I’ve had Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 for about a week now, and it is indeed the best Note I’ve ever used but is it the best large screen phone you can get in South Africa?
In terms of marketshare, Huawei is the closest competitor to Samsung, so I thought it would be worth comparing the Note 9 with the Huawei P20 Pro:
The Note 9 is huge! With a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED Quad HD+ display, it’s the largest display on any Note ever made, and that says a lot. It’s also slightly wider and shorter than its predecessor, other than that though, it looks pretty much the same.
Huawei’s P20 Pro has 6.1-inch AMOLED display and a fresh design that’s unlike anything it’s done on previous handsets (including the beautiful, and much-copied gradient colour on the back), however you won’t have to look very hard to find the iPhone X inspiration in the notch and vertically stacked camera bump on the back.
The Note 9 has Samsung’s signature dual-curved display, while Huawei has opted to stay with the standard flat display.
Both handsets ooze premium design and both are the best-looking phones released by each company.
The Huawei handset is the more manageable one thanks to its slightly smaller size, however, the Note 9 feels smaller than its 6.4-inch display which is a testament to Samsung’s hardware engineering prowess.
On the design front, it’s a pretty even draw.
Camera and chipset
This is where it gets more interesting.
The Note 9 has a rear-facing dual camera with the variable aperture first found in the Galaxy S9 and S9+ which means that it should bring pretty much the same DxOMARK score as the S9+ (which is 99). Huawei’s P20 Pro has the world’s first rear-facing triple camera setup made with Leica and has the highest DxOMARK score of 109.
Both handsets use AI to recognise certain shooting conditions and optimise the image processing accordingly. The Note 9 is the first Samsung device to include this feature, while Huawei has had this ability since 2017’s Mate 10 Pro.
What makes Huawei’s AI even more impressive is the Neural Processing Unit that the company has created to allow for offline AI processing directly on the phone.
South Africans get the Exynos 9810 SoC in the Galaxy Note 9 and while it’s a powerful chipset, it doesn’t beat the Kirin 970 which powers the Huawei P20 Pro.
According to XDA forums “the P20 Pro performs respectably and outperforms the Exynos 9810.”
Other than just scene recognition, Samsung uses AI to detect when someone closes their eyes during a photo or even to tell you when the camera lens might be smudged, a novel use of the technology.
In terms of camera and chipset, Huawei wins this round.
Battery and extras
Both handsets have a 4000mAh battery, another first for Samsung and yet again something that Huawei has done for a number of years.
Huawei is known for battery life and with the P20 Pro, it lives up to expectations. The Note 9 outlasts the S9+ and last year’s Galaxy Note 8, but it doesn’t quite bring the full day battery life that Samsung has been promising, most likely due to the battery optimisation that isn’t up to the same standard as Huawei’s.
What makes the Note stand out is the S-Pen and with the Note 9, the stylus is more powerful than ever before thanks to its added Bluetooth LE (low energy).
This means that you can use the S-Pen to control the phone’s media players, act as a remote shutter control or even slide through presentations when the phone is in DeX mode (which is now built into the software, another feature that Huawei has had since the Mate 10 Pro – which they call Desktop Mode).
Unlike Huawei, Samsung has opted to keep the 3.5mm headphone jack and the Note 9 has an IP68 rating while the P20 Pro only has an IP67 rating.
Samsung’s Note 9 also starts with 6GB RAM and a 128GB expandable onboard storage option – the 8GB, 512GB expandable onboard storage version will arrive in South Africa at a later stage – while Huawei’s P20 Pro comes with 128GB non-expandable onboard storage and both handsets have a USB-C port.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 is a beast when it comes to pure functionality and being the ultimate everything device for business power users, but in terms of specs, there’s not much between it and the Huawei P20 Pro which is geared towards visual creative power users.
If the rumours of HUawei bringing Android 9 Pie to devices in october is true, then it will give the Chinese giant another advantage over Samsung who is notoriously bad at software updates.