A Smartphone powerhouse with more features than you can shake an S-Pen at!
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Smartphone was released just a few days before the iPhone Xs Max hit the web. Do I regret buying the Galaxy Note 9 without waiting for Apple's announcement? Do I still like Note 9 after a month of extensive use? Read on and watch my video review to find out...
Samsung have now added an update to Bixby where you can set it to require two taps to activate. That should definitely save a lot of time with regards to "misfires" : )
Note 9 Summary
It's July 2021 and I am still using the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. There is nothing right now that is enticing me to upgrade from this powerhouse. If I didn't own pro video and camera gear, I might be swayed but for now I'm good.
For and Against
The Pros have it in this short test of main features.
I have now been using the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 since its launch in the UK on 24th August 2018. These are my thoughts after some pretty heavy use.
I did order the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 a couple of years ago but during my pre-order status, they started blowing up. Therefore, I ordered the Samsung Galaxy S7 instead and used that as my main phone (or my main "driver" lol...you kids ; ) for two years!
You see, I tend not to upgrade that often as I like to wait until something comes along that blows me away. Plus I spend enough on camera and video gear as it is.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was the one that blew me away enough to spend £900 on a Smartphone! "Sorry for not telling you dear...I know the kids need school clothes...yes, it IS a lot of money...yes, it IS for work...I love you..." ; )
I have looked at a few phones recently including the iPhone X* and nothing has really tipped me over the edge. However, a mere 3 weeks before my O2 contract was due to renew, along came the Note 9.
*Note: Since writing this, the iPhone Xs Max was announced but for me, doesn't match, or even come close to the features of the Galaxy Note 9.
I read up, I watched various YouTube videos and almost instantly knew I wanted this phone.
My Thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Having the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 really is like having a PC in your pocket! It has so much on offer so let's break down each main feature...
As I mentioned "PC in your pocket" above, let's start with Samsung DeX. Using a USB-C to HDMI cable, you can use Samsung DeX to connect your Galaxy Note 9 to a PC monitor, HDTV or projector.
Note: Previous Samsung flagships had this option but you needed the Samsung DeX station and pad and those came in at $69 each. Now you just need a cable.
It's not going to simply mirror your screen like most modern Smartphones, which it also does by the way. What DeX does is turn your Galaxy Note 9 into a fully functioning computer with "Windows-like" appearance.
You can use your entire Galaxy Note 9 screen as a touch pad and add a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for the best experience. You can:
When you consider that you have up to 8GB or RAM and 1-2TB of storage available on the Note 9, this really is a PC in your pocket!
You'll need either of these to utilise Samsung DeX:
As a Photographer
As a photographer and film-maker, I absolutely love the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. I cannot see any reason for taking my usual, hefty camera gear when going out on a family day or generally hanging out.
In a way, this phone is quite upsetting for someone like me. Why?
Well, the sheer amount of things it can do sometimes makes much more expensive camera gear I own redundant! I hope people that are looking at this phone realise that.
Time Lapses, Moving Time Lapses, Hyper lapses
When coupled with the amazing Freevision Vilta M Smartphone stabiliser, the Galaxy Note 9 turns into a true imaging powerhouse. I can do incredibly stable moving time lapses and walking hyper lapses without the need for my usual, hefty gear (see main review video).
Equipment I own and use for professional time lapses:
- 1Canon EOS 5D Mark IV - £3,500
- 2Rhino Ultimate Slider - £1,600
- 3Heavy Duty Manfrotto Tripod - £500
Now all I need to get similar (although not as high quality) results:
- 1Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (with all the extras) - £900
- 2Freevision Vilta (M) for the superb app with time lapse features and stability for Hyperlapse's - £130
- 3Mini Tripod for base - £40
Quite a difference!
Stills Photography on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Right out of the box, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 offers a hell of a lot to the photographer in you.
You have the standard "auto" camera which does a great job. The Pro mode is excellent allowing you to shoot RAW and JPEG images simultaneously. This is a big deal because the RAW files hold so much more information and are more "workable" during edit.
Auto (HDR On)
The images below were all taken in AUTO mode. Click for larger copies.
The following JPEGS were all automatically taken as a backup when shooting RAW images. Click for larger images.
RAW Edited and Converted to JPEGS
The following JPEGS were all taken from RAW images after editing. Click for larger copies.
My immediate observations are that the HDR JPEG's straight out of Auto mode are good. They are a little mushy though when viewed closely. There appears to be a "line" around the sharp edges that kind of emphasises the contrast. However, the lack of grain is good albeit at the cost of super sharpness.
The JPEG's taken at the time of shooting RAW are better. Even though there is no HDR here, when viewed at 100%, there is better sharpness and clarity. More akin to a normal JPEG from a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
The JPEG's taken from an edited RAW are ok but I maybe rushed them a little trying to better the HDR JPEG's. In doing so, a fair bit of noise was introduced. Despite the grain, the sharpness from the RAW image and JPEG taken at the same time is better than in the HDR Auto JPEG's.
