The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is easily one of the best Android smartphones you can buy in 2018, and one of the best smartphones overall. Samsung’s been making big screen smartphones since before it was cool, and the experience and maturity helps the Galaxy Note 9 shine even more than the Note 8 it replaced. It also helps Samsung best the iPhone XS Max in a few places.
With the Google Pixel 3 available, you’ll be giving up on some of the cool Pixel AI features, and you are running Android Oreo, but there is an Android Pie update in the works that will bring you some of the latest Android features in the near future.
We still have all the Samsung essentials like Multi-Window mode and Bixby, which you either love or hate. The Note 9 packs in an upgraded S Pen that makes it more useful and overall it’s a solid upgrade.
Instead of wandering through specs and trying to relate the minutia of the Note 9 to you, I’m going to share my Galaxy Note 9 review as a list of things I love and hate about this new $1,000 phone. I use an iPhone XS Max and an Android phone of some kind as my daily device. For the last month Verizon lent me the Galaxy Note 9, so that I could share my opinions on this device.
Is the Galaxy Note 9 a Good Phone?
Before I dive into what I love and what I hate about the Galaxy Note 9, I wanted to answer the most common question I get from friends and family about new phones, “Is this a good phone?”.
Yes, the Galaxy Note 9 is a good phone. It does everything you want in a premium smartphone very well. It’s not perfect, but for many users it is the perfect smartphone. If you love a big screen Android phone the Galaxy S9+ may be enough for you, but you’ll miss out on the S-Pen, using DeX without a dock and other upgraded features.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is expensive, but now that it is down to monthly payments and with Galaxy Note 9 deals, the cost isn’t a shocking as the initial sticker price of over $1,000.
Android users looking for a big screen smartphone need to check out the Galaxy Note 9. It’s a great option, and the best option if you want a S-Pen or a stylus with your phone. If you just want a massive screen, be sure to check out the Galaxy S9+ and the Pixel 3 XL.
Like the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the Galaxy Note 9 isn’t a huge draw for anyone that owns the last generation, but if you’re holding a Galaxy Note 5, or Galaxy S8 it’s a very tempting upgrade.
I Love the Galaxy Note 9 Display
Samsung makes the best looking displays in the business. It’s a joy to stare into the Galaxy Note 9 screen while watching a movie, and it works perfectly to watch the 4K movies from Google Play that we just got as a free upgrade.
The Super AMOLED display is simply stunning. While watching The Big Lebowski in 4K the Note 9’s display nails the blacks in the numerous night scenes better than many TVs. With a big screen, watching movies on the Note 9 is not only feasible, it’s enjoyable.
With great brightness levels, a display that’s easy to read outside and beautiful colors, the Galaxy Note 9 display is top notch and one of the things I love most about the phone.
I love the New S Pen Features
The S Pen ha always been the best stylus solution for a smartphone. It’s leaps and bounds better than any passive stylus or third-party stylus for Android or iPhone. It’s always been one of the biggest reasons to buy the Galaxy Note, and with the new Bluetooth features.
While I don’t often find myself taking notes on my iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil, the Note 9 is with me more often and in more settings where jotting a note down is important. I find myself using the S Pen to take notes often on the Note 9. It’s easy to use and quite accurate for jotting down notes.
The new S Pen features allow you to use it as a Bluetooth controller, and that’s awesome. I like using it as a control for the camera and for skipping music tracks. You can also use it when giving presentations if you plug your Note 9 in with an HDMI cable.
I Love the Note 9 Camera
The Galaxy Note 9 camera is a solid performer that takes beautiful photos and video without the need to carry a dedicated camera. With the telephoto lens, you can zoom in and you can also take portrait mode photos with blurred backgrounds.
The camera uses AI to detect the type of scene and then adjust settings to take better looking photos of what you are taking a picture of without the need to switch between settings. This is great, since many users I know don’t change camera settings on their phone when they are taking a picture. The AI assist really helps all of your Note 9 photos look better. It’s not a gimmick, which is why it really stands out as something I love with the Note 9.
The Pixel 2 XL camera is still better in the portrait mode, and handles contrast better in many situations, but the Note 9 camera is no slouch.
I Love the Galaxy Note 9 Battery Life
Even on days with heavy use, the Galaxy Note 9 battery life lasts all day without dropping into dangerous territory. The new 4,000 mAh battery is able to handle the more demanding processor and deliver about the same battery life as the Note 8. It’s also going to last a little bit longer than the Galaxy S9+ in our informal testing.
At the end of the day, it’s a solid showing of battery life. I still need to charge every night, but I don’t find myself running low in the early evening.
I Love the Note 9 Design
Yes, the Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy Note 8 look very much the same, but I still like the look and feel of this phone. It’s a better fit for me than the Galaxy S9+ when it comes to overall gripability and usability.
I really like the color options Samsung is going with for the Galaxy S9, S9+ and the Note 9. They offer something new and you can get them on premium phones, while Apple keeps the most colorful options on their mid-tier lineup.
While I personally don’t care if there is a headphone jack on my phones anymore, the inclusion is something that some users will love, and that may not be on the next Galaxy Note.
I Love the Software and Themes, You’ll Love the Fortnite Bonus
The Galaxy Note 9 software is great. Is it stock Android? No. Is the Pixel stock Android? No. Does anyone even know what Stock Android even looks like anymore or why it’s such a good thing? Maybe?
Samsung ships the Note 9 with Android Oreo and the Samsung Experience. This includes a lot of Samsung apps and extras like Samsung Pay, which is great and Bixby, which isn’t.
There is a skin on top of Android, but it is an improvement, rather than something that gets in the way. I especially like the option to use themes to change the Galaxy Note 9 to match my style.
I Hate Bixby
I tried to use Bixby on the Galaxy Note 9, but it’s no Siri and it’s no Google Assistant. I don’t like that Samsung makes a button specifically for this feature that I cannot customize. Hard buttons shouldn’t be locked down like this if a service isn’t as good as the alternatives.
Samsung should offer the option to use any assistant or to remap the button, or at least stop taking active measures to stop users from using the button how they want. Or, Samsung could just enable Alexa on the Note 9 already.
I Hate Iris Scanning Performance
Iris scanning on the Note 9 is a pain to setup and nowhere near as reliable as Face ID on the iPhone XS Max. It took me 20 tries to get the iris scanning to even setup on the Galaxy Note 9, which is the same issue I had on the Galaxy S9+.
Once I was able to get this setup I was still less than impressed with the reliability of iris scanning. The iris scanning is too slow and too often I still need to enter a PIN to get into the phone. I do like that with the Note 9 I can set the phone to automatically unlock after I enter the PIN, instead of needing to hit OK when I am done.