The ongoing clash for smartphone supremacy between Apple and Samsung is entering a new round. After Apple's iPhone X was able to (just barely) beat out the Galaxy S9, Samsung has prepared a new contender.
The newly unveiled Galaxy Note 9 features a more powerful S Pen, smarter cameras, bigger battery and a desire to beat the iPhone X at its own game. How well does Samsung's new phone stand up to Apple's class-leading flagship? To find out, we pitted the Note 9 against the iPhone X in seven key categories.
Here's how the two phones fared in our face-off.
Galaxy Note 9 vs. iPhone X Specs
|Galaxy Note 9||iPhone X|
|Price||$999, $1,249||$999, $1,149|
|Screen Size (Resolution)||6.4 inches (2960 x 1440)||5.8 inches (2436 x 1125)|
|CPU||Snapdragon 845||A11 Bionic|
|RAM||6GB, 8GB||3GB (based on teardowns)|
|Storage||128GB, 512GB||64GB, 256GB|
|microSD?||Yes, up to 512GB||No|
|Rear Camera||Dual 12-MP (f/1.5-f/2.4)||12-MP wide-angle (f/1.8); 12-MP telephoto (f/2.4)|
|Front Camera||8-MP (f/1.7)||7-MP (f/1.7)|
|Battery||4,000 mAh||2,716 mAh (based on teardowns)|
|Battery Life (Hrs:Mins)||11:26||10:49|
|Size||6.3 x 3 x 0.34 inches||5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches|
|Weight||7.1 ounces||6.1 ounces|
|Colors||Lavender Purple, Ocean Blue||Silver, Space Gray|
If you've seen the Galaxy Note 8, then you know exactly what the Galaxy Note 9 looks like. Samsung kept the same design with this latest model, with only two significant changes. The display is a smidge larger — the Note 9 has a 6.4-inch screen, instead of the 6.3-inch panel on the Note 8 — and Samsung moved the fingerprint sensor to just under the dual rear cameras.
The Note 9 features more color, too, with the phone available in Lavender Purple and Ocean Blue models. That's a bit more striking than the staid silver and space-gray versions of the iPhone X.
But colors are about the only thing that's boring with the iPhone X's design. Apple introduced a completely new look when it unveiled the iPhone X last fall, one that Android phone makers have been quick to copy. Opinions may vary about the notch on the front panel of the phone, which houses the groundbreaking TrueDepth camera while also letting Apple squeeze in more screen real estate. But even critics would have to acknowledge it gives the iPhone X a distinctive look that stands out from the unremarkable slabs other phone makers have churned out recently.
The iPhone X may top the Note 9 for look and feel, but there's one design element it can't match. Samsung's new phone continues to offer a headphone jack, something Apple abandoned in 2016. Mark that as a point in the Note 9's favor.
Winner: iPhone X
Both the iPhone X and Note 9 use OLED panels, and Samsung is betting that bigger is better. The Note 9 offers a 6.4-inch display with 2960 x 1440 resolution, topping the iPhone X's 5.8-inch screen and its 2436 x 1125 resolution.
The Note 9 has the brighter screen of the two phones, registering 604 nits on a light meter, compared with 474 nits for the iPhone X. (That said, when we sat both phones side by side to watch the same movie trailer, the iPhone looked plenty bright, with more intense whites.) The Note 9's screen reproduced 224 percent of the sRGB color gamut, handily beating the iPhone's 128.6 percent score. Based on Delta-E ratings, though, the colors on the iPhone X are more accurate, as its 0.27 score was slightly better than the Note 9's 0.34 rating. (Numbers closer to zero are better.)
Our experience watching the Shazam trailer on both phones backed up those numbers. Everything was more colorful on the Note 9, where the colors were saturated, though not overly so. Compared with the Note 9, colors looked a little washed out on the iPhone X, with Shazam's suit looking more maroon than the juicy red we saw on the display of the Samsung phone.
Regarding viewing angles, the iPhone screen stayed brighter when we turned it from side to side and top to bottom. That said, both phones' colors stayed consistent when we looked at their screens from all angles.
