Best answer: The Note 9 is still a capable and modern phone in late 2020, over a year after its release. Most of what makes its successor, the Note 10, great can be found in the Note 9 with the latest software. The only question is whether you really need an S Pen, because if you don't you can save a bunch of money buying a Galaxy S9+ instead.
The Galaxy Note 9 is still good, and pricey
Galaxy Notes seem to hold their value over time better than the Galaxy S models. Sure the Note 9's gone on sale over the past year since it was released, but not nearly as often as the mass-market Galaxy S9. With a higher starting price, its discounts don't feel so dramatic either. Now over a year after it first went on sale, the Note 9 is still over $600, even with the new Note 10 and Note 10+ available.
The Note 9 still feels modern from top to bottom — improvements in the Note 10 are marginal.
Is it a good buy at that price? I think it is — and that probably why it's still relatively expensive. The Note 10 and 10+ offer a slightly improved design, better (and bigger) screens, new S Pen gestures, and of course, spec bumps. All of the improvements are marginal, and now that the Note 9 has been updated to the latest software to match the Note 10, there's even less differentiating it.
When you compare the Note 9's hardware, screen, specs, and capabilities to the rest of the market at this price, there aren't many places where it falls behind. It doesn't offer a wide-angle rear camera, which is a popular addition nowadays, but its general performance and battery life will be right on par. Plus, it still has a headphone jack, which is a modern rarity.
But question whether you need the S Pen
The Note 9 is still a good buy, even a year on and at over $600, but you should only buy one if you know one thing for certain: you need to have an S Pen. The S Pen is unique and useful, but several generations of Notes have shown us it's really only for a small set of people — that may be you, or it may not.
If you don't need an S Pen, you're better off buying a Galaxy S9+ and saving even more.
If you don't need an S Pen, you can get a Galaxy S9+ for a bit less, and often much less because it's put on sale even more often, which is otherwise comparable to what the Note 9 offers. You don't get quite as big of a screen or battery, but that's a worthwhile trade-off to save that much more money. And the whole point of looking at a Note 9 in the first place was to save a little dough.
Back on the S Pen side of things, you can spend an extra $200-300 (depending on current sales) and get a new Galaxy Note 10 instead, bringing you up to the latest and greatest Samsung has to offer. And that's when the Note 10 is available at its regular retail price — many discounts have regularly dropped the Note 10 by $100, making it a little more reachable from the Note 9's price. Keeping to a budget is good, but when you have an opporutnity to upgrade a whole generation for not much more money, you should consider it.
Still worth it
A big S Pen-toting phone at a notable discount.
The Note 9 is still a good phone, and its price reflects that. You'll save a bit compared to a Note 10, but still get most of the same features and capabilities.
A real bargain compared to a year-old Note.
If you don't need an S Pen, you can save hundreds more by getting a Galaxy S9+ with the same basic specs and capabilities as the Note 9.
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