The "1-Minute" Review
- Fingerprint magnet
Samsung’s Note series has always ruled the top of the large phone charts -- apart from the Note 7 and its battery issues. But as phones continue to get larger with each generation, the lines between typical phones and phablets blur. The Note 9 packs a ton of features and beautiful design into a capable package. But it also bumps the price into the high three-figure, low four-figure range depending on your region. This begs the question, is it worth it?
The phone uses the same glass and metal chassis as the Galaxy S9 and S9+ with smooth, curved edges and soft corners. There is a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and integrated stylus holster on the bottom edge. For the first time, the S-Pen stylus is also color matched to the phone in most color variants.
Overall, reviewers loved the design though many noted it wasn’t much different from the Note 8. If you are bothered by smudges and fingerprints, you’ll want a case. The phone is a fingerprint magnet. But otherwise, the various color options pleased most reviewers. It’s also quite large despite the thinner form factor. Those with smaller hands might find one-handed use difficult.
Around front, you’re greeted by a 6.4-inch 1440-by-2960 pixel Super AMOLED Infinity display with HDR support. The software allows resolution switching for better battery life. But even in the lower resolution modes, the display offers ample detail, vibrant colors, and excellent contrast. HDR support also takes Netflix and Amazon video to the next level though there are few HDR video options on the mobile front just yet.
You’ll find either a 2.8Ghz octa-core Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9810 processor powering the phone depending on your region. Whether you are multitasking for work, checking emails, or playing the latest games, reviews indicate that performance is stellar. Depending on the variant you choose, you’ll find 6GB to 8GB of RAM -- more than enough for power users and casual users alike.
The Note 9 offers some of the largest internal storage options available. With 128 or 512GB of internal storage and microSD support up to 512GB, you should never need to worry about running out of room for apps, games, or media.
The phone ships with Android 8.1 Oreo and the Samsung Experience 9 skin. There’s no mention yet if the phone will see an update to Android 9 Pie. Reviewers found the interface easy to use and while Samsung adds a lot to the stock Android experience, most of it is well-received. There’s a fair bit of bloatware, however. So be prepared to spend time uninstalling or disabling apps for a while if you’re not a fan.
As with most Samsung phones, the cameras on the Note 9 are some of the best available on the mobile market. The dual-lens rear camera features a 12MP adjustable aperture normal lens and 12MP telephoto lens for 2x optical zoom.
Both include optical image stabilization. Combined with the phone’s intelligent scene detection, reviewers found the camera captured excellent images in a variety of lighting conditions. While it wasn’t as strong as the Huawei P20 Pro in low-light, it offers an experience that should delight anyone.
Other features include 4K video recording and 960FPS slow-motion recording. While the features work great, reviewers recommend plenty of light and a steady hand for slow-motion recording.
The 8MP front-facing lens also impressed and is more than enough for snapping selfies or enjoying a video chat with friends and family.
While many of the changes in the Note 9 are incremental compared to previous models, the S-Pen sees a major update introducing Bluetooth LE support. This means that the pen works all of its typical stylus magic while also functioning as a remote. Out of the box, the S Pen can activate the camera, snap pictures, control playback in YouTube or Spotify apps, and more. Additional integrations are expected soon as Samsung only recently released support for the feature to developers.
For video and music lovers, the Note 9 offers speakers that can match the visual splendor of the screen. Stereo speakers tuned by AKG crank out plenty of well-balanced and surprisingly rich sound while and a 3.5mm headphone jack means you can connect your favorite cans for private listening.
The phone includes one of the largest batteries available at 4000mAh. USB Type-C Quick Charge support and wireless charging also make it easy to top off the phone should you run low on power. However, reviewers had no problems hitting a full day of use on a single charge. Many estimated you could reach a day and a half with lighter use.
If you don’t mind the price, reviewers unanimously recommend the Note 9. Pocket-Lint says, “It's the S Pen that will be the biggest consideration when deciding if the Note 9 is the device for you…” Mobile Syrup praises Samsung’s latest release, saying, “The Note 9 truly is one of the first Android devices I can confidently state is nearly perfect as long as you're fond of big phones.”