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Samsung Galaxy S9 Review: Brilliant but underwhelming

Brilliant but underwhelming

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For any creator serious about his craft, the end goal is the same — to create the best version of a product possible. You achieve this through innovation and experimentation, in rinse and repeat cycles until something great is created.

But then what happens next?

It’s a predicament shared by many of the best technology brands in the biz, and one that Samsung finds itself in this year. Its new Galaxy S9 smartphone, while better on the inside, is the same on the outside. And while that is only part of the story told, it is the narrative by which many a reviewer will tell the story of Samsung’s new flagship.    

Depending on who’s looking, the Galaxy S9’s recycled design can be seen any of two ways: either that it lacks the freshness that phones are so often measured by each year, or that Samsung has achieved the pinnacle of smartphone design and that the best way forward is to keep things as is.

The Galaxy S9 shimmers in Lilac Purple / Photo by Michael Josh

I agree more with the latter, at least when it comes to looks. Two years in and the S9 is still the most beautiful smartphone on the planet. Its curved Infinity Display and all-glass build are hard to match. And now with colors ranging from coral blue to lilac purple, it’s hard not to fall in love with one at first sight.      

But are looks enough? Does the Samsung Galaxy S9 have enough new features to back up its good looks? Is it the best Android smartphone ever made? And should you go out and buy it?  

But first, more answers to your most important S9-related questions.

Is dual aperture a gimmick?

Samsung claims it’s reimagined the smartphone camera on the S9. While that might be more marketing than fact, it’s dual aperture camera is an unprecedented engineering feat.

No Android smartphone thus far has had the ability to change the aperture on a single lens. On the S9, you can switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4. But why would you want that?

The Galaxy S9 has a unique variable aperture camera

A large aperture gives your photos that creamy background blur when shooting up close, but more importantly helps you take brighter, better photos in low light.

The S9’s f/1.5 is the highest aperture we’ve seen on a smartphone and significantly improves night shots. In fact photos we took at night using the S9 looked brighter than what the scene actually looked like in real life.

Why then would you need to switch to f/2.4?

The higher aperture, the bigger the depth of field. Sometimes details get too soft especially around subjects and sometimes you just want more details in focus; that’s where the smaller f/2.4 comes in.

The Galaxy S9 picks the best aperture depending on how much available light / Photo by Michael Josh

To be honest, the average user should not have to worry about any of this, and Samsung doesn’t think so either, so it’s making these adjustments in the background. With the goal being, you getting better photos regardless of the shooting situation.

For more advanced users wanting more control, there is Pro Mode that lets you manually switch between the two among a host of other camera settings.

Does the Galaxy S9 take better photos versus X?

DxOMark, an independent body that rates cameras, recently gave the S9+ its highest overall score and highest photo score. While the results of its test are debatable, it’s oftentimes a good benchmark to see how a smartphone fares in the camera space.

We will need more time to conduct an in-depth head-to-head test of our own, but based on some preliminary comparison photos versus the Pixel 2 and against the iPhone X shot during the day, deciding on which smartphone takes the best photos will boil down to a matter of taste or how technically meticulous you are.      

It’s in low light, however, that the Galaxy S9 shines, it is hands down the best low-light camera smartphone you can buy today.

Should I get the S9+ for the second camera?

The S9 comes in two sizes: 5.8 and 6.2 inches — the S9 and S9+ respectively.

If you get the bigger S9+, you not only get more memory (6GB vs 4GB), a bigger battery (3500mAh vs 3000mAh), and a larger screen. You also get two rear cameras.

The Galaxy S9+ has two rear cameras / Photo by Chay Lazaro

This second camera is a 2x zoom lens, a great thing to have if you like getting in closer on subjects without sacrificing the quality of your photos.

The second camera also enables a feature called Live Focus which we’ve also seen on the Note 8 and the A8 (2018) series. It’s a must-have feature on any top-of-the-line smartphone, giving your portraits a nice blurred background. Unique to Samsung’s implementation is the ability to adjust the amount of blur while taking the photo and after, and if you decide you like the non-portrait, wide-angle version better, the S9 also keeps a copy for you.   

