The major highlights for this year's Galaxy Note 9 are the big battery, the advanced S Pen and a pair of excellently capable cameras.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note series has always been the choice of the white-collared, artists and those who seek all-rounder capabilities from a single smartphone. Over the decade, while other smartphones changed immensely by getting rid of old yet useful features and gaining complex ones, the Galaxy Notes have always seen an evolution in terms of what a smartphone can do with the existing technology while adding new ones that give out a huge learning curve. The latest Galaxy Note 9 is a living testament of that fact.
Unveiled globally just a few weeks ago, Samsung ensured that fans of the Note series witness an evolution without losing out on essentials that define a Galaxy Note device. The Note 9 still retains a 3.5mm headphone jack, an extremely convenient fingerprint sensor, a large battery paired to fast wireless charging and the good-old S Pen that's now revitalised with Bluetooth connectivity. It looks very familiar to the Galaxy Note 8, which isn’t bad considering the predecessor was and still is a head-turner in places full of dignified white-collared men/women chauffeured around in exotic luxury saloons. Therefore, even at Rs 67,900 for the ‘entry-level’ variant, it does promise to offer a lot of premium smartphone experience. However, if you want to be a step above the mere mortals, you can opt for the Rs 84,900 variant that adds a copious amount of storage — 512GB to be exact.
So what’s it like when you boot up the new Note for the first time?
If you want a smartphone that garners attention and acknowledgement of your possession of wealth, then Apple’s iPhones are unbeatable — courtesy — Apple' logo at large. However, if subtlety is your thing without losing out on class, the Note 9 is the one you should be hunting. Samsung cracked the design with last year’s Note 8. The form factor stays tall and slender, with elegant lines and curves flowing all around the IP68 water and dust protection certified body. Therefore, it’s comfortable to hold for longer sessions, despite its giant dimensions and a, now heavier, 201g weight.
Similar to all modern flagships, it’s made using glass slabs held together with a metal frame. The Gorilla Glass 5 protection ensures enough durability to hold up well should you drop it accidentally on a hard floor, even from waist height. However, we have seen this glass not holding up as well to cracks on other smartphones, which is why Samsung bundles a soft case to keep the sheen of your Note 9 for long.
One thing that the Note 9 doesn’t carry forward from the Note 8 is the fingerprint sensor placement — it now rests below the rear camera module. For smaller palms, it’s easier to reach. However, it loses out on visual desirability — it’s not as pleasant to look at as the Galaxy Note 8’s arrangement was. Additionally, the coloured trims on the camera module are polarising — some may like it for the attention it commands while others may prefer the blacked-out understated approach Samsung opted for in the Note 8. For those concerned with these issues, the black variant makes good sense.
Spend some more time with the Note 9 and there’s so much to love — a conventional 3.5mm headphone jack (goodbye dongles), a USB-C port, a hybrid SIM card slot with expandable storage up to 512GB more and tactile buttons. There’s also the dual stereo speaker setup borrowed from the Galaxy S9 series, which makes it pleasant to binge watch YouTube videos and movies when you aren’t in the mood to pop-in headphones. And mind you, they do sound really good, although we expected a little more volume from it.
Look carefully and previous Note users will notice a slimmer chin — that’s how Samsung crammed in a 6.4-inch display in the older form factor. The forehead houses all the sensors and the earpiece, without giving in to a notch — Samsung still prefers symmetrical design over few more inches of display that’s barely usable. The display curves towards the edges and gives the Note 9 its uniqueness, despite the Edge Panel still offering the same old productivity features and shortcuts that debuted with the Galaxy Note Edge a few years ago. The Bixby key is here too, with no way to remap it to another third-party app as usual.
Whenever a flagship Samsung visits our desks, we can’t help but fall for its display, head-over-heels. The 6.4-inch HDR-enabled Super AMOLED display is undeniable the best panel one can see on a smartphone. It renders pictures unlike any other smartphone's display — magically-dark blacks and other hues from the VIBGYOR chart that pop-out — it’s display-porn for the eyes - (pun intended).
You can set the resolution to 2K, but Samsung puts it to full HD+ by default to enhance the battery's stamina. Over the next couple of days, we will decipher how the massive display holds up in real-world scenarios.
