A great flagship offering stellar looks and build quality, astounding camera, and incredible performance.
The dual camera on anything is an eccentric sight to witness, especially if it is on a phone. These cameras might serve a different purpose but having a dual camera in itself is a distinctive feature on any smartphone. The Huawei P9 is the 2016 flagship phone from Huawei, with dual camera, certified by Leica as a feature focus. But it’s not all about lenses; it also has very promising and flagship-worthy hardware.
The P9 stands alongside stellar 2016 handsets on the design front and is the best-looking smartphone Huawei’s ever made. It has an undeniable iPhone 6S-ish feel, featuring a unibody metal chassis with flat sides. The metal, combined with the P9’s almost bezel-free display gives the phone a feel that’s on par with any 2016 flagship I’ve tested.
Huawei’s also loaded the P9 with a decent portfolio of connectivity. At its bottom you’ll find a USB Type-C port, and along its long right-hand side you’ll find a Nano SIM and microSD card slot. The microSD will let you add a further 128GB of space to the phone’s inbuilt 32GB/64GB. But be warned, if you’re planning on taking advantage of the microSD, the P9 doesn’t support Android Marshmallow’s Adoptable Storage feature.
Adoptable Storage lets you instruct your phone to treat SD card storage like native storage – meaning you can do things like install apps directly to the SD card. On past handsets, such as the HTC One A9, I’ve found the feature massively helpful, as it let me walk around with my entire music and games library downloaded with space to spare.
There’s a good reason why Huawei, and other phone makers including Samsung and LG, are turning Adoptable Storage off. Running Adoptable Storage means you can’t swap the SD card out without damaging/impacting the smartphone’s performance. Using a cheap SD card will also hamper the phone’s overall performance, so Huawei’s decision is understandable, albeit a little disappointing in my mind.
Outside of this, Huawei’s loaded the P9 with a Level 4 fingerprint scanner on its back. Huawei claims the scanner is a marked step up from the Level 3 scanners seen on competing phones and will be noticeably faster and more accurate than competitors.
I didn’t notice much of a difference between it and competing fingerprint scanners like the ones seen on the Galaxy S7 or Nexus 6P. But this isn’t an issue and the scanner is still more than good enough. It’s super-fast and the only times it failed to recognise my fingerprint was when I was using the phone in rain, or had dirty hands.
Huawei’s also made it so you can use the scanner to enact some basic commands. The controls are activated in the phone’s settings menu and let you do things like pull down the notification panel and scroll through photos by swiping on the scanner. The feature sounds minor, but I found myself using the scanner to check incoming alerts on a regular basis after only a couple of days with the P9.
Build quality is solid. Although I did accidentally drop the device face first on a concrete slab after sticking to my iPhone case… Just be weary of the complete glass screen. Though the body’s metal does feel slightly more flimsy than the alloy used on the HTC 10, and can be prone to picking up dirt marks.
The phone’s also not as comfortable to hold as the Galaxy S7 or HTC 10. Its miniscule 7mm thickness, combined with its flat sides, can make it feel slightly slippery – which will be an issue for clumsy users who regularly drop their phones (me).
Spec-wise the Huawei P9’s 5.2-inch display isn’t anything to write home about. The Full-HD 1080 x 1920 resolution puts it well behind competing smartphones such as the Galaxy S7, which generally have cornea-slicingly sharp QHD 2560 x 1440 resolutions. But being honest, with everyday use I didn’t have any serious complaints about the screen.
There’s been a lot of debate about when the human eye stops being able to tell the difference between resolutions. Some people say it’s when we break the 300ppi (pixels per inch) density milestone, while others think we can spot the difference past 500 ppi. Whatever the truth of the matter, I found the P9’s 423ppi display more than sharp enough. Icons and text are universally sharp and pleasingly free of any signs of pixelation.
The use of LCD screen technology ensures blacks are nicely deep and colours have a good amount of pop, without looking over-saturated. The phone’s colour temperature setting also makes it quick and easy to adjust it to meet your personal preference.
White levels are slightly muddy compared to competing handsets, but are far from terrible, and viewing angles, while not the best I’ve seen, are suitably wide. All in all, the P9’s screen isn’t the best around – that title goes jointly to those on the Galaxy S7 and HTC 10 – but it’s more than fit for purpose. 99% of people will have no issue with it.
You can hardly complain about performance on today’s flagships and P9 is no different. The Kirin 955 octa-core CPU coupled with 3GB of RAM results in smooth performance with zero lags and stutters. Despite featuring Mali T880 MP4 GPU, the phone handles almost all games with ease.
P9 is running on EMUI build on top of Android 6.0, which is pretty much optimised. There’s no lag while navigating; the UI looks appealing with beautiful icons and smooth animation. You get a bunch of features for system and battery optimisation and few distinct features to make the device more functional. Also, there’s a super-fast fingerprint sensor on the back.
The best camera is the one you have with you and this is literally true for the P9. The dual 12MP camera seems gimmicky, but, they perform wonders when it comes to photography. One lens is a monochromatic sensor for capturing details and the second one is an RGB sensor for capturing normal coloured photos. Both of these lenses work in unison so there’s more information to work with during post processing. During processing, both images are brought together where the normal image gets the details and sharpness from the monochromatic photo resulting in a higher image quality.
The camera is fast, you won’t bungle any shots with its quick shutter. It is delightful to use, you can just point and shoot and not get disappointed with the result with the supplementary saturation and contrast to the images. If you want the image your way, you can use the pro mode to control ISO, shutter speed, and other aspects. The camera app on P9 has incorporated a lot of useful shooting features like bokeh mode, light painting, slo-mo, monochrome and even RAW imaging. Front facing camera houses 8MP wide angle lens and also results in high-quality selfies.
Connectivity wise P9 supports hybrid SIM slot with Micro SD card upto 128GB. It supports WIFI 802.11.ac, Bluetooth, NFC and USB Type-C 1.0.
P9 sports a 3,000 mAh battery resulting in an above average battery backup. You get around four hours of screen time. With the added battery optimisation features, it can easily last for a day on normal usage. It supports quick charging which will juice up 44 per cent in 30 minutes.
Huawei P9 is a great flagship offering stellar looks and build quality, astounding camera, and incredible performance.