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Hands-on review: The Samsung Galaxy Note9
Thu, 27th Sep 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The Samsung Galaxy Note9's advertising tagline is currently ‘more power than you need, until you need it'.

While I was pondering about the situations in which this sleek phablet would be the ultimate source of power (Samsung are explaining this all in an informative TV campaign), it's clear that the Note9 is a really well-designed device.

In a climate where it seems every device manufacturer is taking things to market faster than Moore's Law, Samsung may have a winning piece of tech for the higher-end markets.

I'll start with the two things that impressed me the most: The camera and the screen. The rear camera sports a dual pixel 12MP automatic focus, and the front camera is an 8MP automatic focus camera on the front.

The image clarity in daylight conditions was fantastic – the colour richness really shows in spring when flowers are in bloom and the sun is busy thawing the country. The macro function could almost capture every pore on your face, if you were so inclined…

The night function didn't impress me to the same level, even when it was in full manual mode. It's nice having larger apertures but it's really hit-and-miss (and most likely a case of a steady hand/tripod combination) if your images work out well.

And now the screen. It's a 6.4” Quad HD+ Super AMOLED, which basically means it's super sharp and super bright.

While I'm not sure that Samsung's ideal target market is necessarily mobile gamers, I downloaded a couple of games from Google Play to see how the Note9 handless visually demanding, high-intensity apps. Darkness Rises not only plays well at full HD, but it looks visually stunning too.

The S-Pen apparently has 42 levels of touch sensitivity and glides so well over the screen, it's one of the best tactile experiences a phone could give. I found notetaking and doodling easy – although the curved edges of the screen made it difficult to colour in those last little bits of my wonderful works of art.

The Note9 comes loaded with Samsung's customised version of Android 8.1 Oreo, which features a bunch of standard apps and Samsung's own creations.

Despite the presence of Dolby Atmos, the stereo speakers do reasonably well but you still can't get away from some tinny sound – even it won't do Skrillex's Bangarang justice.  To be honest, you'd be hard-pressed to find a phone or tablet that does do that kind of bass justice, though. Movie audio quality, call quality and voice recording are much better at handling sound.

The Note9 comes with security features that are now standard: Facial recognition, retina scanning, fingerprint scanning, and the classic PIN/pattern options. For facial recognition Samsung recommends that third-party screen protectors shouldn't be used because it might obscure the Note9's recognition techniques – and I guess the same applies to S-Pen functionality.

Unfortunately I didn't have a screen protector handy to test this theory out, but if you want to keep the Note9 looking in tip top shape, you may need a protector and a case.

The Note9's 4000mAh battery certainly needs the capacity to power such a high-resolution screen and the Octa-Core processor under the hood. Samsung says the Note9 has all-day battery, but it will drain reasonably fast when you're using high-intensity applications like games. Luckily my review kit supplied an adaptive fast charger that took a mere 1.5 hours to charge from 30% to full charge.

Speaking of the Octa-Core processor, it can handle everything you can throw at it - the AI-based performance adjuster really does make sure that games and applications remain their smooth use. No stuttering was present.

Samsung seems to have shaken off the problems that plagued the Note7 and put the Galaxy Note range back on track.

The Note9 is a very nice device for your everyday life if you've got the money to spare – or if you've got the influencing power to make the Note9 a staple in your workplace.