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Another first for the Note.

PCWorld (USA) - - Contents - BY MICHAEL SI­MON

The Note 9 doesn’t come in black. That was the sec­ond big­gest sur­prise Sam­sung had for me dur­ing my Note 9 brief­ing in early Au­gust. The first was the price: $1,000 for the 128GB base model and an eye-pop­ping $1,250 for the 512GB ver­sion. That’s $100 more than the top-of-the-line iphone X (which only has 256GB of stor­age), for those keep­ing score.

So Sam­sung’s Note 9 brings another first for the An­droid world: sticker shock.

Oth­er­wise, Sam­sung’s new­est ph­ablet is pretty much ex­actly what I ex­pected it to be, what with an end­less stream of leaks and ru­mors spilling nearly ev­ery bean there was to be spilled. I al­ready knew about the pro­ces­sor, the new S Pen, the stor­age in­crease, and the AI cam­era. The Note 9 is ba­si­cally a Note 8 ( go.pc­world.com/n8rv) with Galaxy S9+ specs ( go.pc­world.com/ s9rv) and a more log­i­cal fin­ger­print sen­sor place­ment.

The dis­play is a tenth of an inch big­ger than its pre­de­ces­sor, but I might not have no­ticed when I picked up the Note 9 for the first time, if not for its weight. The Note 8 is al­ready one of the heav­i­est phones you can buy, but the new Note adds no­tice­able heft, push­ing it over the 200 gram mark.

But the Note has never been de­signed for use with one hand, so that prob­a­bly won’t be an is­sue for any­one who buys one. The new hand­set doesn’t bring any truly rev­o­lu­tion­ary fea­tures or wild innovations like prior Galaxy phones, but if you’re a Note fan, No. 9 checks off more than enough up­grade boxes. Whether that’s worth four fig­ures is another story.

PACKED WITH POWER

The tar­get au­di­ence for the Note has al­ways been power users, and the Note 9 is squarely aimed at multi-taskers (or, as Sam­sung calls them, hy­per taskers). You can check out the full specs of the Note 9 at go.pc­world.com/ s9sp, but you can pretty much guess what a phone cost­ing $1,000 in late 2018 has on the in­side. Of note, Sam­sung has dou­bled the base stor­age from 64GB to 128GB, but real power users will be more in­trigued by the 512GB ver­sion. That’s twice the stor­age Ap­ple of­fers on the top-of-the-line iphone X. The 512GB model also comes with 8GB of RAM, the most ever in a Note phone.

It also packs a 4,000mah bat­tery, another first for a Galaxy phone and a de­cent 20 per­cent boost over the Note 8’s 3,300mah cell. Sam­sung is well aware that the Note 7 re­call is still fresh in our minds, so I was as­sured that the new phone has gone through the same rig­or­ous test­ing as ev­ery other post-note 7 phone.

Sam­sung could have eas­ily put a 3,500mah bat­tery in the Note 9 and called it a day, so it’s good to see the en­ve­lope be­ing pushed again. Buy­ers of the Note—es­pe­cially

ones will­ing to pay over $1,000 for one—are more in­ter­ested in power than AR Emoji, and Sam­sung has cer­tainly de­liv­ered with the Note. The only knock on its spec sheet is that it’s still run­ning an OS based on Oreo, which is tech­ni­cally out­dated now that Pie has ar­rived.

ANOTHER CAM­ERA WITH AI IN­SIDE

The cam­era in­side the Note 9 is the most sur­pris­ing fea­ture, pre­cisely be­cause there are no hard­ware up­grades. Spec-wise, it’s iden­ti­cal to the S9+, right down to the gim­micky Dual Aper­ture. What’s dif­fer­ent is a dose of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence in the form of an op­tional scene op­ti­mizer. We’ve al­ready seen sim­i­lar sys­tems in phones like the Mate 10 Pro and the LG G7 Thinq with vary­ing re­sults, so it re­mains to be seen if it’s suc­cess­ful on the Note 9.

