Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: top smartphone, but ...
This year too, Samsung placed after the S devices a new note: The Galaxy Note 9. This is a flagship with an integrated stylus. My test report.
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Unboxing and initial setup
Like every other packaging for Samsung smartphones, that of the Note 9 is mostly black. On the case is a graphic of the S-Pen I'll get to later and the name of the phone. If you pull the box out of the case, which is made of cardboard, and open it, you surprisingly don't see the smartphone immediately. First, Samsung actually packed the case with a SIM tool and the instructions.
Only below is the Note 9. If you take this out of the package with all the contents, you will find all the accessories. This includes the power supply unit, the USB-C cable, in-ears from AKG and two adapters that can be used to transfer data to the Note from another device, more on this in a moment.
The initial setup of the flagship is very easy, as is always the case with Android. You enter your Google account, log in to Samsung if necessary, agree to the terms and conditions, set a screen lock method and possibly create a backup from another smartphone. Instead of the latter, the data can also be transferred using the aforementioned adapter and the Smart Switch app.
After about 20 minutes you can start using the smartphone.
Glass on glass with excellent speakers
The Galaxy Note 9 has a pretty ordinary design, at least by today's standards. The back and front are made of glass, more precisely Gorilla Glass 5, and are held together by an aluminum frame. I noticed two things about the glass relatively soon that I didn't like at all: My test device had a fairly deep scratch when it was unpacked and the glass was full of fingerprints within a few seconds. In return, the Note 9 even supports quick wireless charging thanks to the choice of material.
Briefly a word about the available color options. In Austria you can choose between Midnight Black and Ocean Blue. For other countries there is also Lavander Purple and Copper. Some will definitely be happy about the headphone plug, which Samsung also installed here. Next to it is the USB-C port, the slot for the S Pen and one of a total of two speakers. These support Dolby Atmos and sound incredibly good. So far, I've never had a smartphone with better speakers in my hands.
Two SIM cards or one SIM card and one microSD card can be placed in the SIM slot on the top of the device. There is a small fingerprint sensor under the dual camera. This is placed better than the Note 8, but is still not the best of the best. So the sensor often didn't react when I protried to unlock the Note 9.
The best display on the market
The fabulous Super AMOLED display, which has a size of 9 inches and a maximum resolution of WQHD + (6,4 × 2960 pixels), extends on the front of the Samsung Galaxy Note 1440. When unpacking, however, only FHD + (2220 × 1080 pixels) is set as the resolution, optionally it can be reduced to HD + (1480 × 720 pixels). This allows the remaining runtime to be increased when the battery level is low. I can't think of any negative points about the display. The maximum brightness is more than sufficient and the sharpness of the picture is on top.
Of course, both sides of the display are rounded off again. Samsung calls the Edge display. In my opinion, the whole thing looks very good, especially when you swipe through the app drawer and the apps flow onto the display. Unfortunately, I noticed that the suppression of the palm rest does not always work reliably.
The Galaxy Note 9 does not have a notch, which is due to the fact that there is an iris scanner for Intelligent Scan next to the front camera and the ambient light sensor. With Intelligent Scan, the Note 9 can often be unlocked even faster than with the fingerprint sensor. Samsung installed the second of the two Dolby Atmos speakers in the earpiece.
No outstanding performance
Working in my configuration of the Galaxy Note 9 is Samsung's own Exynos 9810, an octa-coreProprocessor. It is supported by the Mali-G72 graphics card and 6 gigabytes of RAM with 128 gigabytes of internal memory. However, there is also a variant with 512 gigabytes of memory and 8 gigabytes of RAM.
The performance of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is basically okay. Apps start lightning fast and the overall operating speed is pleasantly high. Even with Asphalt 9 or Oceanhorn, the smartphone had absolutely none Protrouble. There were only a few wobbles in the animations from time to time, which I think is due to the software.
Unfortunately, I have to say that the performance is not really outstanding. Because anyone who read my review of the Honor 8X knows that I pretty much said the same words there on this subject. There is hardly any difference, especially in everyday life. And the Honor 8X with an RRP of 250 euros is a lot cheaper than the Note 9 here from Samsung.
For real? Does this smartphone support Quick Charge?
