Dubai: Huawei has launched three different variants of Mate 9 in the market — Mate 9, Mate 9 Pro and Porsche Design Mate 9.
Out of the three models, I had reviewed Mate 9 model and now I am reviewing Mate 9 Pro.
The aluminium unibody Mate 9 Pro with 2.5D Gorilla Glass front is somewhat similar to the Samsung Galaxy 7 Edge with curved edges on both the sides. It is one of the luxurious phones in the Android space right now. It weighs 169 grams.
Despite having similar hardware as the regular Mate 9, the Mate 9 Pro has several distinctive hardware features that differentiate itself from the former. The curved front glass is an immediate attention grabber. The brushed pattern and the polished metal are a nice touch and complement well the luxurious front.
The 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with 1440 x 2560 pixels or 534 pixels per inch density is powered by home-grown Hisilicon Kirin 960 Octa-core 2.4GHz processor and coupled with Mali-G71 MP8 graphics. It houses 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage capacity but microSD slot for storage expansion.
The fingerprint sensor on the dual-SIM phone has moved to the home button, which has the fastest and most accurate sensor we’ve encountered to date, compared to Mate 9 on the back side. You get a little buzz confirmation when you press it but no taptic feedback as in iPhone. You can wake up the phone from standby just by touching it.
The fun feature is that users can control the side buttons, cleverly hidden, though backlighted capacitive keys, on the phone via settings. You can take control of only one home button and set gestures controls that let you do even more with the touch area like one tap for back, long tap for home, and swipe left or right on its surface for Task Switcher.
Mate 9 pro houses stereo speakers but the stereo works only if the phone is in the landscape mode, and in the portrait mode, it switches to the mono speaker. The speakers are fairly loud enough and produce good reception and noise reduction in its microphones.
The disadvantage of the phone is that its not dust or water resistant and no FM radio.
The IR blaster is the only thing of interest at the top of the phone. The bottom is pretty crowded with USB Type-C port, the primary speaker and mic, and the analogue audio jack.
The Mate 9 Pro runs on Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box and you get a healthy dose of Huawei customisations behind the Emotion user interface known as EMUI 5.0. It has added new features to the user interface. You can also quickly start the camera by a double press of the volume down button with the option to take a snap right away, or just go to the app. You can also set up a so-called Private space, which you can access with a different fingerprint. The data accessible there is independently encrypted.
The Quick Settings menu now has more shortcuts. The Mate 9 has over 1,000 different functions that can be tweaked depending on users’ need.
The new EMUI makes several drastic changes from the software (4.1) found on the P9. Most notable is the dual-plane notification pull-down shade. The notification shade on the Mate 9 is now a single page that resembles stock Android. The app overview set-up has also gone from a horizontal scroll to a vertical one. The user interface gives users the option of having an app drawer.
The ‘App Twin’ app lets users create second Facebook and WhatsApp accounts with different names. But this will not work with third-party apps.
Huawei claims to have added machine learning algorithm to improve the performance of the device with time but I could not verify this as I need the device to be used for close to one year.
The ‘floating dock’ features lets users move the virtual key anywhere on the home screen with primary Android keys — Back, Home, Task Switcher, Lock and Close all running apps. It will help you control your phone with just one hand.
Motion control also plays a significant role on the Huawei Mate 9 Pro as it did on previous Huawei models. There are flip gestures, as well as picking up, tilting and even things like knuckle detection and drawing. All of those are extensively customisable to your liking as well.
The voice control feature lets you operate the phone entirely hands-free. It has the ability to trigger a voice command even when the phone is locked and its screen is off. If you say “Okay, Emy” by default, and once triggered, the phone wakes up and awaits further voice instructions like placing a call, or find a phone by saying “where are you”. Speech awareness is also customisable. The wake-up phrase can be changed, and you can also train the device to recognise better your voice.
The camera is where the phone excels. The rear has the vertically-aligned 12MP colour and 20MP monochrome sensors as parts of the second-generation Leica dual-camera set-up with a dual-LED flash on top and a laser beam to assist the autofocus on the bottom of the camera. The secondary microphone is around, too.
The dual-lens Leica camera has matured into the second generation with 20MP monochrome and 12MP colour with f/2.2 aperture lens, OIS, 2x zoom, phase detection, 4-in-1 hybrid autofocus (phase/laser/contrast/depth sensing), dual-LED (dual tone) flash. The 4K recording is first in the Mate line-up but it does not have optical stabilisation. Stabilisation is available in 1080p at 30fps.
The dual lens produced very good snaps with decent lighting as well as in very lowlight conditions when compared to single lens cameras. The images show accurate colours, high detail level and good dynamic range but the monochrome camera is the best.
There is also Pro mode for those who want to tweak things further. If you’re a photography fan you’ll likely find the Pro mode useful and enjoyable.
The 8MP autofocus selfie camera, f/1.9, 26mm lens does everything you would expect but struggles a bit in very lowlight conditions. It can capture videos in Full HD.
The autofocus speeds aren’t quite as quick as, say, the Galaxy S7 edge’s dual-pixel camera, and the responsiveness of the camera interface could still be improved.
The Huawei Mate 9 Pro may be smaller than the Mate 9 in screen size but it has the same battery capacity at 4,000mAh. It definitely lasted for more than a day of heavy use and lasts more than two days for moderate users. It gave more than 13 hours of web browsing and close to 16 hours of video playback. It has an excellent standby mode. The battery does not drain at all in standby mode.
It does not have wireless charging but with 22.5W quick charging technology. Just ten minutes of charging gives you 20 per cent, thirty minutes give you 55 per cent. Sixty minutes gets you around 90 per cent. Finally, flat to full in 90 minutes in total and the last 10 per cent takes a while to fill.
It also has battery saving features available from the Power manager, two of them. There’s Power saving, which imposes some minor limitations on hardware and software, and then there’s Ultra power saving, which condenses your entire phone’s functions to a single black homescreen with six shortcuts.
Connectivity is also where the phone excels as Huawei is also a leading telecom solutions provider. It supports Cat. 12 LTE for speeds up to 600 Mbps down and 150 Mbps up and 20 LTE bands. It supports WiFi — a/b/g/n/ac, WiFi Direct, Bluetooth 4.2, A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, and Galileo for positioning, IR emitter, NFC and hot spot. It is priced at Dh2,949.
• Excellent battery life
• Sleekest-looking device in the market
• CPU offers faster performance
• Takes very good black and white photos
• Smarter and simpler interface
• No dust or water resistance
• No microSD expansion
• No FM radio
• No wireless charging
• Autofocus speeds lags behind competition