One month with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Glorious S Pen functionality, long battery life, and reliable performance

I enjoyed the Galaxy Note 8, but there were a few things that kept me from complete joy. Samsung addressed those with the Note 9 and I think it's a phone made to exactly satisfy all of my needs and desires.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

I started using an evaluation Galaxy Note 9, see my full review, on 9 August and just past a month of use with it and my own phone. There has not been a single day that the phone has not impressed me and there is still more to discover as I continue exploring all of its capabilities.

When our 10 best smartphones list was updated a few weeks ago, the Note 9 made its way to the top. We know that Apple will announce a few phones this week and given everything we know, the Galaxy Note 9 is likely to keep that top spot with one of the best devices for business..

As I look back over the last month of use and towards the future, here are nine things I love about the Galaxy Note 9:

  1. S Pen: The S Pen has always been the key differentiator for Note fans and with the Note 8 I was using it quite a bit for easy navigation and text entry, hovering over email to preview the content, screen off memos, enjoyable browsing with hover scrolling, fun and personal Live Messages, quick magnification, and much more. The Note 9 extends that functionality even further with Bluetooth remote control capability. There is even more to come too as Samsung will be opening up the S Pen SDK to developers so the S Pen will truly be something unique in the smartphone world.
  2. Display: The Infinity Display is the killer feature of the Galaxy Note 9 and although we might sound like a broken record, DisplayMate keeps confirming that Samsung sets the bar for smartphone displays. The 6.4 inches is stunning and I've been watching more content than ever before thanks to the big, beautiful screen.
  3. Long battery life: Samsung failed with the Note 7 and then was a bit apprehensive with the Note 8 battery capacity. With the Note 9, Samsung went all in and offers a 4,000 mAh battery that has gotten me through every single day since I started using it. I push my phones pretty hard during the day and while I can't go multiple days, the Note 9 gets me through a full and complete day. The only other phone that has been able to do that for me has been the Huawei P20 Pro that also has a 4,000 mAh battery.
  4. Galaxy apps: While Google offers core apps in Android, I would argue that Samsung's own apps are better for productivity, efficiency, and functionality. Some argue against anything but stock apps, but in this case using the Samsung apps on a Galaxy Note 9 is a better choice.
  5. Always On Display: It's a subtle feature on the Note 9 that is found in a few other devices, but once you have it on a device it is tough to go back to something like the iPhone where you cannot just glance over and see basic status and notification information with no effort required by you. I also like that you can double tap on a notification to jump directly into the app that originated the notification.
  6. Dual rear cameras: The Samsung cameras have been excellent the last couple of years and the Note 9 extends what was started with the Galaxy S9 Plus. In addition to the dual camera setup, intelligence has been added to the cameras to help you take even better photos.
  7. Multiple ways to lock your phone: With the Galaxy Note 9, you can set it up to unlock via facial recognition, iris scanning, fingerprint, pattern, PIN, password, and Google Smart Lock. Samsung improved the speed of unlocking with an iris scan/facial recognition combination option as well as moving the fingerprint scanner to the center of the back. I've never been frustrated with the Note 9, while the Note 8 regularly irritated me with its offcenter fingerpring scanner.
  8. Wireless performance: I've tested several smartphones over the past couple of months during my typical daily routine and while the Huawei P20 Pro just eeked out the Galaxy Note 9 when it comes to RF signal strength, running speed tests on both revealed that the Note 9 blew the doors off of the P20 Pro. Samsung devices are known for outstanding reception and performance, both extremely important for the best smartphone experience. Too often, signal strength and performance are overlooked.
  9. Samsung DeX: People use their smartphones for everything and with the improvements in Samsung DeX, check out our complete Executive Guide, the reality of using your phone as your only computer are close to being realized. A DeX docking station is no longer required so all you need to do is plug in an HDMI cable. The experience has been improved over past Samsung devices and there are very few limitations to getting work done.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is about as perfect of a smartphone as you can find. I honestly cannot think of a single thing it is missing, which is not something I can say about other recent flagships. The Note 9 has a 3.5mm headset jack, microSD expansion card, amazing dual camera, and much more. I carry it around as my only device and thanks to the big battery, I don't even have to worry about trying to find a charger throughout the day.

I continue to explore Bixby as I think it has the potential to be a valuable service for the Note 9, but I'm not there yet as I haven't found the time to focus just on the Bixby experience. Even without Bixby, nothing beats the Note 9.

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