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Tecno Phantom 9 Review: Good Display, Decent Cameras Sans Powerful Processor
The budget smartphone segment is constantly evolving in India with new devices being launched regularly. Currently, this segment is dominated by Chinese players such as Xiaomi, Honor, and Realme. Samsung also launched its refreshed Galaxy A and Galaxy M series to get a hold of the affordable segment in India.
- Slim and lightweight design
- Good cameras
- Decent battery backup
- Rear panel picks up fingerprints and is prone to smudges
- Entry-segment chipset
Well, some other players are also trying to grab the audience in this segment. Now, Tecno, the Transsion Holdings-owned company also wants a piece in it. The company has launched a couple of good budget smartphones last year in its Camon and Tecno series.
This year, the company has launched the Phantom 9 for Rs. 14,999 which competes with the Chinese counterparts in the sub 15k segment. But does it fair with the competition? We have used the device for a while and this is what we think:
Looks Premium But Flawed Design
The Phantom 9 is made using plastic and looks quite similar to the Honor 20i. The rear panel is painted blue diffusing into the purple shade at the bottom. The rear-panel features intricate Nano-Holographic lines which give the standard shimmering panel a distinct appeal. But, it doesn't protect it from fingerprints and smudges.
Thankfully, you get a TPU case with a matte finish that adds to the grip and protects it from dust. It is worth noting that Tecno boasted an anti-fingerprint coating which we found to be non-effective. It offers a slim profile and lightweight design.
Even with a big form factor, you can easily carry out daily tasks such as scrolling through the screen, answering/making calls, texting and web browsing. The triple-rear cameras are placed vertically at the rear followed by the Tecno branding.
Upfront, there is a waterdrop notch that packs the selfie camera accompanied by a Hair Crack Dual Flashlight. The earpiece is neatly housed between the notch and the speaker grill and is hardly visible. The keys and ports have the usual positioning. You get the power and volume keys on the left, while on the right there is a dedicated microSD card.
At the bottom, you get a 3.5mm audio port for wired headphones connectivity, a standard microUSB port, and speaker grille. What we liked is the slim and lightweight design which gives it a premium feel.
Suitable For High-Resolution Media Consumption
The display is one of the important aspects of the device and the Phantom 9 offers a good panel in its segment. It features a 6.4-inch AMOLED panel with FHD+ resolution and 19:9 aspect ratio. The display incorporates an in-display fingerprint scanner and a waterdrop notch for security and selfie camera respectively.
Even with 600 nits of peak brightness, the display appears slightly dull compared to its contemporaries. Sunlight visibility is average and you might struggle while viewing content under direct light. But, it delivers a crisp output with balanced colors and good viewing angles.
The high-resolution display is suitable for YouTube and other streaming platforms. What's missing here is the Widevine L1 support which in our opinion would've enhanced the viewing experience on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
The in-display fingerprint scanner is what distinguishes the Phantom 9 from its rivals such as the Honor 20i, Redmi Note 7 Pro and Realme 3 Pro. You can easily log a fingerprint via the settings menu. However, this is not an optical scanner, so don't expect fast and accurate unlocking.
AI-Backed Triple Lens Setup
In line with the latest trend, the Phantom 9 sports a triple-rear camera setup with a 16MP primary sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide lens (120-degree FoV), and a 2MP depth sensor. Amongst the various camera sensors, you get HDR, Auto Scene Detection, AR Mode, HDR, and Beauty. It supports 1080p video recording and Google lens as well.
The camera performs fine in day-to-day life and you will be able to capture shots with ample detailing during daylight. Colors are neutral and edge-detection is to the point. But, it delivers an average performance in challenging light situations. Bokeh shots are decent and the background blurs don't appear artificial.
Tecno has equipped the handset with a 32MP AI selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture. The dual-LED flash along with the Night Algorithm 2.0 feature helps in capturing good low-light shots. You can use the HDR, Beauty, Wide Selfie, Animoji features for improved quality. Overall, the front camera captures images suitable for social media platforms.
Entry Segment Chipset Is Suitable For Basic Tasks
While most of the smartphones in this segment offer a mid-range chipset, the Phantom 9 ships with an entry-level MediaTek Helio P35 chipset, which could be a deal-breaker. However, it makes up for the processor by offering 6GB RAM and 128GB storage configuration with external microSD card support. So, you should not experience space crunch issues.
The device handles basic tasks like web surfing, occasional media consumption, gaming, calling, and texting quite easily and offers a lag-free performance with day-to-day tasks.It can handle games like PUBG and Asphalt 9, but we noticed the device getting slightly warm during prolonged gameplay sessions. We would have appreciated an upgraded processor for a refined experience.
Software, Benchmark, And Battery
On the software front, you get an Android Pie-based HIOS 5.0 UI loaded with various features such as Reading mode, Smart Panel, and Battery Optimizer. It also has some bloatware pre-installed like Mobikwik, Dailyhunt, Dominos, and Ola which you can uninstall manually.
The apps fire up quickly and there is no delay in the launch with some limited apps running in the background. The UI is quite basic and old school, nothing funky here. You also get app drawers to club similar apps in a folder.
In the PC Mark 2.0 benchmark test, the handset logged 5628 points in total. It scored 5860 points in the Web Browsing 2.0, 5192 points in Video Editing, and 9233 in Photo Editing. The Honor 20i scored more in the test with 5867 points overall.
The device scored 87797 points in Geekbench with 904 points in the single-core and 4361 points in the multi-core tests. Notably, the Honor 20i once again scores some extra points in the single-core and multi-core tests (1312 and 5075 points respectively).
The handset packs a smaller 3500mAh battery compared to the conventional 4000mAh units seen on the current affordable smartphones in the market. The battery is decent and you get a backup of almost a day with normal usage.
You can use the battery optimizer feature to save it from excessive drainage. What it misses is fast charging support and it takes around two hours for a full charge.
Is It A Good Bargain?
The Tecno Phantom 9 is a well-rounded smartphone, but the slightly underpowered processor is what let us down the most. Though the remaining hardware is quite capable for its price tag, still lacks prowess to stand against the competition.
If you have been looking for an affordable device which offers triple rear cameras and a big FHD+ display suitable for day-to-day tasks, you can buy this device. But in our opinion, you can consider the Honor 20i which retails for the same price tag, but ships with a slightly more powerful processor.