These two features justify the US$ 120 premium of the S9+. If you’re torn between the two, it is the model I recommend.

Selective Focus on the S9 isn’t very reliable

It’s worth pointing out that on the S9, you can still blur out backgrounds using a software feature called Selective Focus, but it’s just not as good at cutting out subjects from their background.

Art Bokeh on the Galaxy S9+ / Photo by Joshua Vergara

Speaking of, if you’re really serious about background blur, Samsung added a new feature on the S9+ called Art Bokeh. If the conditions are right, when you go in and adjust Background Blur on a Live Focus image, you’ll get a bunch of shape options to choose from. You can get bokeh in the shape of stars or hearts as shown in the image above.

Super slow-mo 960fps, so what?

To better appreciate the next two features, you have to understand Samsung’s target demographic, a generation of creators who have an affinity for sharing and expression.   

If you like creating shareable videos, GIFs, and Boomerangs, you might like Samsung new super slow-mo feature. On the S9, you are able to slow down time more than ever before on a Galaxy smartphone.

To capture the best super slow-mos, you need plenty of light. The sample below was shot inside a controlled environment with plenty of available light.


The Sony Xperia XZ Premium was the first to get this feature, one whole year ago. Slow-mos shot on both phones are rather similar in terms of quality, with the S9’s slow-mos a tad bit warmer.  

On the S9 though, it’s easier to operate. Auto Mode detects motion and starts capturing once it senses movement. This way you get the shot each time.

But Auto Mode works best when you can control what you’re shooting. Out in the real world, you’re best using manual capture; you’ll need plenty of practice to get your timing right.

Finally, when you shoot super slow-mo video, the S9 adds background music automatically so you can instantly share your creations to Facebook or Instagram. You can go in and edit the track or just remove it entirely.

Not Animojis

When the iPhone X launched last year, one of its more quirky features was Animojis, basically the ability to animate nine popular emoji using the phone’s face tracking features.

The iPhone X has True Depth sensors that can match muscle movements on your face so your Animoji basically does as you do. Samsung hoped to do one better on the S9 with a similar feature called AR Emoji. Unfortunately, we didn’t enjoy it as much.

While we like the ability to personalize and create characters after our own likeness, we feel more often than not, AR Emoji characters don’t look like the selfies they are based on.

But more bothersome is the fact that AR Emoji don’t track as well. They especially struggle when trying to match speech. So nope, AR Emoji Karaoke is out of the question.  

Send animated stickers featuring your own emoji

We do like the personalized animated stickers, though. They are cool, and we like how you can use them across any or all of your favorite chat apps. They are accessible by pressing the sticker icon on your default Samsung keyboard, and are also saved as GIFs in your Gallery app.

Stereo speakers

Audio has just gotten better on the S9.

If you’re like me and watch a lot of videos or play games without headphones, you’ll like the new stereo speaker setup on the S9. Sound comes out of the earpiece up front, and the speaker grilles on the phone’s bottom. The sound is louder and more pronounced.  

The S9 also now supports Dolby Atmos, so you get surround sound-like audio when listening to content that supports it. Last year, Netflix announced support for Atmos with titles like Okja and Snowpiercer, but it doesn’t quite seem to work on the S9 yet.

Hello Bixby

Like Apple and Google, Samsung has its own personal assistant, Bixby.

And to show you its committed to Bixby, the S9 retains the S8’s dedicated Bixby button. If it’s not your cup of tea, you can deactivate the button completely, but you cannot remap it as a shortcut to other apps or commands. That would have been a killer feature.

Samsung promises Bixby 2.0 will come next August or September when it unveils the Note 9. For now, it remains underdeveloped.

Bixby Vision can estimate how many calories are in the meal you’re about to have

Sure, Bixby can do new things, like live translation when ordering food overseas. And when your meal arrives, you can also have Bixby give you an estimate of how many calories you’re about to consume. Cool tricks, but they do not replace a good old personal assistant.

In the interim, I suggest you use Google Assistant; it’s accessible via the usual voice command, “Okay Google.”

