No matter how fast your Android phone is, for some reason it slows down after a ton of use. We’ve seen this particular phenomenon on many phones made by a multitude of manufacturers – it’s seemingly a curse that Android phones can’t escape, no matter how judicious you are in its use.
That’s why we were a little skeptical of Huawei’s claim that the Mate 9 doesn’t suffer from that disease. On the contrary, they say that their Mate 9 flagship phablet is a phone that gets faster the longer you use it. It’s a claim that sounds too good to be true, something that we’ll be putting to the test as we take a look at their latest flagship in this initial review.
Huawei Mate 9
- 2.4GHz HiSilicon Kirin 960 octa-core processor
- Mali-G71 MP8 graphics processor
- 4GB RAM
- 5.9-inch FHD IPS display, 1920 x 1080 resolution, 2.5D curved glass
- 64GB internal storage, expandable via microSD
- 20-megapixel seconday rear camera, Leica sensor, f/2.2 aperture, monochrome, OIS, 4-in-1 hybrid AF (laser, phase detection, depth,
- contrast detection), dual LED dual tone flash, 4K video
- 12-megapixel primary rear camera, Leica sensor, f/2.2 aperture, color sensor, OIS, 4-in-1 hybrid AF (laser, phase detection, depth,
- contrast detection), dual LED dual tone flash, 4K video
- 8-megapixel front camera, f/1.9 aperture, AF
- Dual SIM
- 4G LTE
- Fingerprint scanner
- Android 7.0 Nougat
- 4000mAh battery, Super Charge
Initial Impressions: Big phone that doesn’t feel that way
Huawei’s Mate series of phones have always been big. Last year’s model was a massive 6-inch phablet, and while it was still smaller than competing devices, its size made it a challenge for people with smaller hands. The Mate 9, while slightly smaller, feels way better in our hands for some reason. We’re sure that the metal unibody, rounded corners as well as the sloping back helps it in that regard, making a phone that has a 5.9-inch display feel just right in our hands. In fact, it’s only a hair bigger than ASUS’ similarly sized Zenfone 3 Deluxe.
The Philippines get the Champagne Gold and Mocha Brown variants of the Mate 9. Our review unit was of the Champagne Gold variety, and sported a plastic-like coating on its body. The coating gives the phone protection against smudges and fingerprints and makes it less slippery in the hands, but it also gives the phone an un-metal like feel. Your mileage may vary, but we’ll gladly trade a little bit of shininess if it meant the phone wouldn’t slip out of our hands while we were using it. Just like the Zenfone 3 Deluxe, you don’t have unsightly antenna lines on the rear – they’re relegated on the sides of the Mate 9.
Moving on to the display, you’re getting a 5.9-inch full HD IPS display with curved glass, protected by Gorilla Glass 3. Display quality is pretty good for an IPS display, and while we prefer the deeply saturated colors of an AMOLED display, the panel on the Mate 9 has excellent color reproduction, saturation and viewing angles. We’re a little disappointed that the phone doesn’t have a QHD panel, but a lower-power FHD display means better battery life down the road.
Going around the phone, you’ll see the power/volume rocker on the right, microSD/SIM tray on the left and the 3.5mm jack on the top. The USB Type-C plug is on the bottom, surrounded by speaker grilles.
On the rear of the phone sits the dual-camera setup bearing the Leica branding, flanked by the dual LED flash unit as well as the laser AF module with the fingerprint scanner sitting right below it. This year’s camera arrangement has changed quite a bit compared to the P9, since the sensors are no longer the same size when it comes to megapixel count. Curiously, the higher 20-megapixel sensor is the one that shoots in monochrome, while the smaller 12-megapixel sensor shoots in color. Huawei’s explanation is that contrast and dynamic range is more important in the Mate 9’s case than color information, which is provided by the 12-megapixel color camera. The phone compresses the 20-megapixel images taken by the monochrome sensor to 12-megapixels to match the color sensor, which theoretically should result in photos that have better contrast and dynamic range than comparable devices.
The Mate 9 continues Huawei’s trend of using its home-grown silicone to power their flagship devies. This time around, the Mate 9 comes with the company’s 2.4GHz HiSilicon Kirin 960 octa-core processor, paired with a Mali-G71 MP8 graphics processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable internal storage. The phone feels extremely fast and quick, and a quick AnTuTu run shows that the phone definitely has flagship-level chops when it comes to raw processing power.
But what really makes the Mate 9 stand-out is the company’s EMUI overlay, now at version 5.0 layered over Android Nougat. We’ve had a love/hate relationship with Huawei’s UI overlay, but this year it looks like the company has taken criticisms of its UI to heart. First off, there’s now an app drawer available. Yes, it’s not a big change, but holy crap, having an actual app drawer is a boon for people like us who doesn’t like their stuff scattered around the screen. Seriously, thanks Huawei.
The new version of EMUI also allows you to have different home screens for different SIM cards, as well as different Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The most important change is AI. Huawei said that they’ve infused the Mate 9 with a Machine Learning Algorithm that remembers what apps you use the most, and pre-caches resources for thos apps. That’s not all – Huawei says that the Mate 9 uses a linear filing system, which arranges data in such a way that it’s easier to retrieve when their needed the most. Both of those things should allow the phone to stay speedy as you use it, which is something we’ll be testing on the long term.
Finally the phone also has Huawei’s new SuperCharge tech, which gives you a full day’s worth of battery life (with normal use) with just 20 minutes of charging on the Mate 9’s charger.
That’s pretty much it for this first look at the Mate 9. There’s a lot to unpack here, so we’ll be using the phone (along with the GR5 2017) to get a true measure of Huawei’s claims. The Mate 9 is now available for Php 31,990 in stores.