Samsung Galaxy Note9: Hands-on review
Samsung's Galaxy Note9 is a sleek device with plenty under the hood, but don't expect too much in the way of fresh design.
In the lead up to the Samsung Unpacked event in New York City, finder got the chance to get up close and personal with the new Galaxy Note9 smartphone.
It was a limited hands-on with early sample products and is in no way enough time for a dedicated review, but it was long enough to form some first impressions. When you're talking premium smartphones, first impressions count.
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Samsung Galaxy Note9: Early upsides
- The new S-Pen seems more versatile. There was a lot of talk about using the S-Pen to control PowerPoint presentations or photo slideshows thanks to its inclusion of Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity. But the coolest element is that with a long press, the Note9 boots into photo mode, and a second press will take a photo. Framing your image is still going to be a challenge, but the remote shutter function is useful. Plus, Samsung is opening it up to developers, meaning it could become even more useful as time goes on.
- No DeX dock is great. Samsung will sell its own USB-C accessories to enable DeX connectivity on its Note9, turning the phone into a portable computer. But you can also use after-market accessories from third parties, and while Samsung doesn't guarantee they will work, they should. The very fact all you need is a USB-C to HDMI adapter to get you rolling is great, especially given you can now run both a desktop app and a mobile app simultaneously, powered from the same device.
- It has all the power. It's really hard to not mention this given that the Note9 features a whopping 4,000mAh battery. Obviously we haven't tested this, or benchmarked the phone in any way, but the battery upgrade in the Note9 will excite all kinds of people. It's no slouch in other processing departments either, but again we'll have to properly put it through its paces to see how it compares.
- The Intelligent camera seems to work pretty well. I only had limited time testing it in a controlled environment, but the camera did detect a potential photograph scene of flowers as flowers and a scene of bagels as food photography. It also picked up a painting of mountains behind a valley as a landscape shot once I'd cropped out the frame.
- Adjusted fingerprint sensor. Samsung has moved the sensor below the camera. It's still not as convenient as having it on the front, but it does make smudging the lenses slightly less likely.
Samsung Galaxy Note9: Early downsides
- The design feels a little too familiar. The days when there was a clear and noticeable difference in design between the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note families are apparently behind us. With the exception of the S-Pen slot and the array of the rear cameras, there's no huge visual difference between the Galaxy S9+ and the Note9. Given the pricing difference between the S9+ and the Note9, this is problematic.
- It's a premium phone, with a premium price. With a starting price of $1,499, it's not like the Note9 is the most expensive phone on the market. Still, the reality is that spending $1.5K on a phone is a significant investment.
Samsung Galaxy Note9: Early verdict
Samsung claimed that its most passionate Note users all love the S-Pen, and name that as one of the key driving considerations when buying a new device. If you're that user, the Note9 appears to be a solid upgrade with a huge step up in specs and performance.
For other users looking at the Note9 and comparing it to the Galaxy S9+, the benefit of the Note could be less obvious. The increased battery capacity and intelligent camera features do look promising, but we won't know for certain until we put the phone through more rigorous testing. Stay tuned for our comprehensive review.
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