Samsung C9 Pro review: Excellent but cheaper competition weakens appeal
Reviewer's note: The phone was reviewed for a month. Samsung provided a review unit, which was returned after the review period.
With the previous Galaxy C series phones seeing an exclusive release in the Chinese market, the arrival of the Galaxy C9 Pro in the Philippines comes as a pleasant surprise, especially for those looking for a more affordable flagship alternative. Launched a month before the Galaxy S8 though, and with a price tag just a few thousand pesos shy from the flagship, some may find the C9 Pro a wee bit expensive. Let's see if the if it has what it takes to sail with the flagships. (READ: Review: The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus is a workhorse)
When you first touch the C9 Pro, you can't deny how good it feels in the hand. With a metal back and an all-glass front with slightly curved edges, the device is as elegant as it is ergonomic. The metal back also curves at both sides to improve grip and make it more comfortable to hold, which is a good thing because, with a display like this, you'll most probably find the C9 Pro hard to let go.
The overall look is trademark Samsung, but it features some small touches like the triple bands – three etched lines at the back – above the camera and near the bottom. It doesn't make the device more ergonomic, but it definitely adds character to a device that can just as easily be drowned in the sea of midrange Samsung smartphones.
You could say the C9 Pro features a flagship look and feel, but glass fronts and metal backs seem par for the course nowadays, especially from Samsung.
The device comes with the usual pill-shaped home button with fingerprint scanner and capacitive back and recents button. The two capacitive buttons are backlit and practically invisible when the backlight turns off, which is a nice touch. The review unit I got was gold, featuring a front that's all-white except for the gold accents on the home button. It's rather dull and left me wondering why Samsung didn't go for the all-gold look that its other devices sport.
For what it's worth, the C9 Pro has something that's never been seen on a Galaxy device before: 6 GB of RAM and stereo speakers. The latter is a surprisingly pleasant but disappointingly lacking addition; speakers were comparatively weak and the stereo effect is just that, an effect.
The earpiece acts as a second speaker, with the main speaker placed at the bottom together with the headphone jack and a USB-C connector. Unfortunately, the sound that comes out from the speakers is too imbalanced to truly be stereo, with the earpiece speaker only belting out highs and mids. Majority of the sound still comes from the main speaker.
The 6 GB of RAM is coupled with a storage capacity of 64 GB, which is expandable up to 256 GB via microSD. This powerful combo delivers when it comes to performance; in usage, the device was always snappy with no lags even when playing memory- and graphics-intensive games like Asphalt 8: Airborne and Dead Trigger 2.
Having used a Samsung device before (a Galaxy J7 Prime), there are some minor differences, like the settings menu and the power-saving features; it's not too big of a difference but enough to warrant a mention. There were times I felt I was using a different phone altogether, but all I had to do was go back to the home screen and I was back to Samsung's familiar TouchWiz UI.
The C9 Pro packs a 16 MP camera with an f/1.9 aperture – images are great even in lowlight. What's amazing here is that the front cam is equally specced, meaning better selfies. What's not too amazing is the camera software, which is a bit too simplistic for my tastes. It does come with a useful “voice command” though; you can take selfies by saying “cheese,” “smile,” or “shoot” or record video by saying “record video.”
With a device this size, this is a big help so you won't drop it and ruin the fun–or the device itself – during selfie time with friends. I don't know how it'll fare in a noisy environment, but it works well otherwise.
Featuring a unique Game Launcher, the C9 Pro becomes a game console within a smartphone. You have the option to have your games within the Game Launcher or in the app menu, but the Game Launcher makes gaming a more enjoyable experience.
In it, you can lock the recents and back keys, block alerts, or even lock the touch screen if necessary. It can also take screenshots and record gameplay to share with friends and is a neat feature for social gamers.
These features extend to your apps, too; simply add the app into the Game Launcher and all its features become available while using that app. You can add the video player in there, lock the recents and back keys, block alerts, and enjoy movies without distractions.
One area where the C9 Pro shines is battery life. Featuring a 4,000 maH battery, it's more than enough to last a full day. Once I got my hands on the review unit, I charged the battery to 95% and went on my merry way. I was able to get almost 22 hours with regular usage, but I was pleasantly surprised the next day when I charged the battery all the way to 100%.
After using the C9 Pro for almost 22 hours and wearing down the battery to 15%, I played a couple of games expecting the battery to die on me so I could charge it. The battery exceeded my expectations; it lasted 3 hours more, clocking in at 1d, 1h, 0m, and 33s with no power-saving modes activated, and the battery still didn't die on me. Even when I played games and watched YouTube videos all day, the battery lasted an outstanding 10 hours. Now that's what you call power, or more apropos, that's what you call perseverance.
Should you buy the Galaxy C9 Pro? I don't see why not. I don't see any problems with it, and it's a nice, premium-looking device. the problem is, I don't see a compelling reason to buy it, either. It's a solid performer, and it's a looker, too. However, there's just too many similar devices out now that are cheaper and pack the same “oomph.”
The C9 Pro launched at P27,990.
If you're particular about the brand and can't afford the Galaxy S8 though, the C9 Pro is an excellent alternative. At its price point, it can be hard for Samsung to convince consumers to go all in, but if you're looking for a Samsung smartphone with an excellent display, stereo speakers, and commendable battery life, the C9 Pro delivers. – Rappler.com
Alexis has been a professional writer and editor since 2007 and has worked with website developers, online retailers, and medical and healthcare professionals. On the side, he dabbles in photography. His photography has been published on his Facebook page and on his blogs. You have to start somewhere, right?