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Samsung Galaxy Note9 First Look: If It Ain’t Broken

The Samsung Galaxy Note9 arrives less than a year after the Note8 introduced Infinity Display and dual rear cameras among others to the best phablet series on the market. Like the Galaxy S9/S9+, the Note9 is a more of a refinement rather than an overhaul over its predecessor, keeping the winning design and display intact while beefing up the power, storage and battery as well as giving its signature companion tool new abilities to play with. This is our first look at the new super phablet.

To say that the Note9 has exactly the same display as the Note8 is not entirely true. The Note9 does pack a 6.4-inch screen to the Note8’s 6.3-incher. While the result isn’t all that apparent, the fact is that we do get a larger screen surface to look at. No one is doubting Samsung’s mastery in delivering the best display period on any smartphone device and the Note9 is Samsung’s best canvas ever to showcase that, until the next Galaxy S or Note phone drops.

Anybody who has picked up the Note8 will be right at home with the Note9 in hand. In short, the same industrial squarish design punctuated with curved sides, super slim side bezels and solid, premium build quality only the very top flagship can offer. There are two things here in the design that will make people happy. Samsung is keeping the headphone jack and moving the rear fingerprint sensor to a more logical central position. The unit we have with us is the Ocean Blue one which has a darker tone than the Deepsea Blue of the Note8. Samsung Malaysia will also be offering the Midnight Black and the new Metallic Copper finish in our market.

Samsung is not adding any crazy triple or quad cameras setup on the Note9 but deem it sufficient to port the Dual Aperture cameras with variable apertures (F1.5 and F2.4) over from the S9 Series and add in a few new software tweaks to it. There’s Scene Optimizer that recognises scenes and detect subjects such as sky, sunrise, sunsets, flowers, animals, food and enhance the colors accordingly. Flaw Detection on the other hand detects when someone blinks, or when there are smudges on the lens and promptly notifies the user to consider adjust for a better shot. It can also suggest to users to turn on the HDR in certain situations for better-looking photos. All these features run automatically in the background when the camera is on. Also, all the S9/S9+ camera features also naturally made their way to the Note8 as you would expect, including super slow-mo. AR Emoji is as clunky as ever.

While the device itself is maintaining status quo for the most part, Samsung is giving the S Pen its time to shine (and several new coats of paint). The addition of Bluetooth Low Energy technology redefines what a stylus can do once again, opens up new possibilities and ways for it to be even more useful in more scenarios. For the first time ever, the S Pen can operate without needing to touch the screen. It’s a remote control now. You can use it to play and pause videos, shuffle through music, as a remote camera shutter button and even a handy presentation slideshow tool when in desktop mode with Samsung DeX. Options to further customise its functionality within different apps are provided.

As a consequence, the S Pen now carries a supercapacitor battery that needs charging. Charging up is as easy as putting the stylus back into the phone. Samsung claims a mere minute charge will give half an hour’s of usage, which is most cases is more than enough for a single use session. Even if the battery dies, you will still be able to use it on the phone like your regular S Pen minus the Bluetooth capabilities so there’s nothing really to worry about. You can monitor the battery level in the S Pen settings page.

Speaking of DeX, Samsung completely eliminates the need for any bulky accessories and all you need is a single USB-C to HDMI dongle from Samsung to transform the phone into a full desktop experience. Simple and clutter-free, just the way we all like it.

The Galaxy Note Series as we know it has always been a productivity phablet but with the Note9, Samsung is trying to add more versatility to it by making it a capable gaming phone as well. Building up from the Note8’s Vulkan API, Samsung is actually including a water-carbon cooling system into the device for gaming purposes. On top of that, a Smart Performance Adjuster feature will automatically adjusts gaming performance to ensure consistent smooth gameplay. Lining perfectly with the gaming phone tag is the addition of stereo speakers tuned by AKG and features Dolby Atmos three-dimension sound. They sound much, much better than any Samsung phones before this.

Further usage and testing of the phone for the full review is needed to gauge its overall performance, including the upgraded 4,000mAh battery. The Galaxy Note9 retails at RM3,699 for the base 6GB RAM with 128GB strorage model and goes up to RM4,599 with 8GB RAM plus 512GB of storage.

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