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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Review: A Few Refinements Go A Long Way

by Jamie Inocian  September 8, 2018

A Closer Look at the Note 9

A few weeks back, Samsung launched the newest member of their Note series — the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. To be honest, as we sat through their amazing presentation in New York and our initial time with the phone, we were left a little wanting and lacked the usual excitement that we usually get from a Samsung flagship launch. Yes, they’ve made a few refinements but were they enough to win us over during our review process?

Well, if you can’t tell by the title, they did but should you get the Note 9? Read on and hopefully, we’ll help you figure out if it’s something you should consider.

Sticking to their Guns

Let’s talk build quality and design first because not a lot has changed in this department.

You’re still getting the same silhouette as the Galaxy Note 8 and it’s built nearly the same as well; aside from a bit of chamfering on its frame. As the old saying goes: “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” and there was definitely nothing wrong with how they’ve put together the Note 8. As usual, expect to wipe away fingerprints plus we highly recommend slipping a case on the Note 9 in case you’re prone to dropping your devices.

Speaking of fingerprints, Samsung has also adjusted the fingerprint scanner of the Note 9 to make it easier to get to and have you smudging up your camera when wanting to unlock your phone. Still, if you’re having a hard time with that they’ve also included a combination of facial unlocking and iris scanning to keep your phone secure too but using the fingerprint scanner is still more convenient.

In terms of handling, the Note is definitely a phone that you’re definitely doing to be using with both hands most of the time, especially if you have daintier digits compared to most of the team’s gorilla-sized hands.

No Question. Super AMOLED panels are the Bomb!!!

Screen size was a big thing for the Note series back in the day but, since most phones in its price range can be considered, this isn’t a huge selling point for this device anymore. It’s only a hair larger than last year’s 6.3-inches at 6.4-inches but you’ve still got the signature looks of the Korean company’s Infinity Display with gentle curves to make it easier to clasp and give you smaller bezels on the side too. Let’s talk about display quality.

Without a doubt, the display on the Note 9 or any flagship of the brand, are the best you can get in the market. The colors have a great pop to them, thanks to really deep blacks to give them a canvas for them to stand out. Brightness is not an issue even when used outdoors and neither are viewings angles.

The audio on the Note 9 is equally impressive with a stereo setup has been tuned by AKG that also supports Dolby Atmos. The sound profile is great with just enough lows and It’s great when you want to share content with your bud and when you do want to zone out on your own they’ve saved the headphone jack. They’ve even included a pair of AKG earphones out of the box as well. 

How’s the New S-Pen?

If you missed Samsung’s grandiose launch or our first look at the device, the S-Pen has been improved and is now Bluetooth enabled; though really shouldn’t be worried about pairing it to your phone.

Aside from the usual uses, you would have for this stylus, the S-Pen can now be used to trigger the shutter on the cameras up to a distance of 10 meters. There are factors that interfere with this feature but, for the most part, it worked really well when we wanted to take a group photo and there was nobody around to take it. We wouldn’t really try leaving our phone out in the open for thieving hands but it’s a good option to have.

Admittedly, we didn’t use the S-Pen that much but we saw the value of having the ability to send signed documents via email when we were out of the office.

 

Is It Fast?

No surprises here. The Samsung Note 9 was great for day-to-day use. It’s really hard to find any fault in this phone in terms of performance. While we don’t have the Snapdragon 845 available in this part of the world, the Exynos 9810 does a tremendous task at crunching numbers and the fact that there’s a bit more RAM to go around means multitaskers will have a great time with this device too.

 

The same can be said in the gaming department. We had no issues playing some of the latest games available on the  Google Play Store and even while playing the Samsung Battle Royale exclusive (for now) — Fortnite.

How Are the Cameras?

If you were impressed by the cameras on Samsung latest S series phones then you will be just as impressed with the shooters on the Note 9. You’ve got pretty much the same hardware that results in some pretty awesome photos with more natural looking colors and great dynamic range. What really stands out is the quality of life improvements on the software side of the Note 9’s cameras.

Samsung has jumped on the AI bandwagon with this Note device tweaking saturation and a couple of other settings when it detects various scenes. We like it that the image processing doesn’t quite go overboard though. Another feature they’ve added is the what they’re calling flaw detection where the device will alert you to wipe the lens if it’s a little dirty or ask you to retake a photo if someone may have blinked. It’s definitely a nice touch and great to have.

The quality of the front camera really good too and reinforces the fact that it’s not all about the megapixel count.

Does the Bigger Battery Cut It?

One of the biggest changes to this iteration of the Note its battery capacity. At 4000mAh, It’s the biggest on a Note series phone yet and gives it that extra push to give you juice to last an entire day. Your mileage will vary depending on your usage though. Our synthetic benchmarks using PCMark had the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 clock in at 10 hours and 40 minutes.

When you do need to top up the Note 9, it’ll take you about 2 hours, give or take, with the included adaptive charger out of the box.

Should You Get It?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is undoubtedly a great device. We were initially underwhelmed when the phone was first announced but it completely won us over. Sure, it doesn’t push the boundaries nor has groundbreaking innovations but the refinements on the 9th iteration of Samsung’s flagship make it the best yet.

The question is: should you spring for the upgrade? Yes, you should but there a few things to consider before making your decision.

If you just want the same performance when it comes to the day-to-day and for taking photos, you may want to consider the Galaxy S9+. They have the pretty much the same internals and cameras sans the new AI features, which could possibly be rolled out via a software update. The real clincher is if you’ll actually use the S-Pen for taking or giving notes, designing on the fly, or signing documents on the go.

If you don’t fancy paying the Php 55,995 up front to get the Note 9, you might also want to check your telco of choice if your contract is up for renewal.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Specs

  • Samsung Exynos 9810 octa-core processor/Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor
  • ARM Mali-G71 MP20 GPU
  • 6GB/8GB RAM
  • 6.4-inch WQHD Super AMOLED display, dual curved edge
  • 128GB/512GB expandable storage, via microSD
  • Dual 12-megapixel cameras; primary camera with f/1.5 and f/2.4 aperture and secondary camera with f/2.4 aperture and 2x optical zoom, with Dual Pixel, Dual OIS, 960FPS Super Slo-Mo video, 2X optical zoom
  • 8-megapixel front camera, f/1.7 aperture, AF
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • Fingerprint scanner, iris scanner, facial recognition, heartbeat sensor, IP68 certification, USB Type-C port, Bixby AI, 3D Emojis
  • 4000mAh battery with fast charging
  • Android 8.1 Oreo (TouchWiz UI)

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