Big, Bold, and powerful, sums up the new Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Samsung has pushed the technological envelope as far as it can to make this the best Samsung Mobile device currently available.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 features a massive 6.4” infinity edge screen with a gigantic 4000 mAh battery and of course the signature S-Pen which now includes Bluetooth. Should you upgrade or leap into this large screen phone space? The answer is in the details, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 offers pretty much everything you would expect in a range-topping smart device.

The Samsung Note line started out when most devices offered screens well below 4”. When Samsung released a large screen phone along with a stylus, many felt this was a few steps too far for a mobile phone, and it would not catch on. The truth was Samsung’s gamble paid off, and the Note line of mobile devices has proved to be a huge success.

The Stylus or S-Pen as Samsung call it has evolved to be an extremely high-tech writing tool and the ever-increasing size of the Note series, reaching 6.4” with the Note 9, is perfect for productivity and gaming as well as pretty everything that involves a large screen phone.

Samsung has improved the finish and construction on the Galaxy Note 9 along with the technology included and the Galaxy Note 9 now stands at the very top of current mobile technology.

The Hardware

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 takes its cues from the latest Galaxy Range of devices with a tall and thin aspect ratio.

Physically the Note 9 is barely changed from the Note 8 of last year. The main differences are the arrangement of the camera and fingerprint reader on the rear. The fingerprint reader is now logically in the middle of the device below the camera and is easy to find and use without continually smudging the camera lens.

The massive screen is surrounded by a solid aluminium frame with an all-glass back. The 6.4-inch curved infinity style screen feels premium and contributes to the smooth polished feel of the Galaxy Note 9. The overall finish is exceptional. Despite the size, the Note 9 is well balanced and easy to handle. A cover is needed for protection as all that glass could get damaged in a fall.

Samsung, on the Note 9, has supplied the most exceptional screen I have used on any device. Colours are spot on, and adjustable, along with sharpness and brightness that make using the Note 9 an absolute pleasure.

The Note 9 features the latest in the Samsung Exynos processors and offers 6 GB of Ram on the standard 128 GB storage model with 8 GB of Ram on the 512 GB storage model. The review device with 6 GB of Ram flew through any task and app thrown at it from production to gaming. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is fluid fast and effortless to use.


The dual rear camera is similar to the Galaxy S9+ but offers AI enhancement modes which change the settings based on what the camera detects it is focusing.

Up to 20 different objects get automatic AI enhancement. In actual use, the AI was good at optimising pictures and together with the variable aperture dual camera system served up some of the best photographs I have taken with a mobile device.

The primary camera specs are a dual 12 MP rear cameras and an 8 MP wide-angle front camera. The specs themselves don’t tell the full story as the dual aperture system on the rear camera offers low light performance that has to be seen to be believed, along with the software AI, the Note 9 is fast and very good at taking pictures in challenging environments. The AI support can be turned off, and most setting can then be manually adjusted. The front camera does the usual Samsung trick of smoothing and softening the selfies you take, but overall, they are more than good enough for Instagram.

The S-Pen

The standout and in fact signature feature of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the S-Pen, with the Note 8 the S-Pen or stylus was upgraded to offer an almost paper feel when writing on glass.

For the Note 9, this has been improved a little with the response and feel when writing on the Note 9 screen emulating paper. The note 9 even provides the sound of a pencil on paper when taking notes.

Using the S-Pen for note taking or drawing on the screen is not something I had spent much time doing in the past, however, once you start using the Note 9 and the S-Pen in meetings or to doodle to pass the time, it quickly becomes addictive and surprisingly useful. Artists and creatives types will find the S-Pen a wonder for drawing, highlighting and just generally creating on the Note 9.

The S-Pen also has another trick, it now includes Bluetooth low energy and can operate as a remote control for selfies, presentations, and soon many other apps for up to 10 meters. Plugging the S-Pen into its slot will charge the S-Pen in under a minute, and that will offer 30 minutes of constant use.

The battery capacity has been increased to 4000 mAh, and it shows, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 easily gets to 11 pm after taking it off charge at 7 Am. The Note 9 gives a full day’s use with lots of screen time for social media videos and a little gaming. The battery does charge quickly. However, this is limited to Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0. As a result, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is not the fastest charging phone.

Desktop Mode

Another little technical trick up the Note 9’s sleeve is the inclusion of the DEX hardware directly into the Galaxy Note 9.

Previous models had to be plugged into a DEX adaptor, but the Note 9 needs merely a USB C to HDMI adaptor and a cable to plug it into a screen. Once connected a fully functional desktop is available for presentations or anything else you wish to do.

The Note 9 becomes your keyboard and mouse, or you can pair Bluetooth keyboards and mice for the complete desktop experience. DEX makes the Galaxy Note 9 a virtual laptop replacement. I have used the DEX feature to present, edit documents, and touch up a spreadsheet before showing it to a client.

The Software

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 runs android 8.1 with all the latest security features.

A clean Samsung experience skin runs on top and manages, for the most part, to stay out of the way of smooth operation. One small disappointment is that the latest Android 9 version which has just been released with its new gesture-based interface and significant refinements was not used. I am confident that this will come in due course, but Samsung is not the fastest with Android updates.


There are the usual Samsung duplicate apps for all Googles productivity apps, and these can be used or ignored as you please.

The software relating to the S-Pen which is directly available from the S-Pen wheel that pops up on the screen when the pen is removed does include some useful apps. The note app is well laid out and easy to use. Many more apps are available in the Samsung App Store

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has one trick that I found endlessly useful. You do not need to unlock the screen to use the S-Pen to take notes, merely release the pen and start writing on the screen; it is fast and very convenient.

There is one area that sets the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 apart from many of its competitors, and that is the SmartThings app and integration. Samsung assured us at the Note 9 launch that all its appliances will be connected devices in around 18 months, and if you use the Galaxy Note 9 as the hub for your smart home via the SmartThings App, it makes smart straightforward. The SmartThings app already recognises tons of devices in my house and one day when linked to my fridge, washing machine, air-conditioner and many other tools the smart home will become real.

Samsung does reign supreme in the breadth of product it supplies, and few companies can rival Samsung with their range of products and services that connect with your home and even office.


The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is every bit of the flagship device Samsung promised.

It is not instantly different looking from other large screen smart devices, but the S-Pen and its productivity features are unique and if they appeal to you are superbly executed.

The combination of outstanding build quality and cutting-edge technology make the Galaxy Note 9 the best device in mobile right now. The screen has no competition both in size and sheer class. The build quality and the solid feel of the Galaxy Note 9 is excellent. In use the Galaxy Note 9 is fast and never lags no matter what you do, gaming with the large screen is immersive and exciting, taking pictures is a pleasure, and the results are some of the best available right now.

No device is perfect, and the areas that may count against the Galaxy Note 9 is sheer size, as despite the all screen front and lack of bezels this is a big device. The interface is classic Samsung and offers massive ability to customise. This sheer flexibility may daunt even an experienced user.

The other primary consideration is the price. The Galaxy Note 9 is expensive; it will retail for R18,999.00 with 128Gb of Ram and around R23,995.00 with 512 Gb of ram which is no small change.

The Note 9 is significantly upgraded over previous Samsung devices and sits at the pinnacle of mobile technology. I don’t believe that it is a must upgrade for a Galaxy Note 8 or Galaxy S9+ owner, unless you must have the latest and greatest mobile device. For an older device owner, this is a must try, I am confident you will be impressed.

Steven Ambrose | | @ambio mail me |

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