With the Camon C9, Tecno once again proves that its major product lines (Phantom, Boom & Camon) are now taken pretty seriously. Last year’s members of the Camon and Boom family are nothing compared to what we’ve seen this year. Tecno Camon C9 is a major upgrade to the Camon C8 — with glaring boosts in CPU, RAM and of course, camera — and this has reflected positively on the phone’s reception.
Tecno Camon C9 left a good first impression when we unboxed it exactly 10 days ago. We’ve used this device extensively and like every device in the market, it comes with its good and not-so-good sides. If you’re in a hurry to see the conclusion, the things we love about it and the few things we dislike are highlighted below.
- Improved rear camera, pretty good selfie camera.
- More RAM compared with the Camon C8, faster processor
- HiOS now makes Tecno devices fun to use
- The bulge at the back looks a bit too much
- Eyeprint recognition doesn’t work in the dark
- Lack of gyroscope makes it incompatible with VR
The pros greatly outweigh the cons. The little things we dislike about the device are definitely not dealbreakers. Note that this review will be heavily focused on the camera since the device is marketed as a camera-centric smartphone.
Form Factor & Display
As mentioned during the unboxing, the 13MP front camera stares right back at you, emphasizing exactly what the smartphone is meant to do. Flanked on each side is the LED flash on the right and the ALS on the left. Above these, kissing the top edge, is the earpiece.
Below the 5.5″ screen are the soft keys. It’s a good choice since quite a number of us actually don’t like it when on-screen navigation keys take a chunk of the screen space.
At the bottom is the centered micro-USB port with the microphone orifice just on the left. Although the device has a plastic back cover, the frame is made of solid metal. The top has the 3.5mm earphone jack.
The bulge at the back changes your impression about the seemingly thin frame. The device has a thickness of 10.35mm which is a bit too much, the curved back makes this less noticeable though. The 13MP rear camera is centered, with the dual-LED flash placed just below it.
The right side has the volume and power buttons, and further down is the dedicated camera key.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been holding devices with flat backsides lately, I find the bulge at the back a bit unusual at first but I got used to it. Tecno cleverly suppressed the thickness with a curved back cover and a pretty thin frame. If I’m to choose a better design between the Camon C8 and Tecno Camon C9, I may vote for the former. Anyway, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is what they say.
The 5.5-inch screen has an IPS LCD display with full HD resolution. The screen comes alive and the display is quite sharp. A 720p resolution would’ve been a disappointment. I did try the device with the Homido VR headset and the display is comparable with other 5.5″ 1080p devices I’ve tried. However, no gyroscope was present and this is needed for immersive contents.
I’m jumping straight to this part because it’s supposed to be the best part of this device. Tecno Camon C9 has a camera that completely trashes the one we praised on it’s predecessor. Shots look good and clear.
Here are more sample photos. Click on the images below to enlarge:
The selfie camera too produces bright selfies. I’m one of those few people that totally hate the “beauty mode” OEMs put on their devices and I keep this turned off. If it’s your thing though, it’s there to make the contours on your face jelly-smooth. The selfie below was taken with the feature turned off.
Macro photography on Tecno Camon C9
If you love shooting small objects with your device, Tecno Camon C9 got you covered. I tried doing some macro photography with the device and I was impressed. It easily creates a shallow depth of field with the camera close to the object, making your picture look professional.
We criticized Tecno Camon C8 camera for one thing: lack of a proper night mode on a phone marketed as a camera phone. This has been corrected on the Camon C9, a Night Mode is included and it works pretty well.
The image below was taken with the default camera settings:
And this is what it looks like from the same spot with Night Mode enabled:
Camera Shootout: Tecno Camon C9 vs iPhone 6s Plus
First off, I wouldn’t compare the camera on a mid-range phone with a high-end device and expect the same picture quality. It doesn’t work that way. The aim of this shootout isn’t to hype Tecno Camon C9’s camera, but to benchmark and let you judge from the results.
The image below was taken from the same position, under the same light conditions and with default camera settings. HDR was disabled on both devices and autofocus was allowed to do its thing.
Security: Eyeprint Verification
Tecno Camon C9 comes with a feature that lets you unlock the device with just your eyes. I must confess I was thrilled at first but the excitement wore off after a while. I wasn’t able to use this in poor lighting condition.
The camera scans your eyes and seems to capture your iris pattern. I wasn’t sure at first if the scanner actually checks the iris or it’s more like the Eyeprint ID verification that checks the blood vessels patterns of the eyes, like the one on ZTE Grand S3.
An iris scanner works with an infrared sensor that lights up the intricate details of the iris. An infrared sensor isn’t present and my guess is that the eyeprint recognition on the Camon C9 is an ocular-based biometric technology.
Software, Performance & Storage
HiOS has greatly improved and the issues seen on the Boom J8 have been addressed. The device comes with a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of random access memory. One issue a lot users have with Tecno devices has to do with low random access memory and the Camon C9 corrects this.
We saw a decent Antutu score of 35,948. The single core processing score with Geekbench 3 is only 631 and this is because it’s clocked at 1.3GHz. The multi-core score however hits 2,889.
Connectivity & Battery
Tecno Camon C9 is 4G enabled and you shouldn’t have no problem using an ntel or Smile SIM card. It comes with a 3000mAh battery. This isn’t mind-blowing, but it should last through the day with normal use.
Of course, you can max it out in less than 8 hours with heavy use. HiOS comes with a battery management tool that should help you get the best out of it though.
As you’ve seen from the sample photos, Tecno Camon C9 has a camera that beats what we’ve seen on devices in similar price range. Unless you categorically hate custom UIs on Android OS, it’s very obvious HiOS has great aesthetics coupled with awesome functionality. At N49,900, the few cons are absolutely no dealbreakers.