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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Review – A Killer Lost In Transition

We saw the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 coming ever since the Samsung Galaxy S9 dropped earlier this year. Pretty much everyone knew what Samsung was going for as soon as the S9 and S9 Plus dropped in April. We saw renders, leaks and even official trailers being prematurely released through official channels before the Note 9 dropped. When the Note 9 finally debuted in August, it brought a mixed bag of beans.

Many users were angry by the fact that the Samsung Galaxy S9 series and Note 9 looked identical to their last-gen brothers. In addition to that, there wasn’t much of an upgrade of the inside. With the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, it pretty much anyone’s guess what the Note 9 would look like and what the device would actually bring to the table.

However, it wasn’t all bland despite half of the community raging about the body and how predictable it was. Not only was the S8 and S8 Plus’s design language very well-received, but the Note series is traditionally a much fuller package once the S series of devices drop. And that’s exactly what happened. Not only did Samsung increase the battery life on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, but they also bumped up the internal storage to 512GB along with a few S-Pen functions.

Now that the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is out in the wild, the question is, how does it fare up and how what are some of the issues that we may notice with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. We’re going to be answering all of that in this review along with a lush library of camera shots taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is pretty much every condition.

01 | Design & Build Quality

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There’s no doubt, Samsung hasn’t dropped a bomb on their design language with the Note 9. There isn’t much to be excited about. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 looks very similar to the glass phones they’ve been releasing since the S8. However, that isn’t a completely bad thing.

Picking up on the design changes introduced with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 fixes the fingerprint scanner position from the Note 8 along with slight adjustments here and there to its overall dimensions. The dimensions of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 are now 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm. In contrast, last year’s Note 8 dimensions were 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm. Not only are we seeing a fraction thicker device due to the larger battery, but we’re also looking at a much heavier device overall. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the Galaxy Note 9 is about 6g heavier than the already hefty Note 8 at 201g. In addition to that, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comes with a 6.4-inch display rather than a 6.3-inch display resulting in a slightly wider body overall.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has a similar button placement too compared to the Note 8 from last year. On the right side of the device, you’ll find your power button. On the opposite side, you’ll find the volume rocks as well as the Bixby button.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comes in four colors. Those colors are Midnight Black, Ocean Blue, Lavender Purple, and Metallic Copper. A preview of the previously mentioned colors could be found below.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is definitely heavy. However, due to that classy glass back, we’d recommend anyone to be careful. While we didn’t have the audacity to actually drop testing it, we’ve seen that the Samsung Galaxy Note 9’s glass sandwich is durable enough for knee level drops. Combine that with the excellent metal trims on the side, and you have a treat for yourself.

During our testing, we decided not to cover up the device with any skin or cover. During our testing, the phone has handled chargers, keys, coins and pretty much everything you’d generally expect to keep in your pocket. Based on how our Note 9 faired, it seemed to be very clean and scratch-free. Sure,  the Note 9 is the fingerprint magnet, but the fact is that the Note 9 does feature a glass back which makes the fingerprint magnet effects much more evident. A clean swipe or two with a cloth should make the device look like as if it was brand new.

02 | Display & Audio Experience

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 features a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED displays with all the bells and whistles inherited from Samsung’s display lineup. The resolution of the display panel found on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comes to a count of 2960 x 1440, similar to last year’s Samsung Galaxy Note 8. However, what has changed with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the PPI and the display size. As mentioned before, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 features a 6.4-inch display with a 2960 x 1440 display, this results in pixel density of 516 PPI compared to the 521 PPI on the Note 8 due to it’s fractionally smaller display.

As expected, we absolutely enjoyed the display on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and are happy to report that Samsung has definitely done their homework here. Not only does it feature the classy Samsung color tone found on its displays, but it also caters users very well with its large display size and incredibly thin bezels. With this being Samsung’s second year running their “basically bezel-less” design, I’d bet many would be hard pressed to complain about the design found on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

Sure, streamlining their lineup was indeed an excellent decision by the folks over at Samsung ever since the Galaxy S7 debuted, but I’d be honest that I’ve barely made any productive decisions with it. With the device serving me as my daily driver for the past two weeks, I’ve found the device’s edges to be more of an appealing factor rather than a productive factor. It’s evident that Samsung knew what the advantages would be by implementing the curved edges on the Note 9. Although, I would have loved to see them make some extra use out of it.

Regarding the audio quality on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, I would admit that I am equally as impressed. Samsung’s implementation of stereo speakers has to be applauded. Just like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, this year’s Note 9 features some of the best speakers on a Note device, period. They’re loud enough and do have a decent amount of clarity to offer. Sure, other phones may hit a home run, but for most users, the volume produced by the magnets in the Note 9 should be more than suffice for most users.