Improved biometrics

One way to recognize the S9 from an S8 is to turn the phone around and look at the position of its fingerprint sensor. Proving that it listens to user feedback, Samsung has graciously located it to underneath the camera instead of beside it.

It’s in a much better place, but unfortunately it’s still too close to the camera, and part of one single unit, instead of being separate. In my week or so of use, I’ve often brushed my S9 camera’s lens while trying to unlock my phone.  

Intelligent Scan on the Galaxy S9 combines facial recognition and iris scanning / Photo by Michael Josh

It’s kinda a big deal for me as the fingerprint sensor is still my default way of unlocking the phone. It’s just quicker, snappier, and more reliable even if Samsung has beefed up its “Intelligent Scan” by integrating its facial recognition and iris scanner.

Price jump

A smartphone’s price tag is as important as any new feature. And when it comes to determining the S9’s value, it’s important to take a look at how much the S9 costs around the globe.

Prices of the S9 went up everywhere except the US / Photo by Michael Josh

Here’s the thing: In the US, the S9 and S9+ cost as much as the S8 and the S8+ when they launched. But across the globe, prices increased by 5 to 15 percent.

Do all these features justify the price increase? No.

But having said that, when compared to the iPhone X, the S9+ is still more affordable, so there’s that. Depending on where you are in the world, the S9 and S9+ might not be the best value for money phone. But they are at least pretty competitive in the upper end of the price spectrum.

Is the Galaxy S9 your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for the best Android smartphones available today, the S9 and S9+ are a match. The S9+ especially is one the best Android phones in the market today.

Both models are deserving of the GadgetMatch Seal of Approval.

The Galaxy S9 is a pleasure to use / Photo by Michael Josh

Apart from an excellent camera and great looks, you’ll like the S9’s creator-focused features, loud stereo speakers, water resistance, and headphone jack. On the flip side, Bixby is still not ready, AR Emoji is unpolished, and battery life could be better.

The S9 and S9+ are not intended for S8 and S8+ users. If you own an S8, skip this upgrade and wait for next year.

Although, S7 and S7 Edge users might want to strongly consider this upgrade, especially if their contract is up for renewal. US carriers in particular are offering plenty of perks for those pre-ordering the phone.

For the more price conscious though, also consider not-so-premium phones from brands that may not sound as sexy as Samsung or Apple but offer all of these high-end specs at a lower, more reachable price point.

Following years of iteration, Samsung finally nailed it / Photo by Michael Josh

Following many years of iterating, Samsung seems to have nailed it. While in some ways the S9 is almost predictable, its purely iterative step-up also speaks to Samsung’s ability to make great phones. As a fan of innovation though, I want to see more, an under display fingerprint sensor maybe, better battery tech, and ways to leverage artificial intelligence to make their phones better. AI is the future, and it would be interesting to see glimpses of how Samsung plans to ensure their smartphone remains at the center of this computing revolution.

Convenient Smart Home

This cordless wet/dry vacuum might be what every busy bee needs

Squeeze in chores between hustling!

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We all love a nice, clean home. But these days, it can be difficult to balance everything in our lives. If you live a busy life, you probably don’t want to face up to cleaning your home with the little spare time that you have. It should be reserved for relaxation, not for a giant mountain of chores.

The last thing we all want is to be surrounded by mess. For me, it’s a good thing that keeping my home clean is doable even though I’ve got a hectic schedule that seemingly makes it impossible.

What I’ve realized is that investing in new and more efficient equipment will allow us to get things done swiftly. This could mean anything from replacing a raggedy mop to buying a more powerful vacuum cleaner.

What’s in the box?

When the Dreame H12 wet & dry vacuum was handed to me, I felt thrilled to try it out! I always get intimidated by the idea of using large vacuum cleaners, but not with the Dreame H12.

It comes with user-friendly features and a wide array of accessories that would make doing chores bearable.

To begin with, there’s a charging base. It’s molded, so you can set the vacuum directly into a convenient socket. This base can be used both for charging and cleaning.