The Galaxy Note 9 represents the best of what Samsung has to offer. Therefore, at Rs 67,900, you get a beastly Exynos 9810, which previously debuted with the Galaxy S9, and a massive 6GB of RAM, paired with 128GB of storage. The more expensive variant bumps up the RAM and storage to 8GB / 512GB. Android Oreo 8.1 is there to deal with the chores, wearing Samsung Experience 9.0 on top.
In our brief moments with the Note 9, the phone felt very fluid. Apps are responsive and the massive amounts of RAM ensure you can have 5-6 apps running at once without the Note 9 sweating. The OS has a lot of features to personalise the Note 9 in a way that no other phone offers — we ended up getting lost in its menus for hours tweaking the phone to our taste. Samsung assures the Note 9 is the most powerful device they have ever made, which is why it is also positioned as a smartphone meant for flexing your thumbs on virtual battlefields and racetracks.
A specially designed heat sink, which Samsung likes to call 'water-carbon cooling system', keeps the temperatures under control during long sessions of intense gaming, while Samsung’s ‘AI trickeries’ ensure that resources are allocated intelligently. The gaming capabilities are further ensured by the debut of Fortnite on Android with the Note 9, with exclusive access to the game before other smartphones are officially supported. Is the Note 9 then an absolute choice for mobile gamers? Hold on for our review within a 'fortnight' (pun intended).
This year, Samsung has used the S Pen to make the Note 9 even more valuable. With Bluetooth LE connectivity, it’s more than just a stylus for jotting down notes or scribbling thoughts. A supercapacitor in the S Pen keeps it alive for up to 30 minutes, following which you have to slot it in the phone and wait for 40 seconds before it gains another 30 minutes of life.
The button makes it a remote controller for the camera and several other Samsung, as well as Microsoft, apps. We used the S Pen to take photos with the phone nestled on a tripod and it worked perfectly from up to 10 metres. You can even let the phone rest on the table while going through the gallery without touching the display physically, thereby preventing ugly smudges obstructing the viewing experience. Honestly, this has been the most sensible update to the Note series (the S Pen actually) since its inception.
If you have any idea about the Galaxy S9+’s optics, the Note 9 doesn't offer anything new either. It sports the same 12MP + 12MP dual camera setup with dual OIS on both the sensors seen on the S9+. The primary sensor is equipped with the variable aperture arrangement that changes between f/1.5 and f/2.4. This can also shoot 960fps slow-motion videos at 720p like the S9+.
The only addition to the camera is an AI mode, which, like the AI modes on other Chinese phones, can identify scenes and adjust camera parameters accordingly. While clicking shots from a moving vehicle, the AI mode was clever enough to notify that the shot was blurred, suggesting us to have another go at it. That’s smart! Check out some sample shots.
The front 8MP front camera with a f/1.7 aperture also snaps great looking selfies and manages a slightly better facial recognition for 2D AR Emojis as well. We can’t give a final verdict on the camera for now as we are yet to put the optics to its test in various situations. However, if you are getting the Note 9 on the first day of sale, we can assure you won’t be disappointed with the camera performance for sure.
This is possibly the biggest area of improvement that Note fans will appreciate. Samsung has finally given its biggest phone the largest battery it has ever made — a 4000mAh tank. The Note 8’s 3300mAh unit barely managed to stretch it to the end of the day for a power user. Hence, we assume the additional 700mAh expansion will ensure the Note 9 will conveniently make it through the day, with enough juice remaining to make it to the half of the next day. With Adaptive Fast wired and wireless charging, topping up the battery shouldn’t make you wait for long.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has begun sales in international markets and has impressed tech experts all around the world. The major highlights for this year’s Galaxy Note are the big battery, superior performance, an advanced S Pen and a pair of capable cameras — all of these parameters make it a highly engrossing smartphone to spend time with.
Until Apple plans a flagship iPhone with a stylus, the Note 9 seems to be the best smartphone you can bet your money on. Samsung has very intelligently kept the Note 9 as the ultimate choice for productivity connoisseurs while throwing in smart new features to make it appealing to the breed of specifications-crunching mobile gamers. It seems like the Note 9 has a lot of surprises in store for us and we will be documenting them in our review within the next few weeks. Hang on there!
Also read: Samsung Galaxy S9+ review