Samsung Galaxy Note 9 hands-on: More of everything!

It is August, and Samsung is staying true to its typical release cycle by announcing a NOTE-worthy successor to one of its biggest devices. Of course, that's the Galaxy Note 9, and we had the chance to spend a few quick minutes with it before the official announcement. So, what did Samsung do better this time around? Has the fingerprint scanner been moved? Did it go in-display? Is the S Pen any cooler?? WHAT ABOUT THE PRICE!?! Ok, ok! Enough teasing – let’s find out!


The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 predictably looks a lot like its predecessor. Samsung has been making extremely sleek, IP-68 water-resistant phones – with minimal bezels and no notch – for a couple years now and that trend doesn’t change with the Galaxy Note 9. From the front, it’ll be pretty hard to tell a difference from the Note 8, but Samsung did slim down the bezels a bit more and diamond cut the metal frame on the Note 9 to make the edges shimmer and stand out.

Turning around the Note 9, you’ll find the more obvious differences in the rearrangement of the fingerprint sensor – now located under the camera instead of beside it – and the flash and sensors now spread horizontally, taking up the extra space from where the biometrics used to lay. There was little to complain about with the Note 8’s design, except for the odd fingerprint sensor placement, of course, which Samsung has remedied with the Note 9, all while making the phone itself just a wee bit sleeker.


It’s pretty plain to see that the Note 9 doesn’t change much in the display department. It does measure in at 6.4 inches now compared to the Note 8’s 6.3 and as such carries a slightly lower 516ppi (versus 522ppi on the Note 8), but other than that, this Quad HD+ (2960x1440 px) Super AMOLED display is just about what we got last year and looks just as vibrant and sharp as ever.

User Interface and S Pen

Built on Android 8.1 Oreo, the Samsung Experience remains a worthy alternative to the increasingly minimalized UX’s offered by other manufacturers – even as “stock” Android grows more feature-rich in its own right. Still, Samsung continues to offer new, interesting experiences like AR Emoji, which was first introduced in the Galaxy S9.

Of course, the S Pen offers its own unique experience, and according to Samsung’s polling, it’s the number one reason why Note owners purchase the device. Since its introduction on the first Galaxy Note, the S Pen has traditionally been a fun and useful tool which sets the Note devices apart. Along the way it’s added some neat features such as live messages and screen-off memos.

Entirely new to the S Pen, though, is a Bluetooth LE (low energy) module which allows the digital pen to be used as a remote for controlling YouTube playback, scrolling through your photo gallery, or taking pictures with the front or rear cameras – all from up to 10 meters away from your phone. Long, single, and double-presses on the S Pen’s S-Button elicit specific responses, as in the case of YouTube where a single click pauses or plays the video, and a double-click skips to the next video. Samsung’s also releasing the SDK for this function so that any app makers who’d like to utilize this functionality in their app can do so. Not only is this a fun and slick way to interact with your device but the S Pen’s ability to charge for 40 seconds and produce a half-hour of usage also proves that Samsung had productivity in mind for this peripheral, as well.

Speaking of peripherals, you will also no longer need a DeX dock to utilize this shape-shifting function. Instead, only a USB Type-C to HDMI cable is needed to use the Note 9 as a DeX hub, capable of not just running the UI but controlling it too, as either the “touchpad” mouse or a complementary notepad during use.

Performance, Processor, and Memory

The interface on the Galaxy Note 9 feels smooth and light, despite its bolstered functionalities. This is a testament not only to Samsung’s software prowess but also to the top-of-the-line internals running it. As always, the U.S. will get the Snapdragon-toting version of the Galaxy Note 9, while internationally Samsung’s home-brewed Exynos-powered variant will be offered. Stateside, the base configuration will include the Snapdragon 845 paired with 6 gigs of RAM and 128 GB storage with up to 512GB of expandable storage via MicroSD, while the same setup will be offered abroad with the Exynos 9810 in lieu of Qualcomm’s silicon. The next step up will add 2 gigs of RAM and quadruple the storage, making 8 gig RAM and 512 GB storage the alternative – a first in the Note’s history. Yes, pop in a 512GB microSD card in this bad boy, and what you got there will be 1 terabyte of total storage space.