A few words about the battery. This is large despite the slot for the S Pen 4000mAh. The bottom line is that I was always able to achieve a maximum screen-on time of four and a half hours before the smartphone had to be plugged in again in the evening. It is charged via the USB-C port, even with Quick-Charge. But unfortunately, the Quick-Charge always took at least two hours. In fact, when I used the Note once while it was charging, it only charged 50 in two hours Procent. In my opinion, that really shouldn't be the case.
In addition, with the Honor 8X, which is known to be a lot cheaper, I often even have a screen-on time of eight hours without Probleme create. Sure, the display has a lower resolution here, but the battery in the Note is bigger. This is also a pretty big disadvantage of the phone in my opinion.
Software with some cool features
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 still runs Android 8.1 Oreo with the Experience UI. Android 9 Pie with the One UI should then come in January 2019. A big plus point with the software: The security patch is the one for November, so it's brand new. The one for the current month will certainly not be long in coming.
Overall, I think the Experience UI is very nice. It is definitely the best interface Samsung has ever developed to date. But it is not perfect. For example, some bloatware was preinstalled. I also noticed that the settings were getting quite cluttered.
There are things like the edge panels for that. These are small palettes consisting of a wide variety of shortcuts that can be called up by swiping the edge into the display. There are even more Edge panels to download from the Samsung Store. I also found the app pairs pretty useful. An app pair always consists of two apps that start in split-screen mode when you call it up. I also thought it was great that you can change the font.
The unique selling point of the Note devices: The S Pen. In my case, it has the color of the device itself and resides in a small slot on the underside of the smartphone. It can be used in two ways: with or without bluetooth. To enable the latter, the pen becomes a battery that is charged in the storage slot. Then it is also possible to use it as a remote shutter release for photos, which can be quite useful. The S Pen can also be used for media control, which I found a little pointless.
Of course, there are also some software features for the pen. Here two stood out during my use, including the first screen-off memo. If you pull the pen out of the device and it is locked, a writing surface opens for quick notes. These are then stored in the Notes app. Then I liked the feature called Live Message. Here you can write or draw a message on a small area with various effects, which the software then animates and saves as a GIF for sending.
Samsung installed two cameras in the Galaxy Note 9. Both have a resolution of 12 megapixels, but a different aperture. One lens is a telephoto lens with f / 2.4 and the other lens is a wide-angle lens that can switch between f / 1.5 and f / 2.4. The front camera has a resolution of 8MP.
For the most part, I liked the photos that the device spit out very much. Especially with pictures that were taken in good light, you can hardly see a mistake. The same applies to the images from the selfie camera. Even if the surroundings are a little darker, a lot of details can still be seen. In low light, however, there is noise in the images.
Of course, there is also a portrait mode on the Note 9. The pictures taken with this mode also convinced me. The corners of the subjects are hardly washed out and the blurring effect can even be readjusted afterwards. Pretty handy if you don't find the right strength right away.
The device can record videos in up to 4K up to 60 frames pro second or in 720p with 960 frames pro record second. The latter mode is used for videos in slow motion. Here I noticed that the colors are quite yellow. The 4K recordings all looked great.
The AR emojis, which are very similar to the animojis from Apple, are a nice gimmick, but I hardly used them. In addition, this figure looks very unlike me.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the best Note and the best smartphone Samsung has ever made. But I have one Problem with it. It doesn't really offer a lot of things that I couldn't get on other, mostly even cheaper, smartphones. For example, the battery life is a lot worse than for example the OnePlus 6T or my Honor 8X. In addition, the everyday performance in particular is only on the same level as my Honor 8X. And that's quite a shame since the Note 9 costs a whole lot more money. For example, the display and the speakers with Dolby Atmos are breathtaking. Samsung fans will definitely be delighted with the Galaxy Note 9. Everyone else is better off with a OnePlus 6T or similar device.
Prices and availability
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is available from Samsung in the colors and configurations specified above at a starting price of 799 euros. The most expensive configuration with 512 gigabytes of memory and eight gigabytes of RAM costs 999 euros. Of course, the Note 9 is also available from retailers such as MediaMarkt, Saturn or Amazon.
We would like to thank Samsung for providing the test device.