The Note9’s been has been out for several months now, but unfortunately we never really did get to reviewing the phone. A big question from a lot of our community members that kept coming up is whether we’d redo testing of the Snapdragon vs Exynos models of the Note9, and see if there would be any major differences between these phones and the results we got earlier in the year on the Galaxy S9s.

While it took a while, I’ve finally got my hands on both variants of the Note9, and we can finally deliver on the results of our testing. This piece isn’t a full review of the phone itself; here there’s really no doubt about Samsung’s overall quality of the phone as the Note9 continues the excellent results of the Galaxy S9 in categories such as design, build quality, display as well cameras. For camera results I’ll refer to my more recent device articles such as the Pixel 3 or Mate 20s review where the Note9 is included.

Samsung Galaxy Note Family
  Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Samsung Galaxy Note 9
SoC (US, China, Japan)
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 
4x Kryo 280 (CA73) @ 2.35GHz
4x Kryo 280 (CA53) @ 1.90GHz
Adreno 540 @ 670MHz
(Americas, China, Japan)
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 
4x Kryo 385 (CA75) @ 2.8GHz
4x Kryo 385 (CA55) @ 1.77GHz
Adreno 630 @ 710MHz
 (Rest of World)
Samsung Exynos 8895
4x Exynos M2 @ 2.30GHz
4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.70GHz
ARM Mali-G71MP20 @ 546MHz
 (Rest of World)
Samsung Exynos 9810
4x Exynos M3 @ 1.8-2.7GHz
4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.76GHz
ARM Mali-G72MP18 @ 572MHz
Display 6.3-inch 2960x1440 (18.5:9)
SAMOLED (curved edges)
6.4-inch 2960x1440 (18.5:9)
SAMOLED (curved edges)
Dimensions 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm
195g
161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm
201g
RAM 6GB LPDDR4X 6GB / 8GB LPDDR4X
NAND 64GB / 128GB (UFS)
+ microSD
128GB / 512GB (UFS)
+ microSD
Battery 3300mAh (12.7Wh)
non-replaceable
4000mAh (15.4Wh)
non-replaceable
Front Camera 8MP, f/1.7 8MP, f/1.7
Rear Cameras 12MP, 1.4µm pixels,
f/1.7,
dual-pixel PDAF, OIS
12MP, 1.4µm pixels,
f/1.5 / f/2.4 adaptive aperture,
dual-pixel PDAF, OIS
2x zoom telephoto
12MP, f/2.4, OIS
2x zoom telephoto 
12MP, f/2.4, OIS
Modem Snapdragon X16 LTE (Integrated)
2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 16/13)
Snapdragon X20 LTE (Integrated)
2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 18/13)
Samsung LTE (Integrated)
2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 16/13)
Samsung LTE (Integrated)
2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 18/13)
SIM Size NanoSIM
Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MU-MIMO,
BT 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS/Glonass/Galileo/BDS
Connectivity USB Type-C, 3.5mm headset
Features fingerprint sensor, heart-rate sensor, iris scanner, face unlock, fast charging (Qualcomm QC 2.0, Adaptive Fast Charging, USB PD),
wireless charging (WPC & PMA), IP68, Mobile HDR Premium
Launch OS Android 7.1.1 Samsung Experience Android 8.1 Samsung Experience

We’ve covered the key aspects of the Note9 in our release article. This year, the two most notable features of the Note9 are the inclusion of a new bigger battery, coming in at 4000mAh as well as an increased maximum storage capacity of 512GB.

The new S-Pen also has gained wireless connectivity which allows it to control various configurable features on the phone. The new feature means that the S-Pen is no longer a passive component, but rather a powered one. Samsung implemented this in a very interesting way: the S-Pen now draws its power from a capacitor instead of a regular battery. What this allows the phone to do is charge the new pen in seconds when docked into the device, rather than the more extended charging times that are required for lithium batteries.

