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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: The S-Pen makes this phablet Noteworthy

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 14 September 2018, 11:04 IST

By now you would have heard many a news report and a review or five talking about how Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 9 smartphone is just an incremental upgrade from last years Galaxy Note 8. You would have also heard about the new iPhone XS Max that was launched to much fanfare at an event in Cupertino, California just a few days ago.

I’m here to tell you, in three parts, how the Note 9 is more than just an incremental upgrade and how it knocks out the most recent competition coming to the market in the next few weeks.

You already know that the camera is even better than the one on the Galaxy S9 Plus thanks to the subtle AI enhancements. You already know the smartphone is speedy enough with a brand new Exynos processor. You even know the display is the one you can get on a smartphone in today’s market. There’s no need for me to get into all there.

Before we delve into the three key reasons why the Note 9 is noteworthy, let’s get the basics out of the way.

The basics

Yes, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a massive phablet. The Note 9 brings with it a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display (1440 x 2960 pixels at 514ppi). That’s the biggest phablet Samsung has ever released. iPhone upped the competition on 12 September when they launched the iPhone XS Max with a display that is 0.2 inches larger than the Note 9.

Other than the gorgeous display, one gets Samsung Exynos 9810 octa-core processor, 6 or 8GB of RAM, 128 or 512GB of storage (upgradable to 1TB via microSD card), Samsung Experience 9 OS (based on Android Oreo 8.1).

There is a dual-camera setup on the back with 12-megapixel rear cameras with OIS and dual aperture. There is an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. Connectivity wise this phone has it all. LTE, Wi-Fi, NFC, wireless charging, Bluetooth 5, GPS and an Iris sensor.

The Note 9 features the largest ever battery inside of a Samsung smartphone. The Note 9 has a 4,000 mAh battery.

With all this hardware, one would think the Note 9 would weigh a ton. Sure, it’s heavier than a lot of the competition, but at just 205g, it fits perfectly in one’s hand.

The mighty S-Pen

It’s not just me but my friends also. Everyone wants a piece of that glorious yellow S-Pen (the included stylus, for those of you who don’t know) that comes with the Ocean Blue Galaxy Note 9. Unlike previous S-Pen’s, this latest iteration comes with Bluetooth.

That the S-Pen is a major selling point for the Note 9 for Samsung is in no doubt. This time it is no different. In fact, Samsung has upped the ante this time around. Over the years Samsung has stuck to its guns and kept the S-Pen as an essential feature of the ever-growing phablet.

This time, the S-Pen comes out swinging. Consumers of the Note series are used to sketching, writing and scrolling with the S-Pen. With the Note 9, the S-Pen now becomes a remote control. It can open and control the camera, scroll back and forth during presentations, play/pause music and skip to the next track and cycle through photos in the gallery.

Going forward, Samsung says that they are going to release a software development kit (SDK) for third-party apps to take advantage of the Bluetooth-wielding S-Pen. Hopefully, within a couple of months, we’ll see even more use cases for the clicker on the S-Pen.

The S-Pen, unfortunately, doesn’t run forever. Just put it back inside the Note 9 and in 40 seconds you’ll get a whopping 30 minutes of charge which is plenty.

One hope that Samsung never gives up on the S-Pen because it really is a versatile tool.

Beefed up battery

Forget the woes of the Galaxy Note 7 and excuse the underwhelming battery on the Galaxy Note 8. Samsung doused the fires of the Note 7 by implementing an eight-point safety check for its batteries. With the Note 8, Samsung played it cautiously, not wanting to have to put out the fires again. With the Note 9, Samsung has vanquished its battery demons and put inside the phablet a whopping 4,000 mAh battery. The best battery a Samsung smartphone has ever seen.

Samsung may be touting a battery that lasts a whole day. With a medium use scenario, one can get a day and a half out of this phablet. Quite impressive, I must say.

Furthermore, Samsung has included fast charging and fast wireless charging capabilities. One can charge the smartphone from 0% to 100% in just under two hours. Not the fastest charging smartphone on the market but outstanding nonetheless.

The only way to kill the smartphone in about five hours is, as I’ve learnt, with a combination of gaming and streaming.


Why did I mention Apple at the start of this review, you may ask? Well, it’s because each and every year Apple and Samsung go head-to-head with their latest devices in the fall. Samsung’s comes out first, and a month or two later, Apple follows suit.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was launched in India on 22 August at Rs 67,900 for the 128GB storage variant. The 512GB model comes in at Rs 84,900.

On 12 September, Apple launched three new iPhone models. For an apple to apple comparison, I’ll be comparing the Note 9 to the iPhone XS Max. Both are similar in size and both are the flagship models for their respective prices.

The 64GB storage variant of the iPhone XS Max retails for Rs 1,09,900. That’s Rs 42,000 more than the 128GB variant of the Note 9. For the price of the iPhone XS Max 64GB variant, you can buy the Note 9 and get double the storage and have money left over for a OnePlus 6.

The iPhone XS Max 128GB and 512GB versions will retail at Rs 1,24,900 and 1,44,900 respectively. Looking at the 512GB variants, Samsung’s Note 9 offering is a huge Rs 60,000 cheaper.

Let's sum it up

The three reasons - S-Pen, battery and price - I mentioned above are enough to sway any customer that is on the fence.

Sure, the Note 9 may not sound like a big deal coming from the Note 8, but Samsung is paving the way for something grand next year. While the Note 9 may sound like a stopgap attempt from the company, it is so much more.

The new S-Pen makes the phablet even more fun to whip out at parties. The long-lasting battery means one can truly go a full day without ever having to worry about finding the wall charger or borrowing a friend’s portable charger.

Finally, the price. The Note 9’s price is so much easier to stomach than that of Apple’s. Heck, most smartphones in the flagship segment are overpriced (here’s looking at you Sony). Samsung’s may seem expensive but for the overall package, it’s worth every penny.

If you can’t wait till the revolutionary Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note 10 or one of 2019's 5G smartphones and need a phone in the next month or so, the Galaxy Note 9 should be a no-brainer.

First published: 14 September 2018, 11:04 IST
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.