Packing a dual-lens camera and a battery bigger than your house, Huawei’s latest phablet has the Apple iPhone 7s and Google Pixel in its sights. We put it to the T3 test.
WITH ITS MONSTROUS BATTERY AND SMART DUAL-LENS CAMERA, IS THIS PHABLET YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND?
Huawei’s performed a magic trick with its latest phablet. The 5.9-inch device looks glossy and clean- cut with its unibody design, and the screen is sharper than a samurai blade. You’d swear its Quad HD, but peer closer and you’ll see it’s a 1080p unit. Cause for concern? Hardly. Keeping the pixel count (relatively) low means less strain on your battery as it powers the display. Get ready for the next abracadabra moment, as the battery life is best in class. On a day of heavy usage we had power to spare until we were ready to shut down for the night, and if you don’t punish it you can easily expect to pull two days out of a single charge. If you do need to top up, plug the Mate 9 into the wall socket via the USB-C port and 20 minutes later you’ll have a full day’s charge at hand.
Nor is it likely to slow down in the future. The Kirin 960 chipset is a 2.4GHz quad core, and in day-to-day usage it feels like it edges ahead of Google’s Pixel. Huawei has included its own Machine Learning Algorithm in the Mate 9, which is designed to ensure your phone gets faster over time. It adapts to the way you use your device, and will use this information to prioritise the performance of features you use most often over apps and services you don’t use as much. This is a long-term promise, not something that we can test in a short space of time. At the moment, we can comprehensively say that the phone is fast, and should feel just as snappy in 12 to 24 months’ time.
Huawei has made its intentions clear in that its going for Apple’s jugular. Dual Leica-branded lenses grace the rear on the Mate 9, and while they don’t have optical zoom, they do offer a spectacular amount of depth of field. This is an actual trick, rather than brute force power, as the software that processes the images takes an outline of your subject and applies blur to the background objects. The results can vary, but definitely edge more towards fabulous than phoney, and we took plenty of pleasing portrait shots. Like many smartphones, however, low-light situations reveal the camera’s limitations. There’s actually a 12MP colour sensor and a 20MP monochrome (black and white) one. Combined, these deliver what Huawei believes is a more detailed image than you’d get from a single sensor, and the monochrome images look spectacular.
If you’ve been looking for a phablet to fill the Note 7 hole in your life, or crave a big, powerful phone that will last you well and truly from sunrise to sunset, the Mate 9 should be right at the top of your shortlist. In the right situations, the camera is astounding, and we were left impressed by how zippy Huawei’s version of Android 7.0 feels. In fact, it feels like a little bit of magic.
The Mate 9 is Daydream VR compatible, though the screen’s only Full HD rather than Quad HD. Day to day you won’t care. ABOVE
There’s 64GB of onboard storage, and you can expand it to 256GB via a micro SD card – handy, as you’ll want to take plenty of spacehungry photos.