Galaxy Note 9 or iPhone XS Max? Compare before you upgrade

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Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 is a business productivity powerhouse that the consumer electronics giant desperately wants to go mainstream. Whether you upgrade depends on whether you're more about work or play. Here's how it compares to the iPhone XS Max.


Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 is designed to be the company's flagship device, but whether you choose to upgrade or not solely depends on whether your device is more about work or play. And your budget, too. If you're a business pro hankering for more productivity and the ability to use your smartphone as a desktop and stylus as a remote control, Note 9 is worth a look. However, Samsung didn't add enough to the Note 9 to become the mainstream flagship that executives so sorely wanted ahead of Apple's iPhone event.

Yes, Fortnite as an exclusive on the Note 9 is an interesting promotion for mainstream buyers, but the device is really about specs and productivity.

And then there's the price. You'll pay for the high-end specs of the Galaxy Note 9. Preorders for the Galaxy Note 9 start Aug. 10 with availability Aug. 24. The 128GB Galaxy Note 9 will go for $999.99 at Amazon, Best Buy, Samsung, Target, Walmart and other retailers. The 512GB Galaxy Note9 will be available at AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and Samsung for $1,249.99. For comparison, 512GB SSD laptops can run as much as the Note 9 and Apple's 256GB iPhone XS Max goes for $1,249. The 512GB iPhone XS Max will run you $1,449.

The best deals we could find can save you as much as $450, but the savings are typically tied to bundles. In the end, whether you go all-in on the Galaxy Note 9 may come down to vanity and whether you think bigger (1TB even) is truly better.

DJ Koh, president of Samsung's mobile communications business, said at Unpacked 2018 in Brooklyn that the Note is designed to break through barriers. Koh said the Note 9 is designed to be the "most powerful mobile device."

Viewing the "should I upgrade" question through the use case lens is especially important given the Android competition and a premium price Samsung would argue is reasonable. Simply put, you can get Android devices with more frequent Android updates for much less than the Note 9. To get value out of the Note 9 you have to be a fan of the S Pen, productivity and what it brings to the table. You also have to value those S Pen upgrades enough to swap out last year's Note 8.


Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 pops a wallop because it's designed to also power a DeX desktop experience too.

The highlights:

  • The Note 9 has an all-day battery at 4,000mAh. That's Samsung's largest battery in its product portfolio. Galaxy Note 9: What does 'all-day battery' mean?

  • Samsung doubled storage to 128GB at the base level and available at 512GB. And there's a microSD card slot to add more than 1TB of storage to the device.

  • The Note 9 boasts a 33 percent bump in CPU performance and 23 percent gain in GPU performance relative to the Note 8.

  • Samsing's DeX platform can connect your phone to a monitor and keyboard via an USB-C to HDMI adapter.

  • The intelligent camera includes Flaw Detection and also has a neural network on the Note 9 to recognize context and settings and adjust for scenes. The front-facing camera is 8MP and the dual rear cameras are 12MP each. Samsung opted to improve the software and machine learning behind camera in the Note 9. The cameras in the Note 9 are an improvement on the Note 8, but are largely the same as the Galaxy S9 setup.

  • A wireless charging dock uses one outlet and can charge two devices (presumably a Samsung phone and smartwatch).

  • The S Pen gets Bluetooth low energy (BLE) so it can function as a remote control within 10 meters. The S Pen charges when you put it into your smartphone and the battery charges fully in less than 40 seconds. BLE enables the S Pen to control the camera by default and other applications based on your preference.

  • Available colors for the new phone include Ocean Blue, Lavender Purple, Metallic Copper and Midnight Black.

However, the Galaxy Note 9 doesn't look all that different from the Galaxy Note 8. There are a few design changes, notably with the fingerprint scanner, and a slightly thinner frame.

Samsung is keeping its fingerprint scanner and fingerprint sensor, but moving it below the camera. Samsung is also keeping its iris biometric system too.

The Note 8 has the fingerprint scanner and sensor alongside the camera and that positioning can get awkward after repeated use.

The company largely stuck with the same design as the Note 8, which was a big launch that put the Note 7 battery debacle in the rear view mirror. The Galaxy Note 8 was well received and even created some flagship device confusion when the Galaxy S9 launched.

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