Samsung Galaxy A9 is the first phone with a quad camera setup on the back, and for now it seems that they only serve as a marketing tool. Someone had to take a leap from 3 to 4 cameras, but soon we’ll see even a 5 camera smartphone by Nokia. LG has also patented a 16 camera phone, which is just too much, but don’t be too surprised. Provided that all these cameras do something and do it well, and that the phone itself provides a good cost – quality ratio, then there should be no problems. Let’s see whether the A9 performs that well, but first let’s take a look inside the box.
There we can find the phone itself, user manuals, a SIM tray tool, in ear Samsung headphones with silicon buds, USB Type-C cable as well as a fast charging adapter.
Build quality is OK, but the phone’s back doesn’t feel like it’s made of glass, even though it definitely is. The edges are made of metal, and the fingerprint scanner is placed on the central part of the back panel. The A9 comes in Caviar Black, Lemonade Blue and Bubblegum Pink. Let's now see what we have on the front panel.
Samsung rarely makes mistakes with its screens, and this time, the Super AMOLED 1080p display has hit the bull’s eye. Some people don’t like the curved screens on S and Note phones, but here we have nothing to complain about since the display of the A9 is completely flat. The colors on the screen are very vibrant, while in the settings menu as before, we can find Adaptive display, AMOLED cinema, AMOLED photos and Basic profiles. This is one big phone, especially due to the 6.3” display around which there are somewhat thicker bezels, however this is obviously a battle Samsung chooses not to fight.
The standard Always On display, also present on this phone, shows the date, time and notifications when the phone is locked, and there is a lot of different looks that you can download from the Samsung Themes app.
Hardware and OS
Something quite odd can be found in the hardware area. Everyone would, rightfully, assume that Samsung would put their own Exynos chipset into this phone, however, they have opted for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 660 platform – all A9 phones come with the Snapdragon 660, no matter where they’re sold. Paired with the chipset there are either 6 or 8GB of RAM. Taking into account that this year’s S9 and S9+ didn’t have the 8GB option, we could assume that the A9 should belong to the high class, however, the SD 660 is not a flagship class chipset. The GPU placed inside this chipset is, of course, the Adreno 512. Judging by all this, only the chipset itself isn’t the best, while everything around it is. This is proved by the AnTuTu benchmark where this phone scored only slightly above 140000 points, and honestly we expected more.
Using the phone in general is an OK experience. Menu navigation, video viewing, music reproduction as well as playing some medium demanding games is a satisfying experience. When you put the phone under heavier pressure, you can notice a drop in framrate, but it’s not that significant.
In the software sense, Samsung in their fashion didn’t implement the latest Android 9.0 – they usually take their time to build a stable version before they place it on their phones. We have 8.0 Oreo here over which there is the Samsung’s One UI. Since Samsung really has so many phones to cover with updates, we understand that it’s not an easy feat.
The primary speaker is located next to the Type-C port on the bottom of the phone. It is only average, because the volume and quality are not that good at all. You may even have an issue with its position, since it happens quite often that you cover it with your hand when you use the phone in the landscape mode, for example when gaming or viewing videos. We don’t have stereo sound so in such cases the sound quality is poor. However, things are completely different when we talk about headphones, but more on that a bit later.
The main portion of this review, and probably the reason why you’re here, are the cameras of this phone, and as you can see, the A9 has four of them, or five if you count the front facing one. The primary camera consists of: an 8 megapixel ultra-wide f/2.4 sensor, a 10 megapixel telephoto f/2.4 sensor with x2 optical zoom, a 24 megapixel f/1.7 primary sensor and finally a 5 megapixel depth of field f/2.2 sensor. This was one quite long sentence with a lot of numbers, but let’s now see how these numbers performed in practice.
Photo quality of the first phone with four cameras is – sub par! In daylight, regular photos tend to be overexposed in the bright parts, and underexposed in shadows. Noise is noticeable, especially in night time shots, and colors are not vivid. We’ve always pointed out that we liked natural colors, but here they are too bland, even more than necessary. The camera will use its potential when you switch the angle to wide when taking a group photo, when you zoom in without any loss of quality or when you take photos in the portrait mode that does an excellent job separating the edges, but all in all, the quality of these photos doesn’t justify the price at all.
The selfie camera in this phone consists of a 24 megapixel f/2.0 sensor, and the results here are much better than on the main camera. Photos are plenty detailed and you can take excellent self-portraits.
This phone can capture videos in maximum 4K resolution, and you can make use of electronic image stabilization when recording FullHD videos. Video quality is also only average, but it will do its job as long as you don’t expect any professional quality videos.
A great news is that the A9 has a tray that can house two SIM cards and a microSD card for storage expansion of up to 512GB. This expansion won’t be a problem since the memory card slot is separate so you can use all three cards at once. This phone has all modern connectivity options including NFC, and next to the Type-C port at the bottom, there’s also a 3.5mm audio port. The sound quality through the headphones is excellent, especially together with Dolby Atmos system that is implemented into the phone, but if you’re an audiophile, you’ll notice that the quality is still not as good as you get through tuned AKG headphones that you get together with S and Note series phones. Taking into consideration the price point and class, we can say that, all around the results are fine, but not excellent.
The battery in this phone has the capacity of 3800 mAh, and it perfectly suits it, taking into account that there is a 14nm chipset inside. Autonomy results are just great. The phone can last up a full day on a single charge, and if you’re not a power user, it will even hold up to two days. Total screen on time with brightness set to 60%, active WiFi and medium use goes upwards of 8 hours.
A fast charging system is here only to complete the story about battery. It takes around 1 hour and 50 minutes to fully charge up the phone from 0 to 100%.
Slowly but surely we’re coming to the point in a review where we can basically summarize everything that we’ve said. Samsung Galaxy A9 is definitely a solid phone with a good display and even better autonomy regarding the battery, but it didn’t perform where it should have, in the camera segment, which is the focus point of the phone. If you have even thought about getting spectacular photos out of this phone, we have to disappoint you. The S9+, Note9, Mate 20 Pro or any other flagship that’s essentially only 100-200 euros more expensive are MUCH better phones than the A9. If you’re already planning to spend 600 euros, our ge nuine advice is to either reach a bit further and get a flagship or simply buy a much less expensive phone such as Xiaomi’s Mi A2 or some Honor device.
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