Samsung Galaxy Note 9 hands-on: This is what a $1,250 Android phone feels like

The Note 9 doesn’t come in black.

That was the second biggest surprise Samsung had for me during my Note 9 briefing earlier this week. 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 with Galaxy S9+ specs 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 here, 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.

galaxy note 9 back2Michael Simon/IDG

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

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.

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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.

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