“We go hands on with Samsung’s latest and greatest, the Galaxy Note9”
Samsung unveiled its flagship Galaxy Note9 smartphone just last week at the Unboxed event in New York. Unsurprisingly, the new handset is the most powerful and capable phone to come out of the South Korean brand’s stables till date. While the smartphone is yet to go on sale in India, we managed to get our hands on the Galaxy Note9 unit ahead of the official release. Without wasting any time – as we can hardly contain our excitement – here is our unboxing experience and the first impressions.
For the first time since the inception of the Note series, Samsung has put the entire focus of the retail box design on the S Pen with the Galaxy Note9,. As soon as you open the retail box, you are greeted by the encased documentation and a SIM-ejection tool. Below the documentation sits the handset itself. Underneath the Galaxy Note9, you will find the standard USB Type-C cable, wall charger, AKG-tuned earphones, some extra ear-tips, and a USB 2.0 to USB type-C converter. A clear plastic case is also bundled, which is appreciable.
Now that we have gone through the contents of the retail box, let’s move on to the brand new Galaxy smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy Note9 comes with a glass-sandwich design and screams premium from the moment you hold it. Thanks to the bezel-less display up front, without the notch, the phone is a looker. At the rear, the phone sports a dual-camera setup in a horizontal orientation, alongside an LED flash and heart-rate monitor, placed above the Samsung branding. The fingerprint sensor is placed below the camera module. Notably, the handset is IP68 certified as well for dust and water resistance.
Even though the company has reduced the size of the fingerprint reader, we did not face any issues in terms of accessibility. We found that the placement is quite convenient and the sensor sits comfortably at the resting position of the index finger.
Following the design language of its siblings, the power button is located on the right side of the Galaxy Note9 and the volume rocker sits on the left spine above the dedicated Bixby button (yes, it’s still there and no, you can’t remap it). The charging port, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack, are placed at the bottom of the handset besides the loudspeaker grille. On the extreme right at the bottom, you get the slot for the S Pen, which can be ejected with just a simple press. Our blue review unit’s S Pen came in a bright yellow colour which looks aesthetically pleasing and eye-catching at the same time. The SIM card slot is present on the top of the handset.
There is no getting around the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Note9 is a big handset and some people might have issues with the overall size. Having said that, the brand has tried to incorporate as big a display as possible on the phone by implementing thin bezels on top and bottom, with the panel curving towards the sides to remove the bezels altogether. The curved sides on the back also help in terms of grip but as we said beforehand, this is a big phone and requires two hands for operation for all intents and purposes.
The Galaxy Note9 packs a 6.4-inch Infinity Display bearing a QHD+ resolution and using the Super AMOLED panel along with support for HDR10. Samsung has a reputation for offering the best display panels in the industry and the Galaxy Note9 seems to be continuing that legacy. The handset packs an impressive screen that offers great viewing angles and display quality. From the initial looks of it, the maximum brightness should also hold up well in bright sunlight.
Coming to the hardware, the Note9 is powered by Exynos 9820 SoC coupled with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of built-in storage in the base variant. As can be expected with such a combination, we did not face any issues while navigating through the UI or switching between multiple apps. However, we could only test the smartphone for a limited time, and will reserve our final opinion on the performance for our full review. Having said that, for power-hungry users, the Samsung smartphone also comes with a top-end model shipping with 8-gigs of RAM and 512GB storage.
If we talk about optics, the Samsung Galaxy Note9 packs dual 12MP sensors at the back with LED flash support. The setup is exactly the same as the one on the Galaxy S9+ (review), which means you get features like dual aperture, dual OIS, Super slow-mo, and Live Focus along with portrait mode and optical zoom, which is enabled with the help of the secondary sensor. At the front, you get an 8MP shooter for selfies and video calling. In our brief time with the handset, we managed to take some really good shots from the smartphone.
The Note9 houses a 4,000mAh battery to keep things running through the day. On the software side of things, the handset runs Android 8.1 Oreo-based Experience 9.5 out of the box and has some Google apps pre-installed.
One of the highlights of the Galaxy Note9 is the fact that this time, the S Pen is equipped with Bluetooth. This means that you can use the S Pen as a remote to operate the Note9’s camera from a distance. Not only can you launch the camera (by long pressing the button on the S Pen), you can click pictures too. Similarly, the S Pen can even be used to control presentations. In fact, the Note9’s DeX mode now works directly and doesn’t require the optional DeX Pad accessory. The DeX mode, if you recall, gives you a desktop-like experience when the phone is hooked up to an external display. While this required the use of the optional DeX Pad accessory earlier, the Note9 can directly be connected to an external monitor using a Type-C to HDMI cable or adapter.
The latest Samsung flagship comes in Midnight Black, Lavender Purple, Metallic Copper colours and will go for sale across the country from August 22nd. With a starting price tag of Rs 67,900, the new handset will face competition from the company’s own Galaxy S9+ and Apple’s iPhone X (review). Our in-depth review of the Galaxy Note9 will attempt to answer that and more, so stay tuned to 91mobiles.
Photos by Pratik Vyas