Winner: Galaxy Note 9
The Note 9 picks up a feature Samsung added to the Galaxy S9 lineup — a variable aperture on one of its rear lenses that can shift between f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on lighting conditions. That helps Samsung's flagship phones capture better pictures in low-light settings.
But the camera improvements don't end there with the Note 9. Samsung also built artificial intelligence into its new phone's cameras, with a Scene Optimizer feature that recognizes images and scenarios and adjusts settings on the fly so you can take the best possible picture. It's this combination of improvements that help the Note 9's camera leap ahead of the iPhone X's.
You can really see the Note 9's low-light prowess in this pair of shots taken in New York's Grand Central Terminal. While the Note 9 produces a darker image than what you get from the iPhone, it does a better job handling the backlighting from that glass window. The clock in the center of the frame looks sharper in the Note 9's image, and you can even make out some of the text in the signs below it.
It's a closer contest when it comes to this shot of foliage on a New York City street. Both the iPhone X and the Note 9 did a fine job capturing the different patterns on individual leaves. The iPhone X's shot is certainly the more colorful of the two phones, although the roses appear more blurred in the iPhone’s version. We give the nod to the Note 9 for offering better contrast and depth.
Both phones stumbled when we tested their portrait-mode features, which add artistic blurs to the background of a shot. The Note 9 failed to blur a pillar behind the shoulder of our colleague Caitlin, which negated the effect for the rest of the shot. But the iPhone X incorrectly blurred some of Caitlin's hair. At least the iPhone was able to re-create a more natural skin tone.
The Note 9 enjoys another edge over the iPhone X. A flaw-detection feature on Samsung's new phone alerts you if someone blinked when you took a shot, or if your shaky hands might have produced something that's too blurry. It can also detect when there's too much backlighting, and suggest you try another angle. It's just another way the Note 9 tries to make sure you're getting the best possible shot.
Winner: Galaxy Note 9
It's become a familiar story when comparing Apple's phones to the latest and greatest Android hardware. A new Android flagship emerges with Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon mobile processor, and the iPhone swats it away with the help of its blazing A11 Bionic processor.
The Note 9 does little to change that outcome. Equipped with a Snapdragon 845 processor and 6GB of RAM, Samsung's new phone is one of the fastest Android devices currently available, based on our testing (though not the absolute fastest). But its performance on benchmarks simply doesn't approach what the iPhone X turns in.
Take Geekbench 4, which measures general performance. The Note 9 scored 8,876 on that test, thanks to the processing oomph in the Snapdragon 845 and the large amount of RAM Samsung packs into the phone. But that score's not even within shouting distance of the iPhone X's 10,357 result.
It's much closer on graphics, though the iPhone still tops Samsung's best device. On 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme benchmark, the iPhone X scored 4,994, topping the Note 9's 4,639 tally.
One area where the Note 9 has an edge over the iPhone X is in staying cool when faced with processor-intensive tasks. With the Note 9, Samsung added a carbon-water cooling system while increasing the size of the phone's heat sink. The result is a device that's better able to deliver sustained performance without overheating. Our testing found mixed results when compared with other Android devices, but the Note 9 certainly kept cooler, on average, than the iPhone X when we put both phones through a sustained series of processor-intensive tests.
Winner: iPhone X
The Note 9 goes big with its battery, using a 4,000 mAh power pack. Not only is that an improvement over the 3,300 mAh in last year's Note 8, it also dwarfs the size of the battery inside the iPhone X. (Apple doesn't officially reveal specs on the battery inside its phones, but teardowns suggest a 2,716 mAh battery inside the iPhone X.)
You'd expect the Note 9 to last longer, and it does on our battery test, though it's not as big a gap as you may anticipate. When we had both phones surf continuously on T-Mobile's LTE network until they ran out of power, the Note 9 held out for 11 hours and 26 minutes. We got that result by turning off the phone's adaptive brightness feature; otherwise, the Note 9 died after 11:16.
No matter the setting, that still topped the iPhone X's result: it lasted 10:49 on our battery test. That's nearly an hour better than the average smartphone, but in this face-off of flagships, the Note 9 lasts at least half an hour longer.
