Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/5/2016 10:49:25 AM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Battery life | stereo speakers | fantastic front-facing camera
Too big for some | exclusion of AMOLED display | primary camera still isn't there
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
Operating System: Android™ 7.0 (Nougat) Emotion UI EMUI 5.0
Dimensions: 156.9 x 78.9 x 7.9mm
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