Huawei P9 in-depth review - Mighty fine

Huawei's collaboration with Leica, the 150-year-old camera manufacturer is a great way for the Chinese manufacturer to get their foot in the door further into the Android smartphone market in the west. Beautiful slim design, and decent specs elsewhere with a very competitive pricing further seals the fate of the Huawei P9 at the top of the Android pecking order.

 Huawei P9 Review - Mighty fine
4.5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,4/18/2016 9:53:08 AM

9

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

10

out of 5

Ease of use

9

out of 5

Features

10

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Beautiful build quality | Best in class camera | USB-C | Very good screen | Value purchase

Cons:

Huawei's custom Android overlay is unnecessary | no fast charge

- By Sunetra Chakravarti

 The Huawei P9 is a perfect 10.

If you are the sort who would never buy a less than stunning device irrespective of its smarts, then this is the phone for you. 

Huawei have taken on Apple in the looks department and have produced a device that not just takes on the iPhone but have also delivered one of the most beautiful smartphones in the market.

Huawei's flagship range has always been know for being thin and premium, and the design philosophy has been taken forward with the P9 as well. Incredibly thin at just 6.95mm, the phone has rounded corners, double chamfered metal edges, apart from being an all-metal unibody number which weigns in at 144g.

There are no lumps (like the LG G5) or bumps (like the Google Nexus 6P) on the back and it is a flat-sheet of sand-blasted metal. The two camera lenses are at the top and protected behind an oblong black glass plate that stretches across the top of the phone.

Again, a hat-tip to their manufacturing process, the place where the glass and metal meet is so seamless that you will not be able to feel any gaps or edges. 

 The fingerprint sensor sits squarely under it and is blisteringly fast. Tap the square indented area with your finger and the phone unlocks for you. I did encounter a tiny problem with it, where it would unlock and then say fingerprint couldn't be read but that cleared up after a few days.

The machined cross-hatch textured power button is on the right, below the volume toggle and the SIM and micoSD card slots are on the same tray on the left of the device. The single speaker grill is at the bottom of the phone and the headphone jack is also sited here, across from where the USB-C cable charges it.

It is all about the Leica camera onboard...

Much was made of Huawei's collaboration with Leica for the development of the camera that the P9 sports, and I should say cameras because the Huawei P9 has TWO primary cameras onboard.

A 12-MP RGB sensor and another 12-MP monochrome sensor which can either be used on their own or together, produce exceptional low light shots. The two cameras play tag team to supply colour information and other details to make these images burst with clarity, detail and crispness. 

 

As you would expect from Huawei, the camera further packs a range of filters and smarts including the ability to take images in either .jpeg or RAW format. 

On their own the cameras work very well and although the RGB one does a very good job, the monochrome sensor is my favourite because of the super-moody photos I was able to take using it. If you think it is no biggie, you are wrong because it outperformed every monochrome Instagram filter you can ever think of using for similar results.

The front-facing snapper at 8-MP is a very good one as well with beauty mode present and correct as well as about a dozen filters and a panorama mode.

Android 6.0, great battery-life and 3GB RAM

Huawei have used their own Kirin 955 processor on the P9 and coupled with a 3GB RAM, it is a very very fast machine. Not only did it perform very well in the Antutu bnchmark test, scoring 86690, more than the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 but also scored 1718 in the single-core Geekbench test as well as 6485 in the multi-core tests which are good results.

The battery is a very respectable 3000mAH, which again, is at par if not better than most flagship devices out there and Huawei packs several power-saving features into the phone so you can choose to close apps running in the background or save power aggressively to make it last more than a day.

There is no fast charge on the device and charging the phone from 0-100% took about 4 hours using the USB-C type cable.

During a loop video test when I streamed HD videos over wi-fi from Youtube with 100% brightness, the P9 lost 6% charge over a period a 20-minute period. Not the best but nothing to be scoffed at either. 

The phone does heat up quite a bit when you download apps or stream video and even when charging but doesnt super-heat like the Sony Xperia Z5 did during tests. 

The Huawei P9 runs Android 6 out of the box with the company's own custom overlay Emotion UI 4.0 on it. Custom Android overlays provide a source of extreme debate amongst tech reviewers but I have always had to explain them to users, saying the overlays block precious space on their phones and they couldn't care less.

Huawei have pared down their overlay massively but it still brings a touch of iOS to Android because it gets rid of the app drawer for the user as well as a carousel of very pretty unlock screen images. The missing app drawer isnt a massive issue on the P9 because you are able to add apps to a couple of pre-existing drawers, but Android purists are again not pleased. 

Huawei have tried to be helpful by pre-loading about a dozens apps on the phone including Facebook, Twitter Todoist and WPS Office. Some are quite handy to have and you can delete the unnecessary ones at will. 

One of the key features of Android 6 is the ability to use memory on the microSD card as native memory to store apps, sadly this feature is not available here so all you can use the microSD memory for, are videos and photos. 

 The display and the screen are beautiful too...

The P9 has a 5.2-inch screen which is currently my Goldilocks size for phone screens. With the barely-there bezels on the side, it is the perfect size to work and use one-handed and watch and stream media. The LCD display is Full HD and although not as stunning as the one on the Samsung Galaxy S7, does a good job of reproducing colours.

The 424 pixels per inch make sure that streaming media is crystal clear and the viewing angles are very good. The glass on the screen curves over on the side to join the metal frame and adds to the kerb appeal for the P9. 

 Should I buy the Huawei P9?

Huawei have been steadily making massive strides into the smartphone market, and their timing is fantastic too. There is a void left by Sony and HTC have haemorraged marketshare in the past couple of years.

The P9 is going to be the first Huawei handset that is being ranged by all the networks and marks a shift in consumer attitudes for the company.

With the  LG G5 not living upto expectations, Huawei's strategic collaboration with Leica to offer the best cameraphone experience in the market is going to reap rich dividends. The £449 price tag is just the cherry on top.

Beautifully built, seamless juxtapositioning of metal and glass and the slim and light body cloak a superfast processor, one of the best fingerprint sensors I have seen, great RAM and expandable memory. Just like Samsung did with the Galaxy S7, Huawei have hit the ball out of the park with the P9 which isnt just a step up from the P8 but a reimagined flagship.

So, yes. You should most definitely buy this phone. 

Huawei P9 specifications

Price: From £449

Operating System: Android™ 6.01 Marshmallow with Emotion UI 4.1

Dimensions: 145 x 70.9 x 6.95 mm

Weight: 144g

Resolution: 2560 x 1440, 424PPI

Display: 5.2in full HD LCD

Processor: Octa-core Huawei Kirin 955; 3GB of RAM

Camera: 12-MP dual cameras; 8-MP front-facing camera.

Memory: 32 GB internal storage; 
Expandable storage via MicroSD slot

Battery: 3000mAH

Fingerprint sensor: Yes

Misc: NFC, Type C; 4.2 BLE; Wi-Fiac, LTE, Bluetooth 4.2