The Samsung Galaxy Note line has always been the most anticipated device line in the modern smartphone world. It is also always been Samsung’s most expensive line if devices. The price comes with a certain expectations though. The Samsung Galaxy Note line is expected to be the most advanced, and most powerful device out in the market in terms of pure processing power. That is thanks to Samsung’s know how in creating the most advanced SoC available in the market – the Exynos series.
The older Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was proof that it is in fact Samsung’s most powerful device to date. At the time of its launch too it was Samsung’s most expensive device in 2017 at MYR3,999. If you have not read our review here yet, it was a device we loved. It was so good that we gave it our editor’s choice award.
This raises a very important question; how do you make a device as good as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 better for the year 2018? Following up to the incredible device will be a herculean task for Samsung. The Samsung Galaxy Note9 has to be something special. It had to be something out of this world. It had to be bigger, and even more powerful than the Note 8. Did they do it with this new Metallic Copper Note9? Read on and find out.
First things first, the Samsung Galaxy Note9 is available in Malaysia in three different colours; the thematic Ocean Blue, the plain Jane Midnight Black, and the odd-ish Metallic Copper. Keep in mind that the 512GB plus 8GB RAM version of the device is only available in Midnight Black; which is still very pretty – like Emily Blunt in a black dress. The unit we picked is something we believed to be a little unconventional. We picked the ravishing Metallic Copper.
Here comes the part where we explain why. I was asked by plenty why I strayed from the signature Ocean Blue and picked the darker, less popular, browner option. The short answer is that because we liked the Metallic Copper massively.
If that was all you needed to know though, skip this paragraph. If you are curious though; let me tell you why we picked the Metallic Copper. It is, in our eyes, the best looking Samsung Galaxy Note device thus far. We think the copper accentuates the Note9’s power in a very subtle way. It is also a very distinct colour that is also so subtle you will not take a second look at it. It is a stealth colour, a dirty look that highlights the Note9’s very pretty lines, the bevel, and the curves. Odd is beautiful. Oh, and also the S Pen comes in the same colour of the device.
Enough of colours though. The overall device design is very much similar to the older Samsung Galaxy Note 8 it replaces. At a glance they look like the same devices in Midnight Black. There are subtle differences though. It is a bigger, beefier device that contains bigger parts like the display and battery.
It is a very tiny bit thicker than the older Note 8 too. That girth is very much noticeable when you hold the device. It feels substantially more comfortable than the Note 8 too. That is very much thanks to the beveled aluminium sides though which adds to the thickness as well.
But that’s the thing. Every other manufacturer speaks about reducing the thickness of the device, or even make the bezels thinner. All that was done at the cost of comfort. Not the Samsung Galaxy Note9 though. It feels at home right away. It felt very much like how the Samsung Galaxy Note5 felt when I first held it. It felt big, but it felt at home in our palms. It felt comfortable, not clumsy and humongous. That is what the Samsung Galaxy Note9 is in our hands; comfortable. It does not cut into our palms like the Note8 did. There was no worry of accidental screen touches because we felt that there was so much space at the sides for your fingers to grab on to.
Overall the device looks as pretty as before except with more drama and shine than before, especially compared to the muted Grey colour option you see in our review. The added thickness is nearly unnoticeable as it is subtle. But it is an added welcome to our palms. Is it the prettiest device we have reviewed yet? Not really, but it is darn close.
Every year, Samsung pulls all the stops for their Galaxy Note series. Somehow, we consider the Note series to be Samsung’s true flagship just because it technically becomes the most powerful device Samsung has to offer when it launches. It usually out powers the next Galaxy S flagship that comes after it too, if not matching its performance. The package somehow seems more complete on the Note series as well.
In the previous years Samsung’s Galaxy Note devices have featured over-the-top hardware with their most powerful chipsets to date. The only common denominator that each of the Galaxy Note line over the years has is its wonderful S Pen, which also evolves from year to year. It was the same case for the Samsung Galaxy Note8 last year, it came with over-the-top hardware and an S Pen that was better than before. The only let down was its battery life at some point; you could get a whole day out of it, but only just.
