Huawei P9 review: The flagship and the folly

Huawei has been chipping away on the flagship smartphone block for years now, step by step including attraction to its seemingly desired western viewers with every iteration. However whereas final 12 months’s P8 misplaced its approach with sloppy program and knuckle-based nonsense, this 12 months’s P9 – which mimics the identical handset design because the final – cleans up its act, pumps up the ability and, crucially, provides its factor of distinction: twin Leica cameras (together with one which’s a monochrome sensor. No, actually).

With Sony notably absent from the flagship desk, LG hiding behind its fun-but-fleeting modular construct within the G5, HTC solely simply making titters of its much-needed return to kind within the 10, and Samsung basically smashing it out of the park this 12 months with the S7 edge, the Huawei P9 slots into a novel place in what’s a extra open playing discipline than ever earlier than.

We have been reasonably impressed by Huawei’s large-scale Mate eight mannequin, however within the P9 – which is a extra slender flagship, with greater than an air of iPhone about its design – does it have the required grunt in all the appropriate areas to be deemed grasp of all? Has getting in mattress with the Germans given this Chinese language flagship the finesse it so requires, or is it simply extra folly? After every week with the P9 within the pocket we reveal all…

Huawei P9 evaluation: Design

At first look the P9 appears a complete lot just like the P8. That brings with it some nice design prospers: there is a actually tiny edge bezel across the 5.2-inch display screen, the steel physique’s chamfered edges actually look premium, whereas at 6.95mm thick it is a slender cellphone in hand or pocket (though a tiny bit thicker than final yr’s P8 attributable to a battery capacity boost).


The metallic buttons really feel high quality, the three.5mm headphone jack is positioned to the underside (Samsung fashion), whereas a SIM and microSD tray means potential to increase upon inside storage in order for you. In some territories there is a twin SIM possibility (codename EVA-L29, not the EVA-L09 mannequin we’re reviewing).

There are new color choices too: rose gold, status gold, titanium gray and mystic silver. We have the final, which is successfully silver and white, which is one of the best trying of the bunch in our view. There’s additionally speak of a hairline brushed metallic particular mannequin, which we have not seen.

However the actual second of greatness is the P9’s fingerprint scanner to the rear. It’s, palms down, the very best one we have used to this point. Not solely is it higher positioned than these on iPhone or Samsung units, it is significantly extra responsive than the LG G5’s and positioned in a recessed opening which falls naturally to the finger. It is easy to setup, straightforward to make use of and super-quick in response. Plus with NFC it opens the door to Android Pay potential.

The machine does fall into some traps although: invariably there must be antennas for an honest sign, exhibited right here as plastic strips best and backside that conflict considerably with the steel design; we’re not eager on the cameras panel housed to the rear both, which has a equally plastic end. The addition of a big “Huawei” stamp each entrance and rear appears unwarranted too, it was simply on the rear final time round.

Huawei P9

However the largest concern is not on to do with Huawei in any respect. With each different maker pushing nuance – from the LG G5’s refined display screen curve in direction of the highest and always-on show, to the visually arresting display curves of the SamsungGalaxy S7 – the P9 simply seems to be form of “regular”. Certain, there’s nothing unsuitable with that, however it would not precisely ship excessive on the excite-o-meter.

Huawei P9 overview: Energy

To the bottom there is a USB Type-C port for charging and connectivity, which is altogether sooner than microUSB and might slot in both approach as much as make issues good and simple. Do not anticipate the super-fast recharge speeds of Qualcomm’s Fast Cost three.0 although – not a risk given the Huawei’s use of its home-grown HiSilicon chipset – however that battery will be topped up from near-death to roughly 70 per cent in round an hour.

Which is an efficient job, as the three,000mAh cell on board, whereas sporting a pretty big capability, would not survive for so long as we had hoped. It would get you thru a working day, however we have been right down to 20 per cent after lower than 15-hours (the 26-hours exhibiting up in electricity administration was by no means realised with actual use). It is one which advantages from top-ups throughout the day if you wish to play a little bit of Sweet Crush whereas in your commute.

Huawei P9

Seeing as the facility loadout within the P9 is equivalent to its bigger Mate eight sibling – it is a Kirin 955 octa-core chipset (made-up of 4 2.5Ghz Cortex-A72 and 4 1.8Ghz Cortex-A53 processors) alongside 3GB RAM – we had anticipated longer-lasting efficiency in use. However there are apparent variations: the P9 has a a lot brighter display and a battery some 25 per cent much less capacious than the Mate eight.

Most flagships as of late have every kind of fancypants processors – whether or not Qualcomm, Samsung’s Exynos, or Apple’s A9 – that, if something, are underused for many apps and video games. Earlier HiSilicon setups in Huawei gadgets had been okay, however the graphics tended to imply less-than-perfect movement. Not so the P9, its Mali-T880 MP4 graphics processor works simply advantageous to ship fluid playback when crunching by means of video games.

