Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro In Depth Review
- Good processor
- Large 6.0-inch display with Full HD Resolution
- Storage with microSD support
- Amazing battery life with quick charge support/li>
- Great performing cameras
- Could be a little pricey for some
- Can be quite difficult to maneuver with one hand
- Design is quite "Standard" with glass back and front
The Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro brings some challenge to a mid range with a lack of variety and compelling features. The sleek glass front and back bring a premium feel to the device. It has one of the most vibrant displays in the upper mid-range market and brings with it features which consumers have been asking for. The large 5,000mAh battery brings with it some amazing battery life thanks to the software optimisations by Samsung. However, at RM1,999, the Galaxy A9 Pro may be a little on the pricey end.
The Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro (2016) is Samsung’s latest entry into the premium midrange. The behemoth of a device brings both luxury and performance to a mid-range sorely lacking in flavour. It also marks a palpable change in the way the South Korean manufacturer approaches their upper midrange devices. Ele gant, luxurious and a performer all in one, it brings their mid-range offerings closer to their brand image.
The Galaxy A9 Pro hulking size leaves any designer with a challenge. However, Samsung adopts an approach which is both premium and luxurious all at once. It also brings the trademark features we’ve expected to see in the Galaxy A line-up of devices announced earlier this year.
However, there is one major difference, the device is unruly in its size. With a massive 6-inch display, the rest of the phone had to be enlarged to fit its size. Don’t expect to see the sleek, slender size other Galaxy A devices. This is one device that truly stands out of the crowd!
Samsung’s design language of the Galaxy A9 Pro brings with it a sense of luxury by combining two elements: glass and metal. The device comes with a metal chassis which brings a sense of durability and sturdiness. The metal is sandwiched between a glass front and back panel. Make no mistake, while other manufacturers have moved away from this, Samsung’s approach has managed to make the device feel premium and makes the device look so elegant.
The design puts the main feature of the Galaxy A9 Pro front and centre – its 6-inch screen. That isn’t a bad thing. The amazing 1080p Full HD screen is sharp and vibrant. It is undoubtedly one of the better mid-range screens out there. The Super AMOLED panel brings vibrancy and also contrast to the screen which makes it that much more enjoyable to consume your media. However, it is also the reason why the device is so unwieldly. This has got to be the most irritating love-hate relationship to have with a device.
The biggest let down is the lack of imagination in the design of the A9 Pro. After seeing their flagship S7 Edge, it’s hard to take the lack of flair in what can be considered a mid-range flagship. While luxurious, it is essentially a rectangular slab. This is one of the devices which could have really benefitted from a little more design flair.
The Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro’s technical specifications prove that a mid-range device can pack a punch when it comes to performance. However, even with the best of internals, a device can fall flat in daily use.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 (8 Cores)
Quad-core 1.8 GHz + Quad-core 1.4 GHz
Expandable with MicroSD (Max. 256 GB)
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||Adreno 510|
6.0-inch (~367 ppi)
Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Corning Gorilla Glass 4
|Operating System||Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow) with TouchWiz|
|Battery||5000mAh (Claimed 27h talk time on 3G connectivity)
Adaptive Fast Charge Capable (Samsung Charger)
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band
Bluetooth 4.2, LE
FM Radio (with headphones)
Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
Video recording at 1080p (30fps)
As you might realise, if you’re a techie, the Galaxy A9 Pro’s specifications closely mirror those of the S7 Edge aside from the processor and GPU, cameras, screen resolution and battery size.
The Galaxy A9 Pro comes with Samsung’s signature TouchWiz UI. Unlike the Galaxy S7 Edge, however, the phone doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles that you’d expect to see in a flagship. But that in no means makes it handicapped.
The user interface of the A9 Pro carries with it a sense of style and finesse that we’ve come to expect from Samsung. The days of the old, laggy and painfully bloated TouchWiz UI are gone. Over the years, the Korean behemoth has managed to refine the user interface and experience into something that is more visually appealing and stylish.
Samsung brings its theming engine into the mid-ranger. The addition of the feature came earlier on in the S6 and Note 5. The interface of the theming engine is easy to use but very limited. Unlike other devices on the market, customisation is limited to the themes you see in the Theme Store. If you want to change your app icons, you’re out of luck. However, users are able to optimise their visual space by selecting the number of grids in the home screen.
