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Despite its slimline design, with its total dimensions measuring in at Look at the spec sheet, though, and that premium feel is backed up by a substantial gram weight, which even outweighs technical build-quality leaders like the HTC U12 Plus , which itself felt very premium in the hand. The extra weight could very well come courtesy of the device's enlarged 4, mAh battery, which is far larger in capacity than its predecessor's, which was just 3, mAh.
This combination of thinness and density means the Note 9 just exudes quality in terms of feel, while its dripping-with-luxe 6. Yes, the Note 9 does look and feel similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 , and if you put the phones side-by-side screen up then they are nearly identical to look at. In terms of physical layout of the buttons and stylus port, which now houses the new and improved version of Samsung's S Pen, it is business as usual.
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In terms of frame, the Note 9 features a brushed metal exterior frame that merges near-seamlessly with the phone's Gorilla Glass screen and backplate. The Infinity Display on the Note 9 is, simply put, a stone-cold stunner and the best smartphone screen in the world right now. Its super size, despite the hate spewed by large phone naysayers, is a thing of iPhone-beating beauty, with its rich and vibrant colour reproduction, strong brightness, high-resolution 1, x 2,, ppi picture sharpness, HDR support, and lush curved glass absolutely destroying the competition.
I thought the screen on last year's Note 8 was very strong, and the unit installed on the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus equally stunning, but the slightly taller panel fixed into the Note 9 is — marginally — the best of the lot. Its fidelity, vibrancy, and real-estate are simply unparalleled. From streaming HDR movies from Netflix, to enjoying a couple of rounds of intense hand-to-hand combat in Dragon Ball Legends, to reading the fine, fine content on T3.
The Note 9's screen is fractionally taller than that installed on the Note 8, and packs an aspect ratio. In terms of hardware, the Note 9 is right up there in terms of 's flagship Android phones, and definitely at the same level of Samsung's own Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus flagships, which both vacuumed up 5 stars from T3. Running the phone through GeekBench 4, as you would expect, it returned very healthy scores, notching 3, in a single-core test, and 9, in multi-core. These are scores that, OnePlus 6 aside, are top of the Android tree. Last year's Galaxy Note 8 was a similar technical powerhouse, as you would expect from a phone that has a heritage of technical excellence maybe aside from the Galaxy Note 7 and its battery issues , and while you could argue that the Note 9 doesn't deliver a spec that reaches boldly into the future, it does deliver an excellent all-round package.
As you would expect from such a flagship-grade internal hardware suite, using the Note 9 is a rapid, fluid experience: I experienced zero slow-down or lag while opening and using apps, playing games, switching usage modes such as when using the S Pen , downloading content and browsing the internet.
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Overall, then, the Note 9 is a technical juggernaut in terms of screen and internal hardware, with the device cementing the series' reputation as a technical leader in the smartphone field. The Note 9 packs a dual 12MP rear camera setup, with the dual-aperture technology that debuted in the S9 Plus. If you want to have a good idea of how the Note 9's camera system performs you should look to the Galaxy S9, which it has inherited its dual-aperture rear camera features from.
The secondary rear camera on the back of the Note 9 also comes packing a 2x optical zoom, allowing for some pretty decent zoomed in, telephoto-style shots. Both rear cameras come packing optical image stabilisation, too, which I find most useful when pulling out the phone to take quick snapshots. Moving round to the front of the Note 9, the 8MP front camera now comes loaded with a first for the Note series, a front-facing camera with autofocus, which if anything helps to exploit the other major new innovation this year, the Bluetooth-packing S Pen digital stylus more on that soon.
There's also a new scene-optimiser built-in, too, which can automatically adjust images in terms of colours, sharpness, and contrast. Auto mode lets you just point and shoot, while Pro mode allows detailed and complex shooting options to be selected. AR Emoji, which was such a big play on the Samsung Galaxy S9 series, is back on the Note 9 but now with a few extra avatar customisation options. As you can see from the image below, creating your AR Emoji with the Note 9's camera system is super easy, with you simply plonking your face in a capture circle, then sitting back for 5 seconds while the system builds your virtual you.
As with the S9, though, the results from my reviewing experience remain sketchy and a little too generic that what I would ideally want. For some reason the system kept making me look like David Duchovny, which while not a bad thing, did seem to highlight the limitations of the system. I also got a few colleagues here at T3 to create avatars, too, and they were equally sketchy as well.
At least the process is fast, though, and when you've created your avatar they are then added to your emoji list in the Note 9's menu system meaning you can easily call upon them and insert them into messages. AR Emoji mode remains easy and fun to use. However, its accuracy is questionably similar to on the Galaxy S9. Lastly, while the Note 9 offers many video recording options in terms of resolution and frame rate, with the phone topping out at 4K, 60fps, it doesn't support HDR recording like, say, the Sony Xperia XZ2.
It's super slow-motion recording capability, too, remains impressive, with footage capturable at fps at a p resolution, that is also beaten by the XZ2's fps at p recording capabilities.
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Overall, though, I think it fair to say the Note 9 is a picture-taking, video-recording powerhouse, offering a plethora of shooting options and modes that will appeal to phone and camera enthusiasts in equal measure. The new Bluetooth-packing S Pen digital stylus takes the Note's functionality to a new, higher level. One of the unique weapons that the Note series has had in its armoury for years is its inclusion of a stylus. And in the Note 9, Samsung has taken the stylus to a higher new level, that markedly separates it even from last year's Galaxy Note 8. This time round the stylus has in-built Bluetooth, which allows for some pretty darn neat shortcuts, including the ability to open the camera app and take pictures remotely great for selfies and wide-selfies; see below image from up to 30 feet away.
