Samsung Galaxy Note9 Hands On With A Stylus-Hater

Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

Hello, my name is Tegan and I am not a fan of Stylus'. Not on tablets. Nor laptops. And especially not on phones.

I have often questioned the point of them. After all, I have a perfectly good pointer finger to do the job. I haven't even opened the one that came with my Dell XPS 13.

And this brings us to the Galaxy Note 9, which Samsung have managed to place even more emphasis on the S Pen has defined the range for seven years. This should be interesting.

This post was originally published on August 10 at 1:30am

Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

We were given around half an hour to play with the new device the day before Unpacked. But when you're just one of many thirsty journos scrabbling to get product-time and photos, it was substantially less time.

So this is why this is a first-impressions piece, rather than a full review, which will come in the near-future.

Here are the key specs that we're working with:

  • 6.4-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED 2960 x 1440 display
  • 10nm 64-bit Octa-core processor
  • Android 8.1 Oreo OS
  • 6GB or 8GB RAM
  • 128GB or 512GB RAM + MicroSD slot up to 512GB
  • Dual 12MP rear and 8MP front cameras
  • 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm, 201g
  • USB Type-C connection
  • Iris, fingerprint and facial recognition scanners

As we were short on time, and we will get a chance to play with the camera later in the week (stay tuned), I decided to focus on my presumed nemesis - the S Pen.

No hate to people who love this little contraption, of which there are many. In fact, Samsung has said its the biggest purchase driver for the entire Note range.

This is absolutely a personal thing, and I knew I needed to go into this with an open mind. Even if I was reeling at the yellow S Pen, which comes with the Ocean Blue handset colour.

Again, please don't @ me. A lot of people loved this colour when it leaked several weeks back; I'm just not one of them. I prefer the matching S Pens, especially the metallic copper.

Image: All the colour options for the S Pen

The whispers around the old rumour mill said that the Note9 S Pen would be the most impressive yet, and as far as stylus' go — they weren't wrong.

It does indeed contain bluetooth, as well as an antenna, so it can be paired with the new dockless DeX to become a remote control. It charges in the phone in 40 seconds, which will then last it 30 minutes, or 200 button clicks.

Image: You can use the DeX to work on presentations, edit photos, and watch TV from your phone but with a virtual desktop experience. You can even use the phone as a trackpad.

At the time of writing I was awaiting information on whether the S Pen will still write when it is out of charge, and how much of the phone battery each charge eats up.

During the demonstration we were shown how this can be used for presentations via a HDMI connection — allowing you to scroll through photos, videos (including pause and play) and photos.

And while I begrudgingly admitted that this was quite handy, I was generally impressed when I saw how the phone could be used independently during presentations.

Image: Accurate

For example, let's say you have a pie chart up on the screen, which is linked to your Note9. You can still absolutely fuck around on Instagram or Messenger without it appearing on the large screen.

And by that I of course mean that you can take very important notes during presentations without them appearing on the large screen, boss.

Touching on DeX for a moment, the updated version does seem a lot less cumbersome without the dock. The cable fit-out is a match more convenient solution.

And while DeX isn't for me, I can appreciate the convenience it affords people who want to be able to plug their phone into a monitor and keyboard.

Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

For those who love using the the S Pen for note taking, this feature of course remains, including multiple pen-type and colour options.

Perhaps the biggest upgrade in this space is the 'off screen' writing mode, which triggers when you remove the S Pen from its cavity and allows you to write a note on the screen without unlocking your phone.

Image: Taking a very important note in the 'screen off' mode

It's a cool little feature that's genuinely useful, though a couple of us did find that it didn't always trigger on every phone we tested. It's worth keeping in mind that these were demo models though.

But while these features were nice and all, what really won me over was my crippling addiction to phone photography.

The S Pen can be used to control the Note9 camera, as well as draw on the photos. No more stretched arm selfies required, unless you don't have a surface to lean the phone on, of course.

Maybe I'm shallow, but I loved playing with this feature. The shots were instantaneous after clicking, so it was fast, convenient and fun.

I think this could be a game changer and decision make when it comes to customers who value snapping pics on their phone. I also predict this will be the #1 reason for 200 clicks being blown through quickly and necessitating a recharge.

Image: Taking a selfie with the S Pen, but keeping to that stretched arm life.

Touching on the cameras briefly, they are the same as those found in the Galaxy S9 range. However, Samsung did say that software upgrades have improved the picture quality in the Note9 range.

For example — the ability to recognise 20 different types of 'scenes', improved lowlight (HDR and a sharper Live Focus) as well as advanced flaw detection including image blur, lens smudge and back light.

Sadly I wasn't able to keep the shots I took on the demo models, but when I compared side-by-side shots from the Note9 and my S9, there was a notable improvement to sharpness and colour in the new phones.

I look forward to testing this further and reporting back soon.

Image: The Note9 can recognise these as flowers

So while I may not be the biggest cheerleader for any kind of stylus, I will admit that my short amount of time with the Note9 and the S Pen have started to turn me around on the subject.

I have gone from hating them personally (whilst still understanding other people's love) to actually having a bit of fun with it outside the realm of note taking.

Image: Just an ordinary shopping list

While I don't know if it will ever become a must-have item for me, I certainly have a little bit more appreciation for it now and will spend some more time with it for our full review.

In Australia the Samsung Note9 will come in Ocean Blue, Midnight Black and in select retailers — Metallic Copper. We won't be getting the Lavender Purple.

The Note9 will be available from August 24, with the 128GB version having an RRP of $1,499 and the 512GB coming in at $1,799. And the base model offering here is in line with what the Note8 was originally priced at when in launched.

However, Samsung does have a presale offer, which is available between August 10 and 23. During that period you can buy the 512GB Note9 for the same price as the 128GB version — $1,499.

The author traveled to New York as a guest of Samsung.

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