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Great features … heavy price-tag

Samsung unveiled its latest flagship device in New York last week, a month after it reported a quarterly decline because of poor Galaxy S9 sales.

The new Galaxy Note 9 features its largest phablet screen, measuring 6.4-inches, a segment popularised by the original 5.3-inch Note; and its biggest battery on a flagship. The increased battery capacity of 4000mAh —up from the Note 8’s 3300mAh —comes two years after the global recall of the exploding Note 7 that cost Samsung $5.4-billion.

The issue was addressed with an eight-point battery safety check last year, which prompted the South Korean mobile giant to increase the battery size on the Note 9. With heavy use the battery lasts a full day and well into the night, without requiring a power bank.

Equipped with a blue Note 9 and its standard yellow S-Pen at launch, we have been testing it out for the past week. We used it to stream from Netflix, YouTube and Spotify; captured multimedia content on Instagram; navigated on Google Maps; and turned it into a wi-fi hot spot for most parts of the day, without turning on power-saving mode. By 10pm, the Note 9 was on 17% battery.

Big screen and battery aside, Samsung bumped up the storage to start at 128GB, going up to 512GB, making it possible to carry a whopping 1TB of storage around with an added SD card. Additionally, users get 100GB of free cloud storage on Microsoft’s OneDrive, a stark comparison to the 5GB of free iCloud storage offered by Apple. The capacity is ideally suited for the demands of today: storing high-quality photos and videos, and offline content such as TV series, movies and music.

What sets the Note apart from every other device is its built-in stylus, sort of like an old-school palmtop. The Bluetooth-powered S-Pen has a button in the centre for your thumb, which can now be used as a remote for various apps, and provides the ability to take photos and videos with a single or double tap.

The S-Pen allows users to create notes directly from the lock screen; screenshot and annotate; extract text from images; create custom gifs and artwork;and carry out live translations. The remote-like S-Pen features will work with select apps at launch, such as Powerpoint, voice recorder, gallery and media (music, videos).

Switching to a stylus takes a while to get used to. We used it as a shutter button to take photos and make hands-free videos on Instagram. For those who use the Note 9 as the pocket PC it is intended to be,the stylus can be used to control the direction of slides for the Powerpoint app, —one click to go forward, and two clicks to go back.

The Note 9 features a rear 12MP dual camera with variable aperture that switches between F1.5 for low-light shots and F2.4 for outdoor scenarios, introduced on the S9+ this year. Exclusive to the Note 9 are AI enhancements that notify you of blurry shots and adjust the image for up to 20 different scenes. Whether you’re taking sunset or food photos, itf ixes colour, exposure, contrast, etcetera, to create the “perfect shot”.

The camera really shines in “Live Focus”mode, which gives you a bokeh effect — where the background is blurred —allowing you to control the depth of field in real time. The front-facing 8MP camera delivers social media-worthy selfies.

The revamped Dex mode (desktop experience) is now simply “plug and play”using a USB-C to HDMI cable and any monitor,similar to Huawei’s Easy Projection mode. It acts more as a second screen for videos and presentations, controlled by the Note 9 or S-Pen, rather than a fully fledged desktop, as it was in the past. The cable is available as a separate accessory. The device also comes with Dolby Atmos, which gives it a multichannel, noticeably improved sound quality when switched on.

The large screen, battery and storage and the fantastic camera create a compelling proposition, but it’s not too far off from the S9+, so you’d really have to love the S-Pen to justify the R18999 price tag for the 6GB/128GB model.

The Galaxy Note 9 goes on sale globally and locally on August 24, and is available on various networks.

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Nafisa Akabor
Nafisa Akabor

Nafisa Akabor is a freelance technology journalist.

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