensible if a universal S-Pen could be used across the entire Samsung product range and save us all a lot of money.

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Compared to the Galaxy S9+ the edges are not noticeably smaller. / © AndroidPIT

Still king of the displays

At 6.4”, the display of the Galaxy Note 9 is 0.1” larger than the Galaxy Note 8, and when it comes to display technology, Samsung of course relies on its own proven Super AMOLED technology , which is known for its vivid and high-contrast display.

The Galaxy Note 9 brings Samsung one step closer to an Infinity Display, and not only because the display is 0.1-inch larger than its predecessor, but also because the edges on the top and bottom have shrunk again.

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The display is still one of the best on the market, but has no special features. / © AndroidPIT

It’s a pity that Samsung is letter Chinese competitors such as Vivo and OPPO take the lead when it comes to innovations. Vivo uses a Samsung display in the NEX, which is also used as the speaker for calls, and OPPO integrates a Super AMOLED panel with a fingerprint sensor in the Find X. You might think that Samsung is simply using Vivo and OPPO as a beta test platform, but again it seems more plausible to me that Samsung is no longer convinced that the Note series is profitable. We’re more likely to see innovative technologies in the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10 or the foldable Galaxy X.

The S-Pen finds its independence

The S-Pen has always been a unique selling point for the Galaxy Note . This time around, Samsung has technically upgraded the S-Pen of its predecessor. And thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, the Samsung stylus is no longer a proprietary accessory, but can communicate with any smartphone, smartwatch, Family Hub series refrigerator or other Bluetooth devices.

There is, however, one disadvantage of the Bluetooth S-Pen: it consumes a lot of power, but Samsung has this under control and stated that it can be used for a full 30 minutes and can be recharged from 0 to 100 percent within 40 seconds on the Note 9.

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The new S Pen now supports Bluetooth and is also colorful! / © AndroidPIT

First features and open interface

You can use the S-Pen as a kind of remote control for presentations, or as a remote trigger for the camera. The S-Pen can perform three actions, some of which are configurable. In the camera, for example, you can use the single click to release a photo, and double-click to switch between the front and main camera.

Samsung has made the API for the S-Pen functions open, so that app developers can integrate the functions of the S-Pen when they develop apps.

No software surprises

When it comes to software, Samsung relies on the usual. The Samsung Experience version 9.5 is based on Android 8.1. Since even the devices at the hands-on don't correspond to the standard devices, I'm not worried about the security patch from July 1, 2018. In our final review for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, we'll examine the software more intensively for you.

One of the most powerful smartphones

In the new Galaxy Note 9, users can again rely on the performance of Samsung’s own Exynos 9810 , at least in Europe. 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.

The Galaxy S9 and the S9+ with the Exynos 9810 were among the fastest smartphones available in the Android world. With the new Galaxy Note 9, Samsung should also be able to advance in the ranks of the fastest smartphones. The biggest question remains to what extent Samsung’s software has been further optimized. We’ll have to check this in a final performance test with a Galaxy Note 9 from series production. Until then, we’ve done performance tests on models similar to the Galaxy S9, which will serve as a good guide to raw power.

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

Stereo sound, Dolby Atmos and jack connection

There's good news about the audio . Samsung also implants audio features from the Galaxy S9+: stereo speakers that can output Dolby Atmos sound. There's also a headphone connection available, as AKG headphones comes with the device.

Camera hardware is familiar

Samsung didn’t give the Galaxy Note 9 a completely new camera setup , and instead they transplanted the dual camera with a variable aperture from the Galaxy S9+ into the Note 9. Of course, the Galaxy Note 9 is also able to record super slow motion at a maximum of 960 fps without having to press a button.

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The camera will probably deliver very good images. / © AndroidPIT

More interesting than the photo and video quality on the Galaxy Note 9, The Bluetooth-enabled S-Pen can now be used as a kind of wireless remote. That’s practical for those of you looking to take long exposure photos or that use the Galaxy Note 9 on a tripod. If you’re a YouTuber, you can put the Note 9 on the tripod, stand in front of the camera and start a video recording or livestream. Maybe we’ll see YouTubers and influencers taking a particular liking to the Note 9.

The software helps support the camera and somewhat relies on artificial intelligence. After you take a picture, the software recognizes whether an image is blurred, if the subject's eyes are closed, or if the image is poorly backlit.

In addition, the software can detect up to 20 scenes and support you with the settings. There will be more on this later. It is praiseworthy that these software features from Samsung are not aggressively marketed as AI.

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Different layout, but same hardware: Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy S9+ / © AndroidPIT

Finally another big battery

The biggest improvement Samsung has made 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.

Certainly Samsung’s information is just a guideline and we’ll have to check that information after we receive our test device. The adjustable display resolution is helpful for a slightly longer battery life. In the factory state, the device has a Full HD+ display with a native maximum resolution of 2,960 x 1,440, which first needs to be changed via the settings.

If you run out of battery, the Note 9 user once again has the option of either wired or inductive charging. 

In our hands-on with the Galaxy Note 9, we weren’t able to test the phablet in detail to give a meaningful assessment of the battery life of the Note 9. But we’ll do this once we get our hands on the test device. We’ll also be able to check to what extent intensive use of the new S-pen will have an effect on battery life.

Early Verdict

Last year's Note 8 was a conservative smartphone. No wonder, since the successor of the Note 8 couldn't be a failure like its predecessor. With the Note 9, Samsung can once again show what the manufacturer is capable of. The battery already promises a longer battery life and the S-Pen, which is more durable and doesn't drain from intensive use like a conventional battery. If you're a Note fan, you might be want to jump at the opportunity to get the latest in the series, since it's unclear whether there will be a Note 10. And one last point: thanks to the Bluetooth capable S-Pen which will soon work with all Galaxy smartphones, tablets and other devices could be converted into a Note in the future.

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

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