No Compromise

Samsung Galaxy Note9 By James Lu

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Samsung Galaxy Note9 By James Lu

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The Ocean Blue Note9 comes with a yellow S Pen.

The Galaxy Note9 uses the same design Samsung has used for the past two years, with a display that curves over the sides like an infinity pool, no physical buttons on the front, and only tiny bezels at the top and bottom. And unlike almost every other phone this year, there’s no notch in the display. While it’s slightly thicker and heavier than its predecessor, it’s hard to tell the difference.

The back of the device is once again glass and curved at both edges for a more comfortable grip. The camera module is now color matched to blend in with the rest of the phone instead of being black on every model, and the fingerprint scanner has thankfully been relocated to a more sensible position below the camera.

The Note9 has also been upgraded with stereo speakers custom tuned by AKG, and now supports microSD cards up to 512GB in capacity. So, if you get the 512GB model, you can have up to a whopping 1TB storage! Like last year’s Note8, both the phone and the S Pen are IP68 rated.

The Note9 has a slightly larger display than the Note8, measuring 6.4-inches. That sounds huge, but in hand, it doesn’t actually feel that big, and is about comparable to a 5.7-inch phone with a 16:9 aspect ratio display.

The Super AMOLED display on the phone has a 2,960 x 1,440-pixel resolution (516ppi) and an 18.5:9 aspect ratio, and is quite simply gorgeous. This is probably the best display I’ve seen on a smartphone: it’s bright, with natural but rich colors, deep contrast, and perfect blacks.

 The Note9’s S Pen features a Bluetooth Low Energy module that enables a wireless connection up to ten meters away and allows you to use it as a remote control. Long press the S Pen’s button and you’ll launch the camera app (although you can change this to any app you like). Once you’ve opened the camera, click once to take a picture, or click twice to switch between cameras. It’s really convenient and a great way to take selfies without having to awkwardly reach for the volume button or on-screen shutter.


No smartphone today has a more complete feature set than the Note9.

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S Pen Remote works in other apps too. In YouTube, Spotify, and Samsung Music you can click once to pause or click twice to advance to the next video/track. In total, there are 11 apps that work with the S Pen Remote. Of course, the S Pen is also still really useful for taking notes and sketching on the go. The stylus has the same 0.7mm tip and 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity as its predecessor, and drawing with it on the Note 9’s display feels fluid and responsive. 

The Singapore version of the Note9 runs on Samsung’s Exynos 9810 processor, a 10nm 64-bit octa-core processor with a 4x4 big.LITTLE configuration. Benchmark scores were good, but not outstanding. Having said that, even the most intensive games ran perfectly on the Note9.

The Note9 uses exactly the same rear camera setup as the Galaxy S9+ comprising of a 12-megapixel wide-angle main camera with a dual aperture f/2.4 and f/1.5 lens, paired with a 12-megapixel, f/2.4 telephoto camera, both of which have OIS. On the front, you get a single 8-megapixel, f/1.7 selfie camera.

There have been a few software improvements since the S9+ though, which includes wider HDR range, better background blurring in Portrait mode, and improved AI-powered scene recognition software; it can now detect up to 20 different scenes for optimization.

Image quality on the Note9’s rear camera is excellent with great detail retention, sharp focus, natural colors, and no noticeable artifacts or graininess. Even at 100% crop, details remain fairly sharp and there’s no over aggressive processing or smoothing typical of most smartphone cameras.

The Note9 has a 4,000mAh battery, which helped it last 13 and a half hours on our video looping benchmark. When you do need to recharge the phone, it supports both Samsung’s Fast Adaptive charging and wireless quick charging via Qi v1.2.

All things considered, while the Note9 is very expensive, it also has the most complete feature set you can find on a smartphone today. The only real argument I can make against the Note9 is that it’s not a game-changer. If you’re looking for the next big thing, the Note9 isn’t it. What the Note9 is though is the ultimate refinement of a design Samsung has been perfecting since the S8: a big, beautiful, no compromise device.


OPERATING SYSTEM Android 8.1 Oreo with Samsung Experience

PROCESSOR Samsung Exynos 9810 octa-core (4 x 2.8GHz Mongoose M3, 4 x 1.7GHz Cortex-A55)


DISPLAY 6.4-inch 2,960 x 1,440 pixels (516 ppi) 18.5:9 ratio Super AMOLED

CAMERA Dual: wide-angle 12-megapixel, dual f/1.5 and 2.4, 26mm and telephoto 12-megapixel f/2.4 x2 optical zoom

BATTERY 4,000mAh

DIMENSIONS 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm


PRICE $1,398 (128GB) $1,728 (512GB)

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