Huawei Mate 9. in-depth review - Phab-tastic

Huawei has been synonymous with great value for quite a while now, but it wasn’t until earlier this year, when they unleashed the critically acclaimed Huawei P9, that the public started to sit up and take note. Countless hilarious mispronunciations later and they’re back with the Mate 9 which hopes to fill that Samsung Note 7-shaped hole in your life, sans the explosions.

 Huawei Mate 9. Review - Phab-tastic

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/5/2016 10:49:25 AM


out of 10



out of 5

Look and feel


out of 5

Ease of use


out of 5



out of 5

Battery life


Battery life | stereo speakers | fantastic front-facing camera


Too big for some | exclusion of AMOLED display | primary camera still isn't there


- By Stuart Bonner

Perhaps the most significant difference between the Mate 9 and its predecessor, the aptly named Mate 8, is its availability. Network stores like Three never carried the Mate 8, but it’s fully expected to take the Mate 9 after the success the P9 has found in the UK. Huawei has also announced a release in Europe and the States -  and make no mistake about it; this is Huawei's big push to break the US market.  

Huawei covers all the main bases with 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage (with additional MicroSD slot), but let's see how the rest of the phone performs.

Huawei Mate 9 in-depth review: Look & Feel

The Mate 9 sports a beautiful metal frame with chamfered edges, making it easier to hold. We say easier because it’s a still a two-hander, with its full HD display measuring at 5.9 inches – a whole 0.5 of an inch bigger than the iPhone 7 Plus. Remarkably the Mate 9 is smaller than the iPhone 7 Plus, and at 7.9mm thin, it is quite sleek. One thing the Mate 9 isn't, is light; it’s 190g, meaning it feels solidly built and with a good amount of heft.  

The back of the device is adorned a familiar dual camera setup, this time with second-generation Leica lenses flanked to the left by a dual-tone flash and to the right by a laser autofocus. Below sits a circular fingerprint scanner which is just a joy to use, even if it does face intense competition from the ultrasonic scanners seen on the Xiaomi Mi5s and potentially in the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8.
 The bottom edge sports a USB C port and beautifully machined holes allowing the stereo speakers to scream – more on that later - and on top lies a 3.5mm headphone socket, of course.

Huawei Mate 9 in-depth review: Display and Audio

Huawei has not bucked the trend with the screen on the Mate 9, having stuck with a 1080 x 1920 IPS LCD panel.  It'll likely delight everyone but the pickiest of buyers with its strong viewing angles and blinding brightness.  
Content is immersive thanks to the tiniest of bezels surrounding the screen, something you'll only notice when the screen is on, and audio is outstanding.  Even if the resolution isn't an issue, it would have been nice to see Huawei switch to AMOLED tech for their new flagship, especially when everyone from Google, LG, Samsung and Apple (if you believe the rumors) is doing it.

The stereo speakers can get thunderously loud and overall sound quality is excellent, particularly at the low end. We particularly loved Huawei's Stereo+ software which pushes audio through the earpiece as well as the bottom-firing speakers when the device is landscape, giving real stereo sound no matter which way you're holding your phone.

Huawei Mate 9 in-depth review: Battery life & Performance

The Mate 9 sports a 4000mAH battery - that's 38% more capacity than the iPhone 7 Plus. We streamed music continuously during a 200-mile round-trip across Scotland, took photos at several destinations, checked social media regularly (obviously not whilst driving!) And even had a 30-minute phone call on the return leg and still managed to end the day at 11:30 pm with 20% battery.  Our Sony Xperia XZ would have died by 1 pm with that level of usage, and a friend's iPhone 7 was always charging to avoid the same fate.  That incredible stamina can go further still by various power saving modes baked into EMUI 5.0- Huawei's bespoke layer on top of the latest Android operating system.

Performance is equally as stellar with the Mate 9 being the first phone to come equipped with Huawei's new Kirin 960 chipset. In real world usage, the Mate 9 is supremely quick, and it'll stay that way for years to come thanks to Huawei's machine learning algorithm. It learns how you use the phone over time, allocating resources appropriately and promising it'll not slow down.

Huawei Mate 9 in-depth review: Camera

Huawei has continued where the P9 concluded with a second-generation dual camera set up in conjunction with Leica, consisting of a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor and a 12-megapixel RGB sensor. There is OIS in the RGB sensor, a hybrid autofocus, and a dual tone flash to aid snaps. The front camera is refreshingly good and it's f/1.9 aperture lens offering detailed and accurate shots.

Shots are pleasant in daylight - even compared to the Galaxy S7 and Google Pixel devices - but they're not as consistent. There are plenty of modes to choose from, including a dedicated PRO mode, and the dual camera setup allows for a great bokeh effect which you can even edit afterward.

Huawei has made considerable progress when it comes to low light, but there's still a long way to go.  "Moody" shots are hazy, and the Mate 9 can't compete with the Galaxy S7 in the vast majority of scenarios - meaning the latter is still your best choice for a quick point and shoot.

Huawei Mate 9 in-depth review: Verdict

You don't have many choices if you're looking for a flagship phablet but the lack of choice doesn't mean you have to compromise quality.  The Huawei Mate 9 is one of the best Android devices available just now, including the crop of smaller ones.  

The battery life just has to be experienced to be believed, and that's backed up by the latest version of Android and an immersive multimedia experience.  Some might be put off by its large footprint, heavy EMUI skin or hit and miss camera, but see past its few flaws and the Huawei Mate 9 is sure to satisfy your big phone cravings. 

Huawei Mate 9 Specifications

Price: €699

Operating System: Android™ 7.0 (Nougat) Emotion UI EMUI 5.0

Dimensions: 156.9 x 78.9 x 7.9mm

Weight: 190g

Resolution: 1920 x 1080, 373ppi

Display: 5.9” FHD display 2.5D glass 1080p

Processor: Kirin 960; Octa-core (4 x 2.4 GHz A73 + 4 x 1.8 GHz A53) + i6 co-processor GPU Mali-G71 MP8

Camera: 20-MP Monochrome + 12-MP RGB, F2.2 OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) 4K video; 8-MP selfie camera AF, F1.9

Memory: 64GB ROM 4GB RAM microSD card slot, support up to 256GB (uses SIM 2 slot)

Battery: 4000mAh lithium-ion battery

Fingerprint sensor: Yes

Misc: Dual SIM NFC; USB Type C (High Speed USB); Wi-Fi 2.4G/5G, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with Wi-Fi Direct support BT4.2, support BLE Colours: Space Gray, Moonlight Silver, Champagne Gold, Mocha Brown, Ceramic White