- Excellent Display
- Good Battery Life
- Great Performance
- Sub-par Cameras
- Expensive for a Mid-tier Smartphone
The Samsung Galaxy A9 is a rather impressive smartphone, solely due to the fact it is the first smartphone in the world to pack a four-camera setup on its rear. It also happens to be one of the first Samsung handsets to have had its global launch in Malaysia, which is rather special. Now, it has been a couple of months since its official release, and it recently went on sale officially. So, how does it fare?
Design and Build Quality
As previously mentioned, it is the first phone in the world with four cameras on its rear, which undoubtedly makes it instantly recognizable. The cameras are arranged in a row on the left-hand side, with the flash module placed at the bottom of the setup. It has a rather interesting look, though it isn’t the best design in my opinion. I would’ve preferred a 2 x 2 setup, something similar to the Huawei Mate 20. Also, I find the spacing between the fingerprint reader and the camera module to be a bit wide, which spoils the aesthetic. The back comes with a glass panel which is rather Samsung-esque. The fingerprint scanner is placed up top in the centre, making it easy to reach if you’re coming from a similar sized phone. However, if you’re coming from a smaller device, it may take some getting used to. Nonetheless, it is a conveniently placed fingerprint sensor.
Moving to the front of the phone, a large display greets you, and as is the trend with the latest smartphones, it is equipped with thin side bezels. Samsung’s Infinity Display doesn’t come with a notch which leaves a thick bezel up top, and also the bottom. There’s a selfie camera and an earpiece up top, while below is left empty. Instead, there are on-screen navigation buttons. At the bottom, there is a USB Type-C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack (such a rarity), and a mono speaker. Meanwhile, the hybrid SIM-card slot can be found on the top, and a dedicated Bixby button is on the left-hand side. The power button and volume rockers are kept to the right-hand side, which took some getting used to as Samsung rarely does such a move.
When it comes to build, the Galaxy A9 is a rather solid device, especially with its all-glass design. It has a good weight, giving it a nice feel in the hand. It feels like a premium handset, at least on the outside, and comes in a number of unique colours.
Specification & Benchmark
Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy A9 packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, an octa-core processor coupled with either 6GB or 8GB RAM under the hood. As for the storage, it comes with a 128GB Internal that can be expanded with the help of an SD Card up to 512GB which is pretty cool. In terms of connectivity, it has support for Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth v5.0. Interestingly, Samsung has opted in for a USB-C with their A9 which is a rather smarter move.
We performed the following benchmark – Antutu, Geekbench and to verify the internals, we used AIDA64. Do take note as the benchmarks are purely for testing purposes and to give an idea of how powerful the phone is and it varies to day-to-day basis usage as well.
The Samsung Galaxy A9 packs a large 6.3-inch Super AMOLED display pushing a FullHD+ resolution of 2220 x 1080. This leads to a pixel density of 392ppi, and it also comes with subtly rounded corners. Thankfully, a notch is nowhere to be seen, giving users all 6.3-inches of screen real estate to enjoy.
Being a Super AMOLED display produced by Samsung, it is a great pleasure to view content on it as colors are accurate and blacks are deep. It is comparable to the flagship Samsung phones such as the Galaxy series, and it is definitely one of the best out there. When it comes to sunlight legibility, the display can get pretty bright under direct sunlight, and I had no issues with viewing content under such conditions. The minimum brightness does get pretty low as well, though it did strain my eyes when using in pitch darkness even with the blue light filter turned on.
Running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chipset and 6GB of RAM, the Samsung Galaxy A9 offers great performance, though not outstanding. Carrying out tasks like browsing the web, watching videos, and playing games can be done without a hitch. However, there is the occasional stutter when multitasking but these were few and far apart.
If gaming is your thing, then this device would do. A graphically intensive game such as PUBG: Mobile loads pretty fast, and I didn’t experience any lag whatsoever. It should be noted though, the Galaxy A9 does heat up during prolong periods of usage, but it won’t be causing any finger burns. I’m generally satisfied with the performance offered by the Snapdragon 660 in the device, but it would be a much better buy if a Snapdragon 710 was used instead.
Battery Life & Charging
Keeping the lights on is a rather large 3,800mAh battery and it lasts quite long on a full charge. On most days, I would start the day with 100 percent at 7:30am, and I’ll be left with about 15 percent at 9:00pm. This is after a whole day of heavy usage involving web browsing, content viewing, some light gaming, and also browsing social media apps. Average screen-on-time ranged from 4 to 5 hours. However, there were times when the battery would drain extremely quickly, even after closing all background apps and restarting the device. I would have to charge it by 4:00pm, and would only achieve a screen-on-time of about 2 hours or so. I have not seen anyone else complain of this issue, so it likely only affected this review unit.
When it comes to charging, Samsung includes an Adaptive Fast Charging adapter in the box. Juicing up the battery from 0 percent took about 1 hour and 50 minutes on average.