As mentioned before, the amount of bloatware in TouchWiz, has been dramatically reduced. Aside from the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive and OneNote), Skype, LINE, OperaMax and the regular Samsung App Suite (S Health, Calculator, S Voice, Galaxy Apps etc.), the amount of bloatware in the Galaxy A9 Pro is kept to an absolute minimum.
Features like Ultra Power Saving mode, NFC and S finder make a return in the Galaxy A9 Pro. In addition, Samsung has brought over the Ultra Data Saving Mode (UDS) from its Galaxy J series to the A9 Pro. Samsung claims that this feature will allow users to save up to 50% in their data usage. So how does it achieve this? Remember the Opera Max app? That application is used to enable a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which will compress data packets as they move from your device into the internet. Essentially, it acts as a compactor for the data. In addition to this, the UDS feature also limits the data synchronisation in other apps.
A new feature that piqued our interest is the inclusion of what Samsung calls “S Bike Mode”. This mode limits device functionality when you ride your bike. One of its functions helps filter calls to allow only urgent calls in so you won’t need to fiddle with your phone while riding. The usage of earphones in this mode is disabled. It also allows you to monitor the distance of your rides. It displays the rides just like you would see the number of steps taken in S Health.
Another feature that makes it to the A9 Pro is scroll capture which allows users to capture multiple scrolls of the screen. This comes in handy when you’re trying to capture an article or a menu.
RAM usage by TouchWiz has been hugely optimised by Samsung. The device ran with a very comfortable amount of RAM remaining free. In our test, this was about 2GB. However, if you are playing games or doing other processor hungry activities, this will definitely be lower.
You also have the added advantage of running on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow which is the latest version of Android at the time of writing. This version of Android brings some hardening of the Operating System (OS) thanks to components of Samsung’s KNOX system being integrated. Samsung has further enhanced the security by adding even more features from KNOX to protect user data and applications. But, if you want to use KNOX fully, you’ll have to download the app from one of the two app stores: Google Play Store or Galaxy Apps.
When it comes to benchmarks, the A9 Pro doesn’t drop the ball. It performed well across the board. However, while benchmarks may provide an indication of hardware performance, actual device performance will be influenced by how you use your device. The number of apps, the number of background processes and a lot more factors contribute to the overall device performance in day to day usage.
As we’ve mentioned in the preceding parts, the performance of any given device is dependent on multiple factors, particularly the hardware in the device and the software optimisations that the manufacturer has implemented. We’ll be looking at the performance of the Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro in a few aspects: call quality and connectivity, gaming and multitasking.
Call Quality & Connectivity
The Galaxy A9 Pro comes with a slew of connectivity options we’ve come to expect in any mobile device including 4G LTE, WiFi, 3G, and even 2G connectivity. Our concern here is how the device performed on these connections.
Overall, the A9 Pro performed as expected. Connectivity on all options was stable and dependable. There was little issue to connecting to WiFi signals or 4G LTE.
Our main purpose in buying a smartphone, is undeniably to make calls or send messages via apps such as WhatsApp, LINE or WeChat. The call quality on the A9 Pro was good. The earpiece provided a very warm, clear tone and we had little issue with audibility. Callers also reported that there was little distortion and background noise.
However, the biggest issues we had during calls was the speaker phone. While the speaker is loud, taking calls on the speaker phone can be a pain. On multiple occasions, we had difficulty hearing the person on the other side. This was particularly apparent while using the speaker in open spaces and also while using in the car. If you need a hands free option, we suggest getting Bluetooth connectivity for your car or opting for a Bluetooth headset.
The Galaxy A9 Pro is able to connect to WiFi networks of the b/g/n and ac wavelengths. This made WiFi connectivity on the go easy and accessible. When we were connected to WiFi, the line was generally stable and we had little issue loading websites and using apps. Samsung’s smart network switch makes a return in the A9 Pro as well. This feature allows the device to seamlessly jump to a mobile network when WiFi is unstable.
Connectivity on mobile was not an issue either. When there were no carrier problems with the network, loading webpages and downloading files were seamless. The Download booster feature also makes a return to the Galaxy A9 Pro allowing users to download larger files faster by downloading simultaneously on both 4G LTE and WiFi.
