Huawei Mate 9
BEEN WAITING FOR A GOOD MATE? WELL, THE WAIT IS FINALLY OVER.
Over the last few years, Chinese phone-maker Huawei has gone from being an ambitious newcomer in the smartphone arena to a full-fledged player, steadily improving upon each handset and edging closer towards its prestige rivals, Apple and Samsung.
A vast improvement over last year’s Mate 8, the new Mate 9 expands upon the advancements made by the company’s last flagship, the well-received Huawei P9, to produce its most impressive handset to date.
Huawei’s Mate 9 is a prestige Android phablet that’s equal parts Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (minus the fire) and iPhone 7 Plus, mixed in with the brand’s own increasingly-stylish design sensibilities both inside and out. Simply put, everything about the Mate 9 screams sophistication.
CLEAN AND CLASSY DESIGN
With the Mate 9’s design, it’s clear that Huawei is aiming for a sense of luxury, and we’re happy to say that it’s mostly succeeded. It’s got a full metal unibody design with brushed-metal styling on its edges and a matte finish on its rear, giving it a very premium feel. Slightly curved edges on the front and back of the phone also help it sit in the hand more comfortably than last year’s Mate 8 did.
This is still one of the larger phablets on the market though, so if you find big devices to be unwieldy, this may not be the best choice for you. At 157 x 79 x 7.9mm, it’s similar in size to the iPhone 7 Plus. However, you get more screen on the Mate 9 compared to Apple’s phablet, as the bezels aren’t as thick. Though it lacks a 1440p (aka QHD) display like its upper tier Android rivals, the Mate 9’s 5.9-inch screen still looks crisp, vibrant and incredibly bright. When viewed from a regular distance, it’d be tough for anyone to spot it as ‘just’ a 1080p Full HD screen. VR might be the one exception; while the Mate 9 fully supports Google’s Daydream View VR headset, that 1080p resolution might not cut the mustard when placed right against your peepers.
The phone’s power button and volume rocker sit to the right of the display, and on the rear, you’ll find a fingerprint sensor underneath its Leica-branded dual lens camera setup. A USB Type-C port can be found on the bottom of the handset between its two speaker grilles, and while Huawei has thankfully included a 3.5mm headphone jack, it’s awkwardly situated at the top of the handset.
With its new EMUI 5.0 OS — a slightly customised version of the latest Android 7.0 — the Mate 9 has successfully bridged the gap between iOS and Android, letting users place their apps in an App Drawer (in a layout that’s reminiscent of the Google Now Launcher) or spread all of them across numerous home-screen pages, iPhone-style. Also appreciated is the ability to set the icons in the on-screen navigation bar in any order you see fit — a feature that’s curiously lacking in many Android handsets.
And as it’s based on Android Nougat, all the features from Google’s latest software update are present — for example, you can
now run two apps side-by-side in multitasking mode.
There are however a number of bloatware apps installed on the Mate 9 which you’ll likely want to uninstall at your earliest convenience, though you’ll find a number of helpful tools within Huawei’s own suite of apps.
If you’re like us, you may find yourself addicted to the Phone Management app, which lets you keep tabs on the Mate 9’s performance. It also lets you easily remove junk files, clear memory, run virus scans and optimise your battery at the tap of a button. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing your phone achieve a perfect performance score of 100.
VERY HAPPY SNAPS
Like the Huawei P9, the Mate 9’s camera is Leica-branded and, with a bit of tinkering, users can produce photos with professionallooking depth of field effects and incredible detail. One benefit of having a dual-lens camera is the wide aperture mode. If you take a photo in this mode you’ll then be able to adjust the point of focus post-shoot, even days or months after taking the original photo — you can even choose to switch a picture’s focus from the foreground to the background. Advanced edge-enhancing technology means that the Mate 9’s camera can accurately sense where to cease its blur effect to make sure there are no jagged areas surrounding your focused objects.
Swiping from the left within the camera app reveals a full suite of photography options, including a proper monochrome mode with dedicated image sensor, beauty modes for both photo and video, a ‘good food’ mode, time-lapse, as well as document-scanning and night-shooting modes.
4K video capture is available, along with a wealth of options that let you tweak exposure, hue, white balance and directional audio settings, and if you’re after a nostalgic feel, you can even record video using Instagramstyle filters, though this is limited to shooting at 1080p/30fps or below.
MEETS THE SPEED NEEDS
While most handsets on the market start to feel sluggish halfway through your 2-year contract, Huawei claims the Mate 9 has been designed to ensure your handset gets faster over time. It aims to do this with the implementation of a new machine learning algorithm that prioritises CPU, RAM and ROM resources based on your phone habits. And while we’ll have to wait to see how that pans out over the long term, we can say that after weeks of usage for this review, the Mate 9 has remained as fast it was on day one, with not a single instance of slowdown to date.
That algorithm is backed up by solid specs in any case, with 4GB of RAM and the Huawei-made Kirin 960 octa-core chipset. With a GeekBench 4 single/multi-core score of 1,944/6,279, it’s slightly behind current champ the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge’s score of 2,133/6,379, though it’s safe to say that the Huawei Mate 9 is still one of the fastest flagship phablets currently available.
The Mate 9’s also got an astonishing battery life to go along with its magnificent performance. A whopping 4,000 mAh battery provides enough juice for 12 hours and 14 minutes worth of regular smartphone usage — that’s roughly an hour and a half longer than its predecessor, the Mate 8. The phone also supports fast charging, which Huawei claims can get you to a full day’s worth of battery in just 20 minutes.
This is a gorgeous handset that combines sophistication with performance — it’s impressive enough that, in our minds, it’s earned Huawei a place alongside smartphone heavy-hitters like Samsung and LG. This is the Huawei flagship you’ve been waiting for.