The first thing that you will want to do when you get your Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is pop out the S-Pen and start scribbling on the screen. At least, that’s what I did. This is a device that is a lot more fun to use than your regular phones. With the S-Pen, you will start to become the artist you never were, or start to jot down things you never thought necessary.
But, the Note 9 is not just a toy! It is a powerful beast of a phone for power users. And yes, the best phone that money…well, a lot of money can buy right now. But the thing on everyone’s mind is “Is it worth a $1000”? And after full month of usage, I say, yes. Yes, it is worth every penny.
- Display:6.4-inch QHD+ (1440 x 2960) Infinity display with 18.5:9 aspect ratio and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection
- Build: Aluminum Frame and Glass Body with IP-68 Water and Dust Resistance
- Processor: Octa-Core Exynos 9810 processor with Mali-G72 MP18 GPU
- RAM: 6 GB RAM with 128 GB storage, expandable memory up to 512 GB with microSD
- OS: Samsung Experience UI based on Android 8.1 (Oreo)
- SIM: Dual SIM (nano + Hybrid slot)
- Back Camera: 12 MP primary camera with variable aperture (f/1.5 + f/2.4) and secondary 12 MP telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture with Optical Image Stabilization and Dual Pixel PDAF
- Front Camera: 8 MP front-facing camera f/1.7 aperture and Auto Focus
- Security: Fingerprint Sensor, Face Unlock and Iris Scanner
- Dimensions: (161.9 × 76.4 × 8.8) mm; Weight: 201 grams
- Connectivity: Dual 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, NFC
- Battery: 4000 mAh Li-Ion battery
- Price in Nepal: Rs. 109,900 (US $999)
The design of the Galaxy Note 9 is pretty much the same to last year’s Note 8. It is a very well-crafted but not much has changed except the placement of the fingerprint sensor, which is now at a more convenient spot. The phone is quite large, and for those with small hands, it’s going to get quite a lot of getting used to. I am just stating what it is, but, if you’re going to get a Galaxy Note device, you shouldn’t complain about the size!
Other than that, nothing much has changed. You still get a headphone jack, which is good. And this is the first Galaxy Note device to have stereo speakers. It is IP68 Water and Dust Resistant, but that is not new for Samsung. The glass back looks pretty good, but it catches fingerprints very easily. There’s also the infamous Boxby button on the right, which was pretty much useless, but it’s very easy to mistake it for the volume down button. I don’t know about you guys, but I think Samsung should consider removing that…and by that, I mean the whole Bixby, not just the button.
Overall, the phone is tall, muscular and has got that premium factor to it – a classic Galaxy Note trait!
A 6.4” Quad-HD+ resolution on a Super AMOLED display makes for stunning visuals. The Infinity display with 18.5:9 aspect ratio and sloping edges make everything appear superb! With OLED displays, you get perfect blacks and better colors. So, from pictures, to videos, to texts, everything is vibrant and punchy and colors are very accurate. There is no argument that Samsung’s displays are one of the best. And while everyone is giving their own version of notches to their phones, respect to Samsung for not jumping on the hype train.
The brightness levels are also pretty good, allowing good sunlight legibility overall. However, a small issue is that the edges reflect light and interrupt the display slightly. And this is actually a design trait on all curved Samsung phones. But, you will get used to it after sometime.
Also, you can adjust whether to use the QHD+ resolution or switch to Full HD+. Keeping it in Full HD+ will help you save battery, while the QHD is all about your viewing experiences.
However, the phone doesn’t have the latest Gorilla Glass 6 Protection. Instead, it settles for the Gorilla Glass 5, which works pretty well too! And that is a much needed element, as finding a good tempered glass on a Note 9 is a bit of a problem.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 inherits the same cameras from the Galaxy S9 Plus, with a few tweaks. The dual camera setup at the back combines a 12 MP lens with variable apertures (f/1.5 + f/2.4) and another 12 MP telephoto zooming lens. The biggest feature, here, is the dual aperture. It lets the camera change depending on the environment to adjust to the amount of light in your surroundings to get good pictures in all kinds of lighting conditions.
