Huawei Mate 9: Review

For a Chinese company, without any help from the US markets, Huawei has done incredibly well for themselves. They are one of the largest smartphone makers on the planet now, and one must expect similar qualities from their flagship phone. Enter the Huawei Mate 9.

For starters, this phone is massive, and that’s beautiful. Big is beautiful. The only other big hitter was the late Samsung Galaxy Note 7. May it rest in peace.

The Mate 9 is not Huawei’s typical budget phone. It was built with the sole intention of targeting the entire consumer range. Besides its size, the phablet comes with a sizable battery, a shiny new Kirin chip, oodles of storage and RAM, and their Leica branded cameras.

We’ll look at these more in detail, but for a first impression, I was quite impressed with the overall package.

Display and Design

Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo.
Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo.

Huawei is keeping in line with its previous devices when it comes to its model design. The phone is constructed in an aluminum uni-body case, and feels quite well built in hand. The back is curved nicely to fit most palm types, given the phones massive size. Size is important to note here, because it may be difficult to hold for users who are used to smaller devices, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a piece of cake. A very large piece of cake.

The display measures 5.9” which makes it a bigger screen than the iPhone 7 Plus, but roughly around the same size overall. The back is curved, as mentioned earlier and is adorned by the Leica dual lens camera and a fingerprint sensor under that. Additionally, there is a headphone jack, that Huawei decided was still prudent to keep for a while at least. Speakers and a USB-C port under the phone. Power and volume buttons are on the sides and within easy reach for most.

Coming back to the display, Huawei has opted for a 1080p, which seemed less for some reason. However, it comes to life brilliantly and having a low resolution also means that battery consumption is less. The screen is bright and colours are vivid. The only downside is that it won’t be able to perform as well with Googles Daydream VR, due to its low resolution LCD screen.

Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo.
Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo.

Hardware and Software

The Mate 9 is a flagship device for Huawei, meaning it comes with some serious punching power under the hood. It comes with the new Kirin 960 which is a high performance chip and is paired with the Mali G71 MP8 GPU, offering better gaming and media experiences. The chip is designed in house and definitely makes the phone very very fast.

Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo.
Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo.

A nice 4GB of RAM is made available as well, and a chunky 64GB of internal storage. A plus is that the storage is expandable up to 2TB. Battery life on this device is amazing and for typical usage (messaging, gaming, videos, calls) it performs splendidly. All thanks to the 4000 mAh giant in the back. Fast charging is available as well for the device.

As with all previous iterations of Huawei, the EMUI skin for Android that Huawei uses is average at best. Even though the Mate 9 comes with EMUI 5.0 which is based of Android Nougat, its still not a wholesome and fun experience, although better than its predecessor.

Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo.
Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo.

First things first, there is finally an app drawer (optional). No more scrolling across home-screen after home-screen trying to find the app you want to use. Another plus is the use of Nougats native features such as split-screen and multitasking and a reworked notification bar. 

Camera

Leica helped co-engineer this camera for the Mate 9 as it has been doing since the Huawei P9. Needless to say, its Leica and it knows what it’s doing.

Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo.

The main shooters are a 12MP colour sensor and a 20MP monochrome one. Together, they deliver beautiful images. The monochrome sensor can be used separately as well, but the whole point is to use both to produce the image you really want. The front camera is a 8MP shooter, that in short, does the job its meant to do.

The rear camera also uses both laser autofocus and phase detection to help you really get that picture. It underperforms in low light situations even though it technically has two lenses. Video recording goes up to 4K here, thought it shoots best in 1080p.

Professionals can dive into the Pro mode, which lets you tweak all kinds of settings. A plus point is that you learn a lot, but it would help to do a little light reading on what ISO and apertures to use.

Verdict

For a flagship, the Mate 9 is nearly on par with its competition. The phone has a fantastic battery life, an impressive camera and large display to sate your viewing needs. It is incredibly powerful, with its Kirin 960, 4 GB of RAM and massive internal storage capacity. Thankfully, they’ve updated their software to be a little more likable from their previous models.

Overall, the phone is a solid piece of technology and a valiant effort by Huawei to stand up to the bigwigs, Apple, Samsung and Google. The winning factor is obviously price over its competitors. It currently retails for Dh at all major retailers in the UAE.