There’s significant competition in the mobile phone industry in recent years, and a lot of brands like OPPO, TECNO (www.TECNO-Mobile.com), Samsung, Huawei, Vivo, Realme, Xiaomi launched their new mobile phone products with better features and design, giving the youth of today more and more choices. TECNO is no stranger to us, we have loved their creations the past years, as they focus on affordable yet quite impressive smartphones, that deliver what the customer wants. Take TECNO Spark 9 Pro for example: it’s their latest smartphone aiming almost exclusively on selfies and this… it does well according to our review!
TECNO’s success in the global emerging market has been attributed to tailoring its phones’ features to the needs of the local market and is always committed to provide the users the latest technologies for the youth-generation consumers who are “young at heart”. This brand new Spark 9 Pro model comes with impressive 32MP super clear selfie camera to boost young people’s confidence in self-expression by enabling them to take clearer and brighter selfies. It provides higher number of pixels and better photosensitive performance thanks to the updated features like Super Night Mode 3.0 and AI Portrait Restoration.
We used this phone for two weeks and below you can read our review impressions using this device as a main smartphone for mostly pleasure but also business.
TECNO Spark 9 Pro – Unboxing
The handset of our review comes in a white/orange box with a nice finish using “9 Pro” letters and a large white SPARK font. Around the box there are stickers with information about the included device. The Spark 9 Pro in our hands is the 4/128 GB version in Quantum Black . Tecno informs us that the smartphone has 13 months of guarantee as a 12+1 offer. Generally speaking this is a nice retail box. Inside the box we can see the normal sum for most of the smartphones in this price range:
- The Spark 9 Pro smartphone
- A USB-C to USB-A data transfer / charging cable
- A 18 Watt wall charger
- A SIM tray ejection pin
- A set of headphones
- A hard plastic case
Judging from the above I am really happy that earphones are included in the box – these times even a charger is considered a luxury. On the other hand, a first for me is the absence of user manuals, quick set up guides and the guarantee leaflet. An e-manual exists in the Settings of the smartphone however – a choice which is good for the environment I have to say.
A plastic screen protection film is pre-installed on the phone. It can be easily scratched and I advise the addition of a solid tempered glass sooner than later after removing this film. The plastic case is very nice but if you tend to drop your smartphone more times than you desire add a harder protective case.
TECNO Spark 9 Pro – Design
Tecno has designed a very nice phone that has nothing to envy from smartphones in the category, even the best sellers from Redmi or Realme. The 6.6 inch display comes with medium sized bezels, having a bit bigger “chin”. There is a water drop hole for the selfie camera on the top middle area.
Spark 9 Pro is modern and not an old notched design smartphone. The display itself is flat and big. Over the display there’s a wide hidden horizontal line for the earphone, perfectly designed to listen to your caller without having to center a smaller earpiece to your ear. There is also a notification (white) light placed on the top right side of the display.
The side frame is connected to the back panel and is one big flat piece of plastic. There is a line to separate them as a design detail but there is only one panel here. On the left side we can see the tray where 2 SIM cards and a microSD card fit. On the right side we can see two volume buttons and under them the lock/power on button. The position of them is ok, I can reach them easily with my thumb.
The three buttons are well made without rattling. There are no visible bands because the smartphone’s sides and back are plastic. The top has nothing of interest while the bottom has a 3.5mm audio jack, a noise-canceling microphone and a speaker grille. A welcomed sight is the inclusion of a Type-C port, that offers faster data transfer speeds and a more modern look to the device. Nice work here TECNO.
The back panel’s feeling is quite impressive. The smartphone is separated in parts – there is a horizontal part with almost glossy design (in black color) that takes some space on the top side. The rest is matte (in black color as well) and looks like sand-blast texture. On the left we have a huge but elegantly designed camera area. The big vertical setup is divided into the top part, where we can see 3 camera sensors and into the right part where we see the TECNO SPARK logo.
