Huawei's latest phablet, the Mate 9 is no shrinking violet, it’s big. The Mate 9 has a lot going for it, its slick design, beefy spec, and top notch phone camera make it a real contender.
For Huawei, it’s been an interesting few years. The company has steady been building a solid presence in western smartphone markets.
Not so long ago, Huawei meant affordable budget phones for most people. How things have changed – and for the better.
Huawei’s last phablet, the Mate 8 gained plaudits thanks to its premium quality and impressive battery life. Huawei followed this up with the dual camera equipped P9 which has become a huge success.
Now a year on, Huawei’s next Phablet - Mate 9 has arrived. Huawei have smartly worked with the Mate 8, marrying it with the P9’s success which has created a stunning result.
The Mate 9 has a decidedly premium feel to it which is largely thanks to an all-alloy body and gorilla glass front. Like a decent chef’s knife, the Mate 9 is well balanced and sits comfortably in the hand thanks to clever design tweaks.
Although, the most noticeable thing about the Mate 9 out of the box is its size. A whopping 5.9” screen means it isn’t small. It is a real handful.
This is great news for power users and gamers as those with smaller hands may find one handed use a tad tricky.
The Mate 9 may be XXL-sized, but it is comfy to use - even for those of us with normal sized hands.
The internal arrangement of its components also means that it is well balanced too. Taken in isolation, these tweaks are pretty standard, but combined they make the Mate 9 a joy to use – even if you don’t have a baseball catcher’s hands.
Worries about the Mate 9’s extra size leading to accidental drops haven’t escaped Huawei’s attention either.
In a first, that many other handset makers should follow, Huawei have included a case in the box that they’ve branded as the screen promise.
Provided you’ve purchased a Mate 9 through an authorised New Zealand retailer, Huawei will replace its broken screen for free if the breakage happens within 12 months of buying it (you also need to register your Mate 9 within 90 days of purchase).
The Mate 9 comes in champagne gold, space grey, mocha brown, moonlight silver and ceramic white.
The review unit I got is Mocha brown, its muted and smoky tones make it look great, lending it more than a hint of sophistication - not to mention individuality amidst a sea of rose-gold iPhones.
Specs and stuff
The Mate 9’s 5.9” 1080p LCD screen is practically edge to edge and side bezels are all but non-existent.
The use of an HD screen over QHD may limit its appeal as a VR headset, however, In use as a phone it isn’t a biggie.
The Mate 9’s display looks both crisp and vivid, which is largely thanks to a 373dpi dot pitch resolution.
Being HD instead of QHD means that less pixels should also help with battery life too.
There is a fingerprint scanner that’s located on the Mate 9’s underside, just underneath its dual cameras. This is exactly where most index fingers sit when holding it.
In practice, this meant I was able to pick up and unlock the Mate 9 in one smooth action. Swiping the sensor also scroll photos and the notification panel. Enrolling my dabs on the scanner was hassle-free and the sensor has proven to pretty accurate too.
The Mate 9 ran lag free without hiccups or stutters regardless of that I threw at it. This is in part due to its in-house developed Kirin 960 silicon. It’s a 2.4Ghz 8 core beast of a processor. 4 of its 8 cores are fast Cortex-A73’s. The other 4 cores are slower (but more energy efficient) Cortex-A53’s.
This is known as a big/little architecture and is a clever way of delivering solid performance without impacting battery life. Gaming gets helped along by a Mali-G71 GPU. Rounding things out is a generous 4GB dollop of RAM and 64GB of storage (expandable using a microSD card).
The Huawei Mate 9 is also one of the first smartphones in NZ to run Android Nougat. This confers it with some nifty features. My favourite is split screen mode, where two apps can run side by side. The Google assistant wasn’t present. I remedied this by installing Allo messenger app with its own in-built AI assistant.
Huawei’s UI, EMUI has copped flack from reviewers over recent years. It appears that Huawei must’ve been listening as the Mate 9 comes with version 5 of EMUI that now feels all grown up - and a lot less cartoony.
One of the key things with the new EMUI is that Android fans can choose to use (or not to use) an app drawer. The no app drawer option will appeal to iPhone users migrating over to the little green droid. While the app drawer will appeal to die-hard android users. IN short, EMUI 5 looks and feels polished. The optional app drawer is also a smart move.
The Mate 9’s camera is epic. As with the P9, its camera is co-designed with Leica. It is also a dual lens shooter. This see’s it using two 12MP image sensors and Leica certified optics.
The really clever thing is that one sensor is mono only. The colour filter over the image sensor has been removed. This allows more light to reach the sensor and deliver more detail. The second sensor is colour. This combination delivers rich detailed photos that are easily the equal to (or dare I say it, better than) a high-end and shoot camera.
The Mate 9's camera comes with optical image stabilisation which helps prevent camera shake blurring.
The difference it made was noticeable in low light conditions where shutter speeds are slower. A hybrid auto-focus system uses an infra-red laser and shots snap into focus almost instantly.
The Mate 9’s dual shooter setup is perhaps the best phone camera solution I've used to date.
In use, the Mate 9’s camera coped well with low light conditions, and delivered stunning shots in daylight. The excellent camera rounded out with a solid camera app. It features plenty of shooting modes plus an intuitive manual mode (which gives greater control over exposure, aperture and other camera settings). There are also heaps of filters.
However, Huawei didn’t stop there. They also added a whopping 4000mAh battery into the mix.
In use I found that this meant that the Mate 9 delivered an impressive 2 days’ life with moderate use. After 2 days of light use the Mate 9 may have even delivered another half days use...This is impressive considering the Mate 9’s high end spec.
Huawei also bundle what they call SuperCharge technology. It delivers around about 50 per cent charge in just 30 minutes of charging. For this, you’ll need to use Huawei’s bundled charger which is really handy.
The Mate 9 is a stunning phone. That said, it isn’t perfect - but it is so very close. A powerhouse CPU delivers for gamers, a gorgeous 5.9” is great for movies and the camera is a game changer that raises the bar on other phone makers.
Then there’s a battery that simply seems to last for ages.
In short, there’s a whole lot to like about the Mate 9 which goes on sale on December 16 for $1,099