We already knew the AMOLED display on the Note 9 was impressive thanks to our review, but it’s proven to be even more impressive than we thought. The Galaxy Note 9 has scored the highest-ever grade in DisplayMate’s screen tests, beating the previous record set by the Galaxy S9. Of particular note in the Note 9’s 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display, was the extremely high picture quality, and a level of color accuracy which is “visually indistinguishable from perfect.”
The brightness and contrast were also worthy of note, increasing by 27 percent and 32 percent when compared to the Galaxy Note 8‘s display. The Galaxy Note 9 is only the second smartphone to score Very Good to Excellent ratings on all of DisplayMate’s tests — the first being the Galaxy S9.
DESIGN AND DISPLAY
Like with the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus before it, Samsung has taken a more relaxed approach to physical upgrades this year. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some design differences between the Note 8 and this year’s Note 9.
The Note 9’s bezels have been slightly slimmed down, but the two phones are almost the same size — the Note 9 is a little wider and thicker, but not as tall than the Note 8. The skimpier bezels allow for a larger screen, raising it from 6.3 inches on the Note 8 to a 6.4-inch display.
It’s a Super AMOLED panel running a 2960 x 1440 resolution, in an 18.5:9 aspect ratio. Like all AMOLED screens, it shows off incredibly deep blacks and bright, vivid colors. The Galaxy S9 was awarded the highest score ever in DisplayMate’s testing, and as we expected, the Galaxy Note 9 has managed to exceed that, scoring a new highest score on DisplayMate’s tests.
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
MicroSD storage: Up to 512GB
Screen size: 6.4 inches
Resolution: 2960 x 1440
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5, NFC
Size: 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm
Weight: 201 g (7.09 oz)
Operating system: Android 8.1 Oreo
The Note 9 is made of glass laid over a metal frame, with Samsung’s signature curves that blend effortlessly into the curved Infinity Display that dominates the phone’s front. It’s just as fragile as ever, which means you’ll probably want a good case. Water resistance makes a return, with an IP68-rating that should see the Note 9 survive accidental drops into the pool.
The much-maligned position of the Note 8’s fingerprint scanner has been moved to a more sensible position below the dual-camera lens on the back, and the similarly criticized Bixby key still sits on the left-hand side of the phone, below the volume rocker. The power key is on the right, while the USB Type-C port and headphone jack take up their usual places on the bottom of the phone, next to a bottom firing speaker. This speaker works in tandem with the earpiece at the top, providing stereo sound. The sound system has also been tuned by AKG — Samsung’s usual audio partner — and it also comes with Dolby Atmos support.
SPECS AND BATTERY
While the Note 9 may not have received much of a facelift, its insides have some fairly serious changes.
At the same time, you’re going to see slightly improved performance on the Note 9 over other phones using this processor because of Samsung’s new water carbon cooling system. According to Samsung, it should be three times better at heat dissipation than the Note 8 — meaning the processor can deliver stronger performance for a longer period of time. This is handy when playing games, or running any kind of intensive programs.
There are two models of the Note 9 up for sale this year. The first model apes the Note 8, with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage, but it’s the second model that will really catch your eye. It comes equipped with 8GB of RAM and a whopping 512GB of onboard storage.
If 512 or 128GB isn’t enough for you, Samsung said it’s releasing its 512GB MicroSD card later this year which will support the Note 9, meaning you can potentially walk around with a terabyte of data in your pocket.
Powering all these high-end specs is a massive 4,000mAh battery that should be able to keep the Note 9 going for longer. Samsung’s Adaptive fast-charging is back, and so is wireless charging. Samsung’s new Wireless Charging Duo pad will also let you charge your Note 9 and any other wireless charging capable device at the same time.
The core of the camera tech in the Note 9 remains the same as the Galaxy S9 Plus, with two 12-megapixel lenses on the back, and an 8-megapixel lens on the front. Embedded in the primary lens is the same variable aperture technology from the S9 and S9 Plus. Essentially, the camera can switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures based on lighting — the f/1.5 aperture will help provide better low-light photos.
The second lens adds the same 2x optical zoom, and you’ll naturally be able to take bokeh-style photographs with Samsung’s Live Focus mode.