Another first the Note 9 offers is a new cooling method Samsung calls their “water carbon cooling system.” Essentially, Samsung’s made a larger heat pipe – about 3 times larger, to be more precise – to be placed behind the processor to dissipate heat. As the name suggests, there’s water inside of the pipe, aiding in the cooling process. This, coupled with AI-based performance adjustments should make the Galaxy Note 9 a blazing-fast performer but with a very cool temperament.


Samsung’s opted to stick with the optically-stabilized, 12 MP telephoto and 12 MP wide-angle dual-camera setup on the Galaxy Note 9, but there is one particular hardware change to note. The Note 9 adds variable aperture to the wide-angle camera for better performance in high- and low-light situations – f/2.4 and f/1.5, just as we’d seen on the Galaxy S9+.

Software within the camera app is where the Galaxy Note 9 has done the most expanding. First on the menu is Scene Optimizer. This is a shooting mode which uses scene recognition to better capture particular shots. What other companies have started calling “AI” these days. Currently, 20 different scenes are recognized, and optimizations can include punching up certain colors or even changing shutter speed.

The Note 9 also has flaw detection, which detects things like smudges on the lens, image blur, or someone blinking in a shot, and then alerts you to the fact so that you may want to retake the ruined photo. Samsung has also made improvements to HDR and live-focus capture – both being aspects of this capable camera setup which we can’t wait to test more extensively.


We’re happy to report that the battery on the Galaxy Note 9 is larger than that of the Note 8 – 21% bigger, to be exact – rounding out at a full 4,000 mAh. Being one of the few areas of opportunity we found with the Galaxy Note 8, we’re certainly hoping that, in this instance, bigger translates to better.


The Galaxy Note 9 doesn’t have a very tough task before it. This is much unlike the Galaxy Note 8 whose job it was to make us forget the infamous inferno the Note 7 went up in the year previous. The Note 8 succeeded, though, and the only complaint we had about the battery was “give us more of it.” And on this request Samsung has delivered. The jury’s still out on efficiency, especially with the Snapdragon and Exynos-based variants, but we’re hopeful that the 21% increase makes a notable impact.

Enlarging and enhancing cooling components within the Galaxy Note 9 is another hardware upgrade we’re happy to see, but, much like with battery efficiency, will require more in-depth testing to quantify the execution of this enhancement.

Storage still counts as hardware too, and starting with 128 GB storage for the base $1000 version is a really nice perk, especially considering the 512 GB version costs $1250.

Then, of course, you have incremental additions to software like that of the S Pen and its expanded capabilities as not just a writing utensil, but a remote control for your device.

Lastly, there’s the camera, which throws in the variable aperture we saw on the Galaxy S9 and adds scene recognizing optimization, as well as the ability to pick out flaws in certain shots and suggest you retake them.

All of these expansions and additions seem to amount to solid, useful, and ultimately fun improvements on an already impressive device. In terms of its competition, priced at $999 for the 6/128 GB and $1249 for the 8/512 GB, the Galaxy Note 9 is slightly more expensive than most of its competitors, but, as always, Samsung-specific experiences like the S Pen and top-notch camera execution make the Galaxy Note 9 a seemingly indominable force in its class.

Stay tuned for our in-depth comparisons and full review on the Galaxy Note 9, as we, and the rest of the world find out if any device can knock the Galaxy Note 9 off of its top spot.

The Galaxy Note 9 comes in Midnight Black, Ocean Blue (with a yellow S Pen), and Lavender Pureple. Pre-orders start August 10, and devices will ship on August 24.

Related phones

Galaxy Note 9
  • Display 6.4" 1440 x 2960 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, Octa-core, 2800 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 4000 mAh(29h 3G talk time)



1. Furkan

Posts: 552; Member since: Feb 25, 2017

I love the exploding feature

3. toosmoove

Posts: 914; Member since: Sep 28, 2017

Wow. Corny.

32. T12RYK

Posts: 849; Member since: Jun 10, 2011

Nah, its true

4. Valdomero

Posts: 704; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

But but... you got a Remote shutter/ S Pen/ Remote Youtube skipper

9. LiveFaith

Posts: 493; Member since: Jul 04, 2015

Well buddy. You should have taken your opportunity to trade you 7 in when you could have had a 100% refund. U2 slooow.

42. darkkjedii

Posts: 31659; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Dumb comment.