You can also use the S Pen to start and stop audio tracks, with me easily able to pause the Guardian Football Weekly podcast remotely, and also browse through photos and PowerPoint slides. The S Pen does need to be charged, which is done when housed internally in the phone.
However, only 40 seconds of charge time will bank you around 30 minutes of standby battery, so I can't envisage its tiny internal battery ever running out of juice. Extract the S Pen and you can quickly write on the screen. Or you can create hand-written notes and illustrations by creating a note from the S Pen's menu wheel.
I also found its accuracy when taking notes or making illustrations to be very good, and it felt natural to use in my hand, and the stylus' ability to take notes, annotate screengrabs and photos, translate foreign text you select the words with the S Pen on the screen , and send Live Messages, were genuinely useful. I also liked the fact that the phone's yellow S Pen I've been reviewing the Blue Ocean colourway, which comes the yellow stylus , which defaulted on the black screen with yellow ink and stood out well. Overall, then, the S Pen is far from a simple gimmick on the Note 9 and with this year's addition of a Bluetooth connection has added some neat new functionality that, believe it or not, you'll likely find yourself using on a daily or at least weekly basis.
The battery installed in last year's Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was, as we noted in our review, a "relatively small 3,mAh" unit, which was even smaller than the battery installed on the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus , too. This led to a less than stellar performance return on the powerful, 6. This was almost certainly down to the fiasco the South Korean maker had landed itself in the year before with the Note 7. So what about the Note 9?
Well, the good news is that the new Galaxy Note comes packing a far more potent 4,mAh battery, which not only feels more suitable for a super-powerful flagship phone with massive 6. The Huawei P20 Pro, for example, packs a 4,mAh battery, and with rumours of the incoming Huawei Mate 20 Pro swinging an even larger battery than that , the Note 9 needed to compete in the same ball park.
And, as you can see from the nearby boxout, when I ran the Note 9 through the GeekBench 4 battery test, the phone went ahead a lodged a larger score than last year's entry, raking up 5, points in comparison to the Note 8's 3, I was definitely heartened to see the Note 9 posting a much stronger score, as while it doesn't approach the battery life king, the Xiaomi Mi Max 2 a monstrous score of 6, , it is now firmly eating at the top table, so to speak. That said, it is important to note that GeekBench 4 returned an overall confidence score of "Medium" in terms of battery performance, though, and from my personal real-world, day-to-day usage, my gut tells me that is correct.
I feel the Note 9 delivers a battery that can indeed go the "all-day" experience that is being officially touted by Samsung, and with medium mixed usage, too. But my time with the Note 9 has led me to the conclusion that unless you use the device very lightly, you'll rarely be able to comfortably extend that over into day two.
The Note 9's Dolby Atmos mode, as well as customisable equaliser and profiles, are easily accessed and make a big difference. This isn't a massive issue, just as it isn't with the vast majority of smartphones, which like it or not, are still very much locked in a daily recharge cycle, be it in the evening or overnight. However, for a phone that prides itself on going big in everything, and being a productivity powerhouse, too, ideally I would want to see an even larger battery slotted in the Note 9.
You do get both Fast Charging and Fast Wireless Charging capabilities in the Note 9, though, so at least refilling the phone's tank is a rapid experience. Moving on to audio credentials, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comes packing a set of AKG tuned stereo speakers these are loud and offer a little more depth of sound compared to the Note 8 , Dolby Atmos audio support, an in-built equalizer along with selectable UHQ upscaler and reverb-arific Concert Hall toggle, as well as the Adapt Sound system found in the S9.
The Adapt Sound system, for those unfamiliar with the software, allows you to select audio profiles based on your age, or create a custom personalised profile by undertaking a hearing test requires you to put on headphones. We've seen plenty of other handsets recently enabled with Dolby Atmos audio, including the Razer Phone , Nokia 6 , iPhone X , and Huawei P20 Pro, among others, and as on them flicking the switch improves definition and richness across the soundscape, even if the file isn't encoded for Atmos.
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Naturally, for the full virtual surround sound effects that Atmos can deliver, with degree audio capabilities, you do have to feed it compatible media. Messing around with the phone's equaliser also pays dividends when switching between, say, listening to vocal-heavy podcasts and electronic music albums, and if you have a portable DAC check out the best DAC , you can get your audiophile on with hi-res or upscaled sound, too. Overall, then, I feel the Galaxy Note 9 does enough in the battery department without really pushing the boundaries of battery life, and delivers the same high-quality, audiophile-ready sound playback as found on the S9 and a few other flagship Android phones.
Samsung's AI assistant is more feature-packed than before.
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However, it still lags way behind Google Assistant and Apple's Siri. Bixby's back baby! And aside from still sounding like one of Bertie Wooster's chums, it returns to the Note 9 with its own dedicated, physical button still in-tact.
The Note 9's Bixby button is located on the left hand side of the phone under the volume rocker, with a single press opening the AI assistant's home screen, where you can enter text commands, configure settings, and run through its tutorials, and a long press taking you directly to voice command input.