(1) H12 Main Body Unit (1) Floor Brush (1) Charging Base (2) Accessory Holder (1) Extra Filter (1) Power Adapter (1) Cleaning Brush (1) Detergent Floor Cleaner

User-friendly features

As easy as clicking on the button at the top of the handle, the H12 will begin to clean the roller brush as thoroughly as possible, which is why the process takes around two minutes to complete.

Since it’s much easier to clean small areas like my studio apartment, having the upgraded edge-cleaning roller brush effectively deals with those hard-to-reach corners and baseboards freely.

The Dreame H12 has two modes: auto-mode and suction mode. In Auto mode, the cleaner automatically adjusts water and suction to the desired level depending on cleaning tasks.

In suction mode, it shuts off the mopping feature and only vacuums liquid without mopping. It also has this Smart Dirt Detection feature that identifies dirt and adjusts its suction power automatically.

You can also monitor the condition of the floor with the circular cleaning indicator around the screen. A smart LED screen that displays the cleaning status and clear voice prompts is beneficial for new vacuum owners like me.

A green light indicates light dirt while an orange light means there’s medium dirt present. A super dirty floor will prompt the ring to glow red.

Other features

Other features of the H12 can be monitored via the screen which also prominently displays the battery percentage. But you don’t need to rely on the display all the time as the H12 can audibly provide alerts since it has voice prompts as I’ve mentioned.

You’ll never be able to keep every single speck of dirt off the floor especially if you were running low on time. Partly, it takes a very long time until the roller from the wiping vacuum is dried. Thanks to the Wet and Dry Cleaning feature of Dreame H12 that removes wet or dry messes in one pass.

A good feature that I appreciate here is the absence of a dust bag, which is known to be a hassle to clean. Instead, all the dust, dirt, and grime get mixed with the water, so you just need to pour out the wastewater. H12 has two transparent containers built into it.

The top is a 900ml water tank for clean water, used for the mopping function. The bottom is a 500ml dirty water tank, which also serves as a dust hopper. Both tanks are easy to remove, refill, empty, and release with a simple latch.

Vacuuming

A filthy property can affect a person’s health. The nice thing about Dreame H12 is it does self-cleaning on the roller brush to avoid bacterial cross-contamination. It also self-dries the brush to prevent bacteria growth and odor.

It’s amazing how vacuuming the floor, cleaning up the kitchen, and straightening up clutter always improve my mood. Even if it’s just 15 minutes of my spare time, it does really feel good.

Imagine having this cordless Dreame H12 that can run for about 35 minutes. I am able to clean my small house frequently without having the need to recharge it every time.

Is the Dreame H12 Wet & Dry vacuum your GadgetMatch?

Accomplishing a few chores might give your mood a boost. So if you dream of spending less time cleaning, you can cut yourself some slack now. With the Dreame H12 Wet and Dry vacuum, you should not worry about sweeping and scrubbing messy floors in the little time you have.

With sleek designs to match, You can now literally have the clean home of your dreams. The Dreame H12 retails for PhP 25,990.

Don’t miss the Dreame H12’s Launch on Shopee this August 15, to get an exclusive price of P21,890 (SRP: P25,990) plus gifts with every purchase. For more info, visit Dreame Philippines’ official pages on Facebook and Instagram.

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Samsung Galaxy A73 5G review: Awesome phone not meant for the A-list

Does it still deserve the Galaxy A branding?

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Galaxy A73

This year, Samsung launched not just one, but five smartphones in their March 2022 Galaxy A lineup — the Galaxy A73 5G being one in the roster alongside the Galaxy A53 5G, A33 5G, A23, and A13. And the Galaxy A73 5G is Samsung’s top-of-the-line smartphone in the midrange segment.

Galaxy A33 5G, A53 5G, and A73 5G

A quick rundown

For the spec-obsessed, the Galaxy A73 5G doesn’t differ that much from its smaller sibling, the Galaxy A53 5G, as well as last year’s A72 and its 5G version.

