One thing that has improved significantly over the past couple of years has to be the smartphones and their cameras. The camera on recent smartphones has improved so exponentially that it can now be a Unique Selling Proposition of a smartphone. From a single camera to dual, and dual cameras to having triple camera lenses, we’ve seen them all. What’s next then? The all new Samsung Galaxy A9 2018; world’s first quad camera smartphone. How does it stack up against other camera-centric phones? Let’s find out in this full review of the Samsung Galaxy A9 2018.
Build and Design
Starting off with the physical aspects of the device, the Samsung Galaxy A9 boasts the trendy glass sandwich design which makes it look and feel every bit premium as it can get. The gradient color backs have always been appealing and the same holds true for our Bubblegum Pink variant of the device. Pink is not my color but I came to like it (The Bubblegum Pink variant is not making its way to the market though).
To the front, we have a 6.3″ FHD+ Super AMOLED display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio and without any notch disrupting your vision. Samsung likes to call it an Infinity Display for some reason (it’s tall but it still has a lot of bezels wrapping it all along). When it comes to AMOLED displays, Samsung has been best in class and the same applies to the Galaxy A9. The display is crisp and vibrant and produces punchy colors. But like every other glass back phones, this one too gets easily smudged up and there’s no denying that glass is every bit as fragile as it gets.
The Volume rockers and the power button are placed to the right, and to the left, we have the controversial Bixby button which takes a little getting used to, in order to differentiate it from the power button. To the back, we have the unique looking horizontally aligned quad cameras with a flash and the fingerprint scanner placed centered beside the camera. To the top, we have the SIM Card slot and the secondary noise-canceling microphone. To the bottom, we’ve got the 3.5mm Headphone jack, the speaker grills, and the primary microphone and the USB Type-C resides in between. Samsung has got all the basics right on this one, cheers to that.
The Samsung Galaxy A9 2018 runs on Samsung Experience UI version 9.0 which for some weird reason is still running on top of Android 8.0 Oreo. This is something I hated at first but I got used to. The Experience UI is well optimized and no matter what, the device handles it with ease. Part of that is also because of the 6GB of RAM, which is more than enough for anything you might do on your smartphone. The UI is responsive, fast and snappy. Plus it brings a whole lot of features on to the table like face unlocks, secure folder, etc.
It’s time to address the thing you’ve been waiting for, the cameras. The quad cameras on the back include a 24MP primary sensor with f/1.7 aperture, a 10MP f/2.4 telephoto sensor, an 8MP f/2.4 ultrawide sensor with a 120-degree field of view and a dedicated 5MP depth sensor. The specs seem awesome on paper but when it comes to real-world usage, the camera suffers.
The pictures from the main camera are not even close to color accurate and have a reddish tint to them, same applies to the telephoto camera as well, the images via the telephoto camera, too are lackluster in details and have the similar reddish tint to it.
When it comes to the wide-angle camera, it’s good. The images turn out to be good but the lack of detail is still persistent but it’s good to have yet another perspective. I don’t know what the dedicated depth sensor actually does here, as the edge detection is quite messed up and we’ve seen the primary plus telephoto sensor produce some realistic looking bokeh or portrait shots.
Hence, the quad camera buzz is a gimmick to be dead honest and even the cheaper offerings from Samsung can produce some great pictures than that of the Galaxy A9.
As for the 24MP selfie camera, it turned out to be great than expected. The captured images were quite color accurate, however, the portrait mode lacked a proper edge detection here as well. But it is still a decent camera for selfie enthusiast, considering how bad the rear is.
This is the department where the A9 made me fall in love with it. Despite having a single bottom firing speaker, the output is balanced and gets decently loud. The speaker doesn’t distort at maximum volume hence making the A9 a boon for multimedia enthusiasts who like to stream movies on their smartphones. The crisp and vibrant Super AMOLED panel on the A9 combined with great audio is a combo that can woo anyone. Plus the dedicated microSD card support ensures that you can carry your entire media library if you run out of storage by any means.
The 3.5mm headphone jack is present when you want to enjoy your contents undisturbed and the output via the headphone jack is great and with the support for Dolby ATMOS, the audio profile matches the type of content that you’re watching or you can toggle it as per your liking. That’s something where the A9 really shines.
The Galaxy A9 has support for face unlock apart from the good old fingerprint scanner. The fingerprint scanner is quick to unlock the device and so is the face unlock, if you trust the optics enough, the face unlock is a tad bit faster than the fingerprint scanner in daylight but it suffers when it doesn’t find the ideal lighting conditions. Plus there’s Samsung’s secure folder option in order to keep your private files up to yourself.
The Samsung Galaxy A9 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC, which is an octa-core chipset built on 14nm FINFET process with four powerful cores clocked at 2.2GHz each and four power-efficient cores clocked at 1.8 GHz each. Opening up apps, running multiple apps in the background, heavy usage, and even gaming, this device manages to keep the performance on par almost every single time. The ample 6GB of RAM ensures that the background apps keep running in the background and the performance is not compromised. This one is a great performer, yet another thing to love.
The graphics are handled by the Adreno 512 GPU underneath, which means this device is good for gaming as well. PUBG plays at medium settings on auto but even when it is cranked to high, the gaming performance is great with some minor hiccups here and there but definitely playable. Same applies to Asphalt 9, it offers smooth gameplay overall with the exception of some minor frame drops here and there.
And like every other smartphone, this one too gets warm while playing games. While playing PUBG the device tends to warm up a bit after 30-35 minutes of gameplay and on Asphalt 9, the duration is 25-28 minutes. The device doesn’t get overheated or uncomfortable to hold, it’s just stuff to know (P.S. who stops at a single match of PUBG?)
The battery life of the Galaxy A9 is actually amazing and no matter how hard I pushed the device to its extent throughout the day, I often ended my day with 25 to 30 percent juice left. On a day I was able to achieve 8hrs of screen on time on a single charge, which is pretty impressive. The Snapdragon 660 underneath the hood is not that power hungry which makes the A9 get through all that beating without dying before the day ends. Yet another thing that I loved about this phone.
This has been my love and hate relationship with the Galaxy A9 2018. No doubt the Samsung Galaxy A9 2018 is a good all-around performer when you look past the cameras which are supposed to be the forte of this quad camera device. When you put the price to performance ratio into perspective, this one is hard to recommend. And with a lot of better offerings out there the Samsung Galaxy A9 2018 is nothing but an experiment that turned to a final product without proper testing and R&D.