A mat­ter of size

Hav­ing a big smart­phone has its ad­van­tages, like be­ing able to hunt for Poke­mon longer.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TECHNOLOGY - By DONO­VAN QUEK bytz@ thes­tar.com.my

SAM­SUNG is best known for its flag­ship ranges, namely the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note.

In­ter­est­ingly, its rel­a­tively new Galaxy A se­ries is also shap­ing up to be a re­spectable choice in the crowded up­per mid- range An­droid smart­phone mar­ket.

The Galaxy A range of­fers de­vices that look just as pre­mium as Sam­sung’s flag­ship smart­phones but are more af­ford­able as they don’t pack the lat­est and great­est hard­ware.

Here we re­view one of the lat­est smart­phones in the Galaxy A se­ries, the A9 Pro ( 2016).

Look­ing good

If you have been fol­low­ing Sam­sung’s re­cent launches, you will find the A9 Pro’s de­sign fa­mil­iar and con­sis­tent with its glass and metal de­sign lan­guage.

A few peo­ple that I showed the smart­phone to mis­tak­enly iden­ti­fied it as a Galaxy Note 5, a tes­ta­ment to how sim­i­lar it is in ap­pear­ance to Sam­sung’s pop­u­lar flag­ship from last year.

An­other re­mark that I con­stantly re­ceived when re­view­ing the A9 Pro was about its size. With a 6in Su­per Amoled dis­play, this de­vice is not meant for long one- handed us­age as it is rather un­wieldy for those who have av­er­age- sized palms. Plus, with a weight of 210g, the de­vice is on the hefty side.

For those who are not turned off by the size, the A9 Pro is an ideal de­vice for me­dia con­sump­tion and heavy web brows­ing thanks to the gen­er­ous screen real es­tate.

Su­per Amoled screens have a rep­u­ta­tion of look­ing a lit­tle too vi­brant, but the tech­nol­ogy has come a long way and you can ac­tu­ally tone down the colours in the de­vice’s set­tings for more nat­u­ral- look­ing colours.

A mi­nor draw­back that sets the de­vice apart from other flag­ship smart­phones is that the screen is “only” full HD res­o­lu­tion. While it is by no means bad, a higher res­o­lu­tion would def­i­nitely have im­proved the user ex­pe­ri­ence for a screen of this size.

If you have two mo­bile numbers but do not want the has­sle of car­ry­ing two de­vices around, the A9 Pro has dual nano SIM slots.

What is even bet­ter is that there is a sep­a­rate slot for mi­croSD ex­pan­sion, so you don’t have to com­pro­mise and choose be­tween ei­ther a sec­ond line or more mem­ory like most other dual SIM phones in the mar­ket now.

Ex­tra stor­age is not ex­actly a ne­ces­sity for the A9 Pro though, as it comes with 32GB of in­ter­nal mem­ory.

One com­plaint I have is that there is no LED no­ti­fi­ca­tion light to alert users of any new no­ti­fi­ca­tions.

Pro per­for­mance

Out of the box, the A9 Pro runs on An­droid 6.0.1 ( Marsh­mal­low) with Sam­sung’s TouchWiz user in­ter­face ( UI).

Sam­sung’s TouchWiz has seen con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment, and I was pleased with the mi­nor up­dates I no­ticed over pre­vi­ous UI ver­sions.

For ex­am­ple, you get ad­di­tional op­tions to share, crop or cap­ture the re­main­der of the page im­me­di­ately af­ter tak­ing a screen­shot.

Sam­sung’s in­clu­sion of 4GB RAM in the A9 Pro is gen­er­ous, as this is the same as most of the high- end de­vices cur­rently on the mar­ket.

I spent my time with the de­vice do­ing lots of heavy web brows­ing and mul­ti­task­ing, and I did not re­call any of the tabs or apps restart­ing when I came back to them af­ter a pe­riod of in­ac­tiv­ity.

The A9 Pro’s home but­ton also dou­bles as a fin­ger­print sen­sor for se­cu­rity pur­poses.

It works the same way as the newer Sam­sung flag­ships, whereby you just need to have your fin­ger on the but­ton and press it down for the screen to un­lock.

Al­though it de­tected my fin­ger al­most in­stan­ta­neously, it failed to recog­nise my fin­ger a few times. This is likely due to the size of the de­vice, mak­ing the po­si­tion of the home but­ton a lit­tle less nat­u­ral to press with the thumb.

Long life

The ap­peal of this de­vice is un­doubt­edly its mas­sive 5,000mAh bat­tery. I usu­ally never leave my house with­out my trusted power bank with me. Dur­ing the du­ra­tion of the re­view, I did not have to touch the power bank at all.

The de­vice eas­ily lasted three work­ing days of mod­er­ate us­age, which in­cluded a good deal of web brows­ing, Face­book surf­ing, Google Map nav­i­ga­tion and YouTube binge watch­ing.

Cou­pled with the fast charg­ing fea­ture, this is a de­vice that you can con­fi­dently take out on a long day with­out the slight­est worry of run­ning out of juice.

So with­out a doubt this makes the A9 Pro one of the best smart­phones for play­ing the wildly pop­u­lar Poke­mon Go game which is a bane to bat­tery life. Af­ter a full charge in the morn­ing, a full day of work with mod­er­ate us­age, and two hours of Poke­mon Go in the evening, I still had around 50% of bat­tery life.

But the phone does get hot af­ter pro­longed us­age so that’s some­thing to keep in mind.

The cam­era app is eas­ily one of the most fre­quently used smart­phone fea­tures, so hav­ing a qual­ity sharp­shooter is usu­ally high in the pri­or­ity list when de­cid­ing on a pur­chase.

The A9 Pro has a sim­i­lar cam­era in­ter­face as Sam­sung’s high- end smart­phones, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to dou­ble tap the home but­ton to launch the cam­era at any point, even when the screen is off.

How­ever, the qual­ity of pic­tures taken were un­der­stand­ably poorer than the flag­ship de­vices. The images were de­cent when there was enough light but the cam­era didn’t per­form quite well in low- light sit­u­a­tions as pho­tos turned out grainier.

Mov­ing on, the A9 Pro’s speaker is good and rea­son­ably loud al­though it would have been nice if there were two speak­ers in­stead of one.

In terms of po­si­tion­ing, I ac­ci­den­tally cov­ered the speaker while watch­ing videos on a few oc­ca­sions as it is sit­u­ated where I usu­ally place my fin­ger to sup­port the weight of the de­vice.

Con­clu­sion

At a rec­om­mended re­tail price of RM1,999, the A9 Pro is def­i­nitely cheaper than Sam­sung’s flag­ships, some of which cost around RM3,000 nowa­days.

How­ever, it is hard to imag­ine any­one con­sid­er­ing the A9 Pro’s price as af­ford­able, es­pe­cially with many cheaper al­ter­na­tives for midrange de­vices from Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers.

What you can ex­pect from the A9 Pro’s price tag is a de­vice that looks just as good as Sam­sung’s flag­ship de­vices. On the sur­face, it is hard to tell that the A9 Pro is not one of Sam­sung’s flag­ships.

On top of that, the de­vice boasts one of the best bat­tery lives we have ever ex­pe­ri­enced on a smart­phone.

Also, the size of the screen is ideal for long hours of read­ing, so it is a great com­pan­ion to have for those who love brows­ing web­sites and read­ing e- books.

The only main area that can be im­proved on is the cam­era.

Siz­able screen: the 6in screen is ideal for web surf­ing, so­cial me­dia, read­ing e- books and watch­ing movies. Also, it fea­tures dual SIM card slots and an SD mem­ory card slot.

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