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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Review

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I have long been a fan of the Note series, having previously owned the Note 3, Note 7 and the Note 8. I was heartbroken when the stories about the Note 7’s batteries exploding started to surface, leading to airlines banning the phone from their flights. It was a fantastic device and I was gutted when they were all recalled. I received a little compensation and was stuck with the Galaxy S6 Edge for a year until the Note 8 was unveiled. The eighth Note was a great device, hampered only by poor battery performance – naturally, Samsung played it safe and put a smaller battery in it. So much so that I had to buy a power bank to ensure that when I needed to, I could have an all-day battery life. The performance was great and the cameras were fantastic.

Here in the UK the Note 9 went on sale on August 24th. I preordered the ocean blue variant – as seen in the first picture – which proved to be the most popular. Therefore, my delivery date was a week later. Having owned the device for around a month, I’d like to share my thoughts on it. First, onto the specs compared with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

Galaxy Note 8

Android 7.1

Octacore 2.3 Ghz

6 GB Ram

64 GB Storage – Expandable by up to 256 GB

6.3″ OLED Screen

1440 x 2960 resolution – 522 ppi

3300 mAh Battery

8 MP Front Camera – Dual Lens 12 MP Rear Camera

Dust and Waterproof to IP68

Galaxy Note 9

Android 8.1

Octacore 2.7 Ghz

6 GB Ram

128 GB Storage – Expandable by up to 512 GB

6.4″ OLED Screen

1440 x 2960 – 512 ppi

4000 mAh Battery

8 MP Front Camera – Dual Lens 12 MP Rear Camera Dual Aperture

Dust and Waterproof to IP68

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much of a change, other than the obligatory slight bump to performance and battery size. Yes, the display is slightly bigger and the base storage capacity is doubled to 128 GB. One minor, but very welcome change, is the rear fingerprint sensor has been moved to below the camera unit, rather than in line as with the Note 8. I know I was forever smudging my camera while trying to scan my finger on the 8. It also makes it slightly easier to reach. After all, this is still a large device.

Unboxing

The phone arrived early afternoon, it’s box featuring the bright yellow signature stylus which makes the Note devices unique.

Cellophane removed, the box opens up to reveal a card wallet containing warranty information and the sim tray removal key.

Pulling the wallet out reveals the device itself. Lifting that out and the included fast charger – take note, Apple – USB C to Micro USB and USB C to USB adaptors, charging cable, earbuds and 3 sets of rubber earbud coverings.

The phone is protected by cellophane on the front. It’s always a great feeling peeling it off from a new device.

The rear of the device is glass, and this too is protected by cellophane. I’ve hidden the IMEI number here, as it comes on a sticker on the rear of the phone.

Powering up the device for the first time is always exciting for a gadget addict like me.

For a while now, Samsung has had a feature that allows you to plug your old device into your new phone in order to restore all your data and settings onto your new phone. Using the USB C to USB adaptor, I connected my Note 8 to my new Note 9 and transferred all my data.

Although I have not tried it yet, apparently you can do the same from say an iPhone to a Galaxy device. This took just over 10 minutes. A quick reboot later and all of my data from my previous phone was on the new one, along with all necessary accounts.

Even though it’s still a large device, the Note 9 is still very sleek with the display taking upĀ 83.4% of the front of the phone. The side bezels are very thin, wrapping around the edges slightly less than the previous Note. The top and bottom bezels are smaller too but, thankfully, do not have the stupid looking notch you find on the latest Apple devices.

The display is crisp and colorful, and more than bright enough to read in full sunlight. The iris scanner works a lot quicker and more predictably than on the previous generation, this time working in tandem with facial recognition. Of course, you can also unlock it with your fingerprints, and again this works quicker and is more predictable than before.

The performance of the phone is also noticeably better, particularly in regards to multitasking. Here I have Youtube open on the left, Discord on the right.

Cameras

Photo quality is slightly better than on the previous generation. It has the same cameras as on the S9 series, and these feel quicker to capture images. Here are a few examples of the photo quality.




A welcome upgrade from the Note 8 is that sound now comes from the bottom speaker and the ear speaker, so watching a movie on the Note 9 is a better experience with stereo sound. It is also louder and fuller than previously.

S-Pen

This time around, the S-Pen has a new trick up its sleeve. The stylus now includes a very small battery to power the side button, which is now Bluetooth. The battery is charged within the body of the phone and is good for 30 minutes continuous use. Even if the battery runs out, however, the stylus itself still works to jot notes or what have you.

The Bluetooth button allows you to use the stylus as a remote. For example, you can open the camera, set up your phone somewhere, stand back and take a photo with a press of the stylus button. Like this.

Dex

Another use of the button is as a remote to switch slides on a Powerpoint presentation. Now, I know what you’re thinking: yes, the device is quite large, but it’s not THAT big, surely? Well, no, but since a few generations ago Samsung has had a feature called Dex. This used to require the purchase of a docking device to be able to connect to an external supply like a monitor or projector. This time around, all that is needed is a USB C to HDMI cable.

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In Dex mode, you have a desktop-like experience. Once you have a mouse and keyboard connected via Bluetooth, you can use the device more like a conventional computing device. Unfortunately, it’s not that well supported yet. Microsoft Word, Powerpoint etc work full screen, as do the email and browser apps, so it’s good enough for basic office tasks on the go. A lot of apps however just open up as a window.

Final Verdict

You may have gathered by now that I am a Note fan. Yes, I very much enjoyed the Note 8, but was always conscious of battery life. With it’s increased capacity, the battery on the Note 9 easily lasts me all day. The cameras are improved, performance is better, the sound is now stereo and the remote stylus is a handy new feature. The base storage has now doubled from 64 to 128 GB and the overall experience of using the phone is much smoother. On paper, the improvements don’t look like much, but in hand, it certainly feels much better.

So, any downsides? Well, yes. Of course, nothing is quite perfect. First, the price. To buy outright without a contract, the phone is in the top tier price bracket. Fortunately, I was due an upgrade, so this did not have much bearing for me. Also, Bixby – yes Samsung, it’s a great idea. Apple has proven how a built-in AI assistant can be useful. But Siri works. Bixby is still not ready for the mainstream. Therefore it makes little sense to me to have a dedicated Bixby button. Thankfully Samsung has listened to users and pushed out an update that enables you to disable the button, so accidental presses are no longer a thing. It would, however, be better to be able to remap the button, as currently, it sits redundant on my phone.

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