Huawei Mate 9 hands-on: meet the new dual-camera phablet

Smartphones may comes in lots of shapes and sizes, but mainstream larger phones – those we affectionately dub “phablets” – have mostly settled in on the 5.5 to 5.7-inch space. And while that's clearly big enough for many users, as we see in the success of devices like the iPhone Plus series, or the Galaxy Note family, some users crave bigger and bigger handsets, still – and for them, Huawei's happy to step up with its Mate phones.

Last fall, Huawei introduced us to the six-inch Mate 8, running the company's own Kirin 950 processor and armed with either 3 or 4GB of RAM. It was a pretty well-done handset, looking and feeling great, while offering some nice battery life, and while we had a few issues with the display, UI, and camera performance, the whole package was really promising, getting us excited for what might come next.

For weeks now, we've been tracking rumors of Huawei's next Mate device – or devices, with sources pointing to both a new Mate 9 and an upgraded Mate 9 Pro model with higher-res screen and extra storage. Today Huawei's finally making its new hardware official, and we get to spend some hands-on time with the Mate 9 phablet.

The new Mate 9 is very close to the size of last year's model: same 7.9mm thickness. Height and width measurements come in a little larger, but only to the tune of a millimeter or two. Screen size drops ever so slightly from 6.0 to 5.9 inches, but the Mate 9 keeps the same 1080 x 1920 resolution as the Mate 8.

Processing power gets a boost thanks to the brand-new Kirin 960 chip, an octa-core component running at up to 2.4GHz, and now 4GB of RAM is standard. Huawei makes the smart move of upgrading base storage to 64GB, and support for microSD expansion (at the cost of dual-SIM support, should you take that route) lets users push that limit further. There's another 4,000mAh battery present, for hopefully day-long usage, and the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner makes a return.

Maybe the most obvious upgrade with the Mate 9 is the phone's new imaging hardware, now a dual-camera Leica system like we already saw on the Huawei P9. For the Mate 9, it offers a high-res 20MP monochrome sensor that works together with a 12MP full-color sensor in order to produce a merged output. The cameras support optical stabilization, and take advantage of a three-way hybrid auto-focus mode for crisp, clean shots.

Around front, there's an f/1.9 8MP selfie cam that supports auto-focus – a bit of a luxury for a front-facer.

The Mate 9 runs Huawei's latest incarnation of its Emotion UI, the new version 5.0, based on Android 7.0 Nougat. That allows for some neat cross-over between Google and Huawei's feature sets, like using screen-knock knuckle gestures to tap into Nougat's split-screen multitasking. Huawei tells us that its goal for EMUI 5.0 was simplifying how we use our phones, doing things like using machine learning to anticipate app needs and let users access 92% of their most-used apps with just two taps. Those smarts also extended into CPU management for balancing performance and battery life, as well as compressing RAM to squeeze in more apps and improving the state of phone storage with app cleanup and defragmentation.

We've only been able to spend some brief time with the Mate 9 so far, but our full review should be coming soon. For now, check out our initial hands-on interaction below, as well as a gallery of Mate 9 photos.

Related phones

Mate 9
  • Display 5.9" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor HiSilicon Kirin, Octa-core, 2400 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 4000 mAh



1. kefalin

Posts: 292; Member since: Feb 08, 2015

Those black bezels around are ugly af....

7. Ishtiaque99

Posts: 68; Member since: Apr 15, 2014

This can beat V20 any day.

8. yann

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 15, 2010

Then imagine if it is all black phone. Like Porsche Design. Then looks pretty.

10. DoggyDangerous

Posts: 1028; Member since: Aug 28, 2015

Black bezels are really fugly.

2. aman5mathur

Posts: 241; Member since: Mar 28, 2014

yeah almost every chinese oem does that nd its really annoying trying to fool the customer with no side bezel strategy Commendable is sammy here which really makes them with minimal black bezel

3. aman5mathur

Posts: 241; Member since: Mar 28, 2014

yeah almost every chinese oem does that nd its really annoying trying to fool the customer with no side bezel strategy Commendable is sammy here which really makes them with minimal black bezel

4. NoAllegiance unregistered

Stereo speakers, infrared sensor, OIS, 3.5mm jack. Micro-sd slot support Cool, but ZTE axon 7 is still better value.

9. Martin_Cooper

Posts: 1774; Member since: Jul 30, 2013

Its better value only in its category. Axon 7 is not a phone that can compete with S7 edge, HTC 10, iPhone 7 plus. This thing has top of the top camera and top of the top cpu/gpu.

14. dimas

Posts: 3380; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Axon 7 is not available everywhere so mate 9 have an edge with the distribution.

5. Pabliell

Posts: 185; Member since: Mar 22, 2016

Waiting for the reviews. It might be the phablet of the year.

15. dimas

Posts: 3380; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Almost considered buying v20. Article about this beast popped up then I forgot lg's.

6. zendeavour

Posts: 11; Member since: Nov 03, 2016

I have some bad experiences with Chinese technology, they're getting better, but they still have a way to go.

11. DoggyDangerous

Posts: 1028; Member since: Aug 28, 2015

Stephen you always nailed any hands on or a review. You are the best addition to PA.

12. ramdroid

Posts: 138; Member since: May 21, 2016

P9 plus has ambled display and almost identical features. Shame!!! Hope honor comes out with a mate9 porches design clone but with the same features and cheaper

13. dimas

Posts: 3380; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

I have read the dimensions and it's still maller than iphone 7 plus. Good job huawei for cramming up that 5.9" display to a small body. Expecting it to have monster battery life just like mate 8.

16. eric9lee

Posts: 3; Member since: Sep 16, 2016

v20 is much better. i wont use any chinese phone.

20. w1000i

Posts: 250; Member since: Jul 22, 2015

at the end of the day its an android with good spec and optimized well.

17. mygovtcellblog

Posts: 9; Member since: Nov 04, 2016

Huawei Mate 9 Smartphone is coming with such an amazing camera, connectivity, and display features, it will be very interesting to see the kind of impact Huawei’s Mate 9 leaves on the market.

19. FrankUnderwood2

Posts: 243; Member since: Oct 01, 2015

What about pricing?

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