The primary lens is able to give you stunning photo quality! It maintains color accuracy, focus, sharpness and the details. The only concern is Samsung uses its Live Focus for the Portrait mode and bokeh mode. And Live Focus really needs to work on its edge detection. Sure, you can manually adjust the background blur too, but this won’t be the best bokeh mode you will see on a smartphone.
The secondary rear camera allows for a 2x Optical Zoom, which means that even if you zoom up to two times, your pictures will still come out as sharp as the original ones. However, lowlight telephoto images do get considerable noise.
Both lenses have Optical Image Stabilization to deal with your shaky hands. The camera is already an excellent one overall. The additional tweaks you will see is Samsung’s version of the AI cameras. Samsung calls it Scene Optimizer. The scene optimizer can identify about 20 subjects and supposedly, alters settings depending on what you are shooting. But it’s unlikely that you will notice that much of a difference in your photos. But no matter what, you will be getting good photos, and that’s what matters in the end, isn’t it?
Also, the scene optimizer is nothing new or groundbreaking. We’ve seen plenty of cameras with those features. But, this one also has the Flaw Detection feature, which comes quite handy. If the photo is ruined in any way, it will warn you about the scenario. For example, if someone blinks, or something disturbs the background, or if the lenses get dirty, the phone will prompt you to take the photo again. Now, this is a good way to make absolutely sure that your moments are captured quite well.
The front camera is an 8 MP shooter, and while we’ve seen pretty heavy front cameras, Samsung does just great with its 8 MP lens. You can also get the bokeh mode on your selfies with Selfie Focus. Also, many Samsung phones don’t have HDR pro feature in front cameras, but this one does. And it lets you take good selfies even in very bright conditions.
Samsung also likes to fill its camera app with a lot of modes and options. You can also shoot Super Slow Motion videos at 960 frames per second @ 720p resolution. There’s AR Emoji (a gimmick, just like the others), and a lot of filters in the camera itself. It’s one of the best camera apps in the business – with lots of features and still easy enough to use.
The videos on this one are also pretty great. You can record up to 4K videos in 60 fps with good sound recording too. However, one thing it cannot do is record 4K HDR videos, as the Exynos 9810 chipset doesn’t support HDR video recording. Maybe the Galaxy S10 will support this feature.
To check out all the images in high resolution, click here
In addition, you might also know that the S-Pen remote allows you to open the camera app and take pictures pretty easily. It is very handy when you have to take a group selfie and fit everyone in.
The Galaxy Note 9 features the Snapdragon 845 in US and China, and the Exynos 9810 in other regions. Now, it is true that the Exynos 9810 is faster than the Snapdragon counterpart. So, the chip is very fast and delivers super performance in almost everything – from multi-tasking to gaming. You can play high-end games like Fortnite and PUBG in Ultra settings and get no lags whatsoever. Everything you throw at it, the phone can handle it. Even playing those games with the Power Saver mode on didn’t get any lags or stutters. That should give you an idea of its prowess.
Samsung may not have the fastest chip in the industry as the latest iPhones manage to get the highest Geekbench scores, but that doesn’t matter as long as it runs everything flawlessly and smoothly. Also, we only have the 6 GB RAM variant here, in Nepal, and the 8 GB RAM variant may be a bit faster. But sadly, that is not available here.
The phone also has a Water Cooling System. However, despite that, the phone does heat up considerably. While playing PUBG at Ultra Settings, the phone reached very close to 40-degree centigrade. That is normal for regular phones, but for something with a Water Cooler inside, it is concerning.
The Fingerprint Scanner at the back is a tad-bit slower than in other phones, which is pretty much noticeable. The Face Recognition and the IRIS Scanner face similar traits. And it won’t work very accurately in the dark either.
Software wise, the Galaxy Note 9 comes with Android 8.1 Oreo with Samsung Experience UI on top. Now, this UI is pretty refined and is much better optimized than the old TouchWiz. This UI has helpful cues to navigate the deep and seemingly complex operating system as well. And yes, there are plenty of Samsung bloat-ware you can’t let go, but we’ve all learnt to ignore them anyway. One thing I could do without is Bixby. It’s not as good as Google Assistant, and never will be. Which is why, I say, they should remove the whole thing.
