Samsung’s C9 Pro shows that bigger is sometimes better
By Chong Jinn Xiung April 4, 2017
- The former China only handset finds its place as a entertainment-focused device
- Big battery offers long-lasting performance though the camera is average at best
PHABLETS used to get laughed at as being big unwieldy devices but despite their enormous size they have proven to be a popular form factor for users as most prominent phone series have a large size variant.
Samsung’s Galaxy C9 Pro is one such model that towers above other smartphones as it carves its own space as a premium segment phablet.
Previously reserved for the mainland Chinese market, the C9 Pro made landfall in Malaysia in early March.
Curious to find out more about what this model holds, we delved deeper into the features of the C9 Pro.
For a big phone, one would expect the C9 Pro to be massive and bulky. But that is certainly not the case as Samsung has managed to keep the phone relatively slim and lightweight.
The overall design aesthetics don’t deviate much from Samsung’s prior models meaning so don’t expect a radical change in design.
Having owned an A9 Pro, a model Samsung released late last year, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deja vu when holding the C9 Pro.
Indeed, the two models look remarkably similar though the C9 Pro’s body is primarily made of metal compared to the A9 Pro’s glass. In this sense, the C9 Pro does feel a tad more premium due to its metal build.
Interestingly, the C9 Pro even fits in my A9 Pro’s phone case with some room to spare.
With a massive 6-inch full HD Super AMOLED display the C9 Pro is great for watching videos and playing games. For a screen this big, a QHD screen would have been great but Samsung’s full HD display redeems itself with great colours and sharpness
Admittedly, your fingers feel like they are doing gymnastics when attempting to use the phone with one hand, but at the very least there is a one-handed mode available.
In terms of audio, the C9 Pro’s built-in speaker is indeed loud enough to answer voice calls and listen to videos but the quality isn’t anything to write home about.
In what is sure to be a trend this year, the C9 Pro swaps out the micro-USB for a Type-C connector. That, unfortunately, means having to buy a new set of cables for your phone.
One thing to note is that the C9 Pro offers a true dual SIM experience. Just like the A7 before it, the C9 Pro has a dedicated dual SIM card tray slot and a separate slot for accepting microSD cards. Essentially, you don’t have to choose between popping in an extra SIM card or expanding your memory.
Unpacking the stats within the phone, two big numbers stick out: 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage.
The C9 Pro packs 6GB of RAM which is big by today’s standards. That massive load of memory is tied with a Snapdragon 653 chipset so it should have enough power to run most demanding apps and has the ability to keep more apps in memory at least on paper.
Of course, specifications and real world performance are two completely different matters. We ran the C9 Pro through several benchmarks and here is what we found.
Looking at the benchmark scores, the C9 Pro has a stronger Antutu score that beats out the A7 (2017 edition), which scored 59,553, when we tested it earlier this year.
Pitting it against Samsung’s own flagship S7 Edge, the C9 Pro holds the middle ground between the two as the S7 Edge boasts a score of 131,479.
In terms of work productivity, the C9 Pro is not too different from the A7 under the PCMark Work 2.0 benchmark with a nominal increase between 3,983 and 3,873.
On the gaming side, the C9 Pro still gets floored by the 3D Mark’s Sling Shot Extreme test with a 941 score.
It is worth noting that the C9 Pro comes with 64GB of internal storage which is large by Samsung standards and is the largest to date on a non-flagship model. Coupled with the fact that it has a microSD card slot that supports up to 256GB the C9 Pro is a massive phone with plenty of memory.
The C9 Pro runs on Android 6.01. Marshmallow. No bragging rights for running on Nougat here but it is Samsung’s latest build of TouchWiz which comes close to Samsung’s own Nougat-defined experience so you shouldn’t miss out on much.
Benchmark scores aside, the C9 Pro’s gaming performance allows it to handles games like Modern Combat 5 and Asphalt 8 like well, a pro. The beefy processor and memory allow it to handle graphic intensive games without breaking a sweat. The only issue I had with it was that it runs a little warm and is uncomfortable to hold during long gaming sessions.