Now, here comes the most exciting feature of the Galaxy A9; the four cameras on its back. It is the first smartphone to achieve such a feat, and it’s still the only one out there. While Samsung advertises the device as a four camera device, pictures can only be taken with three of these cameras. Why? Well, one of the sensors is a depth sensor to aid users in the Live Focus mode. The other three modules are made up of a primary camera, a wide-angle one, and also a telephoto lens.
The primary camera is a 25MP sensor with an aperture of f/1.7. It is placed second from the bottom, just above the depth sensor. Above the primary camera is the telephoto shooter with a resolution of 10MP and an f/2.4 lens.Finally, there’s the ultra-wide camera up top, an 8MP sensor with an aperture of f/2.4, which is able to deliver a 120-degree field of view. It should be noted that the wide-angle shooter doesn’t come with autofocus.
When it comes to the camera interface, it looks like any other Samsung smartphone. However, there are added icons due to the extra cameras on the back. For starters, there are tree icons to denote the various camera. One tree means telephoto, two tress for the regular camera, and three trees for the wide-angle camera. As for the various modes, they can be accessed by swiping left or right. There’s also a
So, how does the camera fare? Well, for a smartphone which heavily focuses on the camera front, it was unfortunately a dismal affair. Under bright sunlight, the camera performs fine, with lots of details, accurate colours. However, it starts to struggle indoors, where pictures taken with it lose details, and the white balance is usually not accurate. Autofocus also seems to be an issue, and takes awhile to focus on objects. The images also come out soft, and noise levels are quite high even with adequate light.
Based on its indoor performance, the Galaxy A9 unsurprisingly fares badly under low-light. While Samsung’s flagships have been known to be strong performers in the low-light category, this isn’t the case for the Galaxy A9. However, they aren’t that much worse from indoor shots. Pictures taken are able to maintain some detail, and colour saturation is quite good. However, highlights do occasionally get overblown, and images do come out pretty dark.
Photos taken with the telephoto lens are alright, and they serve their function; to be able to view an object or person closer without compromising much detail. Colour accuracy is not its strong suit though, and neither is autofocus. Under low-light, it doesn’t perform well either, and images come with lots of noise, and tend to come out blurry. Meanwhile, the wide-angle shooter does the job, and is able to capture large landscape scenes. However, shots are almost always distorted with noise, be it in daylight or at night.
Front Facing Camera
Handling selfies is a 24MP sensor with an aperture of f/2.0. Shots taken with it are nice and color accurate, with lots of detail. However, that only applies to conditions where bright light is available. Under not so great lighting, images lose their sharpness, and there is a drop in detail. On top of that, portrait mode is available on the front-facing camera as well, and it performs alright. Pictures come out soft, and the edge detection is a hit or miss at times. However, portrait images are quite nice considering it is done via a single camera.
Speaker & Security
The Galaxy A9 is equipped with a downward facing single speaker, that can get quite loud. However, it is extremely easy to cover it completely, which can be annoying at times. This is especially true when it comes to viewing videos whilst holding the phone, or playing a game.
Like most phones these days, there are a host of methods to unlock this smartphone. This includes the usual such as PIN, pattern, fingerprint, and also face unlock. The fingerprint scanner works well, and unlocks the phone almost instantly. Also, the face unlock works decently well, but it should be noted that it isn’t aided by an IR sensor.
UI & OS
When it comes to software, the Galaxy A9 runs on Samsung Experience on top of Android 8.0 Oreo. However, it is set to receive Android 9.0 Pie and also One UI in the coming months. On its current software, the Galaxy A9 runs pretty smoothly, and is easy to use. However, there are tons of added features which is the norm when it comes to custom UI. This includes a Themes store, Samsung Pass (a place to store passwords), Game Launcher, and many others. If you are one to like customising your device, then you’ll enjoy the Themes store.
Overall, the UI is clean and easy to use, but it is far from being stock Android.
The Galaxy A9 tries hard to excel in the imaging department, but unfortunately it has failed in that aspect. As a smartphone, it has a lot going for it, but it ultimately is a letdown in the feature it is meant to excel in. While I don’t expect it to take amazing pictures like the Galaxy Note9, or similar, the images produced by the Galaxy A9 look bad at this price point of RM 1,999. However, the device does shine in certain areas, such as its Super AMOLED display that’s really gorgeous, and also its good battery life.
Unless you want to have the first smartphone in the world to pack a quad-camera setup on its rear, this phone isn’t for you. There are many alternatives out there, some at the same price point, and some at a cheaper price. For starters, you may opt for the Pocophone F1 which has a decent camera, but much better internals, and it’s priced at RM 1,299. Also, there’s the Huawei P20 priced at about RM 2,300, and packs a really great camera. Alternatively, you may opt for a Samsung handset itself. Flagship Samsung smartphones such as the Galaxy Note8 and S9 can be bought for as low as RM 2,199, and these come with top-notch hardware.