Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: Time to take Note

The twin cameras’ Flaw Detection mode will instantly alert you when there’s something wrong with your photo so you can reshoot.

Samsung pulls out all stops, delivering its finest Note smartphone and S Pen yet.

Samsung’s final flagship for the year – the Galaxy Note 9 – is a force to be reckoned with, as just about every main feature has been pushed to the limit, including the screen, storage and stylus.

The S Pen, a trademark feature of the Note range, now has built-in Bluetooth, making it more than just a stylus.

The wireless connectivity turns it into a remote, allowing you to control the camera from as far as 10m away so you no longer need to do silly gestures to trigger the camera.


You can write on the screen without having to unlock the phone.
You can write on the screen without unlocking the phone and now the ‘digital ink’ will match the colour of the stylus. — AP

You can switch on the camera with a long press, snap a shot with a single press and switch between the front and back cameras with a double press.

What I truly enjoyed was controlling the YouTube app. I like having beer at my balcony while watching videos on my phone but every now and then I’ll have to replenish my drink which means I’ll have to pause the video.

I hate tapping on the screen as it always leaves a smudge but with the S Pen, I can now pause the video with a single click. Double clicking will skip to the next video, handy if you are watching multiple music videos on a playlist. Now, if it could only skip ads too.

The controls work the same if you are listening to music.

No power, no problem

The only catch is the battery life – the stylus lasts 30 minutes on a single charge but it takes only 40 seconds to recharge fully when you slot it into the phone again.

Even without battery, you can always use the S Pen to sketch and access the Air Command features.

The Note 9 comes with earbuds tuned by audio specialist AKG, among other things. Do note that the power plug for the Malaysian unit is three pins.
The Note 9 comes with earbuds tuned by audio specialist AKG, among other things. Do note that the power plug for the Malaysian unit is three pins. — Samsung

What I want next is the ability to control the ­volume with the stylus, something that might just happen as developers can program for the stylus.

Also, the S Pen now comes in various colours – for someone who has owned lots of PDAs (personal digital assistants) during the pre-smartphone era, I can tell you that I lose my stylii all the time. The striking Yellow S Pen that comes with the Blue Ocean model will, hopefully, prevent this, as I don’t think it’ll be cheap to replace this S Pen.

Biggest battery

One of the pain points of owning a phone today is the battery – it’s so bad, most ­people carry a power bank.

Say goodbye to such problems and say hello to two-day battery life, as the Note 9 has a 4,000mAh battery, the largest ever in the Note range, and a big jump from the Note 8’s 3,300mAh battery.

DisplayMate says the Note 9 has the best smartphone screen.
DisplayMate says the Note 9 has the best smartphone screen. — Reuters

The screen also gets a slight bump in size – from Note 8’s 6.3in to 6.4in – but it’s Samsung’s most vibrant display yet, and you’ll know it the minute you switch on the phone.

According to DisplayMate, a leading screen testing company, the Note 9 has one of the best screens, as it’s able to display colours with great accuracy.

Got the smarts

The Note 9, just like its predecessor, the Galaxy S9+, has twin cameras on the back, both 12 megapixels. One has a dual aperture lens – f/1.5 and f/2.4 – for controlling the amount of light the camera captures, just like the human eye.

So you are unlikely to get under or over exposed images in most lighting conditions, unless it’s too dark or too bright.

The other camera has a telephoto lens for 2x optical zoom.

You just have to insert the S Pen back in the slot for 40 seconds to fully charge the S Pen.
You just have to insert the S Pen back in the slot for 40 seconds to fully charge the S Pen. — Samsung

What’s new this time around is that the cameras are smart – they can identify scenes and subjects and tweak the camera settings for the best photo.

This is not really new in the market – so Samsung took it a step further with the Flaw Detection mode which will instantly alert you if something is wrong with the photo.

If, for instance, a subject blinks, the background light is too strong or the lens is smudged, you’ll get a warning so you can take another shot. However, it doesn’t get it right all the time.

This is a real time saver, as nowadays we shoot multiple photos just to make sure that we get a perfect shot, and it’s always a pain to unclog the photo folder afterwards.

Though nothing is really preventing you from doing that as the Note 9 has double the storage capacity of its predecessor – 128GB. And for those wanting more, there is also a 512GB model. And both have a microSD expansion slot for adding up to 512GB more.

Your personal computer

Smartphone makers have in the past been trying to position their phones as a computer. But Samsung may have finally got it right because unlike ­others you no longer need a dock and it even does away with the need to use the ­company’s own Dex device.

The Note 9 just has to be hooked up to a monitor via a HDMI adaptor (not included).

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is shown in this photo, in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. The camera in the Note 9 will use artificial intelligence to detect what's in a scene, whether that's food, flowers or a sunset, and to automatically tweak images to make them pop. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
The camera in the Note 9 uses AI to detect what’s in a scene – whether it’s food, flowers or a sunset – so it can optimise the camera settings. — AP

You’ll get a full desktop interface on the monitor so you can open multiple, larger windows which will allow you to ­multitask easily with the Note 9’s screen acting as a trackpad.

Better still if you have a Bluetooth keyboard for input.

This is where the extra memory – 6GB RAM for the 128GB model and 8GB RAM for the 512GB model – comes in handy in making sure the smartphone operates smoothly all the time.

Closing Note

The 128GB Note 9 is priced at RM3,699 – though by no means cheap, it’s more affordable than the Note 8 which was priced at RM3,999 at launch though you can blame that mostly on the GST.

The 512GB version goes for RM4,599 – you only need it if you are camera crazy and plan to shoot an insane amount of videos, especially in 4K.

The Note 9 is Samsung’s best smartphone yet and likely the most powerful Android on the market now – it experienced no lag even when running the most demanding games.

So if you want a smartphone with everything and then some, check out the Galaxy Note 9.

Pros: S Pen is now a wireless remote; Flaw Detection mode is a time saver; nicest and biggest Samsung screen yet; 128GB storage is plenty; large battery lasts two days. 

Cons: When will it be upgraded to Android 9 Pie?

Get the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 right now at Lazada.

To download the Lazada App and start shopping on your mobile devices, click here.

Galaxy Note 9
Android smartphone
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 8.1 Oreo
DISPLAY: 6.4in QHD Super Amoled (1,440 x 2,960 pixels)
CAMERA: Dual 12-megapixel rear cameras with OIS, 8-megapixel front-facing camera
CONNECTIVITY: USB Type-C, Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
PROCESSOR: Exynos 9810 octa-core (quad-core 2.7GHz + quad-core 1.8GHz)
MEMORY: 128GB storage/6GB RAM or 512GB storage/8GB RAM
BATTERY: 4,000mAh
OTHER FEATURES: Heart rate monitor, water and dust resistant (IP68), fast wired and wireless charging
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm
WEIGHT: 201g
PRICE: RM3,699 for 128GB/6GB RAM; RM4,599 for 512GB/8GB RAM
RATING: 4.5 stars
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia Electronics, 1-800-88-9999
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