Last year's Galaxy A9 Pro was a pretty well stacked phone from Samsung. It was still a little rough around the edges though. It was, but, Samsung's first foray into the world of super-sized phablets with super-sized batteries and for a first attempt, the Galaxy A9 Pro was -- for the lack of a better word - quite brilliant. The Galaxy C9 Pro is yet another attempt from Samsung to offer a super-sized phablet with a super-sized battery. So, what's different, this time round you ask? A lot, actually.
The Galaxy C9 Pro, on the face of it, builds on the foundation laid down by the Galaxy A9 Pro. At the same time, it works to fine-tune some of the frustrating bits and pieces - more with respect to ergonomics and usability -- that made last year's phone a lesser mortal. The Galaxy C9 Pro, although it compromises a little in the battery department for a slimmer physique, ends up being a much better package overall consequently. If only the Galaxy C9 Pro was also water-resistant, it would be the ultimate package.
A 6-inch phablet that fits just right
The Galaxy C9 Pro is a 6-inch phone on paper. It's a different story altogether in real life. It measures only 6.9mm in thickness and weighs only 189 gram. It's a giant alright, but, it's surprisingly friendly in real life. Not intimidating, but, friendly. Last year's Galaxy A9 Pro, for your reference, measured 7.9mm and weighed in at 210 gram. The A9 Pro with all its glass and metal, when you look at it now, would seem like an ergonomic nightmare. The Galaxy A9 Pro was an ergonomic nightmare.
It could still get away with the fact that, that phone, was carrying a massive 5,000mAh battery inside and it's a very valid argument at the end of the day. But come to think of it, Samsung itself did not stick to it for a very long time, now did it? The Galaxy C9 Pro cuts short on battery capacity - it ships with a smaller 4,000mAh battery in comparison - for an ergonomically better, nay much better phone. It's easy on the eyes, easier still when in the hands.
The Galaxy C9 Pro is a 6-inch phone on paper. It's a different story altogether in real life. It's a giant alright, but, it's surprisingly friendly in real life. Not intimidating, but, friendly
To be able to make a 6-inch phone -- with a big battery inside -- and to be able to make it ergonomically sound is easier said than done, even for Samsung, a company notorious for building paper-thin handsets these days. The Galaxy C9 Pro is clearly a (positive) sign of things to come. If that wasn't enough, an even distribution of weight throughout its body ensures the Galaxy C9 Pro never feels overpowering. It can easily get inside your pockets and it can stay there while it is at it.
In comparison to the A9 Pro, the Galaxy C9 Pro is an all-metal phone with a screen that's carved out of Corning's Gorilla Glass. It doesn't smudge nor does it accumulate any fingerprints. It can be a little slippery though, at least, during your initial stint with the phone. The design - a cross between Samsung and HTC - may be borderline generic, but, Samsung's reimagined antenna lines - a strip of three straight lines running parallel to each other - look gorgeous. Wonder, why no one thought of it, earlier.
Being a mid-tier Samsung phone, of course, has its plus points. The Galaxy C9 Pro is exceptionally well-built and screams premium from every nook and corner.
The power button (on the left) and the volume rocker (on the right) are firm and offer excellent tactile feedback. The phone comes with USB Type-C for charging and data syncing and a front mounted home button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner. It's my least favorite thing on an otherwise well though-out device. It's slow and frustratingly inaccurate.
It's no slouch either
The C9 Pro is powered by a 1.9GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 653 processor, clubbed with Adreno 510 GPU and whopping 6 gigs of RAM. It comes with 64GB of on-board memory which is further expandable by up to 256GB via a dedicated micro-SD card slot. The dual-SIM phone supports 4G LTE (VoLTE-ready) and NFC connectivity. By the looks of it, the C9 Pro is simply a turbo-charged A9 Pro. And it is, quite literally, in real life as well.
It's pointless to bring the OnePlus 3T in the picture here, because, the OnePlus 3T with its Snapdragon 821 CPU and 6GB RAM (and near stock Android) simply hits the C9 Pro straight out of the ball park in almost every sense of the word. Also, the OnePlus 3T is cheaper. Imagine a world without the OnePlus 3T and the C9 Pro should technically rock that - your -- world. In comparison to last year's A9 Pro, the C9 Pro with its on-diet and much more sorted user interface feels faster and smoother.
The C9 Pro is able to handle hard-hitting tasks (and multitasking) quite efficiently most of the time. While basic games are handled well, graphical intensive games like Asphalt 8: Airborne can be prone to some lag especially at mid and high settings when playing for longer periods. But, mostly it's smooth sailing though.
Overall, the C9 Pro does well in all-round performance, even more so than the A9 Pro.
The C9 Pro isn't very prone to overheating. There is some heating when you're pushing it to the edge but nothing that is alarming. Also, it is pretty quick to cool down so that's a plus.
As opposed to the A9 Pro, the C9 Pro comes with dual stereo speakers which can get pleasantly loud with little or no distortion at peak volume. Voice quality during calls made with the phone was also excellent.
Samsung's UI is aging gracefully but there's still a long way to go
Although the C9 Pro runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out-of-the-box just like the A9 Pro before it, the software - TouchWiz/Grace UX - inside Samsung's new phone seems light years ahead in looks as well as functionality. "That's been an on-going task for the last three years now. We took that decision when we launched the Galaxy S6 where we actually started removing lot of the unnecessary features which consumers weren't even using. We made it a lot lighter. The user interface is now different in terms of the fonts, the visuals and everything. It's very light on the eyes. The experience is also very swift now," Manu Sharma, who is vice-president, Mobile Business, Samsung India explained to me not long ago.
