48 hours with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9

samsung galaxy note 9 1

If you were looking for a surprise on Thursday from Samsung, think again. After practically every detail of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 leaked before launch, there wasn’t much to say.

Hell, Samsung even acknowledged this, sparing to mention anything bar the battery size, camera wizardry and “1TB ready” storage model.

Apart from those little tidbits, the Note 9 is about as conventional as a 2018 smartphone can get, bar the S Pen stylus and the extremely large screen.

The Korean marque’s new flagship smartphone was unveiled at an event in New York last Thursday. Luckily, I got my grubby little paws on one and have been using it for the weekend.

So, how does it shape up? What do I like, and what are some of the things that Samsung got horribly wrong this time around?

The oh yeahs!

  • Samsung just can’t make a bad smartphone screen, and the Note 9 is more proof.
  • The S Pen has become even more integral to the Note experience than ever before.
  • The splash of colour on the S Pen is a design treat, and an inadvertent/deliberate marketing masterstroke.
  • Somehow Samsung received an IP68 water and dust resistance rating for the Pen and the Phone; even with the pen removed from its slot.
  • This is easily the best camera phone Samsung has ever made.
  • This is easily the best sounding phone Samsung has ever made.
  • Headphone jack? Check.
  • AKG’s excellent headphones are included in the box.
  • Speaking of which, Samsung has loaded the Note 9’s box with a USB-C male to USB-A female adapter and a plastic cover. Gold star.
  • Samsung Experience’s intuitive UI continues to wipe the floor with stock Android and Samsung’s old TouchWiz interface.
  • Its management of fonts and themes is also much, much better than its rivals.
  • The base model has 128GB of storage and still Samsung includes a microSD slot. Thank you, designers.
  • I’ve yet to encounter and app that jitters when scrolling or loading content, this includes Instagram.
  • 6GB of RAM is more than enough for those who don’t multitask while playing Fortnite.
  • DeX now doesn’t require the dock, but instead a simple USB-C-to-HDMI dongle. (We’ve yet to test DeX.)
  • Somehow this phone’s RRP is some R1500 less than the iPhone X.

The umm okays

  • Aesthetically, there’s not much of a distinction between this device and the Note 8.
  • The Note 9 is ludicrously large and cumbersome to use with one hand.
  • Battery life isn’t as astounding as you’d think for a phone with a 4000mAh battery.
  • While I do like Samsung Experience, I’m not a fan of the launcher or default icons. Immediately installed Nova instead.
  • I’m still not completely in love with the tapered edge screen, and the edge feels especially “deeper” on the Note 9 than the S8.

The hell nos

  • Samsung’s fingerprint reader designers seem to think that humans have fingers as long and dainty as aye-ayes.
  • Although it’s a stately phone, don’t look too closely at the rear camera array and the fingerprint reader if you enjoy perfectly perpendicular design.
  • The amount of Samsung bloatware installed is mesmerising.
  • Prepare to live with redundant apps, because some — like Samsung Weather — cannot be uninstalled or disabled.
  • It comes preinstalled with Facebook, Facebook’s app updater and Instagram. You can also only disable these, not uninstall.
  • My review unit isn’t a dual-SIM device, but I’m sure I can thank my friendly South African network provider for that.
  • Although there’s plenty included in the box, it would’ve been nice if Samsung included a USB-C-to-HDMI dongle to accelerate the adoption of DeX.
  • You’ll have to fork out R19 000 to own one. If you already have a Note 8, P20 Pro or iPhone X, it’s debatable if its worth it.

Stay tuned for a deep dive into Samsung’s latest phablet coming to Gearburn soon. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will be available in South Africa from 24 August 2018.

Feature image: Andy Walker/Gearburn

Andy Walker, former editor


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