A73 5G A53 5G A72/A72 5G
Display 6.7” 120Hz Super AMOLED Plus Infinity-O Display + Gorilla Glass 5 6.5” 120Hz Super AMOLED Infinity-O Display + Gorilla Glass 5 6.7” 90/120Hz Super AMOLED Infinity-O Display + Gorilla Glass 5
Processor Snapdragon 778G 5G
6nm chipset
Exynos 1280
5nm chipset
Snapdragon 720G/750G
8nm chipset
Memory 6/8GB
Storage 128/256GB + microSDXC slot
Cameras 108MP f/1.8 wide
12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide
5MP f/2.4 macro
5MP f/2.4 depth
32MP f/2.2 selfie
64MP f/1.8 wide
12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide
5MP f/2.4 macro
5MP f/2.4 depth
32MP f/2.2 selfie
64MP f/1.8 wide
12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide
8MP f/2.4 3x telephoto
5MP f/2.4 macro
32MP f/2.2 selfie
Battery + Charging 5000mAh
25W Fast Charging
Operating System Android 12, One UI 4.1 Android 11, One UI 4.1

Compared to the Galaxy A53 5G, the big brother clearly has the bigger and better display technology along with a Snapdragon 5G chipset instead of using Samsung’s in-house Exynos 1280. Moreover, the main camera of the A73 5G has double the megapixel size, but that’s about it.

Appealing and lightweight

The design of the Galaxy A73 5G isn’t any different from its other Galaxy A siblings. Heck, it’s even harder to distinguish if you place it beside last year’s Galaxy A72.

Galaxy A73

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Samsung “recycling” last year’s design is not a bad idea at all.

Galaxy A73

I have the Awesome White colorway and it’s perfect for my taste! I love how there’s more emphasis on the camera lenses (in contrary to last year’s black). The subtle hump of the whole camera module is also a nice touch to an already clean design language.

Galaxy A73

Although the back is made of polycarbonate, it doesn’t feel like the flimsy, cheap-o plastic phones we used to have back in the day. This reminds me of the Galaxy S21 FE I’ve held for some time back in January.

Some people may have been fooled but I need to point out that the frame is also made of plastic. It just looks nice with a shiny, chrome finish, imitating a stainless steel frame. I just hope it wouldn’t fade or chip overtime.

Galaxy A73

The plastic also makes the phone very lightweight and not too fragile unlike most glass-touting phones these days. This also means I can hold the phone without slapping an icky silicone case on it.

Galaxy A73

The idea of having plastic on premium midranger isn’t exactly thrilling. That’s understandable especially when a lot of midrange smartphones have glass backs for that added premium feel.

Galaxy A73

Flipping the phone doesn’t reveal anything different either.

Galaxy A73

It’s still the same 6.7-inch Infinity-O display — more on the specifics later.

All-rounder midranger

As previously mentioned, the Galaxy A73 5G has the same display size as last year’s Galaxy A72 — but it doesn’t mean there are no upgrades.

Galaxy A73

First off, the Galaxy A73 5G features a better and faster 120Hz Super AMOLED Plus display as opposed to the 90Hz Super AMOLED screen of the A72. Its 5G version has a faster 120Hz refresh rate but still having a Super AMOLED display without the ‘Plus’ moniker.

Galaxy A73

LF: my 이준호

While the differences between the two types of Samsung display are pretty far to differentiate from a consumer’s standpoint, all I can say is that the Super AMOLED Plus display is a real visual treat.

Galaxy A73

I flipped during Jeon Heejin’s part in LOONA’s Flip That!

Visuals ultimately pop with its bright display that reaches up to 800nits — perfect if you’re always out and about.

Galaxy A73

SNSD’s full-group comeback after 5 years is every K-Pop veteran’s dream to see 🥺

No need to worry about artifacts as the Full HD+ resolution makes everything crisp and clear. Pixel density is pretty much compact too. That’s 393ppi if you want to know the exact number.

Galaxy A73

A-T-T-E-N-T-I-on is what I want (from you) 😭 stream NewJeans’ New Jeans EP (TBH one of the best K-Pop EPs out there)

If you’re the type who doesn’t want a display that looks too colorful, it can easily be changed from Vivid to Natural in Settings for that less saturated look.

I wish I can live by LOONA’s words in Pale Blue Dot

If you’re curious about its audio performance, the speakers are loud enough with the right amount of bass and treble.