What’s equally as impressive is the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comes with a headphone jack. While Apple may have ditched the all-time classic, Samsung’s intention to retain the headphone jack for years to come has to be respected. How long the headphone jack would last in Samsung’s devices would be anyone’s guess at this moment. However, by the looks of it, Samsung’s not killing it off anytime soon. But then, given how a company like OnePlus has changed its stance on retaining the headphone jack, it could intimidate a few audiophiles down the line.

03 | Camera Quality

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 features a 12MP + 12MP dual camera setup at its rear as well as a single 8MP camera setup dedicated for selfies. Both of the rear cameras are optically stabilized with the second rear camera dedicating itself for telephoto shots featuring a 2x optical zoom. Regarding video quality, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 capable of shooting 4K video at 60FPS along with slo-mo recording capabilities.

What new with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9’s camera is the fact that the Note 9 has inherited the dual aperture system from the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. This means that the camera’s aperture could by flicked into either f/1.5 or f/2.4 based on your lighting conditions. With the larger aperture, the camera’s aperture blades allow in more light into the camera sensor, allowing it to take excellent photos in dark conditions.

During our testing phase, shots taken with the help of the rear cameras do exhibit some of that classy Samsung saturation. And now, with the help of AI, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 could recognize objects and automatically tune your shots to allow your pictures to pop in their best way possible. A lot of the times, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 recognized the objects that we’re willing to take a shot of. In very rare cases, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 did mistake a few shots for something else. However, it was worth a few giggles.

Video and Image stabilization also performed very well in our tests. With the help of the dual aperture setup and OIS, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is pretty capable of performing in dark conditions and is definitely an excellent all-rounder for a 2018 flagship from Samsung.

We also found that the slo-mo mode on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, like the S9 and S9 Plus aren’t as reliable as they sound as they require a ton of light to even create a decent slo-mo experience for now.

Here are all of the camera samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for you to judge yourself.

04 | Performance & Extra Features

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the first device from Samsung to finally embrace the 8GB mark. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 features a Snadragon 845/Exynos 9810 (depending on your region), up to 8 Gigabytes of RAM, up to 512 Gigabytes of internal storage and a 4000mAh battery.

Out of the box, we found that the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 ran on Android 8.1 Oreo and featured a 6GB RAM plus 128GB ROM pair. As expected, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 performed admirably well, just as good as many smartphone with a similar spec sheet. Apps simply flew across the field and keeping the apps in the memory was just as much of a breeze thanks to its 6GB of RAM. Being on a much more optimized version of TouchWiz, the phone performance admirably well during our testing phase.

Here’s a full rundown of the specs regarding the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

ModelGalaxy Note 9
Size6.4″-inch (161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm)
Display6.4“-inch (2960×1440) Super AMOLED, 60Hz refresh rate
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 845/Samsung Exynos 9810
RAMLPDDR4 6/8GB RAM
Storage128GB / 512GB (expandable via an additional 512GB MicroSD card to 1TB)
CamerasRear | 12MP (Dual Aperture System f/1.5 or f/2.4) + 12MP (Telephoto),
Selfie | 8MP
Charging TechQuick Charge
Bluetooth5
Battery4,000mAh

Just like any Note device, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 features the S-Pen. This year, Samsung decided to tang up the S-Pen for those who decide to pick up the Ocean Blue Note 9 and have announced a few, yet meaningful improvements to the S-Pen. Aside from just jotting down your notes, the S-Pen with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 can now perform specific tasks such as playing, pausing or skipping music tracks. In addition to that, based on your liking, you could use the S-Pen to launch apps as well as perform a number of other simple operations with the click of the S-Pen. This is definitely a welcome change that made me wonder why Samsung hadn’t done this any sooner.

In addition to that, just like any typical Samsung flagship, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is also waterproof and dustproof. The device comes with an IP 68 rating to ensure that your device would be safe in shallow waters such as swimming pools and would not pick up on dust or dirt anytime soon. While this isn’t anything new or out of the blue, it’s certainly worth noticing and mentioning due to how well the device could last given how many times you may drop the phone in the toilet.

Another point worth mentioning is how well games performed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. With the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Tab S4 being the star of the show alongside Fortnite, Samsung announced some keen partnerships with the folks over at Epic Games as well as a series of ads and announcements regarding how Fortnite would play along with Samsung’s lineup of devices. Not only did Epic Games first launch Fortnite on Samsung devices exclusively for a while, but Epic Games also added an exclusive skin called “Galaxy” to Fortnite for users who get their hands on the Galaxy Note 9.