The one time we have seen the cellphone getting notably scorching is when utilizing it as a Wi-Fi hotspot. The steel chassis and Kirin 955 mixture actually do not appear glad for lengthy on this state of affairs, with the telephone turning into scorching all through and the battery taking an inevitable hit. Not that many telephones are ultimate when used as hotspots, however slender metallic ones similar to this are significantly averse.

Huawei P9 evaluate: Show

Again to the P9’s display for a second. Its up-to-500-nits brightness copes fairly nicely in a wide range of situations with out extreme reflections. Nonetheless, typically such brightness can seem overly “pumped” and unsightly to take a look at when maxed out. We have sat the P9 side-by-side subsequent to the P8 and it is a bit brighter with punchier colors, however not dramatically so. No complaints about viewing angles and distinction although, every part appears peachy sufficient to us.

Huawei P9

With regards to decision the P9’s 1920 x 1080 pixel 5.2-inch panel is not precisely low decision, however it’s decrease than nearly all its flagship opponents, nay iPhone. So we’re a bit on the fence about it: the P9 does not precisely want extra decision, particularly given the absent application help for something like split-screen (which options within the Mate eight by way of a press-and-hold of the sq. softkey, however not right here). If the P9 was larger decision then we suspect that battery life would deplete even faster, which might be no good.

The most recent characteristic discovered in lots of flagships for 2016 is an always-on display – which shows quick-view icons of notifications, plus the clock – however that is not the case with the P9. A deal-breaker? Under no circumstances. However these delicate strikes from different makers do present forward-thinking. One factor Huawei does have that we won’t consider in different handsets is a handbook white steadiness selector (plus heat/cool one-touch choices) to tweak the show, which is exciting.

Huawei P9 evaluate: Software program expertise

Now, with the P8 final 12 months we did not have that many good issues to say about its program expertise. That is as a result of, at launch, it was a fairly botched cellphone, dragged down by the consumer expertise. Issues like knuckle controls regularly interrupted use (these are actually off by default within the P9; however they really work within the newest iteration, as they did by the point the Mate S was launched), whereas the EMUI simply did not really feel notably pleasant for an Android handset.

Within the P9 issues have moved ahead. Certain, we’re nonetheless engaged on EMUI – in v4.1; and that is “Emotion UI” in case you are questioning – which is constructed a prime Android 6.0. It brings a considerably Apple-like try of operation to the world of Android. Options like swiping down on the display brings up common search (a top-down swipe nonetheless accesses notifications), and there isn’t any app tray/drawer so icons appear to spill in all places. However we have a tendency to make use of personally curated folders on the homepage screens anyway, so do not discover this absence a significant trouble.

Huawei P9

Plus there are some helpful function additions: you may have a hidden apps display screen – accessible by pinching outward, relatively than pinching inward (the latter which opens up the widgets panel) – to tuck away extra delicate apps from view; that already superior fingerprint scanner additionally options gesture management, so you possibly can swipe between info (it is switched off by default); and notifications for power-heavy apps aren’t as frequent as within the earlier application (they’re probably helpful too, as you may change off battery-heavy apps and management background use per app).

Another components are much less rosy although. Establishing a number of customers simply prompted repeat crashing for us. The restricted 9 shortcuts within the notifications panel feels restricted, particularly when this is not inventory Android. There’s Huawei ID, nevertheless it does all however nothing. And aesthetically we’re nonetheless not wild concerning the moot color palette and numerous obscure themes that you could obtain – though, once more, these themes have been given second billing in comparison with the best way they have been launched in earlier variations of the application.

The default keyboard is a dud too. It feels too stretched and elongated with keys which can be fussy to strike cleanly and an association that differs from most others. We rapidly swapped out the SwiftKey, which works simply effective, though the position of delete/again key subsequent to enter/emoji key are precariously shut – all too typically we find yourself with a display stuffed with emojis when one-handed typing in WhatsApp.

Huawei P9

Sensible Help is one space that gives a mix of highs and lows. The one-handed person interface, which shrinks the display screen show, would not really feel massively mandatory at this scale; movement management to auto-answer calls when choosing up the telephone, or rejecting when flipping it over are useful but nothing new; whereas knuckle controls, equivalent to drawing the letter M on the display screen with a knuckle to load a music participant, are enjoyable however we’re non-plussed (not that we have left them switched on after testing for a bit).

Total Huawei’s EMUI four.1 may not be the prettiest going, and it does not get all the things proper, however on this v4.1 iteration it provides some options ranging between quirky to helpful, with out being too offensive.

Huawei P9 assessment: Twin digicam enjoyable

We have saved the perfect until final. The P9’s calling card is its twin Leica cameras association, consisting of 1 12-megapixel full-colour sensor with 27mm equal f/2.2 lens and one monochrome sensor with the identical lens. However do two cameras imply twice the exciting?

