During its latest Unpacked event, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 9. The South Korean juggernaut’s second 2018 flagship is premium, and it’s so expensive that you should consider hiring a financial planner before buying. But that goes to show how wildly-impressive the technology is.

Samsung threw everything and the kitchen sink into the Galaxy Note 9 to attract power users, not just professionals.

The overall appearance should strike you as familiar. Samsung didn’t reinvent its formula despite complaints that its last few flagships felt uninspired. Truthfully, you can’t blame Samsung. Nothing about this phone falls short of luxurious.

Between two sheets of glass, the metal-based Galaxy Note 9 stands sturdy. Of course, there’s also a fingerprint scanner on the back to complement Samsung’s iris scanner and facial recognition. Little is different than what arrived on the Galaxy S9 five months ago.

To no surprise, the Galaxy Note 9 ships with internal specifications that make the competition sweat. It’s a series that doesn’t care about anything but boasting cutting-edge hardware.

Here you get a 6.4-inch Quad HD+ (2960×1440) Super AMOLED display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845, 6GB or 8GB of memory, 128GB or 512GB of storage, and a microSD card slot. Take a look around the mobile industry. Frankly, you won’t find many, if any, flagships that go toe-to-toe against the Galaxy Note 9 on paper.

That recipe should allow the Galaxy Note 9 to rip through apps, games, and files. During our brief hands-on time, it felt snappy but not necessarily as lightning-fast as the OnePlus 6. Both have up to 8GB of storage, but Samsung’s software might still hinder the whole experience.

By the way, those who pick up the Galaxy Note 9 in the first few weeks will gain access to Fortnite. The Android version of Epic Games’ popular battle-royale title is a limited-time exclusive for Samsung’s Galaxy Note and Galaxy S flagships dating back to 2015.

Where Samsung really picked up steam is in photography. The two 12MP cameras from the Galaxy S9 are on the back, but they’re smarter now.

The new unique algorithm, branded as Scene Optimizer, automatically tweaks pro-level settings for dozens of objects and environments. While that may not be groundbreaking, the improvement over the Galaxy S9 is remarkable. You get enhanced color, contract, and vibrancy out of the Galaxy Note 9.

4 out of 5

The Samsung Experience remains, but that’s okay since the user interface has been refined in recent years. Now it’s not a burden to see or interact with. Unfortunately, though, the Galaxy Note 9 runs Android 8.1 Oreo. We pressed Samsung about Android 9.0 Pie arriving later on, and the company skirted around the subject repeatedly.

Samsung’s S Pen returns, and it has a battery in 2018. The stylus doubles as a remote for various apps on the Galaxy Note 9. It can switch photos in the Gallery app or mimic a shutter button in the Camera app. Third-party apps, however, need their developers to take advantage of the SDK to enable support.

Also, the Galaxy Note 9 ships with built-in DeX functionality. You don’t need a DeX Stand or DeX Pad anymore. Through a USB-C-to-HDMI cable, the Galaxy Note 9 can push a desktop UI to almost any monitor. Then the phone will offer you a virtual touchpad and keyboard. So you don’t necessarily have to use a physical mouse and keyboard to be productive on the Galaxy Note 9 and DeX.

Will you appreciate DeX? Maybe, but we doubt it’ll serve as a desktop or laptop replacement. The convergence of phones, tablets, and computers still seems far off.

As for the battery, Samsung talks openly about its rigorous testing. The 4000mAh battery, which towers over its predecessors’ units, was certified by two outside firms for safety. Following the Galaxy Note 7 scandal, the company avoided such large units but finally feels ready to usher them back in. With all that juice, the Galaxy Note 9 should run for up to two days on a single charge.

Samsung also went the distance to ensure the Galaxy Note 9 stays cool. There’s a larger carbon fiber-lined water cooling system inside preventing the temperature from radiating in a tight space. The Galaxy Note 9 shouldn’t get too hot after long periods of demanding use given all the space and materials dissipating any heat.

In all, there’s no doubt Samsung gave its best effort to create an industry-leading product. It has the specs, and the Galaxy Note 9 certainly looks beautiful. You can’t ask for much more than that. Samsung isn’t surprising anyone by rolling out yet another stunning flagship.

4 out of 5

If you were expecting a flagship with a traditional price tag, you’ll probably want to skip the Galaxy Note 9. When the release date hits on August 24, this beast will cost an eye-popping $999 for 6GB/128GB and $1,249 for 8GB/512GB. Samsung intends to sell the Galaxy Note 9 directly to consumers, but carriers and retailers are on-board as well. The pricing may differ slightly between them.

All carriers and retailers in the U.S. should have the Galaxy Note 9 in Ocean Blue and Lavender Purple. Elsewhere, you’ll see the phone in Midnight Black and a shade of copper/brown.

The Galaxy Note 9 goes up for pre-order on August 10, and we’ll have plenty of coverage ahead. Samsung and Apple are due for another showdown this fall. With so much tech between the Galaxy Note 9 and the 2018 iPhone models, it’s a wonderful time to be in the market for a new phone.

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