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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Review: Epic phone, epic price

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Review: Epic phone, epic price

Worth is subjective, and little illustrates that fairly so nicely because the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Lengthy the most important bodily of the corporate’s smartphones, now the Note household pushes Samsung into a brand new price bracket, too: like Apple’s iPhone X, you’re taking a look at a $1,000 membership payment if you need entry to the Note 9’s unique membership. In return, although, you’re getting probably the most highly effective, full-featured, and at occasions irritating Android smartphones round.

Hardware and Design

If it ain’t broke, don’t repair it. Samsung’s aesthetic for the Note 9 hardly strays from final yr’s Note Eight, and you must know what you’re in search of with a purpose to spot the variations. This yr’s phablet is definitely barely shorter, wider, thicker, and heavier, however to not any noticeable diploma.

Look nearer, although, and the Satan is within the detailing. For 2018 meaning “dia-cut” tapering to the sides in contrasting matte and gloss finishes. It truly leaves the edges of the Note 9 feeling extra easily curved and a bit extra snug in your hand.

Samsung is embracing colour this time round, and followers of black telephones could also be disillusioned to find that, although there’s a Black Note 9, it gained’t be launched within the US at first. As an alternative you select between Ocean Blue with a contrasting yellow S Pen, or Lavender Purple with an identical stylus.

What we appreciated has stayed the identical. You continue to get IP68 water and mud resistance – no matter whether or not the S Pen is docked in its silo – together with USB-C, NFC, WiFi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5.zero. There’s nonetheless a microSD slot, now suitable with as much as 512 GB playing cards. On the underside you continue to get a three.5mm headphone jack, whereas Samsung’s AKG-tuned stereo audio system sound loud and full-bodied.

The show will get just a little bigger, although, at 6.Four-inches. The 2960 x 1440 decision stays the identical as earlier than, and the Tremendous AMOLED panel seems large. If each you wanted a reminder why so many corporations use Samsung’s shows, the Note 9’s color-rich, shiny, contrast-dense display is it.

On the again, the fingerprint sensor has been shuffled down, beneath the digital camera array, addressing one of many important complaints concerning the Note Eight within the course of. Relying on the way you naturally maintain the Note 9 you may discover it’s mounted just a little excessive up for straightforward attain: there’s no escaping that this can be a massive gadget. Iris recognition and facial recognition are supported too, together with Clever Scan which guarantees to mix iris and face right into a single, quicker lock. It’s not as safe as iris or fingerprint alone, thoughts, and I had some hassle getting it to persistently unlock for me.

The one factor I hoped wouldn’t be carried over from the Note Eight, although, is the devoted Bixby button. Not solely are you not capable of remap the important thing on the aspect of the telephone to launch one thing else, in contrast to earlier Galaxy handsets there’s not even the choice to show the button off in order to keep away from unintentional presses. Positive, there are third-party apps which may assign it to different issues, however I’d actually want to see Samsung relent.

Inside, the US will get Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset, whereas different nations get Samsung’s personal Exynos 9810. For the primary time, although, there’ll be two RAM choices. The $999.99 Galaxy Note 9 – which Samsung despatched us – has 128 GB of storage and 6 GB of RAM. Step as much as the $1,249.99 Note 9, in the meantime, and also you get 512 GB of storage and eight GB of RAM.

Does anyone actually need Eight GB of reminiscence of their telephone? Maybe when you’re trying to really future-proof your self for the subsequent few years, although then the absence of 5G might rankle. For the second, although, the Note 9’s Cat.18 LTE and Four×Four MIMO make it one of many fastest-connecting smartphones round, assuming you might have the community to go well with.

The opposite change you’ll be able to’t see is Samsung’s cooling system. The Note Eight – and certainly the Galaxy S9 and S9+ – might get pretty toasty within the hand when pushed exhausting. For the Note 9, Samsung says it has used a significantly bigger cooling system, and positive sufficient it did really feel rather less heat after heavy-duty duties.

A better S Pen

The S Pen might look the identical, however inside there’s now a battery and Bluetooth LE for lots extra performance. As earlier than, you get Four,096 degree strain sensitivity and a zero.7mm nib. It’s IP68 waterproof and dustproof, and the drawing and writing parts nonetheless don’t require energy.

You continue to get Air Command, with its pop-up launcher that blooms open if you pull the S Pen out, and Display Off Memo which lets you jot down a speedy observe from the lockscreen. The 6.Four-inch display means there’s loads of area for handwriting and drawings, and it’s simply as straightforward as earlier than to seize a screenshot or webpage after which annotate it up.

The Bluetooth kicks in when the S Pen is away from the display, turning the stylus right into a distant management. It really works as much as round 30 ft away, and the battery – which recharges in about 40 seconds when the S Pen is slotted into its silo – is sweet for as much as 30 minutes standby or 200 clicks of the aspect button. Maintain down the button, and you may have the app of your selection load. After that, in suitable apps a minimum of, the button works as a set off.