The best way to flex your #shoefie is to play ITZY’s SNEAKERS out loud

It may not be the best stereo speakers around but it’s not that bad — with my definition not being too mediocre-sounding nor flat-tuned.

I feel like I’ve low-key participated in a K-Pop group’s latest comeback track: BEAUTIFUL (STAYC girls) MONSTER (me) 🥴

Day or night, I’m sure most of you will truly enjoy the Galaxy A73 5G as your next best all-rounder multimedia device.

Assuring performance

On paper, the Galaxy A73 5G is equipped with Snapdragon’s 778G 5G chipset. The specific variant I have has a 6GB memory with 128GB of internal storage. Other models can be configured with 8GB+128GB or 8GB+256GB options.

No doubt, the Galaxy A73 5G can handle most tasks and games quite well without hitches.

Playing Asphalt 9 Legends with the maximum graphics settings did very well on my end.

I also turned the best possible settings while I played Call of Duty: Mobile.

And just like my favorite racing game, this FPS game also ran smooth without hiccups that I sometimes encounter on other Android smartphones.

The presence of an even faster display contributed to my gameplay since it comes hand-in-hand with faster touch sampling rate as well that’s very well needed for shooting games.

This is when things fell apart when I played with the Galaxy A73 5G…

Even if I didn’t change the graphics setting for Genshin Impact, the laggy gameplay and choppy frame rate was evident at the very start of the game. If you’re a heavy Genshin user, you might want to take your Traveler exploits elsewhere.

Awesome endurance

“Long-lasting battery life” has been with Galaxy A’s tagline ever since the new breed of A-devices were announced back in 2020.

The Galaxy A73 5G isn’t any different — just like it’s 5000mAh battery that’s the similar capacity to last year’s Galaxy A72 and A72 5G, as well as this year’s A53 5G.

Galaxy A73

I’ve used the phone with basically everything turned on — Wi-Fi when I’m indoors, 4G LTE/5G mobile data when outside, as well as Bluetooth, and location services.

Surprisingly, the Galaxy A73 5G can last until the end of the day with moderate usage. Of course, expect faster battery draining if you play games for hours.

Galaxy A73

While Samsung’s “two-day” battery life seems like a stretch, it is achievable if your phone is in power saving mode while being used lightly for short calls, text messaging, or chatting. Most of all, when it’s just resting on your desk instead of being used extensively.

Galaxy A73

But unlike its predecessor, the Galaxy A73 5G doesn’t have a bundled charger out of the box — one among many tech companies’ “initiative” to reduce e-waste production and consumption.

Galaxy A73

Despite that, Samsung never made any move to make up for that unwanted bold move that most consumers will surely whine about. The phone is still stuck with a not-so-fast 25W Fast Charging just like it was in the Galaxy A72, Galaxy A71, and even the Galaxy A70 from three years ago.

That being said, I used my third-party adapter with a 45W max output. It displayed inconsistencies, switching between “Fast Charging” and “Super Fast Charging” every once in a while. In my two different charge tests, it still took around 1 hour and around 30 to 45 minutes to fully-charge the A73 5G.

At the same price point, Chinese counterparts still provide chargers inside the packaging. Regardless if it’s the proprietary USB-A charger and cable, I would still want to have them rather than sacrificing charging speeds by using a super-fast third-party USB-C charger and cables that won’t be recognized by the phone itself.

Adequate cameras

As mentioned earlier, the Galaxy A73 5G features a quad camera setup.

Ultra-wide

Most phones have mediocre ultra-wide angle (UWA) cameras. The one on the Galaxy A73 5G performs well despite having the similar 12MP f/2.2 — just like younger and older Galaxy A phones from last year.

Galaxy A73

As long as there’s enough source of natural light (whether you’re indoors or outdoors), this phone can produce picture-perfect super-wide shots.

In the examples below, the wide and ultra-wide camera may have looked consistent…

…but there are instances where there’s a huge gap in quality taken through these two different modes.

Sometimes, the ultra-wide shot produces a cooler shot, other times it’s warmer than the main one, and vice versa.