Huawei P9

Huawei P9 assessment – pattern picture at ISO 50, monochrome digital camera

There’s an entire lot to say about this major characteristic, a lot of which we assembled right into a abstract piece of our preliminary impressions (observe the hyperlink beneath). Since then we have been utilizing the digicam a complete lot extra and, to our personal shock, have usually gravitated to the monochrome shooter. That is simply the digicam geek in us.

Many have been asking: why not simply shoot color and convert it with a filter after? As a result of with a devoted monochrome sensor there’s the potential for photographs with much less picture noise as a result of there is no color filter array chopping up the “pixel” dimension on the sensor, that means higher high quality and gradation. And its outcomes are slightly luxurious.

It isn’t nearly B&W versus color, although, as each lenses can be utilized in conjunction to assist focusing, by offsetting the 2 photos that every lens “sees”. Moreover, and identical to HTC was harping on about with its final flagship M-series telephones, depth knowledge might be derived and used for isolating areas and producing pseudo large/small apertures for enhanced depth-of-field management. The software-controlled stuff is not all that in our view, although, as the utmost “f/0.95” aperture possibility (derived solely from application) botches traces, bokeh and sharp/delicate patches in some photos.

The extra we have used the P9’s digicam (or cameras, plural, we suppose) the extra we have come to understand this: do not be distracted by the folly. The cameras, at their core, whether or not utilizing color or mono, are each a lot succesful. High quality is respectable, focus pace is first rate, color is respectable. It is a flagship providing for positive.

Huawei P90

Huawei P9 assessment – pattern picture at ISO 500

However is it the very best of the bunch? Having used the LG G5, iPhone 6S Plus,Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and different telephones inside the previous few weeks we nonetheless do not assume the Huawei comes best of the pile. Do not get us mistaken, it is good, however its not fairly as fast because the SGS7, the main focus in low-light wasn’t as correct for us because the LG G5, and whether or not you actually, really need to be paying for a monochrome sensor in a digital camera is a complete different dividing factor.

Then there’s the “no bump!” pleasure that Richard Yu proclaimed when asserting the P9 on stage on the launch occasion in London. Okay, it is flat to the rear, which is sweet – even when poorly positioned fingers do get in the way in which. However the second he stated that we thought “oh, no optical picture stabilisation then?”. Positive sufficient, the P9 would not have optical stabilisation, nor a class-leading most aperture, so it isn’t the perfect in dim-to-low-light situations. It is nonetheless very succesful, simply not probably the most succesful.

Software program-wise, Huawei was making it loud and clear that the “co-engineered with Leica” label means nice issues for application. Funnily sufficient, although, Leica is not famend for having one of the best or most usable menu programs. If something it is famend for having essentially the most finicky ones. Which, at occasions, exhibits in use: within the P9 have to swipe proper to convey up a full-screen show of taking pictures choices, choosing between Picture or Monochrome right here. However it could make extra sense to make use of an LG G5-like answer right here and have an on-screen program button to modify between these two important choices (within the G5 it toggles between regular and super-wide cameras).

Huawei P90

Not all modes can be found from that display screen both – to entry the P9’s “Professional” mode (i.e. handbook controls) you may have to swipe up/down on the capturing display. To make the most of the pseudo aperture management – which is not dependent on an actual, mechanical aperture, however utilized utilizing application – you will should be within the color digicam and never utilizing stated Professional mode.

We have talked about the 2 lenses working to help focus, however that is not all Huawei is asking on within the P9. For nearer taking pictures there is a laser-assisted focus, very like that of the LG G5, which works rather well. We snapped a penny telephone field up-close as one instance, which labored a deal with.

General there’s lots to love concerning the cameras, when ignoring among the glitchier application stuff. We like that it is easy to modify between guide and point-and-shoot, we like that the pace and high quality is up there with the opposite flagships in the marketplace, we like usability quirks like a horizontal degree and grid overlay, and we like the power to shoot uncooked information along with JPEGs. There are many positives.


The P9 is a step above and past final 12 months’s P8. It is acquired cleaner program, ample energy, respectable (albeit typically quirky) cameras, the most effective fingerprintscanner in the marketplace, and a wide range of options that efficiently place it in among the many flagship runnings. We have even discovered the monochrome digital camera to be enjoyable – not that anybody was ever asking for it.

Nonetheless, there’s nonetheless some questionable program additions, the cameras are over-reaching when it comes to application, the battery life nonetheless is not that nice (regardless of capability improve because the P8), and the P9 simply lacks these design nuances that set the present flagship contenders aside.

Huawei has usually rested on affordability to convey success, however the P9’s €599 beginning worth (UK is but to be confirmed; the pricier “enhanced” mannequin will not be coming to those shores both) places it so near its close competitors that we’re left questioning what actually units it other than the competitors.

Sure, it is acquired two rear cameras, besides that does not make it a must have market chief in all departments. A stable innings, positive, however in among the many flagship options there’s the folly to match.

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