Time to come clean: I haven’t bothered with upgrading my phone, or ‘daily driver’ (barf), since 2015. I know, kind of sacrilege in our fast-moving, consumerist, gadget-happy society. Because who are you if you don’t always have the latest and greatest? Really, what will your friends think? Your disappointed parents? That judgmental dude with the nose piercing scorning you from the Taco Bell drive-through window? I mean, do you even tech, bro?
But to be completely honest, I’ve been really happy with my Note 5 until this point, and for a device that’s been lapped several times over by Samsung’s own relentless parade of new releases, it’s held up incredibly well these past three years. Yeah, it’s starting to show its age with things like application speed and game performance, but it still functions in all the ways I need it to, at least for the most part. I can still make impromptu grocery lists with the S Pen, even though there’s a bit of a delay when launching the notepad. I can still play most games available on the Google Play Store, even though framerates aren’t exactly what they used to be. Probably most annoying is the recent stuttering in apps like Spotify and YouTube—the Note 5, at least in my own experience, just can’t run them at top efficiency anymore.
So, basically, despite all its understandable era-related shortcomings, I’d say I’ve been rather content with my little Note 5-that-could, reluctantly accepting the fact that I would probably be rocking this now-senile phone for the next two or three years, or at least some time into the foreseeable future. That is, until I tried the new Galaxy Note 9, which might have been a massive mistake. Now I can’t go back, which is a problem, because the unit Samsung sent over is for review purposes only and needs to eventually be returned. And now, like desperation personified, I’m seriously considering dishing out the $1,000 to grab a Note 9 of my very own. Why? Because I need another fix. And because it’s that good.
Let’s start with the screen, shall we? The 6.4-inch Super AMOLED might be my favorite feature on the Note 9 just because it’s so damn crisp. Literally everything looks incredible on it, from high definition YouTube videos to interactive content and even run-of-the-mill stuff like app menus and contact lists. Plus the sheer ridiculous size of the display makes playing games a real delight. In that sense, it almost acts like one of Samsung’s ultra-wide PC gaming monitors, delivering a sense of periphery that I never experienced on my Note 5. Really, no matter what you’re doing on the Note 9, its huge screen amps up the enjoyment factor tenfold. Sometimes I’ll just swipe through menus idly because it feels and looks so good.
Speaking of that Super AMOLED, I’ve been playing several games on the Note 9 that really showcase what it’s capable of. I started with the Android port of Fortnite (because it’s 2018 and I want people to think I’m cool), initial impressions of which you can read here. I’ll admit that at first, I wasn’t extremely impressed with how it ran on Samsung’s new hardware, but this version has grown on me significantly since those early days. It’s still isn’t perfect—a little stuttery, a little janky—but Epic Games’ multiplayer sensation running on the Note 9 is still a sight to behold. Amazing that such a huge title has been shrunken down to function on today’s pocket computers, and this phone might be the best way to play it while travelling or laying in bed. It’s all bright colors and sweeping expanses, perfect to show off the power of Samsung’s new device.
The other game I’ve been playing a whole bunch on the Note 9 is the recently released Asphalt 9, which looks flipping amazing on the AMOLED and runs flawlessly. Imagine a current-gen Burnout game for mobile devices and you’ll have a rough idea of the fast-driving insanity involved. If you’d like to read about other graphical Note 9 showcases, you can check out my recent article here. Though I’ll say this: 2D games also show really well on the Note 9, even better than flashy 3D games in some cases. Because of how sharp the Super AMOLED is, sprites and other similar assets truly shine by way of their clean simplicity. So if you pick up the phone, I’d recommend checking out all kinds of software, not just of the ostentatious AAA variety.
But it’s not just about the games, of course. The Note 9 is filled with all kinds of solid features and upgrades that, I think, make it worth owning. The camera also takes some truly amazing photos, and I’ve included an image below for reference (I’m not sponsored by Trolli, but hey, if they want to send over some complimentary gummi candy, I won’t stop them). It had to be shrunk down a bit to fit into this post, but it’ll give you a general impression of basic image quality. There’s also the Super Slo-Mo feature that’s a lot of fun, if not a tad superfluous, to use. The improved S Pen, which supposedly charges in full within a minute of plugging it into the Note 9, is great for remotely triggering snapshots, as well as pausing and unpausing YouTube videos. The pen is a bit of a luxury, but like on my Note 5, it’s invaluable for taking quick notes or cropping screenshots. Now it’s just better in every conceivable way.
Things just run extremely well on this phone. Like, I love the fact that I can have a minimized YouTube video running while I’m texting or web surfing, all without a single hiccup in performance. Apps open and close with lightning-fast responsiveness, so in other words, the Note 9 will essentially move as quickly as you need it to. There’s no waiting involved. Only zipping around between tasks with a seamless work flow that’s almost intimidating to witness. Digital freedom by way of shocking efficiency.
Add to all that a 4,000mAh battery that lasts for hours upon hours (mostly entire days during my testing), even while pwning noobs in Fortnite, and you’ve got one hell of a productivity/entertainment device. Yes, it’s pricey, clocking in between $1,000 for the base model and $1,250 for the higher capacity one, but I think you’re getting what you pay for. Which seems to be the nail in the coffin for my beloved Note 5. Is it weird to give a eulogy for a phone? Rest in peace, soulless piece of mobile hardware. We knew ye well, but you’ve been out-Noted.