Not that most people post both ultra-wide and wide-angle shots on socials, but it’s one point that these two lenses don’t perform coherently with one another.

Wide (Main)

The cream of the crop (or the filling of the cake) of the camera segment has got to go with the A73 5G’s 108MP f/1.8 main camera.

Galaxy A73

The wide camera isn’t a slouch. It focuses fast and accurate at the right amount of distance.

HDR sometimes suffer in times where there’s harsh sunlight or a hazy sky above.

Not that everyone always take photos of light bulbs but this is another example that HDR doesn’t do its job properly.

Food shots look appetizing with precise focus and creamy bokeh at the back (and yes! No pesky radial blur-ish effect).

But relying on indoor light somehow affects the exposure, highlights, sharpness, and even the AWB (Auto White Balance) processing of the image.

And even with the presence of natural light outside, as long as your primary source light is warm, it messes up the AWB and overall AI algorithm of the A73 5G.

Zoom

Another unnecessary bold move that Samsung did in the Galaxy A73 5G (other than the removal of in-box charger) was the elimination of telephoto zoom lens.

Last year’s Galaxy A72 had an 8MP f/2.4 telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom. This was replaced by a 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor (together with the already existing 5MP f/2.4 macro lens).

If you barely use the zoom feature, you would hardly notice quality difference especially when you just mix / collage it alongside other photos taken with the wide and ultra-wide lenses.

But if you zoom in a lot, you would know the difference it makes. Fairly, zooming in at a modest distance of 2x would still make photos acceptable and shareable. The trick is that it uses its 108MP main sensor and totally relies on digital crop just like other phones with a dual-camera setup.

And with a fair amount of light or shooting outdoors, zooming in does the job right, too.

Once you go past that zoom distance, everything crumbles — exposure, contrast, and most of all, sharpness.

The photo above was zoomed in at just around 4.5x. While all of us can still recognize the trees, bungalow houses, as well as the tall condominiums and buildings, it’s a photo you won’t ever dare post on Instagram because of how smudged-looking it is.

And you know what makes it more puzzling and baffling? It’s the fact that Samsung still opted to show more “zoom” options in its camera UI — I mean, the audacity to even include 10x despite the bad quality of zoomed shots below 5x?

Night Mode

One separate segment are photos taken using Samsung’s built-in Night Mode for low-light scenarios that had little to no source of light.

Using the wide lens for most of your night time scenery can work wonders for a dark low-light shot.

Good enough, Night Mode also works when you take zoomed shots…

Wide | 2x zoom

…but not so much when shooting in ultra-wide (the f/2.2 aperture being mostly at fault).

Ultra-wide | Wide

Taking photos of pets are a hit or miss, though. It’s decent when there’s brighter artificial light…

…and obviously worse when there’s little to no light.

Fortunately, it was still able to shoot the photo of the beer I had despite only relying on strobing party lights that changes every split second.

Portrait Mode

For people who are pretty much confident in flaunting their full-blown #OOTDs or #NewMakeupLook, I’m glad to report that the A73 5G takes decent portrait shots.

Whether it’s on or off, the skin tone looks nice overall.

And with the effect turned on, it gives better background segmentation with clearer distinction between the subject and the background with creamier bokeh. I think this is where the new 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor plays a pivotal role.

For a midranger like the A73 5G, you would barely expect a great-looking portrait shot.

Thankfully, unlike the zoomed shots, the Portrait Mode delivered great results.

Alluring Selfies

Another thing that was unchanged from several Galaxy A phones is the front-facing 32MP f/2.2 camera.

Anyone would like this selfie camera especially with an extra ultra-wide option for those who take wider selfies (or groufies).

While it all boils down to personal preferences, my [redacted] actually preferred the cooler selfies taken with the A73 5G against the vivo V23 5G which is basically one of the midrange smartphones with the best cameras on front.

But too much coolness evades from the real look of you (and what you wear). Take for instance the pineapples on my polo shirt below looked pinkish instead of a solid red and orange.

At night, it looks alright as long as there’s enough source of artificial light.