It is a little different this year though. The Samsung Galaxy Note9 still features some of the best of hardware you can find in the modern smartphone market today. But it is also coupled with the largest in-class battery finally, which should solve the barely acceptable battery life in the Samsung Galaxy Note8. The S Pen as well has been revamped to be a Bluetooth device instead of a passive pen while there are two speakers now that are tuned by AKG by Harman Kardon.
|Processor||Samsung Exynos 8910 (8 Cores)|
Quad-Core @ 2.7GHz
Quad-Core @ 1.8GHz
|RAM||6 GB (As tested)/8GB|
|Memory||128 GB (As tested)/512GB|
Expandable with MicroSD (Up to 1TB)
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||Mali-G72 MP18|
|Display||Super AMOLED panel|
6.4-inch (~516 ppi)
1440p Quad HD+, 18.5:9 ratio (1,440 x 2,960 pixels)
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
|Operating System||Android 8.1.0 Oreo with Grace UX|
|Battery||Non-Removable 4,000mAh Li-Ion|
Fast Charging (Quick Charge 2.0)
Qi/PMA Wireless Charging
Wi-Fi IEEE802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
Dual Pixel technology
2x Optical zoom
4K Video recording (60fps)
Quad HD video recording (30fps)
Samsung DeX (desktop experience support)
The Samsung Galaxy Note9 comes with Android Oreo 8.1.0 with Samsung’s very own Grace UX that was first seen on the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017). Do not get us wrong though, the interface on the Samsung Galaxy Note9 is not an interface made for mid-range devices. It is in fact a full-on interface that was meant to be for the Galaxy Note series.
If you are used to the interface found in the Samsung Galaxy Note8 you should feel at home with the Galaxy Note9. The interface on the 2018 device feels plenty more stable compared to the Note8 though somehow. It feels more polished than I remembered, more intuitive, smoother, and more snappy than before. But that could be attributed to the new Android it is running on.
As with the older Note8 the Grace UX on the Samsung Galaxy Note9 feels like the complete version of what Samsung’s interface for their flagship should be like. You get the edge panels like the Galaxy S9 and S9+. There is the signature edge lighting notification also where the edge lights up when there is a notification, when the device’s face is on the table of course. You see the usual Samsung-esque icons on the interface that is quirky yet pretty to look at. Even the settings menu is very similar to the S9, or even the Note8.
There is some changes however. The off-screen memo is even more polished than before with colours. You still can save the off-screen memo and pin it on the home screen as a reminder, so no worries there. There is an enhanced video mode as well with the Samsung Galaxy Note9 where the display optimizes itself when you go on apps like YouTube, Netflix, or even Video Player.
Security is pretty much the same game except every thing is a little bit faster than before. We did not try KNOX though; because, we do not have a use for it? We do know that KNOX works though when you need it.
Bixby was probably the most annoying assistant we found on the Samsung Galaxy Note8 and Galaxy S9. To say the least, we are not a big fan of the Bixby assistant. It was slow, a little dimwitted, and very unpolished. Plenty of times we end up with ‘Ok Google!’ instead. We tend to try to disable the Bixby button too as that was a major annoyance for us too. We do have to say that the button placement is perfect though.
The new Bixby Assistant you find on the Samsung Galaxy Note9 though is a huge step over the old Bixby though. It recognises languages better, it feels slightly more polished. It is more Google Assistant now that it recognises voice better. Even the Bixby Home interface is nice to look at with the dark coloured theme. In essence we like it much better than before. We might still not use it as our primary smart assistant though. Here is why.
Let us begin with the Bixby button. It is placed very well on the device, in fact it is in a perfect position where your rest your thumb (if you hold the device with your left hand) right underneath the volume rockers. It is super ergonomic and easy to reach. But that button means that when you pull out your device out of the pocket, the first screen that pops out on the display most probably is the Bixby home; which is highly annoying.
You can conjure the Bixby assistant via voice with a simple ‘Hey Bixby!’ command. It works very well, and very quickly. It was very much like the Google Assistant that we are very used to. Except that it is not, when we try to command it to navigate home; it did not register an address because I did not set my home address to my Samsung Account. My Maps app though registers my home address.
