Huawei Mate 9 review: Six inches (almost) of sheer brilliance

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Huawei’s P9 was billed as the smartphone any photographer – budding or otherwise – should have in their pocket.

True, dual Leica lenses and sensors manufactured by Sony helped secure the P9 as the camera with a smartphone attached to have in 2016, but its specifications made it just that: a camera with a smartphone attached to it.

The Mate 9 is the P9’s big brother in the truest sense of the word. Not only is it a larger handset with a 5.9inch display but it also has more RAM, more storage than the P9 available in SA, and more processing power.

It also boasts the camera tech designed in conjunction with Leica that made the P9 so appealing.

On paper, the Mate 9 looks brilliant. After using the handset for a short while, we can happily report, it lives up to expectations.

Huawei Mate 9 review: No potato

Would you like to edit video on your smartphone? How about a spreadsheet containing this quarter’s figures? What about playing a game and chatting with your friends at the same time?

All of this is completely possible when using the Mate 9 because this handset performs like a beast.

The handset is now third overall in our benchmarking suite beating out the P9 as well as Xiaomi’s Mi 5.

This latest iteration of the Mate series also beats out the Mate 8 by a substantial margin.

This is made possible thanks to Huawei cutting no corners when it comes to specifications. Underneath the 5.9 inch display sits Huawei’s all new and latest Hisilicon Kirin 960 chipset which runs a Cortex-A73 CPU as well as a Cortex-A53 CPU running at 2.4GHz and 1.8GHz respectively.

This CPU pair is joined by a Mali-G71 MP8 GPU and there is 4GB of memory to draw from.

What this all means is that the phone performs brilliantly whether you are browsing Facebook or climbing the corporate ladder. What’s more, that performance never waivers and you won’t feel your handset lagging as you demand more from it.

The Mate 9 has dual-band 802.11ac support for WiFi and as well LTE support. The handset boasts two nano-SIM slots though you will lose one if you opt to have a microSD card.

The fingerprint sensor to the rear of the Mate 9 works well and I never experienced a slow read of my digit. Technically speaking the Mate 9 is brilliant and earns its R10 999 price tag.

Huawei Mate 9 review: A camera that fits

As we mentioned earlier, the Mate 9 features dual Leica lenses and the pictures you take will look superb.

Huawei has made sure the cameras in its smartphone shine come day or night and the Mate 9 keeps that assurance of quality up.

The rear snapper is comprised of a mono-chrome 20MP sensor and colour sensor that clocks in at 12MP.

The Mate 9’s camera is simply put, fantastic.

The controls are also really great, sliding up from the bottom or right of the display – depending on how you’re holding the handset – will bring up the “Pro” settings for the camera.

From here you can adjust the shutter speed, white balance, exposure and other settings as well. It’s simple, clean and very well designed.

Our regular gallery showing off the snapper’s capabilities is below:

Huawei Mate 9 review: Forget about your charger

Huawei has made a few adaptations to its EMUI. The Android skin now boasts machine learning. A quote from Huawei’s promotional material reads:

“Huawei’s Machine Learning Algorithm categorises application behaviours as either computing, memory or storage-oriented, and adopts a different resource plan to achieve the most efficient performance. After internal testing, Huawei saw an 80 percent performance improvement in EMUI 5.0 over 16 months of usage.”

This algorithm keeps your most used apps running in the background so that they launch just a bit faster when you need them.

Upon first reading that my thought was that this would negatively impact the battery.

We’ve only had the Mate 9 for a few weeks so it’s unlikely that this algorithm knows enough about my usage habits but I can say that the battery shows no sign of giving up the ghost.

On average days where I used my handset to play games, browse social feeds, make calls and chat with friends over IM with WiFi and Bluetooth switched on I made it through two full work days without needing to juice the handset back up again.

When the power does eventually start running out it juices up via a USB-Type C port.

If you switch Bluetooth off you can expect to get an additional day out of the battery with a charge needed in the afternoon.

Wearing the Mate 9 down to the point where it turns off is no easy task and charging the 4 000mAh battery back up to 100% takes under two hours. I’m thoroughly impressed.

In our marathon test which involves streaming music through Deezer continously with the screen set to turn off after 10 minutes of activity the Mate 9 lasted for an incredible 18 hours. If you’re sitting on a plane watching movies you could likely squeeze even more life from it.

Huawei Mate 9 review: Conclusion

With its great camera, gargantuan battery and incredible performance you would think that Huawei would charge too much for this handset as it did with the nova that we recently reviewed.

The Mate 9 is not cheap at R10 999 but at this price and with these specs it represents incredible value for money especially when the only thing better than this handset is the LG G5 and Samsung S7 Edge which both cost considerably more than the Mate 9.

Quite honestly this is the best Huawei smartphone I’ve used and if you’re looking for a phone that performs well in all metrics and your budget allows it this is the handset you should be looking at.

[su_box title=”Huawei Mate 9 Specifications” box_color=”#f37021″]

Chipset Hisilicon Kirin 960

CPU Quad-core Cortez-A53 @ 1.8GHz & quad-core Cortex-A73 @2 .4GHz

GPU Mali-G71 MP8

Memory 4GB

Storage 64GB, microSD card support up to 256GB

Operating system Android 7.0

Battery 4 000mAh

SIM Dual-SIM (microSD card uses SIM 2)

Display 5.9inch HD (1080×1920)

Primary camera Dual lens. 20MP monochrome and 12MP colour, f/2.2, Leica optics, phase detection, OIS, laser autofocus

Secondary camera 8MP, f/1.9

Network Up to LTE

WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac

Extras Bluetooth 4.1, fingerprint scanner, USB Type C, Fast Charging

Price R10 999


Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.