It’s been close to seven years since the first Samsung Galaxy Note was launched. When a company has worked so long on a particular model, it tends to perfect everything on it.
But it also tends to run out of ideas on how to take the device to a whole new level. Samsung seems to have been in a similar predicament with the Galaxy Note 9. Then it thought out of the box and decided to innovate on the S Pen stylus that is an integral part of this phone. The result is a smartphone that has no frayed edges, does everything to the best of its potential and has an accessory, which is capable of doing stuff no one would have expected it to.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 looks just like its predecessor, but the company has actually done some smart design changes here. This phone now has a 4000mAh battery, but this does not look like a phone with such a big battery inside. In fact, it is actually a thick and heavy phone, but you don’t see or feel it. The diamond cut on the edges makes the phone slimmer and thinner than it actually is.
With the flowing edges, the Note 9 actually feels like a slab of glass. There are some parts, especially above and below the display that remind one of the Samsung Galaxy S9. The fingerprint scanner is just below the dual camera module. The S Pen is still where it used to be, under the display at the right.
The 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display offers 1440 x 2960 pixels at 514ppi. So this is a larger display, but again you won’t feel it. The display is maybe the best in a smartphones and will let you read even under the bright sun. For those who want to consume a lot of video, this also has the best speaker I have heard in a Samsung phone.
While it might look the same, actually a lot has changed in the Note 9. When it comes to sheer performance, this phone has enough for Samsung to start pitching it to gamers.
In India, the phone will ship with the latest Exynos 9810, but with water cooling and a ceramic system to reduce the heat when it starts pushing the envelope. The phone is the first to get the Android version of the popular game Fortnite, but we could not test the same.
However, with all the things being done to push performance, the Note 9 has become one of the coolest phones you will use whatever you force it to do.
The other big factor is the storage capacity of the Note 9. The base model comes with 6GB of memory and a 128GB internal storage. There is a 8GB/512GB version for those who think this is not enough.
This, along with the 4000mAh battery which lasted well over a day for me on our horrid 4G networks, means the Note 9 is one of the most dependable phones for those who cannot afford their device to run out of space or battery at crucial junctures.
Another performance enhancement is DeX. Now, you don’t need a dock to power a desktop environment using the Note 9. This means a lot of people can use the Note 9 as a portable computer — smartphone when on the move, and desktop when you are at work — thus saving some money.
Also, the Note 9 is powerful enough to do two things — one of the desktop screen and another on the phone screen — at the same time.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
Galaxy Note cameras have always been top of the line. With the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, the camera adds quite a bit of (artificial) intelligence too. For instance, the camera can now recognise 20 scenarios or subjects.
So as I moved the camera from my son’s face to the roast chicken, the phone recognised that I had gone from a person to food and changed the lighting accordingly, but subtly.
It can recognise a whole lot of other things like text, indoors etc. But while we are awed with the AI element, we tend to forget that the actual hero here is the camera, which seamlessly adapts to the setting as you move from a shot of the house to the Mac screen.
The camera has the best auto-focus in a smartphone. It also comes with a very capable Pro mode. However, in auto, I noticed that the camera struggles with some warm colours.
Still, this is also one of the best low light cameras you will be able to buy at the moment and can actually capture subjects you cannot see with the naked eye.
S Pen on Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Despite all the features Samsung has perfected with in the Note 9, it is the S Pen that is the most innovative. That is because Samsung has thought out of the box to take the stylus out of its realm of doodling.
I’m not a big fan of selfies, but for those who are the S Pen is a magic wand. You can now use it to flip the camera and take a selfie — if the phone is propped up somewhere, you won’t be in the picture.
Even better, you can use the S Pen as a remote to capture group images with yourself in it.
This remove element works for other stuff too. Like skipping songs or videos, or just pausing play. This works well if the note is streaming music or videos to a larger screen or speaker and you are nowhere near the phone.
The S Pen is now Bluetooth enabled so, you can be up to 10 meters away. I tried this a few times and my only fear was that I will end up misplacing the S Pen somewhere and not return it to its nesting place inside the Note 9.
And the S Pen will never run out of charge, unless you have been presenting a PowerPoint using it for over 30 minutes as just under a minute inside the phone charges the stylus for another half hour of wireless connectivity.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Issues
Galaxy Note 9 is a near perfect phone and there is nothing here that warrants worry. However, there are a couple of irritants. The speaker is great, but if you are listening at higher volumes you can feel significant vibrations on the back panel.
Also, this is a large battery and it takes time to charge it fully. But the good thing is that even a 25 per cent charge lasts for quite some time.
Also, gradually you feel that this is a heavy phone at over 200 grams. Your shirt pocket sags a bit more, you have to grip it a bit tighter, and you cannot leave the phone precariously on any edge.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Should you buy?
Yes, if you are looking for an Android work horse. Yes, if you are looking for an upgrade from your earlier Note devices. Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is clearly one of the best Android phones you can buy, but the S Pen is the one reason why you might end up buying it in the end.
If my week with the phone is anything to go by, there is nothing in the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for you to regret buying it.