I don’t want to ruin someone’s day (or night) but for fun, I took these cringey low-light selfies to show there’s a stark difference between with and without the fill light.

You’ll be the judge though. Some of the photo samples here were in the camera shootout article I did against the vivo V23 5G — especially the difference between Samsung’s fill light feature against vivo’s dual-tone dual-LED flash.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy A73 5G vs vivo V20 Pro: Camera Shootout

Added novelties

The Galaxy A73 5G still has Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 for front glass protection just like the old Galaxy A72 as well as its younger A53 5G sibling.

Galaxy A73

Beneath the display is an under-display fingerprint scanner. While it’s still the optical one instead of the ultrasonic found on higher-end Samsung Galaxy smartphones, it’s still fast and responsive.

And while the plastic material may be a feature most of you frowned upon, the good thing is that Samsung still made this smartphone IP67-rated which can withstand dust and water in a certain amount of volume for a certain amount of time.

Galaxy A73

And just like other Galaxy A phones, it would be amiss for Samsung to skip the inclusion of microSDXC slot. Just take in mind that it’s still a hybrid tray: you can only store one SIM + microSD or two nano SIMs but without the card in it.

Galaxy A73

An upgrade some might not even know other than the inclusion of 5G (vs A72’s limited 4G network support) is the addition of Wi-Fi 6. This means the Galaxy A73 5G can achieve blazing-fast download (and upload) speeds not just through 5G, but also through Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.

A few stumbling blocks

This particular Galaxy A73 5G is sluggish every time I open the camera app.

Galaxy A73

Regardless if I open it from the camera app or through double-pressing the power button, it takes around 5-6 seconds before the camera shows the viewfinder — all when I already missed the fast-moving subject/object I was about to capture. I hope Samsung addresses this issue via a software update.

Last but definitely not the least, Samsung has also decided to remove the beloved 3.5mm audio jack from the A73 5G. So if you still rely on your pair of wired ear/headphones, the only 2022 Galaxy A phones for your specific need are the less-powerful Galaxy A23 and A13.

Is the Samsung Galaxy A73 5G your GadgetMatch?

You can purchase the Samsung Galaxy A73 5G in three Awesome colors: gray, mint, and white. Pricing and configuration are as follows:

  • 6/128GB = PhP 26,990
  • 8/128GB = PhP 27,990 / SG$ 618 / INR 41,999
  • 8/256GB = PhP 29,990 / SG$ 718 / INR 44,999

Without a doubt, the Galaxy A73 5G is an “Awesome” phone. But unless you need the larger display, better Snapdragon chipset, and a larger 108MP main camera, the A73 5G is harder to recommend when the Galaxy A53 5G is just around the corner.

The PhP 3K/SG$100/INR 9000 price gap is still huge for budget-conscious buyers. That difference can easily be traded for an additional accessory purchase: wireless earbuds, USB-C earphones, or a charger that Samsung doesn’t provide.

I know my heading subtitle sounds a little bit controversial, but that could mean both ways. The Galaxy A73 5G is not meant for the A-ffordable list nor the ‘A-list’ of smartphone users who want the best in tech.

If you’re looking for a “more premium-looking” 5G smartphone that’s much like the Galaxy A73 5G, you can consider the vivo V23 5G — even at a more discounted price. It’s a plus too if you’re a heavy selfie user especially with its special set of front-facing camera hullaballoos.

The Xiaomi 11T Pro is also a clear contender — another midrange phone with better internals, build quality, audio output, and even a 120W charger out of the box. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t feature a dedicated telephoto lens.

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Reviews

OnePlus 10T review: Lots to love, nothing to hate

Even better than the OnePlus 10 Pro?

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Last year, the OnePlus 9T didn’t see the light of the day. However, OnePlus isn’t backing down this year.

Meet the OnePlus 10T, their latest T-series offering that embodies the OnePlus 10 Pro in a cheaper price tag.

But don’t let that make you frown.

Being powered by the latest Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 and even a 16GB RAM variant is enough to make you wonder:

Is it any better than the OnePlus 10 Pro? Or should you still look elsewhere?

Watch our OnePlus 10T review to know if this is your GadgetMatch.

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