Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Review: Pen Wielding Android Powerhouse

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Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Battery Life And The Verdict

Since the introduction of AndroidNougat, and even more so with Android 8 Oreo now, our battery life testing at HotHardware has become a real challenge. Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, Google's mobile operating system is getting more aggressive at killing tasks that are consuming significant power and haven't had any user interaction. As a result, the PCMark Android battery tests fails on some of our test group of devices, though the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was able to make the cut, but our test group isn't as big as we'd like as a result. 

We also have our usual worst-case, heavy load AnTuTu Battery test that still seems to run fine across all devices and gives us a relative gauge with respect to comparable battery life performance in high-workload use cases. 
This test sets the display brightness to high and cranks up workloads for the processor, graphics core, and memory, and runs through many real-world, scripted workloads, including web browsing, gaming and video playback. Unfortunately, we're still running the Note 9 through this worst-case test and will report our findings here shortly in an update. In the meantime, PCMark for Android is a bit more real-world anyway...

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 PCMark battery life test

Futuremark's PCMark for Android Work 2.0 Battery test takes workloads from the benchmark itself (image and video editing, email and web browsing) and scripts them in a loop that runs until battery levels drop below 20 percent. This test is more real-world in terms of its setup, because we calibrate display brightness on all devices to 200 Lux and the test then locks that display brightness in for the duration. Folks, we have a new battery life alpha predator and it's the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. In fact, the Galaxy Note 9 lasted a full two hours longer than its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 8. The Note 9 stayed up, with a constant, always-on display and combined workload time of 13 hours. That 4000 mAh battery upgrade is no joke.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 in hand at event
Samsung's Galaxy Note 9, In Ocean Blue

Some have faulted Samsung for not bringing a complete reinvention of the Galaxy Note 9, or some other major platform upgrade. We don't share that same view, as timing of the Note 9 was such that Samsung took what they had to work with (namely Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform) and seemingly worked hard to bring key enhancements to it and their Note platform as a whole, to make the Note 9 something special. Like the cliche' or not, this is indeed the best Samsung Galaxy Note yet. Most major subsystems of the phone are upgraded. Let's run down the list.

First, Samsung upgraded the cooling on the device, such that the new Galaxy Note 9 throttles very little under extended heavy-duty use cases and gaming. Samsung then beefed up the battery of the Note, bringing it to 4000 mAh and extending battery life dramatically. They increased the size of its display slightly to 6.4-inches and that display has been lauded by us here and others for being the best in any smartphone currently. Though the Note 9's camera assembly is basically a transplant of the Galaxy S9+, Samsung enabled it with a new software engine that should optimize shot quality of the dual aperture lens system and minimize human errors with shot flaw detection features. Can it put down the impressive Google Pixel 2 XL in terms of shot quality? Not always, but sometimes it's darn close and when it comes to portrait mode, or what Samsung calls Live Focus, it's no contest. The bokeh goes to Samsung.

galaxy note 9 drawing

And finally, they enhanced the S Pen with Bluetooth remote control capabilities and fast charging that can now be utilized with a new and easier way to work with Samsung's DeX desktop as well as a slew of other apps on the phone itself. The DeX environement is now more easily accessible as well via a simple USB-C dongle adapter. All of these little tweaks and optimizations add up with Samsung's Galaxy Note 9. At $999 for the 6GB RAM/128GB storage version and $1249 for 8GB RAM/512GB storage variant, the Note 9 is just plain expensive no doubt. In fact, that may be a real sticking point for more than a few here, let's be perfectly clear. Off contract? Ouch. 

However, if you're the type of smartphone power user that likes larger, ultra-premium phones and has a penchant for pulling out a stylus and making your mark, the Galaxy Note 9 is definitely one of the most impressive Android flagship devices we've seen this year. Sorry, we'll have to say it again. It's the best Galaxy Note yet and we're giving it an Editor's Choice to back that up.
hothardware editors choice

  • Beautiful premium design
  • Best big phone display
  • Great performance
  • Killer battery life
  • Great S Pen refinement
  • Excellent camera
  • Good external speaker sound
  • Excellent features and tools with DeX
  • Very expensive
  • Sometimes funky video OIS
  • Fingerprint magnet

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