Samsung Galaxy A9 2018 128GB (Samsung Galaxy A9s) detailed review
While review of the Galaxy A7 (2018), we saw how Samsung uses the A-series smartphones as a test bed for new features. The A7 was the first to offer a triple camera setup and now a series of leaks and rumors suggest that the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10 series will also tout triple cameras. Samsung also followed up the Galaxy A7 with the Galaxy A9 which became the world’s first smartphone with a quad-camera setup on the back. Now it’s an ongoing debate about whether cramming more cameras into the phone is a major innovation, but Samsung’s marketing machine would try to convince you it is. We’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy A9 for a long time, testing its performance and using the camera to take all kinds of photos. The versatility the Galaxy A9 offers in terms of smartphone photography was impressive, but was the quality as good as you’d expect from a high-end Galaxy phone? Let’s find out.
Not only the cameras are new in the Galaxy A9. Samsung also used a gradient color finish on a Galaxy phone for the first time, and it sure looks refreshingly good. Design that millennials will love was what Samsung was aiming for, and it hit the mark with the new color treatment in the Galaxy A9. The Galaxy A9 is easy to recognize, especially due to the fairly large camera module, but also to the color finish. The A9 is offered in a vibrant Bubblegum Pink with pink and red hues. Then there’s the Lemon Blue we received for review and it looks refreshingly good. Samsung has also kept a no-nonsense black variant for those who don’t like such fancy colors. While the phone looks good when you take it out of the box, the back panel was smeared with fingerprints after an hour. You do get a case in the box, which is handy to keep the phone clean. The fact that there is a glass panel on the back automatically reduces its durability as it will break if it falls out of your hand.
The Galaxy A9 is not a phone that you can comfortably use with one hand. It has a giant footprint that is wide and stretches to over 6.3 inches, and not quite ergonomic to use. I’ve used the phone as a daily driver for a few days and struggled especially on my commute when I usually only have one hand free. Despite its gigantic stature, the fingerprint sensor on the back is easy to reach. It’s conveniently placed in the center of the back panel and is quite responsive too.
While the form factor is certainly large, the screen itself takes up most of the real estate. There are large but unobtrusive edges on the top and bottom and very thin ones on the sides. What’s even more impressive is the fact that Samsung has steadfastly resisted using the notch, and the Galaxy A9 has a seamless, uninterrupted panel with components such as the proximity sensor, earpiece, and the front-facing camera that extend all the way to the top edge. rinsed.
The gradient design has been exaggerated by Chinese phone makers like Honor and Oppo, but Samsung’s first offering is a commendable attempt. Maybe the upcoming Galaxy S10 will have something similar?
The Samsung Galaxy A9 has a fairly large screen that sticks to the older 18:9 aspect ratio. Samsung packs 1080 x 2220 pixels at 393 pixels per inch. The pixel density is lower than most phones in that price range, and you can see that every now and then if you take a closer look at the stock wallpaper. You can see stripes where one color transitions into another. However, watching videos on YouTube and Netflix is a good experience. The Super AMOLED panel boosts contrast levels making videos appear quite vibrant and rich.
We registered a peak brightness of 671 lux, comparable to other high-end phones we tested last year, including the OnePlus 6T, while the minimum brightness dropped to 3 lux, which is dim enough to read comfortably in the dark. Samsung is known for making good displays and the Galaxy A9 is another example of that. It’s a well-optimized panel and while it lacks the high pixel density that makes panels like the OnePlus 6T appear much sharper, it more than makes up for it in terms of color reproduction. It’s Widevine L1 certified, so you can stream videos from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in FullHD resolution. The large screen is especially good for viewing content and playing games.
Performance and software
With the Galaxy A9, Samsung’s focus was mainly on the cameras. As a result, while it faces high-end flagships like the OnePlus 6T and LG G7 ThinQ, the phone relies on a mid-range processor. The Snapdragon 660 has proven to be quite capable of handling everyday tasks, but it’s just not as seamless as devices powered by the Snapdragon 845, which are the main competition. The benchmark results reflect that fact.
On AnTuTu, the Galaxy A9 scored 138800, almost half the score of the Snapdragon 845-powered Asus Zenfone 5z 268993 and the Poco F1’s 265754. Compared to the Mi A2 which is also powered by the Snapdragon, the Galaxy A9 scored higher. In Geekbench Single and Multi-core tests, the Galaxy A9 scored 1612 and 5694 respectively, expected to be lower than the Asus Zenfone 5z. However, the scores were higher than other Snapdragon 660-powered devices.
