Galaxy Note 9 Review Roundup: The New Android King

Updated

The Galaxy Note 9 hits store shelves August 24th, but the reviews are already in. And although not a ton has changed compared to last year’s Galaxy Note 8, this flagship phone has earned high marks from reviewers for its outstanding power and compelling features.

The Note 9 comes with an improved S Pen stylus, AI cameras, a huge battery and a nice design. But does all of that justify the $999 price? To help you decide, here’s a summary of the top Galaxy Note 9 reviews from around the web.

Galaxy Note 9 Review Scorecard

Publication
Rating
Tom’s Guide8/10
CNET9/10
TechRadar4.5/5
The Verge8.5/10
WSJNot rated
Wired8/10

Tom’s Guide (8/10)

Tom’s Guide reviewers Caitlin McGarry and Mark Spoonauer spent days with the Galaxy Note 9. And although they were impressed with everything from its display to its onboard storage, they noted this is one expensive smartphone.

The Note’s S Pen gets better with every new version of the Note, and the Note 9’s iteration is the best yet.”

Pros

“If there’s one thing Samsung excels at, it’s stunning smartphone screens. The same Super AMOLED panel with quad-HD resolution that you find in the Note 8 and Galaxy S9 is what you get with the Note 9, but then again, it’s pretty hard to improve upon perfection.”

“The Note’s S Pen seems to get better with every new version of the Note, and the Note 9’s iteration is the best yet. Samsung added Bluetooth connectivity so the new S Pen can be used as a remote control for your phone instead of just a simple stylus.”

“The Note 9’s Scene Optimizer takes your photos to the next level compared to images shot without the feature turned on. In each photo we took, Scene Optimizer increased the contrast and saturation significantly, which made almost every photo look better.”

Cons

“The Note 9 didn’t turn in the best results on the Tom’s Guide Battery Test (continuous web-surfing over T-Mobile’s LTE network until the phone dies) initially lasting 11 hours and 16 minutes. We turned off the phone's adaptive display feature, and retested: the Note 9 lasted an extra 10 minutes on the test.”

“Bixby is still playing catch-up with rival assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and even Apple’s Siri, which still balks at tasks like setting multiple timers.”

CNET (9/10)

Over at CNET, reviewer Jessica Dolcourt had mostly positive things to say about Samsung’s smartphone. She noted that while the smartphone is “ultrapricey,” its list of “top-tier specs” and the S Pen make it an ideal choice for many.

“The ultrapricey Note 9 is one of the year's best phones. But unless you're in dire need of an upgrade, the smart move is to wait for what the next iPhone, Pixel and even Galaxy S10 bring.”

Pros

“The Galaxy Note 9's specs are top-notch. This is an everything phone, one of the absolute best you can buy with All The Things. It will carry you through the next two or three years with excellent photos, Android updates and all that jazz.”

“Battery life was pretty terrific on the Galaxy Note 9. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a phone doesn't always live up to its battery capacity. This one does.”

Cons

“It lacks a certain "wow" factor. Apart from the tad higher battery capacity and double the storage, there's not all much different from the Galaxy S9 Plus, or really from the Galaxy Note 8 before it.”

“The Note 9's new AI camera tool works more slowly than I'd like for identifying scenes and optimizing settings for the best shot.

TechRadar (4.5/5)

TechRadar’s Matt Swider was clear in his assessment of the Galaxy Note 9 that Samsung’s new smartphone is the best handset on the market. He loved the device’s “massive storage and battery” and found its display to be of top quality. He did, however, “hate the Bixby button.”

“The Note 9 is our top smartphone recommendation – that is, if you want to own a giant, feature-filled phone with a stylus and hate saving money.”

Pros

“The [S Pen’s] best feature is being able to remotely launch the camera app with a long press of the S Pen button, flip the camera to selfie mode with a single short press, and snap a group photo with two presses.”

“The Note 9 battery capacity has been unshackled, hitting the 4,000mAh ceiling. This is the best Samsung phone you can buy when it comes to battery life.”