Games performed admirably well given that it is powered by an Exynos 9810. In addition to that, we noticed that the back of the body certainly became a bit warm seconds after we launched Fortnite onto it. In addition to that, amidst all the issues surrounding notches and how many games have issues surrounding the notch, Samsung’s decision to sway away from notches has certainly paid off. Not only did we get finally get to play PUBG is satisfying fashion but were also able to find ourselves enjoying the game maxed out.

What I was amazed to see with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the fact that we finally had our criticisms addressed from the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus review. In our Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus review, we mentioned that Samsung has to allow users to explicitly showcase a number of features built into their S9 and S9 Plus that are usually hidden behind a number of confusing settings.

When we set our Galaxy Note 9 up, we were pleased to see that Samsung’s first-time setup wizard allowed us to tweak the display resolution as well as allow us to enable Dolby Atmos improvements as soon as we go into the device. These settings were previously hidden behind the settings options as the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus ran at 2220 x 1080 out of the box without informing the user that they aren’t taking full advantage of that display. Regarding Dolby Atmos improvements, Samsung has expicity added a toggle to the quick switch panel among the WiFi and Bluetooth toggles.

With the Galaxy Note 9, we decided not to talk much about Bixby as our opinion on Bixby remains largely unchanged from our Galaxy S9 Plus review. The assistant is surely a helping hand. Although, Samsung still has a while before it finally makes it a worthy contender against the Google Assistant.

05 | Battery Life

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Regarding battery life, Samsung has definitely been a sweet cupcake for us lately. Not only does the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 feature a killer Super AMOLED display with their signature Always-On feature, but the device takes massive improvements as Samsung regained confidence in their battery quality checks.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 features a 4000mAh battery, larger than any Samsung phone released to date. After Samsung was forced to recall the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung quickly scrambled back to their quality check departments to find out what’s caused so many catastrophes. With the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung packed a 3500mAh battery, the largest battery that had to offer for a smartphone back then and soon quickly changed their decision and ended up launching the Note 8 with a 3300mAh battery to aid the horrors. With the Note 9, Samsung’s confidence has paid off. At least we haven’t been burnt yet.

The device lasted us for over a day or two and even lasted us for a total of six whole days while in standby. Our usage could be considered medium as the never played games as often except for about 10 hours of gaming during our two week run with the device.

Charging the device though did seem a bit daunting. But it isn’t how it sounds like. To be fair, a lot of this has to do because of the larger 4000mAh battery over the Note 8. We found that typically the device took us about one and a half to two hours to charge completely from about 10-20%. While is in standards, I’d definitely love to see Samsung launch anything compared to Oppo’s VOOC or OnePlus’s Dash Charge in the near future.

06 | Pricing & Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comes with an MSRP of RM 3699 and RM 4599 for the 128GB and 512GB, respectively. In the US, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comes with an MSRP of $999 and $1249 for the 128GB and 512GB, respectively.

With budget phones only increasing the heat of the competition, it all boils down to how much perfect of an experience are you willing to crave for. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is without a doubt of the most complete packages of any smartphone to date. There are no compromises on battery life, general camera performance,  display, design, and performance with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Sure, there’s a number of downfalls such as the forced push for Bixby isn’t seemingly favorable for the company. While we do expect Bixby to improve greatly within the near future, it seems to be a half-baked experience for now.

Given that Samsung has regained a lot of its confidence following the Note 7 debacle, I would speculate that Samsung might hold onto a 4000mAh battery with the next Galaxy Note device as well regardless of what it may be called. Given how large of a battery the Note 9 packs, we’d love to see Samsung catch up to OnePlus’s Dash Charge by the launch of the new Galaxy Note device.

From us, it is certainly an incredible and capable device. and should last you a few years down the line with full confidence. The sound on the Galaxy Note 9 has been improved, the camera is great and the lack of a notch and the inclusion of a MicroSD card and 3.5mm headphone jack has to be applauded regardless of what your views are. While impractical, I’d bet that with the prices of MicroSD cards making their way to the ground, picking up a decent-sized MicroSD card should be a great option. If you aren’t a very frequent videography or a heavy downloader, you’ll be absolutely fine with the base model of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for just as long as the 8GB/512GB variant of the Note 9.

In essence, a thumbs up from us over here at GeeksULTD.

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Usman Abdul Jabbar

19, Tech Enthusiast, Founder/Managing Editor at GeeksULTD and a Competitive Counter Strike Global Offensive player with aims of learning about web servers, web designing and computer hardware. Believes console exclusives are incredible and is still a strong follower of the PC Master Race. To contact me, follow me, or even constructively criticize me, contact me however you feel is right!
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