Should you buy… the Samsung Galaxy Note 9?
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is like every previous Note device, but that isn’t a bad thing – as it carries on the phone’s useful habit of being very likeable.
Unlike some earlier versions of the handset, it isn’t the launchpad for some exciting or innovative new feature or piece of technology – instead the Note 9 is a collection of existing, solid Samsung features in one place, with a little more power and battery behind them.
It’s in the area of performance where most of the Note 9 updates have been focused; the biggest battery ever placed in a Note offers all-day battery life, and storage options have been boosted to either 128GB or 512GB, which with expandable storage also in place means the device can support up to 1TB of space, if needed.
Add the enhanced S Pen stylus and you have a smartphone designed for heavy use, particularly when it comes to productivity.
As already touched on, the Note 9 is largely the same device as last year’s Note 8 in terms of its look and form. Samsung has managed to ever so slightly increase the screen size to 6.4in (from 6.3 last year), but hasn’t added a notch – the most controversial style feature in the smartphone market at the moment.
The result is a bigger display without making what is already a sizeable phone even larger.
Elsewhere, the fingerprint scanner on the rear of the device has been moved below the camera sensor, making it easier to reach.
The S Pen, which slots into the base of the phone when not in use, has been given a colour boost – on the Ocean Blue version of the phone the stylus is bright yellow, adding a stylish and bold statement to what is otherwise a very serious-looking device.
To hold, the Note 9 is comfortable, but there is no getting away from just how big it is. For those with smaller hands, it’s unlikely to be particularly easy to use in one hand.
But it does feel premium and well made – as it should for a device that will cost you at least £899.
The overall theme of the Note 9 is quiet evolution, and that is very much the case when it comes to the user experience.
The 4,000mAh battery, which is larger than pretty much every other premium smartphone on the market, is designed to give all-day battery life even to the most active of users.
In testing, the phone hits that target – even when used frequently for social media, a streaming device, a navigator and a camera it still had life in it come the end of the day.
As a bonus, those who have lighter phone use habits may find they can make it through two days without having to charge the Note 9.
The other key selling point – the S Pen – has been enhanced to work as a remote for presentations. The side button on the stylus can be clicked to move through the slides of any presentation running on the phone.
The remote feature also works for the camera so it can be used to take a photo remotely with one click and switch to the other camera with two clicks. For group photos this is particularly useful.
The Note camera is now more intelligent, telling you if your lens is dirty and if a photo has come out blurry, nudging users in the immediate moments after taking a picture suggesting they take another.
The scene optimiser feature is also helpful, using artificial intelligence to identify the subject matter – whether it’s greenery, a cityscape or a person – and adjust the settings automatically.
The result is better photos more often, and on the large, bright Note 9 screen that is exactly the way it should be.
On the lighter side, features such as AR Emoji and Super Slow Motion video – first introduced on the Galaxy S9 earlier this year – are now available to Note users.
The Note 9 is a smartly designed and well-made smartphone, it looks and feels right at the top of the premium segment of the market, and with the battery and storage options it should be considered the best phone Samsung makes.
However, it costs a lot to own it – £899 as a starting price or £1,099 for the 512GB version. Considering how little the key features have moved on from last year’s Note 8, that is a big ask of any user thinking about upgrading.
Those with a device two years older or more should seriously consider the new Note, otherwise it’s best to hold off.
This is a big phone in a literal sense and in the power and battery life it offers, but it is not the must-have phone it wants to be.