I’ve always loved the concept (and the execution) of Samsung’s Galaxy Note phones.
Samsung already had its flagship Galaxy S phones, which were great, but the Note kicked things up a notch.
The Galaxy S phones had big screens, but the Note always seemed to have a bigger screen, a bigger battery, a faster processor, more storage — and a higher price.
Oh, and it had the S Pen stylus.
I’m pretty sure Apple had Note phones in mind last year when it introduced the iPhone X alongside the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. It wanted to sell a phone that had “more.”
There are two types of people who use Galaxy Note phones: those who want to use the stylus and those who just want a really big, top-of-the-line phone. It’s the flagship phone on steroids.
Samsung has always been be a bit ahead of Apple when it comes to handset design.
Before the iPhone X, the Galaxy S 8’s screen went from edge to edge and very close to the top and bottom of the phone’s face.
This year, the Galaxy S 9 took its design cues from the S 8 and updated everything. Likewise with the Note 9: It doesn’t look much different from the Note 8, but everything is a step up.
There are only so many design changes you can make to a smartphone. Samsung’s and Apple’s handsets look pretty similar for a reason — they work.
Now that we have a design that’s becoming standardized (full screen, no front button), it’s natural to make improvements under the hood.
We all gravitate to the familiar, and we all love to own the latest and greatest. The Note 9 is both (and the most expensive).
I love a phone that has it all.
The Galaxy Note 9 is built around a beautiful 6.4-inch Amoled screen with a resolution of 1,440 by 2,960 pixels.
The screen is made of Corning Gorilla Glass 5, and it’s HDR10 compliant. It’s about as big and bad as phones get these days.
A note: Out of the box, the resolution for the Note 9 is 1,080 by 2,220 pixels. If you want to see the screen in all its glory, go to the display settings and change the resolution. You’ll use more battery life, but oh, is it worth it.
The phone has an always-on screen that uses very little power to keep the time, date and other notifications on the screen, even when the phone is sleeping.
It runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 with configurations up to 8 gigabytes of RAM and 512 Gb of internal storage. It has a microSD card slot for up to 512 Gb of additional storage.
The operating system is Android 8.1 (Oreo).
The main camera features dual 12-megapixel sensors, one with a 26mm lens and one with a 52mm lens. The selfie camera has an 8 MP sensor. The cameras are superb.
For connectivity, it has 4G LTE, 801.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC.
It connects to your computer or a charger via USB-C cable. The Note 9 can also charge wirelessly.
Speaking of charging, the Note 9 has a 4,000 milliamp-hour battery, which is the largest I’ve seen on a phone.
To unlock the phone, the Note 9 can use an iris scanner or a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor that’s located under the main camera lens.
That’s an improvement, but it’s still a little too close to the lenses for me to keep my big fingers off the lenses when I try to press my finger to the sensor.
I will say that Samsung has the easiest fingerprint learning system.
Simply swipe your finger on the button from top to bottom two times and your fingerprint is captured. It’s brilliant.
Physically the phone measures 6.37 by 3.01 by 0.35 inches and weighs 7.09 ounces.
Oh, and it still has a headphone jack.
S Pen and other features
The hallmark of the Note line of phones has always been the stylus, called the S Pen. The pen can be used exactly as you’d expect, to write on the screen for taking notes or marking up images.
You can also use it as you would a finger, to select and launch apps and for more accurate input on menus and small buttons.
This year’s S Pen has a button that can act like a tiny remote control to snap photos, advance slides or jump to the next song on a playlist.
The Note 9 also has a feature called DeX that lets you plug the phone into a computer monitor with a USB-C to HDMI adapter and use it with a trackpad and keyboard like a mini desktop computer.
It worked, but it wasn’t the best computing experience I ever had. In fact, it’s not really a feature I found I’d use much, if at all.
I’ve never been a fan of Samsung’s voice assistant called Bixby, although he is getting better.
The Note 9 has a dedicated Bixby button on the left side, even though you can call him up by saying “Hey, Bixby.” And no, you can’t map that button to do anything else.
Pricing and availability
Samsung is proud of the Galaxy Note 9. There are two configurations — 128 Gb of storage with 6 Gb of RAM for $1,000 or 512 Gb and 8 Gb of RAM for $1,250.
These prices are close to the iPhone X, which has two configurations at $999 and $1,149 but half the storage of the Note 9 and no microSD slot.
Sales launched Aug. 24. You can buy a Note 9 unlocked from Samsung or retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Target and Walmart.
It’s also available from the big four carriers, most of which have promos and deals to make the phone cheaper. Check with your carrier for more details.
The Note 9 is available in ocean blue (deep blue) or lavender purple.
The Note 9 is the best Android handset. Period.
Heck, for $1,000, it had better be the best. Is it worth the price? I think so.
It has a battery and screen that runs circles around my iPhone 8 Plus. It has massive storage and RAM and a really great processor.
Would I buy the Note 9?
I’m an iPhone user, so I’m waiting to see what Apple announces in a few weeks.
I’m more than likely sticking with Apple, but if I wanted to switch to Android, or if I were a longtime Android user, I’d buy the Note 9 in a heartbeat — which, by the way, the Note 9 can measure with a built-in heart rate sensor along with a pulse oximeter.
Pros: The Note 9 has better features than the Note 8 in almost every way, although there’s not much new this year. Great screen, and the S Pen remote button is cool.
Cons: Expensive, and Bixby isn’t great.
Bottom line: It has more of everything people want in a phone while still keeping things familiar.