Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: 9 key takeaways

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: 9 key takeaways
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is probably the loudest and brightest new Android phone of the second half of the year: Samsung's powerful creation is a demonstration of all the best that the company can offer, starting with the gorgeous screen to the refined glass-and-metal design and finishing with the much improved battery life and solid camera performance.

The Galaxy Note 9 also does not have a notch, keeps the headphone jack and has a microSD card slot (all of that with a large, 4,000mAh battery)... what more could you want?

Well, we have used the Note 9 in the past week and we are eager to share our impressions in our full review, but also here, in this quickly digestible key takeaways format. Read on to find out all you need to know about the new Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

1. Design is refined yet still practical

Beautiful looks, while keeping headphone jack, microSD card slot, but phone is bigger than most others

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Dimensions

6.37 x 3.01 x 0.35 inches

161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm

Weight

7.09 oz (201 g)

Apple iPhone X

Apple iPhone X

Dimensions

5.65 x 2.79 x 0.3 inches

143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm

Weight

6.14 oz (174 g)

Samsung Galaxy S9+

Samsung Galaxy S9+

Dimensions

6.22 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches

158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm

Weight

6.67 oz (189 g)

Google Pixel 2 XL

Google Pixel 2 XL

Dimensions

6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches

157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm

Weight

6.17 oz (175 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Dimensions

6.37 x 3.01 x 0.35 inches

161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm

Weight

7.09 oz (201 g)

Apple iPhone X

Apple iPhone X

Dimensions

5.65 x 2.79 x 0.3 inches

143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm

Weight

6.14 oz (174 g)

Samsung Galaxy S9+

Samsung Galaxy S9+

Dimensions

6.22 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches

158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm

Weight

6.67 oz (189 g)

Google Pixel 2 XL

Google Pixel 2 XL

Dimensions

6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches

157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm

Weight

6.17 oz (175 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page



Samsung has taken a role of a leader in smartphone design in the past couple of years and the Note 9 is the latest in its series of glass and metal phones that have forged a signature "Samsung" look that is easily recognizable. The Note 9 is beautiful, with elegant curves and stunning glass, but it's also a fingerprint magnet and it is noticeably bigger than most other phones out there.

Curiously, it is just a hair thicker than its predecessor, despite having a much larger, 4,000mAh battery inside.

2. All-new S Pen as a presentation clicker

Remotely control the Note 9 with the new S Pen, enjoy the funky new yellow color, but physically it's nearly identical to last year S Pen


The S Pen is the one thing that makes the Note stand out among all other phones out there: while it's not something that you will use every day, it's just so convenient to have a digital pen at your disposal at all time, be it to sign a document or... to use the new remote control capabilities that the S Pen provides.

We tried remotely controlling a slideshow (worked well), clicking through YouTube videos or Spotify songs, and it all works very well. Plus, it's so much more convenient to sign a PDF with the S Pen! The yellow color of the S Pen combined with the blue color of the phone makes for a very contrasty and memorable combination too.

3. Screen: Super AMOLED comes with vivid colors, but also lots of customization options

Samsung is the mother and father of AMOLED screen technology, and this is the company's best creation


The Note 9 features a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen, just a hair larger than the 6.3-inch one on the Note 8, but it actually seems to have slightly larger side bezels.

The screen is gorgeous and by default features punchy, saturated colors, but this being a Samsung AMOLED display, it also provides a bunch of customization options, so you can tone down the colors and get photo-accurate sRGB colors in the "Basic" or "Photo" screen modes.

We also have full display tests and benchmarks in our review, but summing it all up shortly: this display is excellent. It gets plenty bright outdoors, retains accurate colors and is very power efficient. Yes, it also supports the familiar and useful Always-on Display mode.

4. Dock-less DeX makes it easy to get productive and connect to a larger monitor

Simply get a tiny HDMI dongle and connect the phone to a larger monitor without any other gadgets


The Note 9 does not have a separate DeX dock that you'd have to carry around with you: instead, it's much easier to connect it to a larger monitor with just a USB-C to HDMI dongle.

We have used the DeX mode with the Note 9 and it connects without any issues, and the phone works without heating up too much. With the DeX interface, you basically have a desktop-like environment with icons and the option to hook up a keyboard or a mouse for more precise pointing and faster typing. Great solution for on-the-go performance.