Within the digital camera, as an example, urgent as soon as takes a photograph, and urgent twice flips between the entrance and rear cameras. Within the gallery, a single press strikes ahead one photograph, whereas a double press strikes again. The identical factor occurs in Chrome, shifting ahead or backward by means of webpages, and for presentation slides.

When you’re listening to music, urgent the button as soon as toggles between play/pause, whereas double urgent it skips forward to the subsequent monitor. It really works in third-party apps, too, like Spotify.

Even with that, the listing of third-party apps which benefit from the brand new S Pen performance is pretty brief. Samsung’s hope is that builders will leap on its SDK, and combine the stylus’ Bluetooth into their very own software program. For the second, I usually used it to launch the digital camera and take pictures from throughout the room, in addition to to regulate music streaming wirelessly by way of Spotify Join by way of some Sonos audio system.

The place’s my Pie?

The Galaxy Note 9 launches with Android Eight.1 Oreo and Samsung’s customized pores and skin, and there’s no public timescale for once we might anticipate Android 9 Pie to reach. Now definitely, constructing in stylus-specific options in all probability doesn’t make issues straightforward for Samsung. All the identical, questioning whenever you may get Google’s newest OS whenever you’re spending $1,000+ on a flagship telephone looks like one thing Samsung’s most dedicated consumers shouldn’t have to fret about.

For its half, Samsung tells me that it expects the timeline to echo that of the Note Eight’s massive improve. That launched in September 2017 with Android Nougat, with Android Oreo arriving in March of this yr. Based mostly on that, it could possibly be six months or so earlier than you see Android 9 Pie for the Note 9.

A part of the issue is that Samsung insists on making a good variety of modifications to the Note 9’s software program, not all of them welcome. We’re – fortunately – a great distance from the times of utmost TouchWiz bloat, however Samsung does nonetheless insist on doubling up on some apps. The Note 9 comes with each Samsung’s personal browser and Chrome put in; Samsung’s personal gallery app and Google Pictures; and Samsung’s personal e mail app and Gmail.

That stated, in on a regular basis use the Note 9 is a reasonably streamlined affair when you have got the whole lot arrange. I dumped the duplicate apps right into a folder and ignored them, concentrating as an alternative on making an attempt to coax my handwriting into one thing higher than an illegible scrawl, and thus take advantage of the S Pen and Samsung’s note-taking app. No matter I did, I had no issues with lag or sluggishness; the mixture of the Snapdragon 845 and 6 GB of reminiscence left the expertise problem-free.

Bixby stays a sore level, and although Samsung says its assistant is far improved now, it’s nonetheless hardly an AI important. Third-party app integration is the large information for 2018, however that hasn’t been working easily in my testing. To be truthful, Samsung tells me that it’s nonetheless engaged on Bixby and guarantees the expertise can be a lot better when the Note 9 formally launches later this month.

A streamlined DeX

Samsung DeX was all the time an intriguing concept – turning your highly effective smartphone right into a PC alternative, simply by connecting an exterior show – however its reliance on docking stations made it much less interesting to street warriors hoping to easily convert a lodge room TV into an impromptu monitor. For the Note 9, Samsung has simplified issues. Now, you don’t want a full dock, only a USB-C to HDMI adapter.

MORE 1 month with DeX and I virtually dumped my PC

Formally, Samsung solely recommends its personal DeX adapter, however I used to be capable of get the Note 9 operating simply positive with a generic USB-C to HDMI dongle. The truth is, once I plugged in a Huawei MateDock – which has HDMI, two USB three.zero ports, ethernet, and a VGA output – and plugged a USB-C energy provide into it, I used to be capable of get a show, wired keyboard and mouse, and a wired community connection operating and not using a drawback.

DeX on the Note 9 will work with Bluetooth peripherals, or you need to use the touchscreen as a trackpad; the on-screen keyboard will pop up routinely each time you have to enter textual content. Nonetheless, this means to get a Home windows-esque desktop, with a full-sized keyboard, windowed navigation, and all operating from a telephone was eye-opening. Truthfully, Samsung ought to bundle a USB-C to HDMI adapter within the field, as a result of I think even with the easier, cheaper strategy this time round, an inexpensive proportion of Note 9 house owners nonetheless gained’t give DeX a attempt, and that’s an actual disgrace.

An AI photographer

Persevering with the theme of “something old, something new,” the Note 9’s digital camera pairs acquainted hardware with new software program. On this case, it’s the Twin Pixel digital camera array we noticed on the Galaxy S9+ however paired with an up to date app that guarantees a better auto mode.