I could go on about the specifications here, but really the point of this article and what the majority of readers are interested in are the differences in internal hardware:

As in the Galaxy S9s, the Note9 is again dual-sourcing the SoC from Qualcomm as well as S.LSI. This has been a big discussion topic for me this year with our coverage of the disappointing results of the Exynos 9810 variant of the Galaxy S9. While over the last few years we’ve been used to seeing differences between the SoC variants, they’ve never been as great as this generation. We’ve extensively explained as to why this happened in our review of the Galaxy S9 as well as follow-up articles centring on the 9810’s software.

One big critique of the results back then was that I only had a smaller Exynos S9 versus the bigger Snapdragon S9+, somewhat blurring the differences to some people. Today’s results Note9 results are on the same device model, so hopefully comparisons will be more straightforward.

Battery life – Improved at a cost

Before we get to the more detailed talk of what has actually changes for the Exynos in the Note9, let’s just jump to the most critical results: battery life. On the Galaxy S9s, the Snapdragon variant was always consistently higher. Let’s see how the Note9 fares:

Web Browsing Battery Life 2016 (WiFi)

In our web browsing battery test, the Snapdragon and Exynos Note9 surprisingly end up within margins of each other. In absolute terms, both units showcase outstanding results just shy of 12 hours, only really being beaten by our more recent result of the Mate 20.

This is an excellent improvement over the results of the Exynos S9 back at release. In my piece altering the S9’s kernel and scheduler, I showcased that performance as well as battery life could be improved just by altering the behaviour of the software. The one thing that made the greatest improvements in both aspects was the removal of the 2.7GHz boost of the big cores.

Over the summer following that article I had made some further improvements software wise, as well did some digging into the battery of the S9: For some reason, Exynos S9’s are shipping exclusively with a battery model “EB-BG960ABE” while the Snapdragon variants all exclusively were shipping with “EB-BG960ABA” batteries. The two models come from different factories. There was one discrepancy that bothered me here: the fuel-gauge on the small Exynos S9’s were consistently showing smaller nominal capacities than the Snapdragon S9’s while both have the same charger and fuel gauge IC. I ended up ordering a fresh set of both battery models and replaced them in my S9 unit, and skipping over a lot of technical details about how the fuel-gauges work, the end result is that the ABA models do seem to have a 5% better longevity over the ABE models.

Overall I managed to raise the battery results of the S9 in our web test from 6.8h up to ~8.8h all while improving performance. The Exynos Note9’s 11.66h here represents a 32% increase – something quite in line with the 4000mAh vs 3000mAh difference of the two phones, barring of course software differences and the fact that the Note9 has a much bigger screen.

Do keep these results in mind while we talk about performance on the next page.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Battery Life

In PCMark, the Snapdragon Note 9 retains a notable lead in battery life, with the Exynos Note9 coming in at 15% behind it. Again the Exynos Note9 fares 32% better than the small Exynos S9 on stock firmware, in line with the battery capacity difference but not in line with the screen size differences of both devices.

At first glance, it seems that Samsung has largely resolved the battery differences between the Snadpragon 845 and Exynos 9810 units of the Note9. However as I’ve hinted at several times now, things aren’t quite as straightforward as to what it cost to achieve this. Next up we’ll investigate the system performance of both Note9s.

System Performance
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  • Lau_Tech - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Hi Andrei, obvious question, why no explicit note 9 review?

    You have the hardware, have already done extensive analysis and testing, it would seem that all that remains is to put it into words. (in fact you did abit of it here)

    So why not?
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    I got the devices quite late as we weren't sampled. The Note9 is very similar to the S9+ which we reviewed earlier in the year besides the S-Pen. Screen is as you'd expect from Samsung (very good) and camera of the Note9 (besides it being same setup as the S9+) has been also tested in the Pixel 3 and Mate 20 reviews:

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/13474/the-google-pi...