Because of Bixby as well Google Assistant will sometimes ignore your ‘Ok Google!’ commands from time to time. Whether or not it is a deliberate move from Samsung’s side, we do not know. But we would like to know that both assistants are still available to us in times of need.
That said though, Bixby on the Samsung Galaxy Note9 is a major upgrade to the older Bixby on the Galaxy Note8 and even the S9. It is actually usable if not irritating. One more thing, the Bixby button cannot be repurposed or disabled unless you root your device which voids your warranty.
For Malaysia the Samsung Galaxy Note9 comes with Samsung’s very own Exynos 9810 10nm processor that clocks faster than most entry-level PCs these days. That also why you pay a premium for this device. It packs 6GB of RAM which also rivals plenty of entry-level PCs you can find at the same price range. The combination of hardware in the Galaxy Note9 is a recipe for a massively powerful device that crushes all the things that you need to do on your smartphone.
Call Quality and Connectivity
Nothing new here technically. The Samsung Galaxy Note9 still comes with the same sort of antenna as any other modern smartphone for its networking. The new SoC on this device though makes it a 5G ready device. It even supports VoLTE if you have the network to back it up. We have none of those though so we are stuck with 4G LTE+. That said, download speeds are as excellent as it can be when the signal bar is full.
Phone calls are a staple of any phone devices though and this does it well, even when the signal bar is at one. As long as there is a network signal the Samsung Galaxy Note9 will make calls. With its two mics as well calls are as clear as ever, at least as per reported by receivers.
Because of its AKG tuned speakers though the device rings very loudly. If the device is not in silent mode, you can be sure that you will not be missing any calls from anyone. Even when you put it face down, it vibrates strong enough that you will notice, there is even the edge lighting notification that will make sure that you do not miss a single phone call; or at least know that you are missing a phone call, or message, or whatever else.
There is a general consensus that Samsung’s GPS receiver is one of the weakest ever found on a modern smartphone. We are happy to report that the Samsung Galaxy Note9 performs fine. The only times we have issues with it is when the weather is that terrible; where you literary have to guess where you are heading to, or when we are packed in high-rise buildings in bad weather. Other than those, the Samsung Galaxy Note9 navigates well.
By far the Samsung Galaxy Note9’s greatest forte. It is as though the device is designed for this word, of wait it is designed for multitasking. Despite the ability for multiple windows exists within Android since Android 3.0, not one manufacturer put it to good use until Samsung did with their Samsung Galaxy Note3. The multi-window function took off after that. It was by far one of the best features that Samsung introduced with their Galaxy Note devices.
With over-the-top large displays, the Samsung Galaxy Note9 really shines when it comes to multitasking especially with ample RAM space (we have the 6GB one). Multi-window mode is pretty normal by now, but on the 6.4-inch display it makes perfect sense; you can do two things at once. With 6GB for RAM you can do two things at once and do them without worry of lag or overloading the hardware. You can be watching a YouTube video, or watch Netflix while texting your loved ones, or even browse the internet. With Edge quick access too you can easily pair up apps that you usually use together so that you can just launch them when you want them on.
It really is a beast this Note9. The amount of power this thing packs really makes it a perfect device in your pocket for on-the-go work. But it is not only about the on-your-palm experience this thing goes for. It is a perfect work device too in the office or at home. Welcome to Samsung DeX.
This is by far one of the most interesting thing about Samsung’s Galaxy Note devices of the modern world. First introduced in the Samsung Galaxy Note8, it basically transformed the way plenty of people works. You do not even need to have a PC anymore with the new Samsung Desktop Experience. The DeX basically brings Android to the big screen.
We think that this DeX concept is pretty much based on the failed Windows Continuum concept. It turned out to be something much bigger entirely though since the Windows Phone platform was scrapped. The last ever device we saw on Windows Phone with Windows Continuum ability was HP’s Elite X3, which flopped too.
When it was introduced late last year the only way you can access the DeX functionality is via Samsung’s proprietary DeX Dock that is still selling for MYR300 and above. On the Note9, DeX is plenty more flexible. You do not even need to use the DeX Dock anymore.
With the Samsung Galaxy Note9 you only need an HDMI to USB Type-C cable, a big monitor of your choice, and that is it really. All we needed was to plug the USB Type-C cable into the port on the Note9 and plug the HDMI end on the monitor, power it on and watch the magic happens as Samsung DeX comes to life. Of course you can still set it to screen mirroring instead if DeX is not your thing.
