Samsung’s A-series of devices are the official mid-range line of the Korean firm and was the first to receive the company’s all-metal premium treatment all those moons ago. The lineup, which started with the A3, A5 and the A7, has grown exponentially in the past few years, and now sport the A9 model that comes with a massive 6-inch display. Today we’ll be reviewing the A9 Pro, the biggest of them all and arguably the phone to get if you like big batts (and cannot lie).
Samsung A9 Pro (2016) specs
- 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor
- 4GB of RAM
- 6-inch full HD Super AMOLED display, Gorilla Glass 4, 1920 x 1080 resolution
- 32GB of expandable storage
- 16-megapixel rear camera with f/1.9 aperture, OIS, LED flash
- 8-megapixel front camera, f/1.9 aperture
- Dual SIM
- 3G, LTE
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, Fingerprint scanner
- 5000mAh battery
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow, TouchWiz UI
Premium metal and glass, just the way Samsung likes it
It’s no accident that Samsung’s A series lineup have the same design DNA as the company’s more recent flagship smartphones, though they’re more or less a generation behind with the design. Picking up the A9 Pro for the first time, it looked and felt like an upsized Galaxy Note 5 minus the stylus and the curve on the back. If you’ve seen a Note 5 or a Galaxy S6, you already know what to expect – a metal frame sandwiched in between two panels of Gorilla Glass 4.
The rounded corners of the phone is a futile attempt by Samsung to try and make the device more ergonomic, though that effort is wasted simply because of its sheer size. At 80.9mm wide (3.19 inches) it’s quite a challenging phone to grip and use one handed, even if you have bigger than normal paws just like us. People with smaller hands may want to use two hands whenever they use the phone lest they suddenly lose grip and drop it on the ground. At most, your fingers can reach 2/3rds of the display when you’re using it one-handed – two handed use really is the way to go with the phone.
The power button is on the right along with the SIM tray that for once, isn’t a hybrid setup that shares microSD expansion space as there’s a dedicated microSD slot on the top. On the upper left part of the frame lies the volume rocker, while the USB port (sorry kids, still no Type-C) 3.5mm jack and single speaker grille is located on the bottom of the phone.
Can’t say we’re fans of the layout of the buttons – the phone’s size make it difficult to press the volume rocker one handed without re-adjusting your grip if you’re holding the phone with your right hand. Weirdly enough, it’s not difficult to do the same you’re holding the phone with your left hand.
The back of the A9 Pro is fairly featureless aside from the 16-megapixel rear camera that extends out a few millimeters from the body, dual tone LED flash right beside it and Samsung’s logo. There’s no curves whatsover, which makes the phone a little harder to grip and its big footprint isn’t doing it any favors, either.
Up front, you’ll see the big 6-inch full HD Super AMOLED panel, home button that hides the fingerprint scanner and the capacitive physical Android navigation keys. Samsung’s been making Super AMOLED panels since forever, and is pretty much the master of the display technology.
The A9 Pro’s display shows it – it’s big, bright, has excellent viewing angles, extremely punchy colors that make watching movies on it a dream. Sure, the size of the display drags down the pixels per inch quite a bit (coming in at 367) but only the sharpest eyes will notice the difference coming from a QHD display.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 is fast
With Samsung leaning so heavily on their home-grown Exynos chips for many of their phones, it was quite surprising to learn that the A9 Pro packed a Qualcomm made Snapdragon 652 chipset on board. The processor is paired with an Adreno 510 GPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage.
Qualcomm’s middle of the road Snapdragon 652 is fast, and made quick work of heavy, graphically intense games like Asphalt 8, Modern Combat 5 and NBA2K16. Opening and closing apps felt nice and fluid, and we didn’t detect any kind of slow down during our time with the A9 Pro. Everything feels extremely snappy, and despite the phone having Samsung’s notorious TouchWiz UI (that has been trimmed down quite a bit), the phone still felt quick and capable. The phone comes with Android Marshmallow out of the box.
The fingerprint scanner is fast and accurate, and only failed to read our digits once or twice during the A9 Pro’s time with us. Audio is good enough we suppose, though it does suffer (as all small speakers do) from distortion at higher volumes. Because of the placement of the speaker grille it’s easy to cover it up sometimes when you’r holding the phone horizontally.
16-megapixel camera needs more optimization, dynamic range is all over the place
The Galaxy A9 Pro gets a 16-megapixel rear camera along with an f/1.9 aperture and OIS, plus dual LED flash. That’s a big improvement over the lowly 13-megapixel shooter on the regular A9 that was released in Western markets. Images shot with the A9 Pro are good, with good detail, though there is noticeable grain in some low-light shots. There’s some apparent oversharpening in some shots, and the camera sometimes struggles with dynamic range – some of the shots we took were a tad over-exposed, unfortunately.
No 4K shooting on the A9 Pro – you’re limited to just full HD on the device.
Stellar battery life
One big advantage with the A9 Pro over the regular ol’ A9 is battery life. Samsung has added 1000mAh more to the already quite large 4000mAh battery on the A9, with the A9 Pro, giving users a whopping 5000mAh worth of juice. That translates to more than two day’s worth of battery, more than enough for those extended Pokemon Go sessions with friends without needing to bring powerbanks. The A9 Pro has Qualcomm Quickcharge as well, which can quickly bring up the phone from 0 to 100 in around 2 hours.
Verdict: A solid phone all around, though it’s priced high for a midrange phone
Samsung’s biggest member of its A series of phones is arguably its best. While its overall size make it a little unwieldy to use for people with daintier hands, it’s hard to ignore what it brings to the table: a big, bright and beautiful screen, powerful processor and two day battery life. If there’s anything that would give people pause, it’s the price – at Php 25,990 it’s not cheap – you can probably nab yourself Samsung’s Galaxy S7 for a few thousand pesos more. But for people who want a phone that keeps on going for days AND has a display that’s a dream to watch on, then the A9 Pro may just be for you.