The Galaxy A9 Pro is a real power house for gaming when it comes to midrange devices. The Snapdragon 652’s Adreno 510 provides the device with a good amount of graphics processing. It didn’t have much trouble with heavy games like Marvel’s Future Fight, Mortal Kombat X, Injustice and Asphalt 8.
That said, the A9 Pro, did have some amount of stuttering and frame rate drops when it came to the games. However, unless you’re looking for the details, it won’t really be apparent to you.
The Galaxy A9 Pro can even handle Pokémon GO quite well. We had little to no stuttering. But we have to forewarn you, the A9 Pro doesn’t come with a gyroscope sensor, so you won’t be able to use the Augmented reality feature of the game. Aside from that, the device is a beast.
Multitasking is one of the features that we love in the A9 Pro. The larger 6-inch display allows users to use features like split screen a little more effectively compared to devices like the S7 or even the Note5.
In fact, the optimisations we saw in Samsung’s flagship models does trickle down to the A9 Pro. But as always, don’t expect the whole package with the mid-range. That said, the multitasking ability of the A9 Pro is not to be looked down upon. The processor and RAM make it a formidable device.
In our experience, the device had little to no problems with multitasking. In fact, unless you’re stuck in the very minute details, you won’t notice any stutter or lag.
Battery life is one aspect the Galaxy A9 Pro can proudly boast. The larger 5,000 mAh battery is one of the longest lasting we’ve seen so far. We believe the battery life has little to do with the large capacity but more to do with software optimisations Samsung has introduced with their recent line of devices starting with the S7.
The battery lasted on average about two full days of regular use. This included calls, mobile internet (4G LTE/3G/2G), WiFi, GPS and screen on time. With sparce use, we managed to squeeze about 4 days of battery life. However, if you’re a social media junkie, you can expect that apps such as Facebook will definitely lower your battery life. After installing and setting up Facebook on the review device, we saw a drop to about one and a half days of active usage.
Given the advent of Pokémon GO, we decided to test the battery endurance of the A9 Pro with the app. Keep in mind, that active use of the Pokémon GO app utilises GPS, mobile internet (4G LTE/3G), WiFi and screen on time. In our testing, the battery lasted over 5 hours of actively using the app.
The Galaxy A9 Pro comes with a Full HD resolution Super AMOLED display. Samsung’s in-house displays are renowned for their saturated and vibrant colours. It’s no different with the A9 Pro. However, the display colour accuracy is debatable. The display’s saturation and vividness may be a turn off to some users. However, if you like your screen to pop and have a preference for saturated colours, like myself, the display is one you’ll definitely fall in love with.
Increased real estate on the device’s 6.0-inch display brings a very much welcomed sparseness in the user interface. While the pixel density is less, the space between icons made it easier on the eyes in our testing. However, if you want more icons on your home screen, Samsung includes the option for smaller grids in the their new TouchWiz UI. Even on the denser 5×5 grid option, the display area was still very comfortably spaced.
The Galaxy A9 Pro while being marketed as a media consumption device, still brings with it the selfie and photograph centric features of the Galaxy A line up. It comes with a 16-megapixel main camera and an 8-megapixel front facer. While it lacks the dual pixel technology of the S7 and S7 edge, the cameras still take very nice pictures.
Main camera samples
In proper lighting, the main camera produces pretty sharp pictures. Even if you zoom in, the finer details of the picture are preserved. The sharpness of the pictures is partially due to the high resolution. Autofocus on the main camera is also quite responsive and quick. The phase detection autofocus on A9 Pro allows the camera to focus in about 1-2 seconds under good lighting conditions. One thing to note is that the camera uses point exposure referencing for exposure grading. So, keep that in mind when you choose your focus points. Too dark, and the brighter portions will be over exposed; too bright and the darker portions will be too dark with little detail. The optical image stabilisation on the main camera also works pretty well but has room for improvement.
Front camera samples
The 8-megapixel front facer produces good quality photos – in good lighting. Under low light, the pictures get grainy. It is very typical of midrange devices. Without optical stabilisation, you have to make sure that you have a steady hand when you take that selfie. During our review, it was pretty hard to get a properly focused selfie.