It’s clear that the A9 is no match for the high-end smartphones like the Asus Zenfone 5z and the Poco F1, but that doesn’t mean the phone isn’t suitable for intensive use. During our use, the Galaxy A9 did not slow down or take much time to launch apps and the like. The Samsung Experience UI is well optimized to launch apps relatively quickly, but there are some bugs. The camera app mainly had a few bugs that Samsung could iron out later in an update. It is striking that switching between the lenses sometimes does not work and that the camera app occasionally freezes. There have been reports of screen freezes and unexpected shutdowns online, but we didn’t have to deal with those during the review.
Gaming on the Galaxy A9 is good enough, especially for the vibrant screen, but the phone also has some heating issues. While playing PubG Mobile, we recorded temperatures around 45 degrees, indicating that there is significant heating in the chassis, which will not be good in the long run. Other games like Subway Surfer and Dead Trigger 2 also performed well with no significant slowdowns, but there’s even some heating on the back.
Four cameras adorn the back of the Galaxy A9. It is the first smartphone with such a configuration. The setup allows wide-angle photos, zoomed-in (2X optical) photos and portrait photos thanks to an additional depth sensor. The imaging stack has a 24 megapixel primary sensor with f/1.7 aperture and PDAF, a 12 mm wide-angle lens with 8 megapixel sensor and a third 10 megapixel sensor with 54 mm f/2.4 telephoto lens. The fourth camera is a 5 megapixel depth sensor for portrait photos. However, as we noted on a closer look at the Galaxy A9 camera, the wide-angle lens has no autofocus and the focus is fixed at infinity. We also noted that the depth sensor in the image stack makes no sense, as the telephoto and wide-angle lens may be enough to provide the required depth information. Which leads us to believe, did Samsung jokingly put a four-camera setup on the back of the Galaxy A9?
In the in-depth piece, we had noted that the primary camera skips any optical image stabilization and as a result, low-light photos aren’t quite as nice. Also, food shots during indoor shooting showed some degree of blur. Samsung applies its signature noise reduction algorithms to photos, giving them a warm tone.
The primary sensor also tends to blow out highlights and the shadows come out darker than usual. You should be aware of this and adjust the frame accordingly.
The ultra-wide angle camera offers a 12 mm wide field of view and does not let you selectively focus on an object in the frame. If you shoot during the day, the brightly lit areas will be more exposed compared to the dark areas. You also can’t take advantage of the ultra-wide angle lens in Pro mode where the option to switch lenses isn’t present.
The ultra-wide angle lens also has a high barrel distortion, making straight lines appear curved. Other phones like the LG G7+ ThinQ and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, which also have ultra-wide lenses, have much less distortion. It seems Samsung has more to do with making wide-angle photos look natural, and since this is their first attempt, there’s a lot more to do.
While the wide-angle photography can be considered a bull’s eye, the portrait mode on the Galaxy A9 is quite good. While Samsung could have simply used the existing telephoto and wide-angle lens to collect depth information, the 5MP depth sensor does a good job on its own. The separation was also fairly consistent and the ability to adjust the bokeh level is quite useful.
However, the selfie camera on the Galaxy A9 is not the best out there. In this case, the OnePlus 6T and the Asus Zenfone 5z manage to snap much better, more vibrant selfies than the 24MP sensor on the Galaxy A9.
Overall, the biggest USP of the Galaxy A9 is also its biggest weakness. Samsung hyped the camera so much that I expected something groundbreaking from the Korean giant. While Samsung is known for leaving a lasting impression when it comes to their flagships, the Galaxy A9’s camera is simply playing the numbers game and trying to live off the hype of being the world’s first quad camera phone.
The Galaxy A9 has a decent 3800mAh battery which the company claims will keep the phone going for more than a day. That is not the case, according to our extensive battery test. The 3800 mAh capacity is quite big for a mid-range smartphone, but the Galaxy A9 will give you around 6.5 hours of screen time, as shown by the PCMark Work 2.0 battery test. While gaming, the Galaxy A9’s battery dropped from 63 percent to 51 percent after half an hour of PubG Mobile and 30 minutes of Google Maps navigation drained the battery by 12 percent. The phone also does not support fast charging and charging the battery to its full capacity takes over 2 hours.
All things considered, the Samsung Galaxy A9 is reliable enough for the performance, but doesn’t quite justify the high price tag that comes with it. Samsung has hyped the camera so much that we expected the four-camera stack to perform exceptionally well, even better than what others like the OnePlus 6T and Asus Zenfone 5z offer in that price range. But that’s not the case, as several glaring compromises greatly detract from the imaging experience. However, Samsung has made sure that the top-of-the-line A-series phone grabs attention and stands out from other phones with similar designs. The color treatment and especially the display are the real reasons to buy this phone, but then again if you have Rs 34,000 to spare it’s better to settle for a high-end flagship like the Asus Zenfone 5z or the Honor 10 or even pay a little extra and get the OnePlus 6T.