The Note 9's battery edge widens when you consider that it supports fast-charging out of the box. If you want to speed up how long it takes your iPhone X to charge, you need to buy a USB-C power adapter. That's a bit of a slap in the face when you're already paying top dollar for a smartphone.
Winner: Galaxy Note 9
It is impossible to think of the Galaxy Note without also thinking of the S Pen, and Samsung did its best to make the new version memorable by adding Bluetooth connectivity to the stylus. That allows you to remotely control your phone, snapping selfies with the S Pen or running a presentation with a click of the stylus' button.
Bluetooth connectivity dramatically expands the S Pen's powers, and that only figures to expand with Samsung providing app makers with tools that let them update their software to take advantage of this new feature.
Another productivity-boosting feature in the Note 9 is the ability to turn your smartphone into a portable PC just by hooking it up to an external monitor via a cable. Previous Samsung flagships required a DeX accessory, but the Note 9 skips that step, making it an even more convenient tool for productivity on the go.
If the Note 9 puts the focus on improving existing features like the S Pen, the iPhone X tries its hand at innovation. And in the case of the Face ID phone-unlocking feature, it delivers. The iPhone X is smart and secure enough to scan your face whenever you want to unlock your phone or confirm an Apple Pay payment. (The Note 9 offers iris scanning as a phone unlocking option, but it's not secure enough to use for mobile payments.) Apple's Animoji are less vital to your daily use of the iPhone, but they sure are a fun way to message your friends using the iPhone X's sophisticated front camera.
Samsung claims to have improved the Bixby virtual assistant built into the Note 9, allowing it to better understand the context of your request and integrating it with third-party apps. There are still some bugs to work out, though, as Bixby struggled to understand our attempts to make dinner reservations when we tested the phone. Siri is occasionally frustrating, but Apple's assistant remains miles ahead of Samsung's work in progress.
The Note 9 ships with Android 8.1 despite the fact that Android 9 Pie shipped days before Samsung unveiled its latest phone. The Note 9 figures to get the latest version of Android eventually, but probably not before the fall debut of Google's own Pixel 3. The iPhone X, meanwhile, runs the latest version of iOS and when the shipping version of iOS 12 debuts, iPhone X owners will be able to download it immediately.
Winner: iPhone X
Both the Note 9 and the iPhone X are among the most expensive phones you can buy, with matching $999 price tags. Retailers are offering dollar-off discounts and buy-one/get-one-free deals as part of the Note 9's launch, but you can find those kinds of offers for the iPhone X with increasing frequency, too.
Where the phones diverge is when you consider storage. Although both phones start at $999, the Note 9 offers double the onboard capacity at 128GB to the iPhone X's 64GB. (A microSD slot on the Note 9 lets you add extra storage, an option not available to iPhone owners.) To beat the 128GB Note 9 owners immediately enjoy, iPhone shoppers have to upgrade to the $1,149 256GB model. The high-end version of the Note 9 costs $100 more at $1,249, but you're getting double the storage (256GB) along with additional RAM (8GB, or 2GB more than the base model.)
Winner: Galaxy Note 9
Overall Winner: iPhone X
The battle between the Note 9 and the iPhone X is about as close as can be, and Apple's phone comes away with a very narrow victory. It all comes down to what you value most in a phone.
Samsung's latest handset scores some big wins. In particular, the Note 9's camera outperforms the iPhone X's, particularly at night and indoors, and the bigger battery in the Samsung phone helps it last longer. We also prefer the Note 9's bigger and more colorful display, and the already impressive S Pen offers even more value now that Bluetooth has been added.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Galaxy Note 9||iPhone X|
|Battery Life (15)||13||12|
|Special Features (10)||8||9|
But the iPhone handily outperforms the Note 9 with its A11 Bionic chip, and its Face ID is a bigger innovation than anything the Note 9 offers. We also prefer the iPhone X's design.
If you want a big-screen phone right now, the Note 9 is certainly appealing, particularly for power users who can put the S Pen to good use. But the iPhone X's powerful processor and striking design keep it at the top of the smartphone heap. And later this fall, Apple may introduce a big-screen phone of its own — the rumored iPhone X Plus — which would open up a new chapter in this smartphone rivalry.
Credit: Tom's Guide