The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 is now available to buy, replacing the Galaxy Note 10 range. But what about the Galaxy Note 9 – is it still worth a buy in 2020?
OK, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is now a couple of years old. But if you’re looking to save some cash in 2020 but still want a massively powerful phone, is the Galaxy Note 9 worth a look?
Speaking personally, the Galaxy Note 9 is my favorite Galaxy Note release in recent times. I prefer its design to the Galaxy Note 10; I find it easier to use and the display is better suited to my style of usage. On top of this, the Note 9’s specs are still very impressive. Even by 2020 stands. If you’re interested in a newer Samsung phone, you can check out all the latest deals for Samsung’s most recent phones here.
The Galaxy Note 9 was also recently updated to Android 10 as well, although this will most likely be its last major update. Not that this is an issue as you’ll find out later on in this post.
And for just $399.99 via Amazon, the Note 9 is now super-affordable which means you can buy outright and shop around for an EPIC SIM-only plan (like this one from Three, which nets you unlimited everything). In the UK? You can grab one for around £299.99, making it a full £119 cheaper than Apple’s new iPhone SE 2020.
So, with that in mind, let’s kick off this post with the #1 reasons why the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is 100% worth a look in 2020…
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 PROS – Why It’s Still Worth It
#1) The Design – It’s Stunning
I like Samsung’s industrial design. I do. But for my style of usage, the Galaxy Note 9’s overall design and finish are just better than the fancier Galaxy Note 10. I prefer the button layout, I prefer the way it looks front-on, and I like that it feels nice and robust in my hand.
This is obviously a subjective point; the Note 10 is a stunning-looking handset. But I think it loses some of its utility in favor of design, whereas the Note 9 suffers from none of this.
It feels great in the hand, looks as premium as can be, and it is such a functional device that I could honestly use it for years to come.
I mean, think about it: you’re getting a notch-less HDR OLED display, brilliant front and rear cameras, IP68 water resistance, a headphone jack, stereo speakers, AND a curved edge-to-edge display. The engineering here is just mega impressive and, for me, is Samsung at its very best.
#2) Great Specs, Great Performance
When the Galaxy Note 9 launched, it was one of the most expensive phones on the market. You did get A LOT of phone for your money, however, as Samsung basically outfitted the Note 9 with pretty much everything you could need – from facial unlocking and advanced front and rear cameras to high-performance memory and CPUs.
Samsung basically took everything that everybody else was doing and crammed it inside the Galaxy Note 9. And, lest we forget, the Galaxy Note 9 also comes with the S-Pen, a super-useful stylus that you can use to take notes, activate the shutter on your camera, and a bunch of other useful things to boot.
Things have moved on in the last couple of years. But not so much that the Galaxy Note 9 no longer feels snappy with respect to performance. You have a metric ton of memory (6/8GB of RAM), plenty of storage (128GB/512GB), MicroSD-support for expandable storage, and a sizeable 4000mAh battery that delivers all-day battery life, even with heavy usage.
For 99.9% of users, that is more than enough spec to get things done. In fact, I don’t see the Galaxy Note 9 being in any worse a position by the close of 2021; the specs and hardware are supremely potent. The only potential issue you might run into relates to Android updates but there are plenty of ways to negate this problem.
#3) The S-Pen
I’ve used nearly all of Samsung’s Galaxy Note releases, but it wasn’t until I started using the Galaxy Note 9 that I began to actually appreciate and use Samsung’s S-Pen. Having the S-Pen, for me, at least, isn’t a deal-breaker. The Note 9 would be brilliant even if it didn’t come with a stylus. In this context, however, as ever, the S-Pen is just the cherry on the cake.
So what can the S-Pen do? Glad you asked! Here’s a breakdown of some of the S-Pen’s most useful features:
- You Can Use It As Remote
- It Can Unlock Your Phone
- Use It To Write Notes, Emails, Messages
- Use It As A Trigger For The Note 9’s Camera Shutter
- You Can Use The S-Pen To Edit Images & Video
- You Can Use It To Control Presentations
- It Can Annotate Documents
Basically, Samsung’s S-Pen is pretty darn useful. I’m not an S-Pen power-user by any means, but I would seriously miss mine if I misplaced or lost it. And that should tell you everything you need to know about the Galaxy Note 9’s S-Pen.
