$1,000 Be Damned: Why I’m Upgrading to a Note 9

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When it comes to my phones, it's pretty well known that I'm an Android girl. But I'm not just a fan of any Android smartphone — I'm a Samsung fan. Sure, there have been a few brief dalliances over the years with a Google Pixel or a Motorola Droid. But at the end of the day, I ride for Samsung phones, particularly Notes.

Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's GuideAs a journalist, the ability to jot something down at a moment's notice sold me on the Note 8 and its Screen Off memo feature. And it's hard to say no to that big, beautiful, near bezel-free display and that long-lasting battery.

But as much as I love my Note 8 — and trust me, I love this thing — it might be time for me to shell out at least $1,000 and make the jump to the Note 9 despite my goal to hold on to my beloved 8 for at least two years.

Design

Typically, Samsung doesn't like to play with color on its smartphones until at least six months after the initial launch. This time, the company is embracing its colorful side right out of the box. Instead of the tried-and-true choices of black or silver, Note fans like myself can looks forward to Lavender Purple, Midnight Black, Metallic Copper and Ocean Blue. Unfortunately, it seems only the Lavender Purple and Ocean Blue models will be available in the U.S. at launch.

If you go the Ocean Blue route, the phone will use a bright yellow S Pen that will write in yellow in Screen-off memo mode, which is a small, but cool touch highlighting the company's attention to detail. However, I'd be inclined to wait a bit longer for the Note 9 if Samsung announces a red handset (fingers crossed).

At 7.1 ounces, 6.3 x 3 x 0.3 inches, the Note 9 is slightly heavier and wider than the Note 8 (6.9 ounces, 6.4 x 2.9 x 9.3 inches). That's still a grippable circumference for most hands. I didn't experience any problems holding it, but I also have a freakishly long thumb. The Note 9 is definitely flatter than its predecessor, which means the curve is a lot more evened out, which makes it easier to handle.

Another notable difference is the fingerprint scanner placement. Instead of next to the camera like you see on the Note 8, the scanner is now positioned just below the rear shooter. That should cut down on people accidently tapping the camera when they're trying to unlock their phone.

MORE: Samsung Will Use These Freebies to Sweeten the Deal on Note 9

Display

At 6.4 inches, the Note 9's display is a tad larger than the Note 8's (6.3 inches). However, both panels have the same resolution 2960 x 1440 and use the same incredibly vivid Super AMOLED screen, which should make gaming and watching movies a cacophony of color.

And thanks its near-bezeless design (with no pesky notch getting in the way), you get a lot more screen real estate to enjoy. Still, it would have been nice if Samsung could have gotten rid of the bezel completely. I guess I'll have to wait until the Galaxy S10 for that. Another nice to, but we don't have is an in-screen fingerprint reader which would have eliminated the need for it in the back.

Camera

No matter how good the camera is on a smartphone, it seems I'm doomed to taking blurry, overblown shots. However, that might not be the case with the Note 9. Samsung is the latest smartphone manufacturer to add AI-assisted cameras. Samsung's new cameras will recognize 20 types of scenes and will automatically adapt to deliver shots that will make even the most seasoned smartphone photog jealous. That means that when I'm trying to get a nighttime shot of the New York City skyline, it should be Instagram fresh.

S Pen

Cue the Harry Potter references. My beloved S Pen has gone and learned a few new tricks in time for the Note 9. Now Bluetooth-enabled, you can use the peripheral as a remote control with several apps. If you're aching to take a wide-shot selfie but don't want to potentially ruin the perfect pose by reaching for the camera button, you can simply double-tap the button on the side of the pen to launch the camera app. Press the button again when you'll be ready to snap the shot.

Music lovers like myself can use the S Pen to control music playback while mobile professionals can use the S Pen to advance the slides in a presentation. You'll also have the ability to customize the pen's functionality in the settings menu. And since Samsung is opening up the SDK to third-party developers, you can expect more cool tricks in the months to come.

Bixby

Bixby 2.0 is here and it's a lot more chatty. The digital assistant is a big highlight of the phone. Instead of having to say "Hey Bixby" before every query, the updated software will recognize questions related to the previous question. So if you inquire about concerts occuring during a certain time frame, and asking about another date will pull up those queries naturally. You’ll also be able to book a car through Uber without opening the app.

MORE: Galaxy Note 9 S Pen Will Have This Surprise

Performance

So much power! While some might consider the Note 9 an incremental Improvement to its predecessor, it's processor is definitely not. The Note 9 comes bearing an octo-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 CPU with either 6 or 8GB of RAM, an Adreno 630 GPU and up to 512GB of expandable storage. The more powerful chip can perform between 25 percent better than its predecessor's CPU and 30 percent for the GPU depending on the app.

That new Snapdragon chip also bodes well for internet speeds as it has Qualcomm's Cat 18 modem. When we tested it in the S9, spanked the Apple iPhone X.

Since Samsung has a partnership with Epic Games, the Note 9 will have early access to Fortnite. All that gaming can be taxing on your precious CPU and GPU. To keep things relatively cool, the Note 9 has a carbon water cooling chamber as well as a thermal spreader. Plus, the Note 9's heat sink is three times larger.

Productivity

Being the only Android phone capable of playing Fortnite is cool, but sometimes, you've got to get some actual work done. In those instances, you can use Samsung's DeX technology to transform the phone into a viable mini PC. But instead of investing in an additional peripheral, all you'll have to do is connect your smartphone to an external monitor with a DisplayPort-enabled USB Type-C port and you'll have a mobile workstation that uses your handset as a touchpad.

Battery Life

One of the best things about the Note line of smartphones is the battery as they're typically bigger than what you'd get on a regular Galaxy phone. Samsung is doubling down on this tradition but cramming a 4,000 mAH battery into the Note 9. That's the biggest battery Samsung has ever used for a smartphone. The company is promising all-day battery life, I'm optimistic, but I'll reserve my final judgment for when we run our battery test in the lab.

Bottom Line

I love big phones. I love the girth and heft of them. I love their massive screens and batteries. But most importantly, I love when a phone allows me to be productive, like truly productive -- like "I have an article due and I forgot my laptop at home, Note don't fail me now" productive. The Galaxy Note 8 and the Notes before that have allowed me to do that.

But the Note 9 is looking to take my mobile gaming, writing, selfies to the next level and has a massive battery and powerful processor to support the whole thing effortlessly. I'm going to wait until our review of the smartphone to make my final decision, but I think I found my next phone.