Review: Huawei P9 – Rise of a giant

For many, rather most, anything made in China is synonymous with poor design or poor quality. Huawei is one of those rare companies that has proved it otherwise. Its phones  are not only of high quality but also come at a great value compared to other flagships. Enter the P9, Huawei’s new flagship that seems ready to take on the likes of LG G5 and the Samsung S7.  Is it really flagship-worthy though?

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To say the Huawei P9 is one of the most beautiful-looking smartphones out there would be an understatement. It’s sleek, light and made of metal with smooth chamfered edges, which makes it a delight to hold in the hand. The phone’s design screams flagship and is just as good, if not better, than the Samsung S7, Apple iPhone, HTC 10 or the LG G5. With camera humps becoming a common thing on smartphones, the P9’s cameras take pride in being totally flushed with the phone. Oh, did we mention that there isn’t just one camera, but two? More on this in the camera section (Spoiler alert: Camera is awesome!)

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Specifications

Screen: 5.2 inches Full HD

Platform: Emotion UI based on Android 6.0

Processor: Kirin 955 Octa-core

Camera: Dual 12MP Leica branded camera, 8MP front camera

Battery: 3,000mAh

Memory: 3GB RAM/32GB ROM

Extras: USB Type-C, microSD support, dual SIM capabilities

Display

DSCN1373Starting with the display, it’s a full HD panel with vibrant, crisp and bold colours. Yes, 1080p is pretty much outdated in terms of flagship standards and it’s a little disappointing to see Huawei still sticking to 1080p for its latest flagship. Using the phone for day-to-day tasks is a breeze and there are no lags or stutters. The phone runs on Huawei’s Emotion UI, which is a little iOS like without app drawers and a bunch of home screens showing all your apps and widgets. This might put off a few pure Android enthusiasts, but a third-party launcher like Google Now Launcher can solve this issue.

DSCN1375Gaming on this device is also great, with most popular titles and graphic-demanding titles playing smoothly. Huawei has many customisations, like one-handed mode, motion controls, etc. There are some good tweaks on the software front, especially Notifications – the P9 notifications are more informative and less obtrusive unlike Samsung and LG. There are also granular app permissions and it shows you which app is using unnecessary battery and you can close them to get more juice.

The fingerprint scanner on the rear is fast, actually blazing fast. Just a quick touch and the phone unlocks itself. It is the fastest fingerprint scanner I have used to date.

Battery life

Battery life is a hit or miss with the P9. With 3,000 mAh in the tank, I thought it would be enough to last me a full day of 14 -15 hours of moderate to heavy use. But that’s always not the case. If you are using the phone mostly on LTE, it uses a lot more power and you can run out of juice within 10 hours. I used to charge the phone to full until 8am and with my daily usage – lots of WhatsApp, 1 hour of YouTube, an hour of browsing, checking emails regularly and an hour of gaming with probably 45 minutes of calls, I used to get to 2 per cent around 6pm. There were days it would last until 9pm, but that’s when I used the phone more on Wi-Fi. You should expect around 3.5 to 4 hours of SOT on daily usage and will need to charge at least once in between if you are a power user.

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Camera

DSCN1357Now the main USP for the Huawei P9, the Leica-engineered dual camera set-up. The way it works is pretty simple – both cameras fire at the same time when you take a photo, with one lens taking a regular colour image and the other taking a black-and-white snap. Since the second lens has no colour filters, it’s able to take in and absorb twice as much light and produce images with great contrast and details.

The images produced are punchier than usual, like it makes strawberries look much more redder, flowers look more saturated and have deep contrasts, and skies look bluer. The camera has an integrated laser autofocus, which makes focus quick and accurate. Low-light images come out excellent with the P9 able to take in more light because of the dual lens set-up. But to get the best results in low light, it is important to activate the night mode.

Huawei has a great camera software, with tons of features like bokeh effect, pure monochrome mode, light painting mode and beauty mode, to name a few. The camera also has a few quirks – it struggles in very bright settings, and in low light it takes really long to take a picture, and a slight shake and the image will be totally blurred. Below are a few shots.

Conclusion

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As a media consumption device, the Huawei P9 is excellent but not the best. The LG G5, HTC 10 and Samsung S7 have better pixels and better screens to enjoy media. The speakers are good at their best and don’t compare to HTC 10 nor the Huawei’s own Nexus 6P.

I know I was complimenting and gushing about the P9’s design and how well it is built in the intro and it could be one of the key factors for buying this phone. At about 7mm, this device is sleek and beautiful and is one of the thinnest smartphones available. Also, it is much cheaper than flagships from Apple, LG and Samsung and has a great camera to compete. The deal-breaker could be the software — unless you can’t stand Emotion UI, Huawei P9 is a phone you can’t go wrong with.