But how can it not be your thing when you are getting a full desktop experience. You can use Microsoft office in proper display, browse the internet like you do on your PC, when you unplug out the tabs are still open on the smartphone so you can browse on-the-go, or even continue typing on your Excel Sheet. That is proper productivity and multitasking right there.
The best part is that once you plug into the monitor, you do not even need to get a new set of keyboard or mouse. The Samsung Galaxy Note9 can double as a the touchpad or even the keyboard. You can even use the S Pen to make the DeX even more functional as a creative tool. It is remarkable as fun. This review is actually typed mostly on the Samsung Galaxy Note9, half the time it sits on DeX without the proprietary dock.
The only issue we have with not having the dock is that the device does not get charged while plugged into the monitor. In fact the Galaxy Note9 has to use some of its battery power to power the HDMI port itself to get some image working. Still, you can easily solve that by getting the fast charging wireless charger from Samsung, or other OEMs even. If not, you can go IKEA and get one of those table lamps with wireless charging pad at its foot.
One of the biggest money makers in today’s digital society is games. Especially mobile games, these days. If you have not read our editorial here, let us tell you again that the mobile gaming industry is growing, fast. It is technically the biggest money-maker in the overall gaming sector actually. Of course we should care about gaming. Samsung is also marketing this device as one of those gaming capable device. With the sort of power this packs, we are not surprised. In fact we are pretty convinced that it will do well in whatever games that the Google Play Store, or the Galaxy App Store can offer.
The game that was marketed with the Samsung Galaxy Note9 was the Android version of Fortnite battle royale game. Well, when we say Android version; the game is still in Beta mode and is exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy App Store at this time. Because you see it first on the Galaxy Note9 at the launch, you can expect the game to run as smooth as silk. You cannot get it up to its highest graphical settings just yet because it technically is not optimised just yet (Beta, remember).
We installed other games too obviously. We ran PlayerUnknown’s Battle Grounds (PUBG) Mobile, Arena Of Valor (AOV), Sky Force Reloaded, and Monument Valley. All of these games ran very smoothly without any hiccups or lags. All of them loaded smoothly, especially for the ones that require an active internet connection to play like AOV, or PUBG. PUBG ran on its highest settings as we played the game. About an hour into the games you start feeling some warmth from the device. That was it though, it never got to levels that was even remotely considered uncomfortable. If you did not pay attention, the heat was barely even felt.
Games like AOV and Sky Force ran even smoother on the Galaxy Note9 without any sort of dropped frame rates or lags. The only time AOV let us down was when the internet connection dropped. Even then, games loaded smoothly and quickly without any issues. Obviously on the Super AMOLED display the games looked gorgeous.
Games are never complete with good audio experience, and this is where the Samsung Galaxy Note9 shines brighter than any gaming smartphone currently out there. The Dolby certification is one thing, but the AKG tuned dual speakers gives it an entirely different experience. The AKG speakers are the loudest ever fitted to a Galaxy flagship device. Trust us, it is loud; really loud. But at maximum volume too the speakers does not tear or does not sound like it is about to give up. That definitely adds some immersion to the games even when you do not use an earphone.
For a more personal experience you really should use the AKG earphones that are bundled with the Galaxy Note9 though. Coupled with the AKG audio drivers, this is a multimedia device like no other, it genuinely sounds good.
One of the biggest pain points of the old Samsung Galaxy Note8, as users and owners would put it, is its battery life. The Note8 packs a 3,300mAh battery which did enough in our past review here. We do have to say that it was not enough to last us a whole day of working and more though. The battery on the Note8 should last you a whole working day if you use it as regularly as you read a newspaper; that is the occasional checking of messages, replying them, emails, some light reading, some light drawing, and what not. Any YouTube videos that you want to watch longer than 10 minutes has to be reconsidered, or find a place you can plug the Note8 in, then you are safe.
