HUAWEI Mate 9 Review - Near perfection
When it comes to flagship smartphones, you have to deliver something “New” to get noticed. But HUAWEI took a different approach with the Mate 9, they took the strength of their previous generations Mate 7,8, & P9 and optimized it to bring one of their best smartphones yet.
Before we proceed with our review, here are the specifications of the HUAWEI Mate 9. Also, we would like to give thanks to Intogadgets store for making this review possible by lending us a unit ahead of time.
HUAWEI Mate 9 Specifications
5.9-inch Full HD display @ 1920 x 1080 resolution
HiSilicon Kirin 960 2.4 GHz octa-core processor
Mali-G71 MP8 GPU
4 GB RAM
64 GB internal storage – expandable via microSD
Dual camera co-engineered with Leica
20 MP monochrome
12 MP RGB sensor with F2.2 aperture, OIS
Dual SIM hybrid tray
4G LTE with 700 MHz capability
Wi-Fi 802.11ac / Bluetooth 4.2 / GPS w / A-GPS, Glonass
Fast Fingerprint sensor
USB Type-C with USB 3.0 Speed
4,000 mAh battery Non-Removable
Android 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.0
We already tackled the Mate 9 in our 1st impressions, so we suggest you check that our in case you think we missed some details here.
Design: The premium feel we know and love
The Mate 9 inherits the traits of the Mate 8 with its curved back and one solid plate build. But at the front gives you a screen footprint of 5.9″ inches, but a body similar to the iPhone 7 Plus
Considering the size of the phone, it still ergonomic to hold thanks to the curved back and fingerprint sensor placement which helps you hold the phone more secure.
We’ll be straight to the point, take note that if you want a more metal feel, get the Silver Mate 9 as it doesn’t have a plastic coating as compared to the mocha brown and gold colors. Our guess for the move is that HUAWEI understands that the two colors are more prone to visible scratches, thus they need a different treatment. We completely welcome this gesture from HUAWEI, for us it doesn’t degrade the feel of the phone overall.
Design wise the Mate 9 doesn’t innovate itself, but more of refines its looks for the better. It’s the right combination of practicality and simplicity, the only downside we have is the fake lower left speaker grill that kinda ruins the whole phone functionality (But, can’t blame HUAWEI if Apple also does that).
Performance: Snappy and feels future proof
In our experience of the HUAWEI Mate 9 for 2 weeks, we felt pure performance that is expected on a flagship. We said it before and we will say it again, it felt similar to the snappy and dearly departed Samsung Galaxy Note 7 which is the best device we have experienced so far.
HUAWEI also introduces as new file system called “F2FS” which assist the power of the UFS 2.1 flash memory (2x faster than usual eMMC storage) to fetch data even faster. HUAWEI claims 20% faster data transfers and application loading with improvement.
Graphics wise, we only felt stuttering in heavy moments of tower defense games where you’re already at high levels and more than 200 3D objects are walking towards the target and all of your towers are in full power. The slow don’t isn’t that significant to slow down gaming, but more of skipping of frames to compensate.
Even the fingerprint sensor on the Mate 9 is fast, it’s even faster than the HUAWEI P9 or the iPhone 7 Plus. One tap on the fingerprint sensor would unlock in a snap similar to the OPPO F1s’ fingerprint sensor.
User Interface EMUI 5.0: HUAWEI finally listened
If you have experienced HUAWEI smartphones before, you will definitely see its uncanny similarities with iOS version 8. But fast forward today, Android progression has made drastic improvements into their UI that simply makes Apple at par with the competition.
Due to this, the EMUI 5.0 is now the latest version of HUAWEI’s UI is now more fluid with 2 - 3 steps procedures to access any settings. The UI is now also more flexible with options now for app drawer menu, split screen and even one hand operation.
Camera: You’ll love to be more creative
The Mate 9 has an outstanding camera, it has a lot of modes and professional interface as compared to the iPhone or other flagship phones. While the Mate 9 has a very subjective camera preference, it can compete in terms of detail against other flagship phones but not enough to make it to top the charts.
The outright camera options of Bokeh, Flash, Color saturation and even filters are great and pro-mode can be activated with just one swipe.
If there is something HUAWEI mastered, that is the Bokeh effect. HUAWEI started this trend with the P9 and they continue this #YearOfDualCam generation with the Mate 9 and GR5 2017. For us, HUAWEI just nailed it by creating a trend to initiate more complex and artistic photos and beyond the limitations of camera hardware. Bokeh shots can be even edited afterward for easier editing and save your ass from precious moments.
Along with the new EMUI 5.0 is the more improved editing software where settings from cropping, adjustments, face beautification and even filters are very advanced. We loved that the face beauty can be done afterward and even brighten the teeth
Overall the camera of the Mate 9 was a pleasure to use, speed capturing is fast with the same level to phones like the Galaxy S7 or iPhone 7 Plus. The additional camera enables Bokeh and creates a new world of possibilities for the Mate 9 where other flagships simply cannot match.
Entertainment: Built to entertain
Hands down the Mate 9 is one of the easiest to hold near 6″ phablet today, it’s size is ideal to use for entertainment. The FHD 5.9″ display might frown tech enthusiasts, but the color details and brightness are spot-on for entertainment purposes.
The dual speakers (bottom and earpiece) are good, it delivers one of the loudest sounds we have heard on a smartphone. Pretty close to the iPhone 7 Plus, but just a little bit weak on the low tones.
Plus, the Mate 9 is one of the few smartphones sporting an IR blaster and HUAWEI’s included software to control TVs, Digiboxes, Aircons and even entertainment systems is superb. You might use it rarely, but its a very nifty feature to have indeed for your phone and we are glad HUAWEI still understand the use of this.
Battery Life: Enough for one heavy day
HUAWEI advertises around 2 days of moderate use with the Mate 9, with conservative usage and having a 4,000 mAh battery makes this possible. But with our usage scenario of consuming big data over LTE, constant social media communication, gaming and photography on the side counts to be more than average usage.
We’re satisfied with the energy efficiency the HUAWEI Mate 9, the Kirin 960 processor does a fantastic job of saving battery as even one night of sleep only reduces 3% of battery. HUAWEI definitely nailed something with Android Nougat 7.0 that gives it less redundant processing and battery usage. There are even good battery modes that tell you the most power guzzler apps for more efficiency.
Overall we reached a whole day without charging with the Mate 9, a battery mileage that only a few flagship smartphones can achieve. Combines that with the fast charging feature, we’re more than happy as it gives us more time to be on-the-go.
Conclusion: Near perfection
If there is one thing HUAWEI missed with the Mate 9, that is the IP67/8 water resistance. A trait where major brands now carrying like Samsung, iPhone, Sony and more. But for the price of Php31,990 the Mate 9 is a price competitive flagship against the top brands, not to mention the only one with Bokeh capabilities.
We noticed that the HUAWEI is the only flagship with an included case and screen protector in the package, so thumbs up for that.
We understand if HUAWEI is a bit hesitant to enter the water resistance division, but their strategy in cameras with the dual camera Leica optics is proving them a worthy opponent this 2017. Too bad the more bad-ass Mate 9 Pro isn’t going to be available in the Philippines due to sensitive pricing, but it’s a good move rather than losing money.
With that, we enjoyed our experience with the Mate 9. We were able to deliver interesting and artistic photos with Bokeh and let others see a new way of photography. That’s why we award the HUAWEI Mate 9 our 100% satisfaction guarantee for a Flagship Phablet.