Galaxy Note9 hands-on: Improved S Pen highlight of new device

The blue model of Samsung Galaxy Note9.
The blue model of Samsung Galaxy Note9.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

NEW YORK CITY - The Samsung Galaxy Note9 has just been launched and I got to spend around 10 minutes with it.

In terms of design, the Note9 does not seem to differ much from its predecessor, Note8. But there are some minute differences.

It has a slightly larger 6.4-inch Super Amoled display compared to Note8's 6.3-inch display, but with the same resolution of 2,960 x 1,440 pixels.

To accommodate its larger 4,000mAh battery, the Note 9 is also slightly thicker at 8.8mm - an increase of 0.2mm from Note8. It is also 6g heavier than the Note8. However, the Note9 is 0.6mm shorter than its predecessor at 161.9mm.

In your hands though, the Note9 does not feel much different from the Note8. The shiny rear is still a smudge and fingerprint magnet.

Speaking of fingerprints, Samsung has moved Note9's fingerprint sensor from its problematic position beside the rear dual-camera system to under it - a similar move it made with the Galaxy S9 it released earlier this year..

The highlight of Note9, however, is the new S Pen stylus. It now comes with Bluetooth Low-Energy (LE), which allows it to be more than just a pen for you to draw or scribble notes.

 
 

For example, you can now use it to activate the camera and control the camera remotely. Press and hold the S Pen button to power up the camera. Once the camera is powered up, you click once to take a picture, double-click to change from rear camera to front-facing camera for taking a selfie.

You can also use the S Pen as a clicker for slide presentations and it can be used as a remote to pause and play videos, though this feature is only currently supported in a few apps like Youtube.

The Note9 takes over the rear dual-camera system of Galaxy S9+. It comes with a 12-megapixel f/1.5 wide-angle and a 12-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto camera.

Plus, the camera comes with a function that identifies elements of a photo, such as subject and scene, to classify it into one of the 20 categories and optimise the photo based on the category. I am not a believer of such automated functions, but I guess it can be useful for camera newbies.

The Note9 comes with the latest 10nm octa-core processor of either either Exynos 9810 or Snapdragon 845, depending on the markets where it is sold. Singapore usually gets the Exynos version. I played the PUBG survival shooter game for a while, and found the performance to be really smooth.

The Note9 no longer requires a DeX dock to provide a PC-like experience. You just need to connect the phone to a monitor using a HDMI adapter to do so.

The Note9 will come in four different colours of Midnight Black, Lavender Purple, Metallic Copper and Ocean Blue. But only the blue model comes with a yellow S Pen, while the other models have an S Pen of matching colour.

I find the Ocean Blue model to be the most striking and beautiful, but I don't understand the need for the yellow S Pen. Perhaps it makes it easier to find a misplaced S Pen.

It might be still too early to tell, but the Note9 is once again looking like a great proposition for those who want a smartphone that packs in nearly everything.