On the Samsung Galaxy Note9 though I start my day usually with a few YouTube videos, or even Netflix if I have enough time. That usually takes up about an hour of usage already. Battery level then dropped to about 90%, which is not too bad considering the amount of power the display usually takes. Even with that kind of usage, and not charging the device on the way to work, the device still lasts the whole of work day with more power to spare. We do have to note that our Samsung Galaxy Note9’s display was set to the maximum resolution settings, if you leave it in Full HD+ mode, the device should last longer than our tests.
With DeX, some gaming, more Netflix and what not battery life should drop plenty faster. Despite doing some of that on top of the usual things like Whatsapp, Telegram, Emails, and a few light reads the battery still goes all the way to the end of working day. If you do use your device sparingly we do believe that the 4,000mAh battery can last a whole lot longer.
By far, the Samsung Galaxy Note9 has the biggest Infinity display among all the Galaxy devices at 6.4-inch. Yet the South Koreans managed to keep the package to be as tight as the Samsung Galaxy Note8. It pushes out Samsung’s very usual Quad HD+ at 2,960 by 1,400 pixels. That brings the pixel density count to 516ppi, which means absolutely nothing actually. At least you will not be able to tell the difference anyway.
It is a Super AMOLED panel though which means colour contrasts are great, and saturation is superb. All of that is true on the Samsung Galaxy Note9. Weirdly though, the display actually looks even better than the Samsung Galaxy S9. It is probably the prettiest display on a smartphone yet. The colours come out great without any colour bleeding. Gradients are so smooth the only way you get anything smoother is looking at the actual thing. The colours are not just accurate, they really pop; plenty more so than the Samsung Galaxy S9 does.
have maintained that the OPPO R15 Pro and the Apple iPhone X has some of the best smartphone displays in the market with their bright colour contrast and very vivid colour reproduction. This Samsung Galaxy Note9 beats them very slightly, it could be due to the size of the display. We reckon that it is more than that though. any Full HD videos we put through the display looks really nice and crisp. Reds pop, Yellows are pretty, and Greens look deliciously fresh on the Note9 somehow. We dare say that this is currently the best display in the market.
Keep in mind though that the Samsung Galaxy Note9 is set to Full HD+ resolution out-of-the-box. This is done to extend the battery life by default. You can turn it to Quad HD+ in the settings page itself, which you might want to because it looks sensationally prettier. Of course you are giving up a little bit of your battery life; but hey, pretty display.
The Samsung Galaxy Note9 comes with identical dual 12-Megapixel sensors that you find on the Samsung Galaxy S9+. It also features the same dual-aperture (f/1.5 and f/2.4) function as the Samsung Galaxy S9+ so it takes good pictures in both well-lit and low-light conditions. Out front, it features the same 8-Megapixel you would find on the Samsung Galaxy S9 too. So, no difference? There is though.
The Samsung Galaxy Note9 somehow take better pictures than the older Samsung Galaxy Note8 despite having the same sensor. Its low-light performance is somehow slightly better than the Samsung Galaxy S9+ too despite having the same sensor and dual-aperture technology. The colours come out slightly blown-up as usual, but not as blown-up as expected; which means colours are more true to life. As expected from 12-Megapixels, images do not come out with superb details, though it is still highly acceptable.
All the photos turns out nice and accurate with minimal editing required. Of course the new software calibration allows the dual 12-Megapixel sensors to pick out better details. But beyond that, the live-focus mode now looks even better than before. The Bokeh is softer around the subject and actually looks very organic without trying too hard. The only downside is that you have to be a certain distance away from your subject.
Selfies come out to about the same if you compare it to the Samsung Galaxy S9 too. The images might have come out just a tad brighter on the Samsung Galaxy Note9 though. We suspect that it could be due to the software calibration.
There is a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) function to the camera though. Like plenty of the AI out there the Samsung Galaxy Note9’s AI also does scene detection and therefore adjusts its settings to fit the situation and set itself up to take the best possible photo. The AI even knows when someone blinks in the photo or when there is motion blur so it will ask you to retake the photo in those conditions.
With the S Pen, the creative avenue extends beyond the regular stickers and lighting effects of the regular camera app. With the S Pen you can even draw on the photos and add-on to the photos you take; sort of a ‘make it yours’ thing. I am not a very good draw though so I will not demonstrate.
