Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9: First Impressions

Mala Bhargava | Updated on August 15, 2018 Published on August 14, 2018

Launched less than a week ago, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is about to wing its way to India almost instantly, which is no surprise as it has a strong fan base here.

The Note series has caught my interest right from the start. More than once when a unit arrived for review, I set it down and went out and bought one of my own, not even waiting to check it out fully or for seasonal price cuts. I just loved the size that everyone found ridiculous and throughly enjoyed the amount of screen space, delivered with Samsung’s signature brightness and vividness. I also thought the S-Pen a fantastic addition though I must admit I didn’t use it as much as I imaged I would.

Most of all, what I’ve loved about the Note is that it was Samsung’s blank slate for experimenting with new features and capabilities. I thought the company had undeserved criticism hurled at it for having a case of ‘feature-itis’ . Sometimes features have not worked as well as intended but just as often, they’ve set the trend and were always innovative.

But this time, talk has centred around why the Note 9 isn’t innovative enough, though everyone seems to understand that the super-phone can’t come with a host of new stuff every year when the rest of the industry is plateauing with hardware innovation and chasing artificial intelligence instead. Now, the lines between the flagship Galaxy S9+ and the Note 9 are blurring, the pattern intensifying since last year’s S8+ and Note 8.

Perhaps it’s time for Samsung to hurry up with that long-rumoured foldable phone.

Meanwhile, the new Note feels quite familiar in my hands. The Ocean Blue unit houses a bright yellow S-Pen and has a few design tweaks such as the fingerprint sensor having been positioned under the camera. It feels a tad larger and heavier with its 4,000 mAh battery. If you have misgivings about that, recalling the fate of the exploding Note 7, this battery set-up has been more thoroughly tested and deemed safe with a special water cooling system built in. How it performs, I’ll only be able to see after spending more time with the device.

The always brilliant display of the Note looks better than ever and has set a few records, according to DisplayMate, specialists in assessing screen technology. Thankfully, Samsung hasn’t gone the notch way with its display — and it can’t, having made ample fun of Apple in ads for exactly that feature.

The signature feature of the Note, the S-Pen, now has low energy Bluetooth added to its previous functions. This means you can use it to control the camera, triggering it with a long-press and taking photos with a quick press. Unlike just using voice commands, you can control the phone from the usual Bluetooth range distance. You can also control presentations, browse your photo gallery and stop and start YouTube videos. The S-Pen is open to app developers to use the Bluetooth to add more capabilities — hopefully.

An important new feature on the Note 9 is that with a mere cable you can connect it to a PC and see your phone like a desktop on the computer’s screen. This earlier needed the DeX accessory but can now be done just with the cable.

The specs on the Note 9 have been bumped up. It works on the Snapdragon 845 with 6 or 8 GB of RAM and 128 or 512 GB of storage space plus a micro-SD slot that can take it another 512 GB. The dual camera set-up is the same as on the Galaxy S9+ but there are several tweaks plus the use of AI to enhance 23 different types of images.And for those who object to that, you can turn it off very quickly.

All this may not be enough for Note 8 users to upgrade to what is a very expensive phone, but it gives new Note users or those who have been hanging on to a much older version, a really power packed mini-computer in the pocket. The next few days will show how well it works.

Price: ₹67,900 (6 GB/128 GB), ₹84,900 (8 GB/512 GB)

Published on August 14, 2018
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