Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review (early verdict): high-end handset brings marginal gains over Note 8

Hands-on with Samsung's new Note

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The Samsung Note 9 has now been officially announced and our colleague Matt Swider over at T3's sister site TechRadar has had some quality hands-on time with it. Here are his thoughts on the new handset.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9's release date is set for August 24, which is markedly earlier in the year than the Note 8's launch, which was September 15 in the UK and US. Matt notes this earlier release date could be due to Samsung wanting to beat the new iPhones announcement, which is expected to take place in early September.

The price of the Note 9 in the US, which is where TechRadar's Matt Swider got full hands-on access to the new Galaxy phone, is going to be $1,000 for the base-level phone (£899 in the UK), which is a model that comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage space. That price rises to $1,250 for the top-specced model (£1,099), which comes with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage space.

The entry level model is a $70 price increase over the Note 8's launch price.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 design, screen, and battery

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review

Matt goes on to look at Samsung's Super AMOLED display. The Note 9's 6.4-inch screen is slightly bigger than the Note 8's 6.3-inch display, but unless you get both phone's side-by-side it is almost impossible to notice.

This Note 9 Infinity Display has the on-trend aspect ratio of 18:5:9 and really pops in terms of brightness and colour reproduction, he adds. 

Design-wise, Matt relates that the new Note is narrower and taller than the Note 8, with its dimensions sitting at 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm. The Note 8 had dimensions of 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm. The Note 9 is also heavier than the Note 8, weighing in at 201 grams compared to 195.

TechRadar's hands-on review notes that the Note 9 is comfortable to hold thanks to less rounded-off design.

Matt's thoughts on the enlarged new 4,000mAh battery installed in the Note 9? He relates that Samsung touts it as "all-day", and feels with moderate usage it should get user into a second day of use between charges.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 cameras and S Pen

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review

So what about the lead gimmick being pushed by the Note 9 this year, its brand new S Pen digital stylus?

Matt says that he likes the new Bluetooth-powered S Pen very much, and is amazed at how Samsung has managed to squeeze a small battery and tiny Low-Energy antenna into the thin stylus.

The new S Pen allows you to remotely launch the Note 9's camera app with a long press of the clicky end of the stylus, flip the camera to selfie mode with a short press, and take a group photo with two presses. Matt states it is much easier than setting the phone's camera timer.

You can also customise shortcuts for the S Pen with Matt relaying some examples such as playing and pausing music, or skipping to the next track, advancing photos or cycling back when in the Note 9's Photo Gallery, and starting and stopping video recording.

In terms the Note 9's camera, Matt reports that the the phone comes with a dual 12MP rear camera that uses dual aperture technology to flip between a f/1.5 aperture for low-light shooting, and a f/2.4 aperture for normal light photography.

The secondary rear camera delivers a 2x optical zoom, too, for telephoto shots, while the front camera is an 8MP unit that includes autofocus.

In terms of notable camera system features, the Note 9 allows for AR stickers, Super Slow Motion video at 960 fps at 720p, and wide group selfies.

In terms of missing features, Matt notes that it appears that the Note 9 does not support mobile HDR video recording, suggesting that we may very well have to wait for the Samsung Galaxy S10 to Samsung catch up with rivals in this regard.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: early verdict

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review

So, there you have it. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 appears to be a desirable high-end phone that, through a series of marginal gains, delivers a device that pitches itself as going big in every way, improving all aspects of the phone when compared to last year's Note 8.

That going big extends to its price point, with the base-level 128GB / 6GB RAM phone retailing for $1,000, and the top spec 512GB / 8GB RAM phone ringing in at a wallet-destroying $1,250.

For the full Samsung Galaxy Note 9 early verdict picture, be sure to head on over to TechRadar right now for Matt Swider's comprehensive hands-on review.

We'll be bringing you our full, in-depth Note 9 review once we've had a few days to put the handset through its paces.