The camera part is mirrorish here with the thinner right side providing an almost clear reflection. On the thin right side, inside the camera area we can see a LED. On the lower right side, there’s a glossy logo: “STOP AT NOTHING” that mainly describes the company’s commitment to provide quality smartphones. The division between matte and sand-blast texture and the very beautiful camera area makes up for a very elegant device. TECNO is focusing on the artistic / presentation of this device and have surely succeeded in it.
According to TECNO, there’s decent protection for the SIM tray from water or dust. There’s a red rubber ring to prevent water and dust ingress which is good, but still I would be very careful to avoid getting the phone in touch with water.
TECNO Spark 9 Pro review – Hardware
The display is a 6.6 inches IPS LCD panel. The optimized screen design enables better visual experience and makes the scrolling smoother and touch feedback more sensitive for mobile entertainment including playing games and watching videos.
It has a 90.2% screen-to-body ratio and a resolution of 1080 x 2408 pixels. This means that we get 403 ppi of density, an impressive screen quality. The panel is not very bright, you will have to shade it in mid-summer sun. Colors and angles of view are good. Generally this is a good budget panel for all kind of usage.
The driving power behind this smartphone is the Mediatek Helio G85 SoC. It is an 8-core chipset that was announced on late 2020, manufactured using a 12-nanometer process technology. The chipset packs 8 cores: Two fast ARM Cortex-A75 cores with up to 2 GHz for performance tasks and six small ARM Cortex-A55 with up to 1.8 GHz for efficiency. Obviously this is a decent SoC that provides good processing power but you will not be able to play high render 3D games or multitask. We can also find Mali-G52 MC2 for graphics and eMMC 5.1 for storage. The smartphone comes with only 4/128GB versions. There is no software lagging or heating issues.
Spark 9 Pro has a single loudspeaker and music sounds ok in all levels of volume. Sound in calls and video-calls is ok but nothing to brag about. Connectivity is also good. Full signal in call conditions. Bluetooth is ok too – I ‘ve used the smartphone with my wireless headphones daily for review purposes without interruptions and by the way, its GPS is instantaneous.
TECNO Spark 9 Pro review – Camera
Obviously, the main reason one should buy the Tecno Spark 9 Pro is its impressive AI Selfie camera. It provides several interesting features for youngsters mainly:
- Customized beauty adjustment
- Smart AI
- Smooth skin
- Skin tone adjustment
- 3D sculpting/Nose shape
- Eye shape
TECNO has invested a lot in the selfie camera department, and I believe the result is impressive. I really enjoyed the AR Shot, with Animoji/stickers, the face recognition software that can transform our face in an instance, the portrait restoration technique that we can find embedded and of course a seriously sick bokeh effect!
The phone in our review has an eye-tracking autofocus – a first for me and weird to look at, it reminds me of a sci-fi film. The user can also take pictures only by smiling! The camera app has Super Night, Portrait, Google Lens, Beauty, Video, AI cam and Short Video. The latter is for usage on social media and has a lot of extras for visual effects.
More camera features
TECNO SPARK 9 Pro have also optimized the Super Night Mode 3.0 with AI Scene Light Detection, Multi-frame Fusion Optimization Algorithm and the cutting-edge Touch-up Restoration Technology. This appropriately brightens your image to make it both clear and natural even shooting in a dark environment. What’s more, the Ring Screen Fill-in Light provides an even, three-dimensional fill-in light for the face even in low light conditions.
All in all, the company has added fun in the usage of the camera and I spent a lot of time playing with it during our review.
The main camera setup on the back comprises of 3 lenses:
- 50 MP, f/1.6, (PDAF)
- 2 MP, f/2.4, (Bokeh)
- 8 W, f/2.0, (AI cam)
They all support HDR/Super Night Mode/Panorama modes, while having the ability to shoot 120/240fps Slow Motion videos, 2K lapse videos, and huge Panorama photos that will impress you. There’s also AI support in Beauty Mode, optimized for retouching the user’s body parts! You can easily now become… slimmer with the touch of a button 😉
Taking into consideration the camera installation I was surprised at how good daylight pictures are. The 50 MP sensor works perfectly. I can’t tell whether the depth / AI lenses help. This phone could be sold with a single camera in other times, but seeing how multi-camera phones push sales, all companies provide extra lenses. Night photos are good in case of light and get better with Night mode. I don’t think anyone will complain about the camera.