5. Android 8.1 with Samsung Experience, unchanged looks, update to Android 9 Pie coming soon

Samsung Experience still lacks a bit in smoothness when compared to a Pixel, but it's rich in features


Unfortunately, the Note 9 does not have the latest Android 9 Pie version on board. It runs on Android 8.1 Oreo with the Samsung Experience interface on top. The Samsung Experience is a complete overhaul of the stock looks and has little to do with Material Design, but it has a charm of its own.

The daily performance is fast as you'd expect, but not quite as smooth as on a Google Pixel, as you can still see a bit of stutter here and there. It must be that ancient TouchWiz curse!

Samsung promises to update the Note 9 to Android Pie swiftly and with it more features will make it to the phone.

6. Performance is great (we have the Snapdragon 845 version)

Benchmarks on par with others, can't quite beat iPhone X

AnTuTu Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 244787
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 175439
Apple iPhone X 224538
Google Pixel 2 XL 169541
OnePlus 6 260353.5
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 56
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 39
Apple iPhone X 58.75
Google Pixel 2 XL 21
OnePlus 6 50
Geekbench 4 single-core Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 3612
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 1877
Apple iPhone X 4244
Google Pixel 2 XL 1917
OnePlus 6 2413.66
Geekbench 4 multi-core Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 8927
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 6552
Apple iPhone X 10401
Google Pixel 2 XL 6315
OnePlus 6 8929

We have already touched on the daily performance, but what about the benchmarks and gaming performance? This is one area where the Note 9 performs excellent, as expected: we have the Snapdragon 845, US version of the phone and it ranks on top of the benchmark charts along with the other new phones of the year. It does, however, fall slightly short of Apple's iPhone X and iPhone 8 series, which still rank superior in terms of benchmark performance.

Gaming is also a pleasure on the Note 9 with the big screen and long battery life. Samsung also has a dedicated gaming mode that will protect your gaming session from needless distractions.

7. More storage is a game changer

You have a 128GB base model and 512GB costlier version


It's hard to appreciate the beauty of having a lot of storage on a phone that you have just used for about a week, but we well know that after a few months, so much data would accumulate on our phones that we would start worryingly looking at the storage.

If you shoot a lot of video and play a lot of games on your phone, the increased storage options are a god-send. The practically unprecedented 512GB of storage make the Note 9 a phone that you can really store all your digital life on without worrying you'd run out of storage space. Take note, competitors!

8. Excellent battery life: 20% larger battery than predecessor

A 4,000mAh battery makes the Note 9 one of the leaders of smartphones in terms of battery life

Battery life (hours) Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 8h 56 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 7h 50 min (Good)
Samsung Galaxy S9+ 8h 5 min (Excellent)
Apple iPhone X 8h 41 min (Excellent)
Apple iPhone 8 Plus 10h 35 min (Excellent)
Google Pixel 2 XL 8h 57 min (Excellent)
OnePlus 6 8h 10 min (Excellent)
LG G7 ThinQ 6h 32 min (Average)

We were particularly curious to see how the Note 9 will perform in terms of battery life, after all it has a massive, 4,000mAh battery! And it did not disappoint. It topped the Note 8 in our proprietary battery test by more than an hour, and in real life it lasted us through even the longest day, and sometimes even two days off the charger. Quite the achievement, isn't it?

We were also happy to see that the Note 9 supports fast charging and fast wireless charging, so you can top it up fully in less than two hours.

9. Camera does not disappoint: 4K60 video support, great image quality

Almost the same camera as on Samsung's Galaxy S9+ with addition of smart scene recognition


Finally, the camera on the Note 9 turns out to be excellent.

Image quality is sharp, with plenty of detail and great dynamic range. The camera opens quickly, focuses swiftly and stores images without a delay. Panoramic shots are excellent. The quality of selfies is very good (but not quite mind-blowing).

In terms of video, you have 4K60, 4K30 and all the other options, and you have electronic image stabilization and optical stabilization that do a very good job stabilizing footage. You can see the wobble from OIS in 4K60 clips, but apart from that slight inconvenience, the video quality has impressive detail and sharpness to it, and it locks focus nicely.

Overall, there are no compromises made with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Yes, the $1,000 starting price is quite high, but if you hunt for the right deals, you might get an excellent phone for an excellent price.

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)

FEATURED VIDEO

32 Comments

1. bucknassty

Posts: 1373; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

What is the screen to body ratio? why complain about the design?? it fixed the issue from previous generation and kept everything 'premium' with no notch... basically phonearena wants samsung to go with a notch and then pummel it by saying it's not original cause apple did it...

2. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

83.4% of front is screen.

4. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2488; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Where in this article did they complain about the design? They literally said it was “beautiful”. The only negative they said is that it is a fingerprint magnet and larger than most other devices (which that second point is not necessarily a negative, just a statement of fact).

27. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Aren't all phones with a dual glass design fingerprint magnets? I mean some phones use lighter colors which makes the prints seem invisible, but its glass so they are there. Big. Being big in itself is not a negative. The Note right now is the biggest. But this site seems to not like Samsung, so I think its more of a negative context in usage. There not telling you the many benefits of a larger display.

3. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

I prefer design of N9 over S9+. More rectangular looks nicer.

7. Trex95

Posts: 2383; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

And more bigger bezels try out the note 9 couple of days ago. Sorry to say that S9 plus Exyons still better in terms of performance even than note 9 Exyons phonarena review single core of note 9 3612, S9 plus Exyons 3760, multicore of note 9 Exyons 8927, S9 plus Exyons 9100.

28. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

I somewhat agree after seeing the S9 in person. I loved the S8 design, but not the S8+. The Note 8 to me just feels a lot like a slightly larger Note 7/FE. The 9 probably won't feel any different and its only slightly bigger. For a 4000MaH battery, I have no complaints. I can't wait to fill up the 512GB storage.

5. adecvat

Posts: 658; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Note 8s. Added 845 CPU and you pay 1000$. No way.

6. KonaStang4.6

Posts: 285; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

so you won't be purchasing one then ?

12. QWIKSTRIKE

Posts: 1461; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

Added 845 cpu added more storage, added way better camera and upgraded S pen, bigger battery longer battery life. Trading my N8 for the N9.

17. darkkjedii

Posts: 31629; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

You probably can’t afford it anyway, since you’re probably 14.

8. Trex95

Posts: 2383; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

So iPhone 8 Plus still remain the best smartphone when it comes to battrey life despite smallest battrey in the battrey comparison!.

9. toosmoove

Posts: 914; Member since: Sep 28, 2017

Yea....no.

34. Marcwand3l

Posts: 461; Member since: May 08, 2017

The iPhone 8 Plus results makes the battery test very dubious. I don't see how can it beat the Note 9 in this test which basically consists of running a web script until the battery dies so is more like a web browsing battery test.

10. GrosseFatigue

Posts: 209; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

Rating stinks as usual. The question I have is should I wait for the international version with 2 sims and a new Exynos xxx20 instead of xxx10 reported recently?

18. darkkjedii

Posts: 31629; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I still can’t believe, I’m gonna have 768 gigs in my pocket. It’s about to go down.

31. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

768GB for the $100 more than the iPhone X 256GB @ $1150. Looking forward to carrying my 200GB music library and 280GB video library for stuff I use most on a single SDCARD. This XMAS a 512GB SDCARD is in my radar. They start at $350.

33. darkkjedii

Posts: 31629; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I’m totally getting that 512, that’s my Xmas gift to myself. I don’t even need it, I just friggin want it, and I can afford it.

22. wesley.

Posts: 217; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Nothing special about that battery life. An S9+ with a slightly bigger screen and an S-Pen... And a massive price!

32. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Yep. Its nothing special and no one said it was. S9+ with bigger display and a pen? No it's a Galaxy with a bigger screen and a pen. So what is the Galaxy S to you? Is it just a Galaxy A with better components and a higher price? Its like you're saying, a Lexus and a Toyota are the same car, because they are made by the same brand. All Galaxies inherently are in the same family. You pay more , for more features. The Note is the best galaxy you can buy. Is it worth $1000? NO! But I got 2 for the price of one, which getting 2 2018 phones for $1000 is certainly an awesome deal.

24. Fire5

Posts: 315; Member since: Feb 13, 2015

Note 9 has everything you need in a high-end smartphone, samsung makes it better ...

26. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Why is it that only Samsung Galaxy devices that use dual glass designs, referred to as fingerprint magnets? Aren't all phones with a similar design a fingerprint magnet? I mean the only different in this phone and some is, some brands use lighter colors to make the phone less reflective, thus disguising the prints. But they are still there.

35. SpencerO

Posts: 31; Member since: Nov 29, 2017

If you clicked their ad for the night shootout with the pixel 2 xl vs the note 9 they got the link wrong it's here phonearena.com/news/Samsung-Galaxy-Note-9-vs-Googl​e-Pixel-2-XL-Night-blind-camera-comparison_id10808​4

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.