Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review

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The Good The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a big, beautiful phone with top-tier specs including a massive battery and internal storage that starts at 128GB. The new S Pen doubles as a wireless remote for taking long-distance selfies.

The Bad It’s expensive and offers few real innovations over last year’s Note 8. The fingerprint reader is uncomfortably close to the camera.

The Bottom Line The ultrapricey Note 9 is one of the year’s best phones. But unless you’re in dire need of an upgrade, the smart move is to wait for what the next iPhone, Pixel and even Galaxy S10 bring.

 

picked up the Galaxy Note 9, popped out the S Pen stylus and started to write on the black screen in tart lemon-colored digital ink. It hit me: This phone is more fun to use than your phone. When I’m using the Note 9, I feel more inspired to write, draw, take precise screenshots using the tool, snap selfies with the S Pen’s remote shutter, and playfully annotate photos to send to friends.

But the Note 9 is no mere toy. It’s also powerful as hell, with a 6.4-inch screen, 4,000-mAh battery, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and either 128GB or a whopping 512GB (!!!) of onboard storage, plus a microSD card if you want more, more, more.

Yet the fizzing question at the center of it all, the one that’s pounding away at your grey matter, is this: Are the power and fun of Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 9 worth $1,000 of your hard-earned cash? (That’s £899 and AU$1,499 — or $1,250, £1,099 and AU$1,799 for the 512GB version.) It’s the same question Apple fans have been asking themselves since the iPhone X first hit the $1,000 mark last year.

For Android fans who want the best, the answer is “yes.”

The Galaxy Note 9’s specs are top-notch. This is an everything phone, one of the absolute best you can buy with All The Things. It will carry you through the next two or three years with excellent photos, Android updates and all that jazz.

And while the price is eye-wateringly high compared to last year’s Note 8 (unless you live in Australia, in which case it costs the same), promotions, preorder savings and future holiday deals can knock hundreds off the Note 9’s cost, making it suddenly much more “affordable.”

Note 9 highlights

Battery life is strong in real-world testing. I’ll continue to keep an eye on long-term drain.
The S Pen stylus’ new Bluetooth features work as advertised.
As a natural note taker, I love being able to jot things down. I’ve made so many lists to pin to the lock screen.
I tested in both blue and purple, and the Note 9’s bold colors stand out. It also sells globally in black and metallic copper.

 

Note 9 low points

You won’t be able to write or draw to the screen edge without the S Pen falling off the curved sides.
The fingerprint reader is too close to the camera array. Why hasn’t Samsung figured out the optimal placement yet?
The Note 9’s new AI camera tool works more slowly than I’d like for identifying scenes and optimizing settings for the best shot.
Bixby 2.0 is expanded, but the button on the Note 9’s left side still only maps to Bixby, as it does with the Galaxy S8 and newer.
If you write on the phone screen with the S Pen’s signature color (yellow, purple or copper), any notes you save will save in that color “ink” on a white background, which can be hard to read.

Galaxy Note 9