Samsung’s Note 8 was one of the best phones of 2017, yet I couldn’t help but think it felt a little tame. When the Note series has long represented overpowered specs and features, Samsung seemed to play it safe in order to prevent another disaster like the Note 7’s.
With the Note 9, Samsung is ready to be more daring again. Announced today at an event in Brooklyn, it has pretty much the same glassy design Samsung has been using since the S6 – attractive, but a little stale. You’d be hard-pressed to tell it apart from its predecessor, but while it may look a lot like the Note 8, it’s what’s inside that counts. Pardon the cliché.
Here are the key specs and features:
- 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display
- Snapdragon 845 (US & Latin America) / Exynos 9810 (Everywhere else)
- 6 GB RAM
- 128 GB/512 GB storage (expandable via MicroSD)
- 4000 mAh battery
- Stereo speakers
- Water/Carbon Fiber cooling system
- Bluetooth S-Pen
- Comes in Metallic Copper, Lavender Purple, Ocean Blue, Midnight Black
- Headphone jack
- A reasonably placed fingerprint sensor.
The specs include the obvious yearly upgrades, but there are a couple of important points to, ahem, note. The screen is a little larger this time around and the processor is faster, but the key detail for many will be the 4,000 mAh battery. That’s a 21 percent increase over the 3,300 mAh battery, and a 500 mAh increase over this year’s S9 Plus. Coupled with a more efficient processor than last year’s model,the Note 9 could shape up to have some of the best battery life of a smartphone this year.
Also notable is are the RAM and storage, which now start at 6 GB /128 GB but are upgradable to 8 GB / and 512GB, not to mention another 512GB that could be added with an upcoming MicroSD card. I don’t know who needs 1TB of storage on a phone, but if you do, the Note 9 will let you have it.
All this adds up to the sense Samsung is trying to cement the Note 9 as the Galaxy for power users. Considering the Note 8 left many wondering why they should buy one over the S8 – an almost identical phone save for the S-Pen and dual cameras – it’s refreshing to see the Note series return to its overpowered roots.
Then there’s the S-Pen. Just as expected, it’s Bluetooth capable now, which lets it function as a remote shutter for your camera or a clicker for PowerPoint presentations or slideshows. Lest you worry about battery life being an issue, a full, 30-minute charge takes just one minute docked in the Note 9. And even if the battery is dead, it’ll still work as an old-school S-Pen. In my brief testing, the stylus’ Bluetooth functions worked reliably in a crowded showroom.
There are some other neat additions. Samsung has borrowed the unnecessary-but-nice-to-have variable aperture from the S9, and new camera software can detect problems with your photos like someone blinking or a blurry lens. DeX now works with a simple USB-C to HDMI adapter. Samsung says its Water/Carbon Fiber cooling system has been optimized for gaming. Bixby can now understand context better. Etc.
Though no one was expecting a radical redesign given the Note 10 is due next year, I’m happy to see Samsung aiming the Note at power users again. The caveat is the price: it’ll cost you $999 for the 6 GB/128 GB model and $1,250 for the 8 GB/ 512GB one when they go on sale August 24. That’s a lot of money, and a harder sell when a phone like the OnePlus 6 comes close in the spec department for a little over half the price.
But then, there’s no phone that provides quite the same combination of size, features, and of course, a stylus. I’ll have to spend more time with the device before I can say whether it holds up in the real world, but so far there’s much to like.