Cons

“While rival Android handsets can record 4K HDR video with 64 times the color data compared to current 4K video. the Note 9 can't. The Snapdragon 845 chip supports HDR video recording, but Samsung's own (faster) Exnynos 9810 chip doesn't, so the feature is turned off worldwide.”

“Google's AI is smarter and understands us better, whereas Bixby often picks up our words as if we said them with marbles in our mouth.”

MORE: Best Galaxy Note 9 Deals

The Verge (8.5/10)

Dan Seifert at The Verge took the Galaxy Note 9 for a spin and similar to just about everyone else, was not at all happy with the smartphone’s price tag. But once he got past that, the reviewer found a “gorgeous” display and “fast performance” that made him happy.

“I don’t think this lack of new stuff is necessarily a bad thing — the Note 9 is the best phone Samsung has ever made and arguably the best Android phone you can buy right now.”

Pros

“In the week or so I’ve been using the Note as my primary phone, there hasn’t been a single day where the battery didn’t last from the very moment I woke up to the point I went to bed at night.”

“Samsung says the camera can recognize 20 different types of scenes, including food, portraits, pets, landscapes, beaches, sunrises and sunsets, and more. In my tests, it did a good job identifying animals, food, and plants, and it did so quicker than other phones with similar features.”

Cons

“Using DeX, even with all the aforementioned accessories, is still slow, cumbersome, and frustrating, with app incompatibilities and bottlenecks. I liken it to drinking a milkshake through a coffee stirrer: you’ll get some milkshake eventually, but you’ll also get frustrated and end up with a headache.”

“The Note 9 has a revamped version of Bixby, with an adjusted user interface and deeper integration with third-party services. But like DeX, these improvements are merely skin-deep and Bixby has all of the same problems it’s always had: it’s slow, stupid, and generally not as good as Google Assistant, which is conveniently also on the phone.”

Wall Street Journal (Not rated)

The Wall Street Journal’s David Pierce was impressed by the Galaxy Note 9’s performance. He even said that it would be an ideal smartphone option for power users that are hungry for high-end performance. But the average user, he said, might not find so much value in it.

“Using the Note 9 is like driving a spaceship down the interstate—if the international space station is on your agenda, great!”

Pros

“The Note 9’s battery life is correspondingly impressive: When I used it for normal phone things, I got nearly two full days between charges.”

“The amazingly versatile Note 9 comes closer than anything I’ve tested to fulfilling my one-true-computer dream.”

“It has an integrated stylus that’s much more than a drawing tool, and enough processing power, storage and RAM to rival your laptop.”

Cons

“I’ve long complained about Samsung’s unnecessary duplication of Google’s apps, but the Note 9’s bigger issue is that over the past week, it just wouldn’t leave me alone. It bombarded me with pop-ups, new-feature alerts and options I apparently needed to turn on.”

“While the Note 9 is the best Note yet, it isn’t a must-have upgrade over the Note 8—which raises the real question: Is a Note what you’re looking for?”

MORE: 8 Ways the Galaxy Note 9 Beats the iPhone X

Wired (8/10)

Lauren Goode at Wired was generally impressed by the Galaxy Note 9. Goode noted that Samsung’s smartphone is a “super fast” device that comes with some downright appealing S Pen features. But Goode also cautioned that the Galaxy Note 9 can feel too big and Bixby generally falls short.

“For the people who Samsung insists love the Note line, they’re going to love this one, too.”

Pros

“The display itself is bright, luminous, eye-grabbing. At a time when techies are switching to grayscale to attempt to cure their smartphone addictions, Samsung is luring all the kids back into the candy store.”

“The Note 9’s camera is generally wow-worthy. I snapped a series of photos with the Note 9, the iPhone X, and the Pixel 2 XL, and in some instances, the Note 9’s photo was brighter and more crisp than the others.”

Cons

“I’m not a big gamer, but I did (finally, finally) play Fortnite on the Note 9. The phone started to feel warm after just five minutes of gameplay, the edges of the phone especially.”

“For the rest of the $1,000 smartphone population, other flagship phones will almost certainly do the trick—and might even have more advanced tech if you wait a few months longer.”

Photo Credit: Tom's Guide