Video resolutions include shooting them at 30fps for 720p, 1080p and at 2K. While it provides similar quality with the photography day or night there is ZERO stabilization. The result is good only when the phone is stable somewhere. If you move it a bit it becomes a mess. Sound is not recorded well, I would prefer fewer lenses and EIS / sound improvements.
TECNO Spark 9 Pro review – Software
The smartphone comes with Android 12 which is an amazing offer for this price segment. This is the first time that I used HIOS 8.6. It brings all the functions and abilities ROMs have these days. I have to mention that there’s some bloatware and advertisement as we see in other similarly priced smartphones. There were no major bugs or limitations and I believe that – with a little polishing- HIOS can stand next to other skins.
The customisation is rich with many features, a theme shop and a dark mode. We can find a memory boost app, Phone Master – a general taking care app, a private app shop called Palm Store, a browser, Instant Apps – a very nice shortcut app to various games and apps that you can use without installing, a Community app for Tecno, various tools, and various other applications like music stores, data share apps etc. Especially in Notifications we are constantly bombarded by information and advertisement… The good thing is that we can find Google Services and you can instantly start removing any application you don’t use/need. In 20-30 minutes the software is more light and user friendly.
I have the feeling that the people behind HIOS will do a good job onwards since this very rich skin covers all needs of a user and does it with good speed and minimal energy consumption. I hope Tecno will continue to provide updates for this phone.
There are two ways to unlock 7 Pro. Face-unlock is very fast. There is no IR light for unlocking during the night, so in total darkness this method may not work. iA minimal light source is needed for this functionality. The company says the Face Unlock enables closed eye protection and screen fill-in light. Please remember that this is not the safest method to unlock your phone so it is not the advised usage outside your usual premises.
The other way is the side panel fingerprint reader. Be careful here, you must do a good setup else the scanner is not working probably, as it did in my case. I deleted all data and passed my fingerprints again and the result was a very accurate and extremely fast process. The in-display camera sensor will meet your needs in all day usage – most of us wear masks – and it is very secure. My opinion is to use it only and disable Face Unlock for the reasons I explained. Adding also on this, is the speed that the in-display camera sensor unlocks the phone – it is ultra fast, the company advertises a speed of 0.12 seconds.
The huge Li-Po 5000 battery and the software added by TECNO is an excellent combination that provides two days of light usage or one day of medium usage (no gaming). SOT is about 8-9 hours which is a top performance.
I was happily impressed by the charging speed. The brand new Type-C 18W wall charger is a welcomed addition to the setup. It provides 2,5 hours for a full change and there is no flash charge in case of need.
TECNO Spark 9 Pro review – Conclusion
Indeed, this is THE selfie phone for those who are on a tight budget, but still want to impress their friends/followers in social media. The TECNO Spark 9 Pro can easily cover your needs in terms of social media photography, and more. Main camera setup has good performance, but the lack of electronic image stabilization and sound of the video recording hurts the total performance in the area.
The SoC is energy efficient and stable and cool but 3D gaming or multitasking is a hassle. Software is rich but needs polishing to remove some of the bloatware. There is a 5000mAh battery with top standby times, and the charging speed is adequate with a 18W charger. Design is great and the addition of case / earphones in the box is a plus. I loved the pricing of the device in our review: with just 170$ approximately you can get a VFM device! Nice work TECNO.
- 50MP camera
- 32MP Front Camera
- Type-C support
- 5000 mAh Battery with 18W Flash Charger
- OTA update on Android 12
- Some Bloatware
- No stabilization in video
- Mediocre sound recording