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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Initial Review – A few days w/ the battery life, performance, & S-Pen

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 goes on sale this Friday in the US, and after playing with it in NYC earlier this month I was eager to get my hands on a unit. Now, I’ve spent the past few days with the Note 9 as my daily driver, and I’ve got some thoughts on Samsung’s latest flagship.

To be clear, this isn’t our full review of the Galaxy Note 9. Over the next week or so, our own Damien Wilde will be spending more time with the phone to provide a more in-depth analysis of the device, as well as a video review. Seeing as the device is about to go on sale, though, I thought I’d give a few thoughts on key points about the phone.

Battery Life |

The biggest story for me with the Note 9 really is its battery life. Rarely do we see devices with a 4,000 mAh battery packed in, and it’s basically unheard of in the mainstream US market. With that power pack, you’d expect a lot, and Samsung definitely delivers.

Last year’s Note 8 was slightly disappointing in terms of endurance, but the Note 9 remedies that in a big way. This phone manages to easily get me through a full day of use regardless of what that day entails.

On my first day, I managed to rack up about 4 hours of screen on time and ended the day at about 30% before heading to sleep. Further days provided similar, but increasingly better results.

That’s nothing mind-blowing, but considering that included a lot of watching videos on YouTube and some gaming, I’d consider it pretty good. One of the few days I spent with the phone just included standard usage – messages, music streaming, and surfing Twitter – and I ended that day at over 50%.

Performance |

Another thing worth highlighting after the few days I’ve used the Note 9 is its performance. As usual, Samsung is killing it out of the box, and this one shows no signs of slowing down. The Snapdragon 845 and 6GB of RAM gives me a similar experience to the S9+, and I haven’t had the phone heat up much during use, even while gaming.

Display |

One of the best parts of any Samsung device is the display, and the Note 9 is no exception. The 6.4-inch display on this phone is massive, but with thin bezels, it feels like any Note that came before it. The display is also super bright and vivid which I very much appreciated after a run on the Pixel 2 XL.

Build |

Along with that display, the Note 9 is an absolute behemoth in terms of size. The phone is ever so slightly larger than the Note 8 in terms of height and width, but it’s also chunkier to make way for that huge battery.

At first, the heft of this phone was a bit off-putting, and it was somewhat difficult to type and handle the device. A few days later, though, it feels totally natural and I actually prefer it to the Note 8’s slightly thinner, lighter design.

I also absolutely adore the Blue color scheme. The hue here looks fantastic and appears different in various lighting situations. The yellow S-Pen also accents it wonderfully in my book.

The S-Pen |

One of the biggest new things about the Note 9 is the S-Pen. Now with a Bluetooth connection, Samsung’s built-in stylus has a lot more flexibility. You can, of course, still use the S-Pen as normal to jot down notes, doodle, or just control the phone. However, the remote features are actually really useful.

The remote shutter is probably the feature people will enjoy most, but I didn’t get to use it too much in the first few days. What I did find myself using quite a bit, though, was the ability to remotely unlock the phone using the S-Pen’s button. This has to be enabled in the settings, but once it is you can simply tap the button to unlock the phone which really comes in handy if you’re reading something and the screen times out.

Camera |

Finally, a quick note about the camera. In just these few days, I didn’t get to test this out too much, but so far I’ve been completely satisfied with every shot (mostly of my dog) that I’ve taken with the Note 9. Here’s a few quick ones I shot this week.

Should you pre-order? |

Our full review of the Galaxy Note 9 will arrive in the coming weeks, but in this initial review there’s only one thing I want to answer — should you pre-order this $999 smartphone?

I struggle to say that anyone should fork over a thousand bucks for a smartphone, but the Note 9 is one of those phones that actually manages to make me question that. This phone is basically as close to perfect as you can get from a hardware perspective. It has great battery life, a premium chassis with a great design, an amazing display, and every hardware and software feature to help justify your purchase.

The Note 9 is a spectacular phone, and if you’ve been on the fence about buying one, I can say it’s definitely worth a shot… if you can afford it.



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Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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