Review: Huawei Mate 9

The Huawei Mate 9 comes in six colours.
Huawei

The Huawei Mate 9 comes in six colours.

They say size matters. It definitely does when it comes to Huawei's latest XXL-sized phablet, the Mate 9. 

The Mate 9 is the company's latest flagship smartphone and it ticks a lot of boxes, from a slick design and one of the best phone cameras on the market.

LOOK AND FEEL

The Mate 9 looks and feels like a premium device. This is due to an all-alloy and glass build, along with some clever design tweaks. 

Perhaps the first and most noticeable thing out of the box is its sheer size. A 5.9-inch screen makes it a real handful. 

For power users, gamers and media addicts, the extra screen real-estate is a real boon. That said, it is a real hand-stretcher. If you have smaller hands you may find one-handed use a tad tricky.

It may be an XXL-sized device, but a curved back, chamfered edges and clever weight distribution/balance make it a joy to use.

If you are worried about the extra bulk leading to an involuntary drop there's a case included and Huawei will replace broken screen for free within 12 months of purchase as long as it was purchased through an authorised New Zealand retailer. That and the bundled case are nice touches that other phone makers should learn from.

The Mate 9 is available in six colours. These range from champagne gold, space grey, mocha brown, moonlight silver and ceramic white. My review unit was Mocha brown. Given the ridicule Microsoft got over their brown Zune, launching a brown phone seems like a brave move. That said, the muted, smoky tones look great.

BELLS AND WHISTLES

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The Mate 9's 1080p LCD screen stretches right to its edge with its side bezels are all but non-existent.

The use of an HD screen Vs QHD may attract some comment as QHD displays are nowadays pretty much a default on most Android flagship hardware and a must for use with a VR headset.

As with the Mate 8, a fingerprint scanner is located on the rear of Mate 9, situated beneath its dual cameras. This location has become popular on Android devices for a reason. It is exactly where most index fingers sit whilst holding a device such as the Mate 9. 

The Mate 9 ran without a hiccup or stutter and was lag free regardless of that I threw at it. Tucked away inside the Mate 9 is an in-house developed Kirin 960. It's a 2.4Ghz 8 core processor. Rounding things out is 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Storage is expandable using a microSD card.

The Huawei Mate 9 is also one of the first non-Google smartphones to ship with Android Nougat. My favourite feature is the ability to operate in split screen mode, allowing two apps to run side by side. Googles much-hyped AI assistant wasn't present. I remedied this by installing Googles Allo messenger app with its baked-in AI assistant. 

Huawei's UI, EMUI has copped some flack over recent years. It now appears that Huawei been listening. The Mate 9 comes with a new version of EMUI that is all grown up. 

It feels a lot closer to stock Android. Better still, Android fans can use an app drawer. The no app drawer option is most likely to appeal to iPhone users migrating over to the little green droid.

IN USE

The jewel in the Mate 9's crown is its camera. As with the P9, its camera has been co-designed with Leica and it has the same two 12MP image sensors. 

One sensor is mono only and the lack of colour filter over the image sensor allows it to capture more light to deliver more detail. The second sensor is colour. The combination of the two delivers detailed photos that are easily the equal of those from a high-end point and shoot camera. 

The Mate 9's camera comes with optical image stabilisation. This helps prevent camera shake blurring. The difference was particularly noticeable when shooting in low light conditions where shutter speeds are slower. The Mate 9's dual shooter setup is perhaps the best phone camera solution I've used to date.

Huawei has also included a 4000mAh battery which I found lasted two days with moderate use. It also has what Huawei call SuperCharge technology which can deliver a 50 per cent charge with just 30 minutes of charging. 

​VERDICT

The Mate 9 is a tricky phone to review. There is so much good stuff happening that it is hard not to sound like a bit of a cheerleader. 

For all my enthusiasm, the Mate 9 isn't perfect - but it comes close. Its powerhouse CPU delivers the goods for gamers. Its 5.9-inch screen does a great job of rendering movies. Its camera raises the bar for other phone makers. Add to this a battery that simply won't quit and there's a lot to like.

However, it is a handful. Those with small hands may find it tricky and it takes up a lot of space in a pocket or purse.

Despite that, the Mate 9 is easily my pick of Android flagship crop available locally.

The Mate 9 is due to go on sale in New Zealand on December 16 and will cost $1099.

 - Stuff

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