    I wanted to get this piece out instead with the relevant bits of into that people were expecting to see instead of lingering on on a full review, as I have also other articles to get out as well.
    Reply
  • Meteor2 - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    I don’t think the same camera hardware in different phones equates to the same camera performance in today’s age of computational photography. Reply
  • shabby - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    That makes no sense, the note 9 is an s9 with an s-pen, nothing more. Reply
  • cha0z_ - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    Having used both s7 edge and note 9, I can confidently state that the note is more than the s variant with a pen. There are differences and features that adds up to different experience. Reply
  • levizx - Friday, November 30, 2018 - link

    What difference beyond the customisation for the S-Pen? Reply
  • Lau_Tech - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    As always, what and how you choose to cover is your prerogative. however, my two cents.

    1) Samsung note series is one of the tech keynotes of a year, and always worthy of a review, so long as the hardware is available.

    2)note series is especially worthy of review because of its technical contrasts from all other flagships. anandtech has been inexplicably reluctant to analyze the s pen. You could do a comparison between the S pen, apple pencil and Microsoft surface stylus for example. Or compare the speed of the micro-sd storage to on board memory. (or with previous Notes). You could even compare the internal audio jack vs that of the dongle-brigade. Point being, the notes unique traits make for many interesting angles of analysis. I see no reason to shy away from them year after year.

    3) A Note 9 review 'in pieces' doesn't show up in Google search. A person typing 'note 9 review' is unlikely to come across your excellent camera comparison article for example. A note 9 review, even one that posts links to other articles you've done, is preferable for your page hits.

    All comments with respect to your quality work and time/material constraints.
    Reply
  • id4andrei - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Don't forget DEX. Reply
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - link

    Just wanted to add a voice here - I feel like Lau_Tech's comment is fair, and worth bearing in mind for future prioritization of reviews. It feels like Samsung is the last manufacturer consistently offering one "true flagship" phone with everything but the kitchen sink included. It's a decent halo product that, as was mentioned, allows you to critique the value prospects of other manufacturers who have dropped or are dropping many of the features the Note series retains.

    Aside from that, thanks for your dedication to providing quality analysis even when it's not "up-to-the-minute". I'll always show up for it.
    Reply
  • philehidiot - Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - link

    Samsung aren't sampling them to Anandtech for a reason and that's because they'll get torn to shreds for things like this. I probably wouldn't have known the performance gap was so horrific until this article came out. The remainder is often well covered in the less indepth media and so repeating it late isn't going to pull in as many views which is what this business is all about. I'd rather see them spend the significant amount of time doing reviews on things which are sampled early enough to compete with other media and therefore keep the site well funded and able to attract good writers.

    I do feel this is a good compromise in that they are doing the analysis of some very important aspects of this phone that most people will be overlooking but not wasting the time doing a full review and focussing instead on something else.

    This is actually something that is really going to put me off Samsung. I'm pretty happy with my S8 despite the bloatware (some of it is actually useful, a lot of it is just turned off) but I have the misfortune to live in the UK. As a result, seeing I'm going to be paying a similar amount for a phone that is marketed and named as being the same as the SD model, I don't expect the performance to be HALF what everyone else gets on the more performance critical benches. There is a huge difference between a face paced game moving at a sustained 25FPS and a sustained 50FPS. One is very playable whilst the other is frankly borderline not and if this is an average FPS then I suspect there will be periods of frame rates too low for decent playability. This is not acceptable for a full price flagship. This is worse than Nvidia having different models of GTX1060 - at least they're vaguely similar in performance.

    My advice to people wanting a good value but good performing phone has been to get an S7 or S8. The S9 is not a contender and I think the E9810 needs to tank to convince Samsung to stop rolling out chips which are just plain awful and pretending they're in any way comparable to a SD model of the same phone. It's frankly a con in my book. I wonder how this compares to recent mid range SD models like the 6 series? That would be very interesting if QC could produce SoCs going into phones a third of the price which are competitive on performance.....
    Reply

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