Want more? Samsung is embracing the artificial intelligence (A.I.) revolution as the camera app now comes baked with A.I. assistance. With scene detection, the camera can identify up to 20 different scenes, and the A.I. will tune the exposure, color, and contrast to deliver a better photo. Samsung fed the A.I. hundreds of photos until it understood what a sunset or a mountain was, for example, and now it will know what changes to make for your photo to look exemplary. You can turn this off if the results are not to your liking.
There’s also Flaw Detection, which pops up if the camera detects the lens has a smudge, if there’s poor backlight in the photo, or if someone blinked.
S PEN AND DEX
The signature of the Note range has always been the S Pen, and Samsung has really thrown hard into that little stylus this year. Taking memos on the Note 9’s sleeping screen is back, and it’s got a new twist this year. The color of the writing on the screen is determined by the color of your S Pen — yellow for the Ocean Blue Note 9’s yellow S Pen, and purple for the Lavender Purple model’s purple stylus.
But that’s not all. It now comes with Bluetooth Low Energy packed in, enabling new functionality up to 30 feet away from the phone through the button on the shaft. You can control a powerpoint presentation with just the S Pen, or open the camera, switch to the selfie lens, and snap a picture — all without needing to touch the Note 9.
You can choose your preferences in the Settings menu, and Samsung said a software development kit will be available so developers can create their own controls.
This does mean that the S Pen now needs charging, but thankfully the skilled engineers at Samsung have managed to equip the stylus with a supercapacitor, so putting the S Pen into your Note 9 for just 40 seconds provides 30 minutes of charge. You probably don’t need to worry much about the battery.
The other big innovation is in Samsung’s DeX mode. Previously you needed to purchase the DeX Station or DeX Pad to use the Android desktop mode when connected to an external monitor. With the Note 9, all you need is a USB Type-C to HDMI cable to trigger the DeX desktop mode. The Note 9 can be used as a trackpad or a keyboard when text entry is required.
EXCLUSIVE ‘FORTNITE’ BETA
One of the world’s most popular video games is coming to Android — but it’s Samsung who has snagged it first. The beta of Fortnite: Battle Royale‘s Android version will be available exclusively on Samsung’s smartphones (Galaxy S7 and newer) for 30 days from August 9, and a pre-order bundle of the Note 9 will come with $150 of V-Bucks for your Fortnite account. Note 9 and Galaxy Tab S4 users will also be able to get their hands on a special Galaxy-themed skin for their character too.
Like the rest of the phone, Samsung’s homegrown A.I. assistant has seen some polish. Samsung was eager to show off at Galaxy Unpacked 2018 how much the assistant had grown by showcasing Bixby’s improved conversational skills, more personal service, and the ways it is more useful than ever before.
On the Galaxy Note 9, Bixby will be able to hold more conversational commands with the user. Should you inquire about concert tickets on a specific date, Bixby will be able to handle being asked “what about another date,” without needing to be reminded about the context of the command. Bixby will also remember more personal details about the user, and may — for example — remember which sort of cuisine you prefer, and will favor restaurants with that style if you ask about nearby food.
Bixby also doesn’t need to use separate apps to check information or confirm details. If you ask about restaurants nearby, Bixby can reserve a table for you without needing to dip into another app to do it. It also pulls information directly from Uber about ride times and prices — you don’t even need the Uber app installed.
Bixby also includes PDF scanning as well, thanks to integration with Adobe Scan. To get scanning, activate Bixby Vision and point it at a document. Bixby will automatically recognize it as a document, and send you to the Adobe Scan app. You’ll need to download the Adobe Scan app first, but once that’s downloaded, that’s all you’ll need to get scanning with Bixby.
RELEASE DATE AND PRICE
You will be able to pre-order the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 on August 10, with official retail sales starting on August 24. It’s available in four colors: Metallic copper, midnight black, lavender purple (with a purple S Pen), and the ocean blue that comes with the fetching yellow S Pen.
Pricing will start at $1,000 for the 128GB model, while the 512GB version will retail for an eye-watering $1,250. Samsung has confirmed that AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless and Xfinity will be supporting the Note 9 on their networks, and you’ll be able to buy the Note 9 outright at a selection of retailers, including Best Buy, Amazon, and Samsung itself.
Samsung is offering various pre-order bonuses as well. Customers can pick between 15,000 V-Bucks for Fortnite (worth $150), or a pair of AKG noise-canceling headphones (worth $299). Alternatively, if you’re really rolling in the cash, you can get both bonuses for $100 extra.