Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: Peak Infinity Display

Gelo Gonzales
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: Peak Infinity Display
The Note 9 will likely be the last to sport this design before the S10 introduces a new form in early 2019

When the Samsung Galaxy S8 was released in March 2017 – barely 2 years ago, but an infinity in tech years – it was groundbreaking. It was stunning, a victory in modern design, and an example of how aesthetics can literally be shaped by cutting-edge display materials. Bye, edges. 

Even now, the S8’s display, the Infinity Display, beckons one to hold it close to the face, view it from the side, and be befuddled by its almost-impossibility. 

The Note 9 carries on that curved edge legacy. Even with many other near-bezel-free phones now, the Note 9 and its Infinity Display still do it best. That fact alone somewhat puts the Note 9 in a category of its own – if you have wads of cash this Christmas and want the best-looking curved display, you’d have to go for the Note 9.

Or there’s always last year’s Note 8, if the Note 9 is too expensive – and it is, with the Note 9 starting at P55,990. It’s P6,000 more expensive than the Note 8 at launch. The Note 8, by the way, may be the 9’s biggest competition – same core experience and design, still pretty great, but now a whole lot more palatable to the wallet. 

You do miss out on a few important things if you spring for the Note 8. First, and most intriguing of all, are the new S-Pen capabilities. The Note 9’s S-Pen can act like a remote as Samsung has equipped it with a Bluetooth transmitter and a supercapacitor. It charges when it’s inside the phone, giving you around 30 minutes of S-Pen action after 40 seconds of charging. 

And what do you do with those 30 minutes? You can press the S-Pen button to snap photos, skip a song, flip through a Powerpoint presentation, and browse through a gallery remotely. And like last year’s Huawei Mate 10, the Note 9 can now also be connected to a monitor with just a standard USB-C HDMI dongle as opposed to requiring a Dex desktop mode dock.

Nifty tricks, to say the least, especially the remote photo-taking part, although in real-world use, it’s not exactly that easy to find a nice spot for the phone to take ideal photos. You’ll likely find use for it, but it’s less practical than advertised.  

Users will likely find more mileage from the Note 9’s 4,000 mAh battery.

After the ill-fated Note 7, which had a 3,500 mAh battery that exploded, Samsung really dialled things down with the Note 8, which had a 3,300 mAh battery. The S-Pen-less S8 and S9 had a 3,000 mAh battery while the S8+ and S9+ had a 3,500 mAh battery.

Perhaps more confident now again, and having new safety check measures post-Note 7, Samsung finally reaches the 4,000 mAh-mark for its flagship model, allowing it to last an entire day on regular use. It also has fast wireless charging, carried over from the Note 8. 

The battery makes sense for the phone too as it carries the biggest Note display yet at 6.4 inches, 0.1 of an inch bigger than the Note 8’s. It’s big obviously, but that’s how power users – for whom the phone is targeted – like it. Other things that power users will like: a top variant with 512GB of storage, and 8GB of RAM, and if you’re really greedy, a microSD slot that can handle up to 512GB as well. All variants carry the 512GB microSD capability. Be warned though, the 512GB Note 9 is priced at P75,990. 

Another nice change from the Note 8 is that the fingerprint sensor has been moved below the rear camera array. In the Note 8, the sensor was beside the array, resulting often in smudged cameras. It’s also the first Note to have stereo speakers, though not the first Samsung flagship to do it. The S9 and S9+, introduced earlier, also have stereo speakers. And unlike dual cameras, stereo speakers always have an inherent advantage over a mono setup.

In essence, the Note 9 is peak Infinity Display – representing all of Samsung’s refinements from the S8 to the Note 8, and to be fair to its ancestors, the S6 Edge and S7 Edge as well, and likely the last Infinity Display phone as the next-in-line Samsung Galaxy S10 is expected to have a new design. 

If value for money is what you’re after, well, there are a lot more practical flagship choices out there in the sub-P30,000 to P40,000 range from the likes of Huawei, OPPO, Xiaomi, and even ASUS. That’s currently a given now. The performance you can get from the Apple and Samsung flagships, for the daily user, can be more or less replicated by cheaper phones from Chinese brands.

But if budget is no issue, and you want to have one of the most sophisticated phones out there with a longer pedigree and history than most others, you can’t go wrong with the Note 9. This isn’t to say that there aren’t other beautiful phones out there. OPPO made a case for its Find X to be launched at the Louvre in Paris, Huawei dazzled with the gradient hues of the P20 Pro, and Apple, well, you can just insert your notch jokes here.

But perhaps because Samsung’s been in the flagship game longer, there’s a certain confidence and sophistication to the Note’s form that other brands beyond Apple are just finding now. –

(Full disclosure: Samsung lent a review unit for the purposes of this article.)

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.