Another gripe with the phone is the C9 Pro’s fingerprint reader. Samsung’s fingerprint readers are disappointing in terms of responsiveness and accuracy when compared to the competition but thankfully the C9 Pro’s reader is marginally better.
It has one new trick that makes the unlocking experience better and that is the ability to unlock the phone without having to turn the screen on. That is a first for Samsung phones, at least to our knowledge, and something that wasn’t even present in the recent A7 (2017 edition).
But the sad fact is that plenty of other phones are already able to do this, so while it is a little late, at least Samsung’s fingerprint readers have finally caught up.
For a big phone, you can expect it to pack a fairly large battery. The 4,000 mAh battery definitely met our expectations as it successfully lasted a full day from 9am to 10pm with 30% of battery life left by the end.
With the massive battery, you can safely push the C9 Pro to its limits and not worry about draining the battery before the day is over. You can also push the battery further with the built-in power saving features even going up to the Ultra Saving mode that lets the phone last for several days.
The C9 Pro’s battery is fast-charging capable and despite having a Type-C port it works with any regular Quick Charge 2.0 fast charger by Samsung.
One small consolation is that Samsung has included a Type-C to microUSB converter so all your old USB cables are not rendered useless.
Like the Galaxy A7, Samsung has placed equal emphasis on the handset’s front and rear facing cameras, equipping them with 16-Megapixel cameras.
While that sounds impressive on paper, the truth is that Megapixels don’t matter as much on a smartphone due to their small sensor size. The front camera takes decent selfies but they pale in comparison when compared to even Samsung’s own flagship S7 model and that has a 5-Megapixel front camera.
The rear camera definitely takes better photos at least when it comes to daylight photography.
Images tend to sport detail though colours can be a bit exaggerated. Truth be told, the C9 Pro isn’t great at low-light shooting due to the lack of optical image stabilisation (OIS) and slower focusing speed, which make it challenging to nail that perfect shot.
That is not to say it is totally awful at shooting low-light photos as it can still take shots at night though the images are dark.
There is a however a dedicated Night Mode, though you need steady hands as the camera opens its shutter longer for more light. The end result is a brighter image which is a little soft thanks to heavy noise processing.
As far as video recording goes, the C9 Pro records up to full HD video only, so hopes of 4K videos, which would have benefited from the handset’s massive memory, are dashed.
In terms of quality, it performs as it does with taking photos. It shoots well when there is plenty of light but falters in the dark.
The lack of any electronic image stabilisation is sorely missed as it would have helped in correcting shaky videos when moving.
The camera interface is the same as that on other modern Samsung phones like the A7 with a useful shortcut that allows you to switch modes by swiping left to right and toggle between the front and back camera by swiping top to bottom.
Putting it all together, the C9 Pro is a massive phone that has its shares of hits and misses. The large 6-inch display is lovely and colourful. It definitely fits well for entertainment-hungry users.
The metal body is an improvement over the smudge-loving glass phone of Samsung’s past and the generous amount of RAM and storage is a plus on the performance side.
The camera, however, is lacking features for a phone of this price and class namely optical image stabilisation, that affects its ability to take sharp images in low light. Also, the fingerprint reader is marginally improved but there is still room for improvement.
The C9 Pro occupies a strange space between mid-range and flagship that puts buyers in a conundrum whether to spend a little bit more or opt for a budget-friendly model.
But for US$517 (RM2,299) for a premium phablet, the C9 Pro really needs to justify its high price tag considering that it doesn’t have a IP68 water and dust resistant build like the A7, is missing features like Samsung Pay and the camera pales in comparison.
The C9 Pro is a big phone with big aspirations but if you are looking for more value you might have to look elsewhere. Otherwise, the best thing you can do is just wait it for the Galaxy S8.
Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro (ranked out of 5)
Design - 3 1/2
Performance - 3
Value - 3
Overall - 3