Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: Hands-on impressions of the new phone

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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: Hands-on impressions of the new phone

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Samsung revealed the Galaxy Note 9, its latest answer to Apple’s iPhone X, at a special event in New York last night.

Today, Metro.co.uk was invited to take an early look at some of the first devices in the country ahead of the general release on August 24.

There’s no denying that the Note 9 is a polished gadget that’s popping with exciting features. But it also costs a whopping £899 for the basic 128GB model. If you want the spiffing 512GB version, that’ll be £1099.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was unveiled at special Unpacked event in New York (Image: Samsung)

What’s more, if you’re the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or even the Galaxy S9, there’s probably not enough here to merit upgrading.

Of course, we were only able to get a look at the new phone (and the also-announced Galaxy Watch) under tightly controlled conditions. So there’s no scope to test out things like battery life or how it handles things like being caught in the rain (It’s IP68 rated waterproof) or knocked off a desk.

But we were able to play around with the handset and check out the improved new S Pen stylus that slots right into a tidy little gap on the bottom of the phone. Right along from the USB-C charging port and the old school 3.5mm headphone jack.

The S Pen slots in right next to the charging port and headphone jack (Image: Metro.co.uk)

First things first, it comes in a choice of four colours: purple, black, coppery brown or blue. And although the screen measures in at 6.4-inches, it’s not got a notch on the top.

The whole phone is a sleek, polished slab of glass that feels comfortable in your hand because, although it’s tall – it’s not too wide. Samsung’s screens have always been one of the best things about its phones and this time is no different. The metallic sheen looks mighty impressive, even if it is prone to a few greasy fingerprints.

The S Pen pops in and out of the phone’s body with a satisfying click. You can use it to jot doodles or notes on the screen without even turning the display on – then have the option to save it later.

The S Pen stylus can jot notes down on the lock screen (Image: Metro.co.uk)

It works as more than just a stylus too. Samsung has put Bluetooth into it so you can click the bottom like a standard pen and execute actions like taking a selfie, play or pause video or progress through a slideshow.

Flipping the phone over reveals the new dual-lens camera that Samsung was keen to shout about at yesterday’s event. A quick flick through the settings shows enough settings here for photography fans to tweak and adjust while the rest of us can just point and shoot.

The camera works well in low light (Image: Metro.co.uk)

Amusingly, there’s something called ‘flaw detection’ which lets you know if a picture has come out right or not. If it’s blurry or the subject has their eyes closed, you’ll receive an instant pop-up notification letting you know you need to take picture again.

‘It uses intelligence to identify elements of a photo, such as scene and subject, to automatically classify it into one of 20 categories and instantly optimise it based on the category,’ Samsung told us.

The second lens grafted onto the back of the phone is a Dual Aperture lens which adjusts to light the same way as the human eye. The idea is it’ll take better pictures in low light environments. We also snapped a quick selfie with the front-facing 8-megapixel camera. You know, just to be thorough.

Snapping selfies with the Galxy Note 9 (Image: Metro.co.uk)

Naturally, Samsung has equipped the Note 9 with the latest processor and 8GB of memory as well as that hefty amount of storage space. You can even add more with a microSD card, should you fancy.

Given that the device we used was fresh off the boat from Samsung HQ, it was blazingly fast – whether or not it stays that way after a year or so of daily use remains to be seen. However, we’re comfortable enough in saying this is a phone that will easily last you through a two-year contract.

Powering the phone is a hefty 4,000mAh battery that Samsung is marketing with the suitably vague ‘all day’ promise. Given the issues Samsung faced with the Note 7’s battery spontaneously bursting into flames, you can be pretty sure the company has rigorously tested it for safety. Oh, and it now charges wirelessly as well.

An impressive phone – but very, very expensive (Image: Metro.co.uk)

After spending some time fumbling around with the Galaxy Note 9 like a teenager on a first date, the real question we need to ask is if it’s worth your hard-earned cash?

And the answer depends on what you’re looking for. We’re not convinced the camera can best the Huawei P20 Pro or that Samsung’s version of Android is better than the stock version you’ll get on a Pixel 2 XL. The Note 9 is also a big phone – so if you’re a fan of smaller screens then you’ll probably want to stick with the iPhone.

Of course, if you just want a powerhouse (something you could use as a work phone, for example) then the Note 9 has you covered. Samsung hasn’t thrown in any wacky features just for the sake of it. The South Korean company has doubled down on power, design and functionality.

We’ll obviously reserve full judgement for when we can use the phone unencumbered by Samsung bodyguards. But for right now, it’s an impressively powerful new gadget that will no doubt draw wandering eyes from smartphone fans.

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