Each sensors run to 12-megapixels and have optical picture stabilization. One will get Samsung’s Twin Aperture system, with each f/1.5 and f/2.Four lenses that it may well bodily change between, both mechanically relying on the scene, or manually in Professional mode, relying on lighting circumstances. The second sensor has an f/2.Four telephoto lens, for a 2x optical zoom.

We’ve seen all kinds of digital camera setups on current flagship telephones, from separate colour and monochrome sensors, to various apertures, to doing every thing with one sensor and extra-clever software program. Truthfully, there’s nobody “perfect” configuration both. To my eye, the Note 9 does properly with on a regular basis scenes, although I choose the Pixel 2 XL’s faux-bokeh, which does a greater job at edge detection, and the Huawei P20 Professional’s low-light photographs, which don’t endure the Samsung’s occasional blotchiness.

Samsung’s focus with the Note 9 has been making an attempt to ensure you get the absolute best shot within the second, then. It calls it Scene Optimizer, and it’s principally Samsung’s model of an AI figuring out what you’re making an attempt to take a photograph of, and adjusting the settings to go well with. Level it at a flower, and the Note 9 ought to acknowledge that and regulate the colour tones, saturation, white stability, brightness, distinction, and different elements accordingly. There are about 20 totally different scenes it will possibly determine, together with meals, portraits, animals, greenery, sky, seashores, sunrises, and waterfalls.

Samsung isn’t the primary to do that, in fact. LG and Huawei have each used AI of their digital camera apps, and as with the Note 9 the outcomes may be combined. Samsung’s AI makes its choice quick, which is sweet – you get a small icon within the preview display indicating what the telephone believes it’s taking a look at – although the modifications are pretty delicate. Assume punchier colours in photographs of flowers, richer greens and browns in greenery scenes, and higher distinction in atmospheric nightfall pictures.

That light-hand strategy is sweet, as a result of there’s no solution to revert to the common photograph afterwards. In contrast to Samsung’s portrait mode photographs, which let you subsequently regulate the quantity of faux-bokeh and even flip to the common, wide-angle unique, Scene Optimizer’s modifications are everlasting. In a really perfect world you’d have the ability to flip it on and off by tapping the icon, however as an alternative it’s a must to dip into the settings, change it off, after which return to the preview.

Samsung’s different change with the Note 9’s digital camera is Flaw Detection. Principally, if the telephone spots that the shot may be blurred, that somebody is blinking, that the lens is smudged, or that the topic is back-lit, it can pop up a warning message proper after you seize the photograph. It’s a small contact, however it meant the distinction between a photograph of somebody with their eyes closed and a a lot better one with them truly wanting on the digital camera in my testing.

In any other case, that is successfully the Galaxy S9+’s digital camera, for higher or worse. You get 4K video recording at 60fps, however not with stabilization or monitoring autofocus at that decision, nor HDR seize. The entrance digital camera is Eight-megapixels and captures nice selfies, simply so long as you keep away from the underwhelming portrait mode which you’ll be able to fortunately flip off.

Battery and Energy

Telephones getting thicker from one era to the subsequent is a rarity, however Samsung places the slight improve to good use within the Note 9 by squeezing in a Four,000 mAh battery. That’s a full 700 mAh greater than the Note Eight. The result’s a smartphone that gained’t simply final a full day, however achieve this even within the palms of energy customers.

In reality, even with my typical uncompromising use, I usually ended the day with energy to spare. Tempo your self – or make use of the facility saving options – and you might in all probability coast via two days earlier than reaching for the charger.

There, you might have decisions too. Samsung continues to help each quick wired and quick wi-fi charging, with the latter content material with each of probably the most frequently-found requirements. Sadly you continue to solely get Fast Cost 2.zero for wired charging, and 15W adapter within the field. That appears a bit short-sighted given the Note 9’s viewers.

Verdict

Is the Note 9 “overpriced”? It’s undoubtedly costly, although, as Samsung followers will eagerly level out to you, Apple went there first with the iPhone X. In fact, you might simply as simply argue that $1k+ is an excessive amount of for a telephone, no matter whose emblem is on it. Preorder it right now, from $999.99, and also you’ll get it on August 24.

Worth and price rely, inevitably, on how nicely you’re going to utilize a tool. I wouldn’t query you should you spent a thousand dollars or extra on the Note 9 merely since you needed the best Android gadget round, that’s your selection and your finances, however I feel it might make an entire lot extra sense in case you have been an avid note-taker, in case you have been going to exchange a laptop computer with DeX mode, and in case your smartphone really is the centerpiece of your digital life and all of the content material that comes with that.

Most individuals, even those that would rightly contemplate themselves smartphone energy customers, would in all probability be glad with the Galaxy S9+ and saving virtually $200 within the course of. If the S Pen and a barely bigger battery are value that additional money, extra energy to you. The Note 9 is a supercar smartphone. Like all supercars, you pay handsomely for the privilege of driving a flagship.

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