Here’s how it works: Sam­sung has pre­loaded some 20 scenes for things like food, sun­sets, and plants. Point the cam­era at an ob­ject and the Note 9 will at­tempt to iden­tify what it’s look­ing at via a small icon above the shut­ter. I only got to test it with very ob­vi­ous things like plants and fruit, but it switched set­tings quickly and did a fine job ad­just­ing color, con­trast, and white bal­ance, at least to my eyes. I’ll be sure to test it thor­oughly in my full re­view, but at first blush, I wasn’t blown away. It seems more like a fea­ture geared to­ward a cheaper phone with more mass ap­peal, like the S9.

THE S PEN IS MIGHT­IER

Specs and smarts aside, the main rea­son for the Note’s ex­is­tence has al­ways started and ended with the S-pen. The Note is one of the few phones to come with a sty­lus on board, and Sam­sung has done well to in­te­grate the S Pen into the Note ex­pe­ri­ence over the years, with the Air Com­mand menu and Screen Off Me­mos bring­ing unique fea­tures that you won’t find on any other phone.

The S Pen on the Note 9 doesn’t look or feel any dif­fer­ently than the one on the Note 8 (aside from the new yel­low and laven­der col­ors), but there is one ma­jor change. Sam­sung has fi­nally added Blue­tooth Low En­ergy to its S Pen, giv­ing it the abil­ity to con­trol the phone re­motely with­out need­ing

to touch the pen’s tip to the screen. It’s a big up­grade with tons of po­ten­tial, but the ap­pli­ca­tions are pretty lim­ited at launch.

Since the pen does all of its pair­ing and charg­ing when in­serted into the phone, it’s a re­mark­ably sim­ple process, but I’m not sure how of­ten peo­ple will take ad­van­tage of its re­mote ca­pa­bil­i­ties or even know they’re avail­able. Sam­sung showed off its abil­ity to con­trol the cam­era re­motely just by press­ing the S Pen’s but­ton, and there are a few other ob­vi­ous uses while play­ing mu­sic or ad­vanc­ing slides. Mu­sic con­trol is prob­a­bly the most use­ful—es­pe­cially with its Dolby Atmos-ready stereo speak­ers—but even so, I failed to find an im­me­di­ate killer use.

Maybe that will change over time. Just a hand­ful of apps will work with the new S Pen at launch, and ul­ti­mately its use­ful­ness will be de­pen­dent on devel­op­ers’ cre­ativ­ity. Thank­fully, all of the old S Pen func­tions still work, even if the sty­lus isn’t charged. But lack of juice will never be an is­sue. The S Pen is con­stantly charg­ing when cra­dled, and needs just 40 sec­onds to get enough juice for a half-hour of use.

IS THE NOTE 9 WORTH THE PRICE?

The fi­nal piece of the Note’s pro­duc­tiv­ity push is DEX. Like the Note 8, the Note 9 can be ex­panded to run on an ex­ter­nal mon­i­tor, but you don’t need to buy a $100 ac­ces­sory any­more. Just a sin­gle USB-C-TO-HDMI adapter will do the trick, sig­nif­i­cantly low­er­ing the bar for adop­tion. It ba­si­cally works the same as the docked ver­sion—plug it in, add a key­board, and use your phone as a track­pad—but the new con­nec­tion is both cheaper and more por­ta­ble. We al­ready saw this on the Galaxy Tab S4 that launched last week ( go.pc­world.com/tbs4), and it’s a great evo­lu­tion of an un­der­rated fea­ture.

But for all its abil­i­ties, the most stun­ning thing about the Note 9 might be its price. Of course, Ap­ple was the first to sell a four-fig­ure phone, but the iphone X rep­re­sents a dra­matic change for the iphone with new tech and a rad­i­cal de­sign. The Note 9 is a in­cre­men­tal up­date with an out­dated op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

And this year you can’t even buy one in black.

The fin­ger­print sen­sor on the Galaxy Note 9 is in a bet­ter spot this year.

That tiny fork-and-knife icon lets you know the Note 9’s cam­era has rec­og­nized it’s look­ing at food.

You can still use the S Pen on the Note like be­fore, which is what most peo­ple will prob­a­bly do.

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