August 22, 2017

The Huawei Mate 9 Review: What Phablet Should Be

The Huawei Mate 9 was launched back in 2016 and is currently the company’s flagship phablet.  This review would have gone up back in January but I decided to publish it after the Huawei P10 was unveiled to give you guys an idea of what it has to offer and to help you decide if you should wait for the P10 to be available in the country or go with it.

The Huawei Mate 9 is available in Kenya from as low as Ksh 60,000 on Jumia, the price varies depending on where you get the phone. The main selling point of the Mate 9 is its dual camera setup that the company also used on Huawei P10.

Before we get into the review, let us first look at some of the main specifications of the Huawei Mate 9.

Display: 5.9 inch 1080p IPS LCD capacitive display, 373ppi

CPU: Hisilicon Kirin 960

RAM: 4GB; 64GB of built-in storage

OS: Android 7.0 Nougat, Huawei EMUI 5.0 overlay;

Back Camera: 20 MP +12 MP,

Front Camera: 8MP

MicroSD Card: Hybrid DualSIM/microSD card slot (up to 256GB)

Cellular Network: 2G, 3G and 4G LTE-A

Security: Fingerprint reader

Battery: 4,000mAh Li-Ion non removable battery

Also Read: The Huawei P9 Review

The Design

Huawei Mate 9 design

The Huawei Mate 9 is a flagship devices and this is clear from its design and build quality. It has a huge 5.9-inch display but Huawei has managed to squeeze that into a small body by keeping the bezels thin. This makes it easier to hold and operate the phone with one hand even if you have small hands. In some situations, I was forced to use both hands but in most cases I found it easier to just use one hand.

Since the Huawei Mate 9 has a full metal unibody build, it looks and feels premium. The back feels slippery but Huawei has included a free back cover that adds some grip. Still at the back, Huawei has included the dual camera setup with dual LED flash and the fingerprint scanner. Nothing more is added here and this gives a clean look that I really like.

Huawei Mate 9 speaker grilles

You also get the usual ports and buttons on the sides including the power and volume buttons on the right side and the headphone jack at the top and the USB C port sandwiched between two speaker grilles at bottom. The Huawei Mate 9 comes with USB C and the 3.5m headphone jack as you can see. We are still attached to our headphone jacks and it is good Huawei isn’t removing them just yet. If you remember when Apple launched the iPhone 7 last year, the company announced that it was replacing the headphone jack with the USB C port but Huawei isn’t doing that with the Mate 9.

Huawei Mate 9 headphone jack

The front display looks clean too with the Huawei name at the very bottom below the on-screen navigation keys. At the very top is the 8MP camera and a bunch of sensors.

Overall, the design and build quality is superb, something you expect from a premium smartphone/phablet.

Display

As mentioned above, the Huawei Mate 9 comes with a 5.9 inch Full HD display. This display had Gorilla glass protection that protects it from scratches when you have the device in your pocket. There is nothing I hate or have an issue when it comes to this display, it is bright, vibrant and very responsive. Even though this display is big, the thin bezels of the Huawei Mate 9 make this size manageable and the phone easy to carry with one hand.

Using this display indoors and outdoors under direct sunlight did not present any problems. I could easily see what was on it even when the brightness was set at 75%. This makes the Huawei Mate 9 useful in all lighting conditions.

Huawei Mate 9 display

With its huge size, the Huawei Mate 9 has been the perfect device for media consumption so far. If you are into web browsing, watching videos on YouTube or anything close to that, the Mate 9 is worth checking out. I am a very big fan of YouTube and ever since I got the Mate 9, I found myself spending more time on YouTube on my phone and less time on my PC. As for viewing angles, the Mate 9 does not disappoint, you can clearly see what is on the screen even when looking at it from the sides.

This display is also responsive and does not collect fingerprints making it suitable for gaming. No one wants to play games on their phone when the screen is not as responsive as they expect it to be.

Software and Performance

The Huawei Mate 9 comes with Android 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.0 overlay on top. EMUI is not the best Custom UI out there but it is finetuned for Huawei devices to feel natural and at home. With previous versions of EMUI, Huawei did not include an app drawer but this changed with EMUI 5.0. You have the option of activating the app drawer or removing it if you do not like it. I chose to have the app drawer around as it makes things much easier when you want a specific app.

Huawei Mate 9

The one thing I hate with EMUI 5.0 is that the notifications at the top of the screen do not display the app icon but rather show only a number. So if you have 9 notifications from different apps, you will just see the number 9. This means that you have no way of knowing which notification you have unless you pull down the notification bar. This was fixed for some units but mine is yet to see the update. If you buy your unit, this may be fixed on yours or you may get an update fixing it.

For performance, the Huawei Mate 9 is a beast. It handles everything without any lag.  From gaming to normal day to day use, the Huawei Mate 9 will not disappoint. It comes with the company’s own Hisilicon Kirin 960 processor that is paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage space for the base model. If you are a heavy user who demands a lot from his/her smartphones, try out the Mate 9 and see if it can handle what you throw at it.

Camera

Huawei Mate 9 Camera

The one area where the Huawei Mate 9 shines is in the camera department. The 20MP + 12MP camera setup at the back makes this phone perfect for anyone who wants an unmatched camera performance. Camera quality is maintained in all lighting conditions. There are many different modes available when shooting with the Mate 9 that you can use to tweak your shots.

Below are some samples of photos taken using the Huawei Mate 9.

Huawei Mate 9 Camera sample 1 Huawei Mate 9 Camera sample 2 sdrHuawei Mate 9 Camera sample 3 Huawei Mate 9 Camera sample 4
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sdrHuawei Mate 9 Camera sample 3

As for the front facing camera, you get really good shots too even when the lighting is not so good. There is front facing flash that will ensure photos you take when it is dark are still worth sharing.

Huawei Mate 9 selfie

Huawei Mate 9 selfie

Battery

The Huawei Mate 9 has a 4000 mAh non-removable battery. This battery can easily get you through your entire day, two or more depending on your usage. For my case, I could get it to last for up to 2 days and I am a heavy user. The Mate 9 supports quick charging and this makes charging the phone a not so painful affair considering its size. The problem with the fast charging on the Mate 9 is that it requires you to use the charging accessories provided with the phablet, using other accessories that support fast charging may not give you the same results.

Conclusion

Huawei Mate 9 conclusion

The Huawei Mate 9 is the best phablet I have at the moment. It looks the part and performs as you expect any flagship device to. I have seen many phablet out there but the Mate 9 is one I just fell in love the very first moment I saw it. If you are looking for a reliable phablet right now within its price range, make sure you give it a try, it won’t disappoint.

Also Read:  Five Things You Need To Know About The Moto Z

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Mobile Editor: I do gadget reviews and then some... . Send your tips and Press Releases to kaluka@techarena.co.ke