The S Pen does more than that though, it is also your Bluetooth activated camera shutter trigger remote. Gone are the days you have to set a timer on your device and run to your friends for that group photo. Simply stand with your friends, and click on the S Pen’s S button, and voila; magic.
Video abilities have been improved here too. Of course you will find the usual Super Slow Motion video mode that was made popular in the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+. The 4K video on this is not capped to 30fps anymore though, it is now at 60fps. That means you can even slow down your 4K videos to frame it in a 30fps video. Of course 60fps videos always look better.
AR Emoji also made a come back with slightly more accuracy than before. The differences in this AR Emoji thing is very minor though and is totally negligible if you already have the Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9+. It is nice that they have added more things to the stickers and the AR Emoji to play with though.
The S Pen
On the Samsung Galaxy Note9 the S Pen is now an active Bluetooth device. Because it is now an active Bluetooth device it acts as a remote when you take your photos. It can also be your presentation clicker, and pointe; even if it is just browsing your gallery. If you have your music player on, it is a remote to control your play, next, and previous music. It is even more precise and faster too, more so than the Note8. It feels like an actual pen, but you know it is not after 30 minutes.
Yes, the S Pen has a battery now. It is a capacitor type battery in fact. That super-capacitor is good for about 30 minutes of active time before it becomes a useless stick. Samsung claims that the S Pen will charge, when docked in minutes. Theoretically it should charge within a minute.
Fun fact; you can actually use an older version of the S Pen on the Samsung Galaxy Note9. We have always known that each S pen is still interchangeable but we were not sure with this one since the S Pen on the Note9 is an active Bluetooth device. It did work like a charm, almost as well as the Note9’s proprietary S Pen with a little more rubbery feel on the tip.
Back on the Samsung Galaxy Note9’s S Pen though. It is slimmer than before but maintains that nice tactile, organic feel of the old S Pen. The clicky part still does not do anything other than act as a stowaway system. But there is the S button that does everything else like launch the S floating menu, skip or pause tracks, slideshows, and what not.
I only have one complain on that though; the button is way too small and does not click enough. The size of it is way to miniscule for even my dainty little fingers which is annoying. I would have to use a little bit of nail to click it in, which may not bode well aesthetically in a long run.
The Samsung Galaxy Note9 – Noteworthy Upgrade?
If you really look hard the Samsung Galaxy Note9 is just a very minor step up to the Samsung Galaxy Note8. The differences are minute and negligible at most cases. The Note8 is still a very capable device even though it is a 2017 device. So if you are already on the Samsung Galaxy Note8, you may want to skip this one and go find a power bank instead.
What about Samsung Galaxy S9 users? You are technically just getting a bigger battery and a stylus on top of a slightly more powerful processor. If that is what you find lacking with the S9+ or even the S9, yes the Note9 is the device for you. If not, what is wrong with waiting for the next big S device?
But what if you were a Note fan? You waited for the next big Note to come, but you were still holding on to you Samsung Galaxy Note5; like us. This is the Note that you want to get. It is cheaper than the Note8 and comes with a bigger storage than your old, writhing Note5. It even feels just as good with a bigger display and prettier body.
The Samsung Galaxy Note9 is the best that the Note can be, really. It was everything that was the Samsung Galaxy Note8, except that everything is a little better than before. Those adds up to a huge difference in practical forms actually. It is the proper Note experience if you ask us. Yes, there are a few niggles here and there; we think that the battery life could be better even with Quad HD+ resolution, the Bixby button needs to be shot to death or placed in a less accidental placement. But overall, this is the Note experience that we all have been waiting for. It is long battery life with unbeatable productivity experience and seemingly unlimited power; it is the Samsung Galaxy Note9.
This device will set you back at MYR3,699. That is a whole MYR300 lower than when the Samsung Galaxy Note8 was new. The 512GB + 8GB version will set you back MYR4,399; which in our opinion is a little bit of an overkill. But if you need that much power, we do not judge.
Yes it is still an expensive device. But It is a device worthy of a second look. We gave it a lower score there just because it would be out of reach for an entry-level salary. Save up for two to three months though, this is wroth your investment. The question now is; would we buy it? Our answer is; in a heartbeat.
Also published on Medium.