More RAW Samples from the Samsung Galaxy Note 9
I just thought I would show you three more images taken from RAW files in optimum conditions outside. This will hopefully show you the quality of stills from the Galaxy Note 9. Please click for larger images (2000px).
Coming from a Smartphone, I think they are superb!
2X Optical Zoom
Well, it's not really a zoom as such but a secondary telephoto lens camera. Anyway, who cares, it works really well and the image quality holds up at both focal lengths. It gives 2x "optical" zoom, not digital, for optimum image quality.
Hover over image for normal and 2x image from same place. On mobile? Tap inside and out of pic.
Doesn't sound a lot but the additional light can come in really handy for low light shots.
This actually works pretty well. The best thing about it is that you can adjust the background blur and save multiple copies of the same image. You can also revert the shot back to a standard wide angle image.
Overall, I was pretty happy with the results. Really nice portraits but just keep an eye on the background when shooting. The image below was from Auto mode which may have applied a little too much sharpening for my liking. However, it's still a nice effect.
The Panorama mode is superb and does exactly what you would expect. Again, coupled with the Freevision Vilta M (or similar stabiliser), this is improved even more. Click image below for larger version and please note, actual image is 9184 x 3792 pixels!
I wasn't sure what this really was or if it was any good when reading up on the Note 9. However, it is better than I thought. All it does is blur the edges and focus on the central portion of the scene but it does it well. Obviously you can use it for more things than just food and it works nicely.
When you add in things like:
It's crazy just how good this camera is. When you download some of the third party camera apps available, it gets even better. All images below were taken in AUTO mode with HDR set to ON. Overall, I am impressed but prefer JPEG's from RAW images...
Sample Image Gallery
Video on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9
One of the biggest complaints about £2-3k mirrorless cameras coming out right now is that they don't shoot 4K 60p. Cameras like the Canon EOS R and Nikon Z7 only shoot 4K up to 30fps.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 shoots 4K 60p.
Sample 4K 60p Video Clips
It can actually shoot (with the rear camera):
Note: UHD (60fps), UHD, QHD and FHD 960fps) resolutions don't support Tracking AF and Video Effects. Also, video stabilisation isn't available in UHD (60fps) and 1:1 resolutions.
The front camera will shoot video with resolutions of:
Note: QHD resolutions don't support Video Effects. Plus video stabilisation isn't available in QHD and 1:1 resolutions.
You then have slow motion which by default is not activated.
To active standard slow motion on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, you need to:
Now this is where it gets fun.
You can get 2-2.5x slow motion in 4K by slowing down your 4K60p footage in post production.
Like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+, at 1280 x 720 resolution, you can shoot up to a whopping 960fps. However, on those phones, you were limited to just 0.2 seconds of super slow motion.
On the Galaxy Note 9, you can shoot 0.4 seconds of super slow motion footage. That equates to 12 seconds in real time when played back as opposed to 6 seconds with the S9 and S9+.
Note: When shooting super slow motion for 0.2 seconds (6 seconds playback), you get the full 960fps. However, when shooting for 0.4 seconds (12 seconds playback), you only get 480fps but in my tests, I could hardly see a difference!
Regular Slow Motion
Regular slow motion is limited to 240fps which is still pretty damn good! However, you can film for as long as you like and it is recorded in full HD 1080p. Lovely!!! You can see examples of this in the video at the top of the page.
Obviously the image quality from the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 doesn't compare to my DSLR's or even mirrorless cameras. However, for general family or holiday use and also for web use, it is incredible.
I was pretty impressed with the low light capabilities from such a small sensor. Samsung have been working hard on this and it shows. Video quality in very low light doesn't fare so well though as it becomes more mushy the darker it gets.
The Rest of the Phone
Pretty impressive already right? Well, let's now look at the rest of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.
7 Funky things that the Samsung S-Pen can do that your BIC Biro can't!
I have to start with this because I love it. I bought the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition) back in 2013 which also has a stylus. I also use that when I use that particular tablet and like it.
However, the S-Pen on the Galaxy Note 9 is exceptional. The sheer amount of features and functionality is mind-boggling.
You can see some handy tips with the S-Pen in my other video on hidden features. For now, here are a few cool things it can do.
- 1Screen Off Memo
I think I use this the most. I don't use it all the time because the memo stays on the home screen until I complete everything on it.
What I do is write down a list of things I need to do either this week or immediately and pin it to my lock screen. To do this, simply take the S-Pen out, scribble away, hit the pin button and it's done.
A copy will be added to your lock screen and a copy sent to your Samsung Notes. Brilliant!
- 2Play/Pause/Skip Music
Imagine lying on the sofa, headphones on, listening to your favourite playlist with the phone on the table. Rather than hoisting your carcass all of two feet to press pause or skip, you can simply hold the S-Pen and click to your heart's content.
