TECNO Phantom 9 Review: TECNO’s Best Smartphone Yet
It is not only true that good phones are getting cheaper but also, it is quite true that high-end features which are exclusive to only high-end devices are now finding their way into mid-range devices.
The TECNO Phantom 9 is back after a two-year hiatus. The Phantom 9 is TECNO’s first device to come with an in-display fingerprint scanner and also the first to have up to 128GB of onboard storage.
Interestingly, the Phantom 9 is the cheapest smartphone with an in-display fingerprint scanner costing just N77,000.
While this feature is not so new on Xiaomi, Huawei, Vivo, OPPO and Samsung devices, TECNO is bringing the feature to its customers who might not be able to afford those high-end devices. This is why we think the Phantom will be hard to beat at this price segment
Let’s get into the review proper
The Phantom 9 uses an all-plastic material with intricate Nano-Holographic lines which look quite appealing and premium. The choice of plastic we think is to produce a slim device accompanied by a lightweight body which makes Phantom 9 quite ergonomic to use.
When it comes to the design, TECNO has paid lots of attention to details which is why the Phantom is such a looker. Bringing out the phone when light is falling produces an ‘S’ shaped pattern which TECNO calls Aurora Lapland. We love the whole idea here which kind of adds to the visual appeal.
When you pick up the device, the shinning back panel picks up some fingerprints but you can clean this off if you are not so pleased with it but I suggest you use the case that comes with the phone. Also, because of the glossy back panel, the device is a bit slippery, so be careful when using it without the back cover. See Phantom 9 Unboxing pictures
Personally, I prefer using the device without the case as this might hide the beauty.
The back of the phone houses a vertically placed triple-rear camera setup followed by a quad-LED flash, the Phantom and Tecno logos.
At the front, you get the mic, two meticulously placed front LED flash that help to capture good selfies in challenging light situations and a waterdrop notch that houses the selfie camera.
When it comes to placement of the ports and buttons, the power and the volume keys are positioned at the right-hand side and the dedicated SIM card tray is placed on the left. The tray houses a two Nano-SIM plus a micro SDcard slot that can take up to 128GB of storage.
At the bottom, you get a 3.5mm audio port for headphones, a standard microUSB port and speaker grille. Overall the Phantom 9 scores high in terms of design but we wish TECNO could have added a USB type C instead of the standard micro USB which is getting old already.
The Phantom 9 boasts a clear and crisp 6.4-inch AMOLED display. It offers FHD+ resolution with 1080 x 2340 pixels. As for the screen to body ratio, you get up to 89% per cent. It has a 19:5:9 aspect ratio and 600 nits of peak brightness. We found the display to be saturated and vivid.
Also, we noticed that the display is darker than most AMOLED devices we have used. We compared it with that of the OnePlus 6T, the Phantom is quite saturated and there is no option to fine-tune this. We hope it is something software update can fix
In terms of sunlight legibility of the display, texts are fairly readable under direct sunlight TECNO has moved the fingerprint sensor from the back and places it under the screen. This is first on any TECNO device.
In the camera department, the Phantom 9 is not a slot at all. It sports a triple-lens camera module at the back which is enhanced by AI [artificial intelligence]
. The camera consists of a 16MP primary sensor with a bright F1.8 aperture, an 8MP ultra-wide sensor with 120-degree FoV [ Field of View] and lastly a 2MP depth sensor that helps you capture good looking background blurring images.
The DOT notch houses a 32MP AI selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture which is supported by two LED flash. Interestingly, you can activate and deactivate the dual-LED flash just by long pressing on the screen when you on the camera viewfinder. To control the intensity of brightness of the flash, just swipe up/down on the camera app.
The camera app supports features like HDR, Beauty, Wide Selfie, Animoji, Night Algorithm 2.0, Auto Scene Detection, AR Mode, portrait mode, auto-watermark, distortion correction, touch capture, delay capture and panorama. With these features, you can capture some really good images if you know how to play around them.
The camera also supports Google Lens and you can record videos in 1080p on both the front and rear cameras.
The Phantom 9 does a good job of capturing quality images with a good amount of details and near accurate colours. The bokeh shots also appeared fine.
Using the default auto-HDR appears fine most of the time especially if you are using the rear camera but switching to the front, there are occasions it produces selfies with blown out or over-exposed background.
However, if you use the HDR, selfies are well balanced with a well-exposed background but at the expense of details. So it all boils down to if you want sharp and detailed selfies with some form of over-exposure at the background or a well-balanced one with less details.
When it comes to the internal, the Tecno Phantom 9 uses an octa-core MediaTek Helio P35 chipset which is clocked at 2.3 GHz. This is supported by 6GB RAM and 128GB internal storage.
As far as performance is concerned, we didn’t experience any form of lag as the 6GB of RAM proves it can handle normal tasks very well. The device supports an external microSD card of up to 256GB as well. This should be more than adequate for people who take lots of pictures. However, we feel that an updated MediaTek Helio P70 chipset would have sweetened the deal.
For reason unknown to us, we were unable to run Geekbench 4 on the Phantom 9. We, however, did an Antutu benchmark test on the device, it has an overall score of 87,355.
The device ships with Android 9 Pie out of the box layered with HIOS 5.0 UI on top. TECNO’s latest HiOS comes with a lot of added features and some bloatware as well. Some can be uninstalled while some are system apps and there is nothing you can do unless you root the phone.
HiOS is a highly customizable UI but some of the features might as well be weighing down the performance of the phone. It is still a work in progress and is far from being perfect. At least when compared with the likes of Oxygen OS or the stock Android on pixel devices. There are useful features such as Smart Panel, Reading mode, and others.
If you are the types that enjoy listening to music on the go, the device comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack, while the bottom-firing speaker does a mostly decent job at cranking out beats. Anything with heavy bass will be beyond it, however.
The speaker doesn’t get too loud when playing media files, but it was quite audible and clear. The headset looks quite good and audio quality is great too. Also call quality is great and we didn’t experience any issue here at all.
As far as videos are concerned, the Phantom 9 can play up to 4k videos but on YouTube, you can only watch up to 1080P videos. This is dependent on the resolution as the phone comes with an FHD+ display.
There is no dedicated video player on the Phantom 9, the Al gallery app has got you covered. Also, you can download the MX player app on the Google playstore. It is one of the best video players out there.
Network and Connectivity Options
The Phantom 9 connectivity options include dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-2.0, OTG, FM radio, and 4G VoLTE. The phone also features an ambient light sensor, compass, accelerometer, proximity sensor, and a gyroscope.
It has a dual-Nano SIMs and space for microSD. The two sims support 4G band 3, 7, 20, 28 and 40 connectivity, hence, it works on all the major 4G internet service providers [ GLO, MTN, NTEL, AIRTEL, SMILE, SPECTRANET ] in Nigeria.
The device is powered by a 3,500mAh Li-Po Battery which we think is not an advantage when compared to what the competitors are offering. However, the use of AMOLED screen compensated for the small battery and helps to preserve the battery life.
As for battery life during our test, the Phantom 9 delivers up to 8hrs of on-screen time playing music, using social media with some light games.
There is no support for fast charging and it uses a standard micro-USB port for charging and data transfers instead of the latest USB type C.
The Phantom 9 offers some high-end features for its price range. It is a great looking device judging from the design and how light it feels in the hands. It has a good camera and with the 32MP selfie shooter, you will be able to take quality selfies with good details
The processor, however, is not something expected from the Phantom 9 in 2019, an updated Helio P70 could have made the device the best offers among its rival. The Phantom 9 has the likes of Xiaomi Redmi Note 7, Huawei Y9 Prime 2019 to contend with.