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Huawei P9 Review A smartphone custom-made for first-time flagship buyers

Rahul R
Sr. Technology Reporter
Editors Rating

Chinese smartphone brand Huawei’s P9 smartphone offering, released as recently as April 2016 has become a topic of discussion across the world by virtue of its dual 12 MP rear cameras and its Leica branding. Google’s relatively newer Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) operating platform also adds to the curiosity factor. Therefore, we could not resist checking out the smartphone. Check out how the handset performed in our tests, below:

Design and Display

Seemingly bearing uncanny resemblances to the Apple iPhone 6S from the outside, the Huawei P9 has an outer metal unibody that is flat the sides. These aspects make the Huawei P9 a pleasure to physically hold in the hand. The handset does not slip away; users need not possess a firm grip to hold the Huawei P9 and use it generally. The metal unibody also adds a degree of robustness to the smartphone.

On the outer part of the smartphone, there are essential connectivity ports such as a USB Type-C port at the bottom end, and micro-SIM and nano-SIM card slots at the right hand bottom end at the front.

You can choose to operate the Huawei P9 with fingerprints, via a customized fingerprint scanner located at the rear of the smartphone. The fingerprint scanner did well to recognize our fingerprints, except when we placed fingers laced with dirt or water for scanning.

The phone features a 5.2-inch touchscreen offering In-Plane Switching (IPS) capabilities. The screen is LCD capacitive, which is overly unconventional in comparison to the OLED and AMOLED capacitive touchscreens featured by modern flagship smartphones irrespective of brands.

Resolution of the display is 1080 x 1920 pixels with pixel density of 423 ppi. Though rendered images were not as sharp as those produced by similar-range flagships of other brands, general everyday users would not be able to easily spot the difference in resolution.

Even stored HD videos played fairly well. We were able to clearly make-out the different on-screen icons and clearly read text; displayed without the obvious pixellation effect. However, pixellation could occur in case of videos and based on the format in which these are recorded and stored.

A major aspect of the Huawei P9 is that it lets users change the Color temperature based on preference. All essential colors are highlighted and white balance is dynamically controlled in case of reading text/viewing images in daylight conditions.

Finally, the P9’s display offers wide viewing angles, the general everyday users would be more than happy with what they see on the smartphone’s screen.

Processor and Memory

As far as its underlying technology is concerned, the Huawei P9 incorporates a HiSilicon Kirin 955 SoC consisting of a 1.8 GHz Cortex-A53 and a 2.5 GHz Cortex-A72 CPUs. Under-the-hood, there is also 3GB of RAM.

During our testing, high-end games like Asphalt 8: Airborne and Dead Trigger 2 played more than better barring a few minor lags.

The loading times of these games are also impressive, and you are not required to wait for ages for the titles to even load. Video streaming and image-editing also proved a pleasure.

We did not notice performance lags, and were able to open multiple apps and work in a multi-tasking scenario with no glitches. However, we encountered minor lags when newly installed apps were launched and had to open at the same point in time.

For storage, users get a default internal storage of 32 GB (in compliance with the 3 GB RAM); for those preferring a 4GB RAM variant (availability based on geographical regions) 64 GB internal storage area is offered. You can expand the default internal storage, in both the variants, up to 128 GB with an external microSD card.

Camera

The most-hyped aspect about the Huawei P9, are its dual 12 MP rear cameras (each featuring 27mm lenses). These incorporate individual Sony IMX286 sensors and offer LED Flash. A notable aspect here is that one camera sensor is monochrome whereas the other lets you shoot color.

During our testing, the camera yielded color shots in rich colors along with magnifying all essential details such as the background. The detail, here, is laid more emphasis actually.

The HDR mode, in the color photography mode, synced and accordingly rendered elements, with extremities such as extremely dark/bright, perfectly.

The black-and-white (Monochrome) images rendered do not require external editing and these are rich and the black effect is emphasized perfectly. Those wanting to relive the retro era could find this aspect helpful.

Low-light imagery is up to the mark as far as cameras of modern flagship smartphones are concerned. However, attempts to enhance these low-light shots externally made us aware of the pixellation effect and the external noise. So it is advised to share, directly these low-light photos/images, on sharing sites rather than attempting an enhancement/edit.

For the selfie obsessed, there is an 8MP secondary camera that renders above-average shots, and lets you indulge in video calling. It is possible to record 1080p videos with the snapper.

Software and Apps

Huawei P9 runs on Google’s Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) operating platform, with the Huawei Emotion 4.1 UI on top. We noticed the app tray missing, thus leading to apps cluttering the real-estate of the homescreen.

Also, there are bloatware such as Huawei tools which can only be disabled and not entirely deleted from the P9’s system. Even Google’s essential tools are pre-loaded within the smartphone thus leading to chaos, this aspect could hurt first-time Huawei smartphone users.

The default themes, numbering six, offer UI customization. We found these themes unimpressive and basic.

Battery

The Huawei P9 obtains its juice from a fixed 3,300 mAh Lithium-Ion battery. During our usage, the battery life offered accounted for more than a day’s worth in case of regular usage (without running high-end games and with bare minimum video viewing).

Streaming of videos consumed, from popular streamer services, consumed nearly 20% of the battery juice. Checking-out games consumed a further 30% battery juice, like usual.

You can charge the Huawei P9’s battery quite rapidly, via the fast charging technology that loads the battery with more than essential charge upon just an hour’s worth of plugging in the phone to charge.

Final verdict

The Huawei P9 seems custom-made for the first-time flagship smartphone buyers, and is not designed for competition with rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the HTC 10. The P9’s dual rear cameras are a big plus, but its performance slows down a tad courtesy of bloatware (which needs disabling).

Android 6.0, could have done better without the Huawei Emotion UI.

Overall, the P9 seems a good bet if you have a minimum of AED 1,700.

Positives: Dual rear cameras, build quality, display

Negatives: Huawei Emotion UI, bloatware