2. toosmoove

Posts: 914; Member since: Sep 28, 2017

I'll swing by Best Buy this weekend to see if they have their demo or not. Either way I'm getting it.

5. Valdomero

Posts: 704; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

The real question is: Will it blend?

20. iPhoneFanboy

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 21, 2018

Those finger prints bombarding the back of the device worries me more.

26. toosmoove

Posts: 914; Member since: Sep 28, 2017

Right. There have been so many recalls on devices due to fingerprint smudges.

29. iPhoneFanboy

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 21, 2018

As in, no, it won't bend. But it will be disgusting with finger prints all over it. Some colors hide it will, but two of these colors scream gross.

6. Clars123

Posts: 1079; Member since: Mar 16, 2015

The unpacked event was a lot less cringey than the ones before; except the doodle guy and the AI president who just wanted to leave it was actually watchable. The Note9 looks great of course, but we all know the good stuff is coming out next year.

7. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

The best Unpacked was the one for the S6. The MC was a betetr option who didn't sound robotic. I also miss JK Shin. DJ Koh is just so stiff and robotic. The event seemed rushed. There was no real talking. They rushed and showed features that seemed nice, but were poorly presented. This was the worse Unpacked I've seen and am very disappointed in the presentation for a multi-billion dollar company. Even though Apple's keynotes to me are also boring, they are filled with a bit more substance, especially when showing off features which is what matters to me.

8. Valdomero

Posts: 704; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

I think they're playing it safe, next year's Note 10 might bring the In-Display Fingerprint Scanner. Still, this phone's a beast on its own.

10. drifter77

Posts: 402; Member since: Jun 12, 2015

Overall great phone, except 6.4" screen is a little big, and the price of course.

11. LiveFaith

Posts: 493; Member since: Jul 04, 2015

Excellent incremental upgrade to an already fabulous device IMO. That being said, here are improvements that I would like to see ... #1 Make a S9 sized version. This thing is getting a bit unwieldy, especially the length which is only microscopically shorter than the Note8. #2 It's a mobile device, not fine jewelry. The Note9 is another beautiful device. But it's fragile. These $1000 devices need to be able to withstand a drop on tile without shattering and scratching. #3 I love the new 4000mah battery. But nothing (except nuclear) beats a replaceable battery. This bigger one helps alleviate power worries. Replaceables eliminate it. #4 Front FP sensor

12. yalokiy

Posts: 1116; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

If I get the 8GB version, I might try replacing my laptop with it.

13. dmakun

Posts: 382; Member since: Jun 06, 2011

Already a fan of this Corey Gaskin. This was a unusually objective hands on video from Phonearena.

14. Rigmaster

Posts: 234; Member since: Jan 22, 2018

Sammy did the best they could with this, and it looks pretty good. I wish they'd do immediate Android updates though. Slow updates have always been an Achilles heel for Samsung devices.

15. T12RYK

Posts: 849; Member since: Jun 10, 2011

Hot TRASH! Stop trying to copy the iPhone!

17. iReligion

Posts: 17; Member since: Mar 01, 2015

Haters got to hate right? I guess its to early to tell if its going to throttle performance or suffer from a poor keyboard design. It looks like no one is perfect. Another note of interest might be "Imitation is the most sincere from of flattery." iCrap there now don't you feel better?

23. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Samsung is the smart one, NO ugly notch. Does WAY more then the iPhone will ever do. Now go play with your little friends

27. toosmoove

Posts: 914; Member since: Sep 28, 2017

But the iPhone copied the Note in 2014 when they came out with the Plus. SMH.

22. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Another company copying Sony scene recognition

24. GrosseFatigue

Posts: 209; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

The cabernet-brown one is my favorite color. Why is t not on sale now. Later? A galaxy watch in gold is beautiful, even for a guy.

28. kevin007in

Posts: 327; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

larger battery -- yeah BUT too large display ??.... again it is going to drain like a V8 sucks up the fuel.

30. KakashiHatake4444

Posts: 79; Member since: Jul 30, 2018

The black variant!!!!!!!!

33. taz_chaz

Posts: 135; Member since: Aug 29, 2014

the new galaxy note 9 comes in two new colors...i cant ..afford it

41. darkkjedii

Posts: 31659; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Got that blue on the way. One of my 2 cases (clear TPU) arrived today.

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