Battery and Storage
This absolute beast of a phone also comes with a beastly battery of 4000 mAh. And while it will last you the whole day on your Full HD+ display settings, you might be looking for the charger by the end of the day in QHD+ display mode. I did expect more life from the battery, but maybe because the display is big and the phone has so many features, it didn’t live to my expectations. The Fast Charge 2.0 can charge your phone in about 1 hour 45 minutes, which is fast, but, not as fast as the Oneplus 6.
It’s battery saver mode can help extend battery life considerably. There’s also this Maximum Power Saving mode that can also extend your battery life by a day and half, but it tones down the display to HD+, disables biometric and also turns the phone dark. This feature will come handy when you’re away on a trip or so.
As for storage, the Note 9 has 2 options: 128 GB, which is the baseline model, and a whopping 512 GB that also has 8 GB RAM. Both these models have a microSD card slot which can support up to 512 GB. Now, the concept of being able to get a massive 1 TB storage on your phone is intriguing, but that option is not available in Nepal. Even so, 128 GB is ample storage space, don’t you think?
A Galaxy Note 9 review wouldn’t be complete without talking about the S-Pen. The S-Pen is what makes the Note 9 a Note device! And with the added Bluetooth Remote Control feature, there’s quite a lot you can do with it. Sketching and writing notes aside, the remote control function comes handy sometimes. But for the most part, its use feels forced in everyday life.
You can use the remote control to open the camera, and take pictures, which is the most you’ll use it for. It can also be used to scroll up or down in the web browsers. You can use it to play or pause media, or use it during Power Point presentations, too, and some others. But these things aren’t exactly difficult with your hand either.
However, the Air View feature in the S-Pen proves to be useful. When you take the pen out, you get quite a lot of options, which, by default are limited to Samsung’s own, but you can add or remove them according to preference.
Apart from letting you create and view your notes, there’s the Smart Select feature which can help you select require elements from the screen and use it as per your needs. The Translate function can help translate texts on the phone to many languages. There’s also this Live Message feature which can help create interesting doodled messages, but that’s too gimmicky, and hasn’t got much usage. Besides that, if you want some childhood nostalgia, you can also paint some pictures with the Coloring option.
The Samsung Dex, which enables you to use your phone as a desktop, is very much improved. Samsung has simplified the DeX experience in the Note 9. Now, you can get this “PC like experience” a lot easily, with just the HDMI to USB-C adapter. No need to get the Dex pod or anything else. Simply connect the cable, and you’re good to go!
Conclusion and Verdict
So, to conclude, the Galaxy Note 9, as I already said, is, right now, the best phone money can buy. Unfortunately, you will have to spend quite a lot of it, if you want this device.
The specs are top-notch. The design and build is close to perfection. Samsung displays are the best. The cameras need some more improvements, while the biometrics could have been a tad faster. A truckload of storage is another good point. This is a phone that offers you everything, and then some. And it will carry you easily for the next 2 or 3 years.
However, is there a reason not to get the Note 9? Actually, yes. This phone, no matter how many features it has, still lacks a “wow” factor. This is particularly more noticeable if you have a Galaxy Note 8 or Galaxy S9 Plus. If you’re coming from those phones, then, this phone will not provide you anything new. It is not worth a $1000 or Rs.110000.
But if you’re using anything below that, like the S7 Edge or Galaxy Note 5, then, this phone will appeal to you. It has a lot of improvements over those, and a lot of power. The ideal user for this kind of phone is someone who wants the best of everything and at their fingertips. You get a phone, a PC or a TV in your pocket, and if you’re a devout S-Pen user, that’s a bonus. You’re not likely to get anything better, until maybe the next Pixel arrives, or the S10 probably.
But it all depends on you. If you absolutely want everything that it offers right now, then, go for it. But, if you can do without an S-Pen, or all those bells and whistles, or on a budget, there are quite a lot of great options available.
- Top-notch specs
- Stunning AMOLED QHD+ display
- Bigger battery
- S-Pen Remote
- Great camera with Flaw Detection mechanism
- Very few innovations over Note 8 or S9 Plus
- Old design to the Note 8
- Camera’s Live Focus is not comparable to the Portrait mode
- More bells and whistles than actual improvements