But, the C9 Pro still ships with Marshmallow and not Nougat. "Samsung always promises two upgrades for sure," he added which means technically the C9 Pro should get Nougat in future. Considering that Samsung takes an awfully long time to update its devices, don't expect it to be out anytime soon though.
Although Samsung's penchant for fancy animations and some bloat or unwanted apps still continues, the fact that the C9 Pro's UI is mostly in-sync (or optimised) with its hardware, goes a long way in making it all the more less frustrating than past iterations. The settings panel has been stripped off countless headings and sub-heads and instead has a simpler and cleaner layout. The pull-down notification panel, has meanwhile, lost all the blues and the yellows of yesteryear now and instead comes in all white (and some blue). It's rocking more settings toggles too.
The Galaxy C9 Pro's main USP is the fact that it gives you a 6-inch screen, 6 gigs of RAM, 16MP front and rear cameras, and a 4,000mAh battery. When you look at it, in all its totality, the C9 Pro looks like a complete package
The C9 Pro comes with support for a multitude of gestures (and themes through a dedicated theme engine) including double pressing the home button to fire up the camera, turning the phone over or by placing your hand on the screen to mute and bringing the phone over to your ear when a contact's details are on the screen to place a call. In addition, you can drag the edge of your hand across the screen to take a screenshot or swipe downwards diagonally from either corner at the top of the screen to view an app in pop-up mode. The C9 Pro also gives you an option to take scrollable screenshots as also fingerprint lock/unlock specific apps via secure folder. Not to forget, Samsung's multi-window and floating window modes are also on-board to enhance multi-tasking.
The screen's crisp, the battery life fantastic
The C9 Pro's 6-inch 1080p display may not inspire a great deal of confidence on paper, but, at least it gets the job done. There are a couple of things that really stand out in Samsung's new phone. One that it is using a Super AMOLED panel, which is without a doubt a force to reckon with in the smartphone word and secondly, is the phone's excellent screen-to-body-ratio. While the Super AMOLED solution ensures you get well-saturated and eye-popping colours with deep blacks, the phone's excellent screen-to-body-ratio ensures you get more real-estate to feast your eyes on all those colours. It gets really bright too and adaptive brightness works as it should.
But there's a catch. The screen isn't as sharp as Samsung's top-tier phones like S7 and the S7 Edge, because well, it has a lower screen resolution. Secondly, the phone's viewing angles could have been a little better.
The 4,000mAh battery inside the C9 Pro gives you fantastic battery life. Extreme usage saw me getting close to a full day, without any hiccups, while moderate to low usage got me way beyond one and a half days with ease. Most users, with more generalised usage will easily be able to squeeze out at least two days out of the phone. Samsung also has a bevy of power-saving modes that work well to squeeze out more out of the battery, and then some more. The phone also supports fast charging.
Cameras could be better though
The C9 Pro comes with a 16-megapixel rear camera with f/1.9 aperture, phase detection autofocus and dual-tone flash. There's also a 16-megapixel camera on the front.
It's tough being a camera phone these days, even more so if you cost around Rs 40,000. I really feel for Samsung. The C9 Pro isn't a bad camera phone, but, when you keep it next to the OnePlus 3t, the ZenFone 3, the iPhone 6S and the Nexus 6P, well, Samsung's phone has a lot of catching to do. It's just about mediocre.
The C9 Pro clicks good looking photos in good light, but, every now and then there are metering -- over exposure -- issues. Dynamic range is good, but overexposure sometimes tends to blow out highlights. Low light photos often tend to be washed out and have noise or grain. Shutter speed and autofocus are in line with what you'd expect from a phone in this price range.
The selfie camera meanwhile, because it has a 1.9 aperture, can capture pretty detailed selfies even in low light scenarios.
Should you buy it?
The Galaxy C9 Pro's main USP is the fact that it gives you a 6-inch screen, 6 gigs of RAM, 16MP front and rear cameras, and a 4,000mAh battery. When you look at it, in all its totality, the C9 Pro looks like a complete package. It is, for the most part. But, then you look at its price - Rs 36,900 - and reality hits you. It hits you really hard. Add a couple of thousand more and you enter the flagship terrain. Samsung's own Galaxy S8 is the best case scenario at around Rs 40,000. Lose a couple of thousand and you enter the mid-tier flagship terrain. Samsung's own Galaxy A7 2017 is the best case scenario at around Rs 35,000. The Galaxy C9 Pro just doesn't add up.
Even though, it's a way better deal than the A9 Pro from last year, the C9 Pro makes little sense at its price point. On the one side Samsung is charging a hefty premium for the C9 Pro, on the other the phone is lacking features - like water-resistance and Samsung Pay -- that are available in Samsung phones that are even cheaper in comparison. Then there's the OnePlus 3T.
What really sets the C9 Pro apart from competition is its sheer size. The C9 Pro is primarily for someone who is looking for a large phablet form factor and a big battery. Samsung has managed to make it look good as well so that's a plus. But a 6-inch phablet with a 4,000mAh battery, even though it looks so good, is a niche product and won't necessarily appeal to everybody.
Galaxy C9 Pro####7/10
- Good stuff
- Outstanding build quality
- Fantastic battery life
- Colourful display
- Good all-round performance
- Bad stuff
- Size is too big
- No water-resistance
- No Samsung Pay