#4) The Camera is Decent Too
Camera tech has moved on A LOT in the past couple of generations. But even so, the Note 9’s camera setup is still very good. I mean, take a look at these specs:
Wide-Angle Dual Pixel 12MP AF Sensor
- Sensor size: 1/2.55″
- Pixel Size: 1.4µm
- Sensor ratio: 4:3
- 77-degree field of view
- Dual Aperture: f/1.5 mode, f/2.4 mode
- 12MP AF sensor
- Sensor size: 1/3.4″
- Pixel Size: 1.0µm
- Sensor ratio: 4:3
- 45-degree field of view
- f/2.4 aperture
On top of this, you also get the following added extras, which include:
- Dual OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)
- VDIS (Video Digital Image Stabilization)
- Optical zoom: 2X
- Digital zoom: 10X
- Scene optimizer
- Flaw detection
- Modes: Live Focus, Auto, Pro, Panorama, Dual Capture, Super Slow-Mo, AR Emoji, Hyperlapse, HDR, Motion Photo
- Video recording: 4K 60fps, 4K 30fps, QHD 30fps, 1080p 240fps, 1080p 60fps, 1080p 30fps, 720p 960fps, 720p 30fps
Bottom line? The Note 9’s camera might not be quite as advanced as the Galaxy Note 10’s or the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s but it is still a very impressive imaging unit, complete with all the mod-cons you’d expect from a phone of this caliber.
As a point and shoot device, the Note 9’s camera is very impressive, producing natural-looking shots that will be ideal for uploading to social media and online. It’s not iPhone 11 Pro or Pixel 4 XL-grade, but it is still damn good. And for 99.9% of people, it’ll be more than enough.
#5) The AMOLED Display is Top Notch
Samsung makes very good OLED displays, and the Note 9’s – at the time of launch, so 2018 – was by far and away the best on the market, surpassing Apple, LG, and pretty much everybody else in the space. Have things moved on a lot since then? Kind of – but not too much.
The biggest change that is coming to the Galaxy Note 20, with respect to display tech, is that it’ll have a 120Hz refresh rate. The Note 9, like the Note 10, runs at 60Hz, so, in this respect, there’s not much between the two phones. Both are OLED and both look truly stunning and perform brilliantly in nearly all settings.
If you’re coming from a non-OLED display, like an older iPhone model, or a cheaper Android phone, the Galaxy Note 9’s display will look otherworldly with its brightness, accurate color balance, and void-like blacks. Given the quality of the Note 9’s display, I don’t think newer advancements in OLED panels (notable 120Hz refresh rates) is something that should put you off this phone.
#6) Brilliant Audio Performance
If you’re an audio bug, and you’ve never owned a phone with professional-grade audio components in it, the Galaxy Note 9 will blow your socks off, providing you have a decent pair of headphones. Samsung outfitted the Note 9 with Dolby Atmos, Dual Audio, stereo speakers, a 7-band equalizer, and the handset itself even comes bundled with a decent pair of AKG earbuds.
The speaker’s performance on the Note 9 is better than the Note 10’s too; it’s louder and more detailed. How did this happen? In a bid to reduce the size of the Galaxy Note 10, Samsung changed the speaker array, removing much of the Note 9’s audio clout. If speaker performance is important to you, the Note 9’s is better than the Note 10.
#7) It Has A Fingerprint Reader
I don’t mind facial recognition or in-screen fingerprint sensors, but I do tend to prefer a good old, back-mounted fingerprint sensor. I find them to be quicker to use, easier to access, and more consistent with respect to overall performance.
I discovered this when I tested the Pixel 4 XL and got completely frustrated with its not-quite-there facial recognition software. Had it used a fingerprint scanner on its rear, this wouldn’t have been an issue. But it didn’t, so…
The Galaxy Note 9 doesn’t suffer from this problem; it has a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner (it’s located just beneath the camera unit) and it works perfectly every time. If you’re not a fan of facial recognition software, the Note 9 is a great option because it still uses the trusty fingerprint scanner for accessing your phone securely.