Note: It will actually work from up to 30 feet away.
A single click will pause/play and a double click will skip to the next song.
- 3Take photos remotely
Yes, you can now take photos using the Bluetooth S-Pen by:
All good stuff but in reality, may not be used that often...we'll see.
- 4Super quick charging but still works for some things with no charge
The S-Pen charges in a mere 40 seconds and that is enough for 30 minutes standby battery life or around 200 clicks. You can still use the pen as a normal stylus even when there is no power left to:
You just can't use the Bluetooth button.
- 5Run a PowerPoint Presentation
This is sure to impress your peers, bosses and clients. Simply plonk your sweet looking Galaxy Note 9 on the table, connect to a screen or projector, whip out the S-Pen and start jabbering on whilst clicking your little pen. Use it to move about presentations or even images in your gallery (single click next photo, double click previous item).
Actually, it's pretty cool.
- 6Hold down button to...
As mentioned above, by default a long press on the S-Pen when you remove it will open the camera. However, you can assign this function to a number of tasks:
Pah, I could be here all day. You can actually use this feature to open any app on your phone from Fortnite to Adobe Lightroom. Whatever you use most with the S-Pen in your hand would be a good.
Photoshop Express would be a good choice for photographers if you use that a lot.
I mentioned this somewhere before but Glance is very cool.
Let's say you are writing a blog entry or post about say...Prime Video and what's trending. You are using your Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and are fed up with having to switch from app to app (Word to Prime Video for example).
By activating Glance, you can minimise the Prime Video app but have it available on the screen as an icon of sorts. As you type or write in Word, you can simply hover the S-Pen over the icon to temporarily open the Prime Video app and do your research.
As soon as your S-Pen leaves the screen, the Prime Video app will minimise again. Very cool.
Note: You can see this in action in the main video review at the top of this page...
Of course, there are so many things the S-Pen can do but this is just a taste for you.
Rated at IP68, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is up there with the rest of the high end, flagship phones. It will survive being submerged in over 5ft of water for up to 30 minutes but don't expect, or even bother trying to use it underwater. Who you gonna call?
Saying that...I may re-assign the volume buttons to operate the camera and try a little underwater photography : )
Intelligent Scan Unlock with Eyes or Face (or Finger)
As well as the rapid and better placed fingerprint scanner for unlocking, you now have two more options at hand. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will scan your face and eyes now for a much more rapid opening of the phone.
First, it will scan your face. If that fails to unlock the Note 9, the system will then scan your irises. If both fail at this point, Intelligent Scan will try to authenticate your identity using a combination of the two. It does this is the blink of an eye!
This is particularly useful if your hands are wet or if you are wearing gloves (skiing, winter etc).
If your eyes are covered by sunglasses in the summer on the other hand, simply use the rear fingerprint scanner. All very handy and intuitive!
So, you can unlock your Galaxy Note 9 with a fingerprint, PIN, password, pattern, swipes or full facial scan. For me, the iris scan is the best (and most secure) option plus it works through my glasses!
Note: I tried using a photo of myself for security purposes but couldn't get it to work : )
Power! Qualcomm Snapdragon 845/Exynos 9810
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a powerful thing. It is fast and quite capable of easily running multiple apps without seriously overheating or slowing down.
For example, my Inspire 1 drone has always been flown using the iPad Mini 4 which I found to be perfect. However, as DJI evolved their Go App, so did the need for more processing power. Therefore, the app now "groans" under the weight and I get intermittent blackouts and lag. Not for a huge amount of time but enough to piss me off.
Using the Galaxy Note 9 to fly, I get no lag, no blackouts, just great flying!
I was a little concerned about buying the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 when I did. For one, it is a lot of money. Secondly, Apple were about to announce the new iPhone.
I have owned iPhones before but soon got bored with the lack of personalisation. I still have the old iPod Touch 4G and it almost looks the same as today's iPhone with regards to the overall look and layout.
When the iPhone Xs and Xs Max were announced, I breathed a sigh of relief. I don't think they even came close to what the Galaxy Note 9 has to offer. Don't get me wrong, I really like the speed and reliability of Apple tech but...meh.
I thought they may do something revolutionary like add the possibility of using external memory. Maybe even put back the headphone jack but no. They don't even have a fingerprint scanner now...
Samsung Galaxy Note 9
So after my 4 week honeymoon period is over, how am I liking the Note 9? I love it. That's not justification for the big spend in any way, the phone is simply amazing.
To have so much functionality in a feature rich environment in my pocket...that's incredible. Couple that with:
You'll never be bored with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 accompanying you.
Note: Friends, family, life experiences and fresh air are still better then any phone : )
If you enjoyed this review, please share and comment below...it really helps! Thanks...
Sign up to our Newsletter
If you enjoyed this review, please subscribe to our newsletter below. We don't spam, we won't inundate you with loads of emails. We'll just send newsletters now and again with exciting news, tech reviews and new training. Thanks.