There are phones that shock the world and then there are phones that don’t. Samsung‘s brand new Galaxy Note9 is one of the latter, but that isn’t always a bad thing. Not if the goal was to fix all the shortcomings of its predecessor. And not if it was specifically designed for its unwavering fans: The power users.
If you look at it that way, then, despite the fact that the Galaxy Note9 doesn’t have a jaw-dropping feature, it could be the best Note device yet.
Let’s start with the the meat and potatoes of it all, the specs. Samsung’s throwing everything it has at the Galaxy Note9. There’s no holding back with slightly below average RAM or storage, oh no. The Galaxy Note9 has the whole nine yards as it sports the company’s top-of-the-line Exynos 9810 processor (or Snapdragon 845 in the US), which is then paired with up to 8GB of RAM and a mouth-watering 512GB of internal storage. If that’s not enough for you, storage can still be further expanded via a microSD card (supports up to 512GB) for up to a stunning 1TB of storage — on a phone!
Up front, Samsung also gave the handset a larger screen, as the new Note9’s display measures 6.4 inches diagonally and pushes a crisp Quad HD+ resolution of 2960×1440 pixels. Oh, and for all you notch haters out there, you’ll be happy to know that there still isn’t one on the Note9.
But, while all those things are great, my favourite spec-bump is the Galaxy Note9’s brand new 4,000 mAh battery. It’s the largest one ever fitted to a Samsung Galaxy flagship smartphone and it is a whopping 700mAh more than the cell on its predecessor. It still has Samsung’s Adaptive Fast charging and it charges via USB Type-C, but now you have all that extra capacity to work with.
Wrapped beautifully around all of those high-end internals is the Galaxy Note9’s glass and metal body which looks about as premium as it ever has. Samsung has tweaked the design a little bit though, giving the matte metal frame a diamond-cut design that both adds some glisten to the phone as well as help it feel slimmer in the hand. Of course, being a flagship Samsung product, it goes without saying that this premium body is still IP68 dust and water resistant.
If you’re a fan of the 3.5mm headphone jack, know that Samsung is still one of the last bastions for this popular audio port because the Galaxy Note9 still features it. In addition to that, Samsung also equipped the Galaxy Note9 with a pair of stereo speakers tuned by AKG with support for Dolby Atmos.
Behind, you’ll also find a fingerprint scanner mounted just below the camera modules. It looks a little odd — and a little too small — but at least it isn’t to the side of the camera anymore.
Speaking of the camera, Samsung’s Galaxy Note9 has a camera setup that’s very similar to the Galaxy S9+, which is by no means a bad thing. That means you get a 12MP dual-camera system at the back. The main one retains the company’s patented variable aperture lens that can automatically switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4 for low light and bright light scenes respectively. The secondary 12MP sensor comes equipped with a short telephoto lens that will give the phone a 2X optical zoom. It also enables Samsung’s depth effect feature, Live Focus.
Despite the similar hardware, Samsung’s augmented the Galaxy Note9’s camera with something called an AI Scene Optimiser which works a lot like, you guessed it, Huawei’s AI scene recognition feature on their P20 and Mate 10 handsets. Note9 has the ability to recognise up to 20 different scenes and uses AI to automatically “improve” your photos in real time. There’s even a “Flaw Detection” feature that automatically notifies you if you’ve taken a bad shot (handshake blur, closed eyes, etc.) so you know to retake it again.
Up front, the Galaxy Note9 sports an 8MP selfie shooter with an f/1.7 aperture lens. It also supports Samsung’s Intelligent Scan face-plus-iris unlocking feature as well as the company’s love-it-or-hate-it AR Emojis.
However, the thing Galaxy Note loyalists will undoubtedly be curious about is the handset’s new S Pen. After all, it was in pretty much all their teasers and promotional materials they’ve released so far.
In short, Samsung’s S Pen still works (and looks) a lot like the old one, so you can still sketch, draw and write, but with one notable upgrade: This new S Pen is also Bluetooth enabled.
With this, you can now use the S Pen like a remote control for your presentation slides, gallery, to take a photo, and YouTube playback without having to touch your phone. What’s more, the company is also making this remote control feature available to third-party developers via an Open SDK.
Besides that, Samsung’s also putting more emphasis on the productivity and, surprisingly, the gaming side of things. For work, Samsung’s improving their desktop DeX functionality by allowing you to use Samsung DeX without the dedicated dock. All you need is a compatible USB-C to HDMI adapter and you can access DeX on pretty much any display. In this mode, you can also use the Note9 as a touchpad or virtual keyboard, which is also pretty similar to Huawei’s Easy Projection.
To improve gaming performance on the Note9, Samsung’s upgraded the phone’s cooling system with a brand new “liquid cooling” one. The Note9 features a thermal spreader that’s 3x larger which allows for faster dissipation of heat.
Further, Samsung’s also teaming up with the wildly popular battle royale game Fortnite as the shooter will make its Android debut with the Galaxy Note9. Fortnite Android will begin beta tests this week and users with a Samsung Galaxy device can begin registering for it right now.
While I was initially disappointed with the Galaxy Note9’s lack of a jaw-dropping feature, like the OPPO Find X‘s motorised camera, I also can’t fault Samsung’s excellent set of upgrades to this device. It’s primarily designed for productivity and for the power user, so to that end it looks like Samsung did a great job.
More power, more storage, more battery, more screen, more S Pen features and better cooling. It’s a fairly complete checklist that seems to both give its fans more of what they want, as well as shore up the last Note’s biggest weakness.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note9 comes in four colours: Lavender Purple, Metallic Copper, Midnight Black, and the unique Ocean Blue that comes with a yellow S Pen.
In Malaysia, the Galaxy Note9 with 6GB + 128GB is priced at RM3,699 and will come in Ocean Blue, Midnight Black and Metallic Copper. On the other hand, the Galaxy Note9 with 8GB + 512GB retails at RM4,599 and will only come in Midnight Black. Both handsets will be available starting the 24th of August 2018. There is also a pre-order promotion that you can read all about here.
But I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know what you think of the Samsung Galaxy Note9 in the comments below.