#8) It’s Now Less Than $400!
The Galaxy Note 9 is an exceptional phone. When it came out, it was easily the best Android phone on the market for a solid 12-18 months after its release – nothing else came close. Things have changed quite a bit since then, so I wouldn’t say the Note 9 is the best anymore. But it is still very, very good – even when compared to handsets like the iPhone 11.
But the thing that NOW makes this phone so special is that you can pick it up for just $399.99 via Amazon – and that’s the 128GB version. That price for this phone is incredible.
The phone is unlocked too, so you can customize the ROM and shop around for brilliant SIM-only deals to keep your monthly costs down. For less than $400, I really cannot think of another phone that delivers quite as much as the Note 9. It literally has everything you could ever need or want from a modern smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 CONS – Things To Keep In Mind
#1) It Might Not Get Android 11 Update
Will the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 get Android 11? There’s no technical reason it wouldn’t get the latest iteration of Google’s Android software. However, Samsung’s track record with Android updates is terrible, so I wouldn’t bet my house on the Note 9 getting Android 11 when it comes out later on in 2020.
Having said that, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can unlock the Note 9’s bootloader and install a custom ROM like Lineage OS. This will bring your phone well and truly up to date. It will also improve performance too, as Lineage OS is way more lightweight than Samsung’s bloated Android software.
In fact, if you buy an older Android phone, it is 100% worth flashing it with a new ROM. I use Lineage OS because it is stable, it looks great, and it is constantly updated, so you’ve always got the latest features and security patches. It can be complicated to do if you’ve never done it before, but there are plenty of online resources available to help you.
#2) You’ll Miss Out on 5G & 120Hz Refresh Rate Displays
As noted above, the Note 9’s OLED display is immense. It’s a 60Hz OLED panel that not only looks totally badass in any setting but is also great for viewing media like films and reading text on sites like ours. The Note 20, which lands in August 2020, however, will have double the refresh rate of the Note 9 at 120Hz, just like the Galaxy S20.
Now, this isn’t a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination. Higher refresh rates make things being displayed on the screen run smoother. Higher refresh rates are great for gaming and media. This is why we’re seeing more and phones using 120Hz displays.
For the average user, however, or people that don’t play games on their phones, not having a 120Hz display isn’t the end of the world. The Note 9’s display is a phenomenal piece of engineering and it performs exceptionally well in all settings and environments. It’s just not 120Hz, like the S20’s and the incoming Note 20’s. But please do not think that this makes it a sub-par display because that is totally false; the Note 9’s display is one of the best in the business. Even today, in 2020.
As you can probably tell, I’m a bit of a Galaxy Note 9 fanboy. For me, the Note 9 is the perfect Note device. In fact, I’d argue that it is Samsung’s best effort yet; and, yes, I am aware that the Note 10 has better specs. But here’s the thing: when you’re talking about phones of this caliber, specs kind of go by the wayside – all top-flight phones use the same specs these days, more or less.
It’s how the phone is designed to function. How it works in practice, and what you get for your money that make a phone special these days. And in every case, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 delivers buckets of performance. It also has a headphone jack, MicroSD-support, and there is NO notch in sight anywhere (or a hole-punch, for that matter).
It has killer specs, a gorgeous display, and it still looks as good today as it did when it first launched. I genuinely prefer the Note 9 to the Note 10 and that’s before you even consider just how cheap this excellent device now is…
And while you can now get some truly killer deals on the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 20, I do think the Note 9 is still definitely worth a look for certain types of users.
I mean, less than £300 for a 128GB unlocked model is insane value whichever way you slice it, so if you’re after a stunningly brilliant phone for less than $300, I have no idea why you wouldn’t go with the Note 9, it’s basically the Swiss-army knife of phones. And it doesn’t matter that it is almost two years old, it still kicks a TON of ass.
Where To Get One?
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.