Huawei Mate 9 Review
With dual sensors and Leica branding, the Mate 9 has a lot to prove
If the Mate 9 has one stand-out feature – at least according to what Huawei would tell us – it's the dual rear camera. This setup represents the second generation of Huawei's partnership with Leica, and the hardware pairs one extra-high-res 20MP black-and-white camera with a 12MP color camera, both with optical stabilization. The idea is sound enough: combine the data from those two cameras and you have a system that should excel at low-light performance and capture tons of image detail without sacrificing standard full-color operation.
There's clearly tons of promise in the Mate 9's Leica-branded camera system, but how are the actual results? Well, they're alright, but we found ourselves expecting a bit more after all of Huawei's hype.
Images tend to be a little light-looking, often with overexposed highlights, and with colors not particularly saturated. Indoor or low-light performance is by no means impressive, with a desaturated, low-detail look.
The Mate 9 supports video recording in resolutions up to 4K, as well as 60fps 1080p and various lower-res modes. Of these, 4K easily lookx the best, but we ran into some issues when exporting the footage to a PC, with our computer stumbling a bit during playback, as if the Mate 9's video stream was having problems with its compression. Lower-res modes played back better, but a lack of digital stabilization really hurts.
Huawei's given the Mate 9 an array of four microphones to do a bit of directional-audio action when recording sound along with video, helping to emphasize the subject. That's a fine idea, but there's no toggle for this option, so if you're trying to narrate a video you're not starring in yourself (as we did with our video samples), audio capture is really inconsistent; it's almost like you can hear the phone trying to isolate and remove your voice.
Really pleasing stereo sound comes as a welcome surprise
A big-screen phablet's in a great position to be a powerful media-playback machine, and the Mate 9 doesn't let us down. Its speakers, while a little light on bass response, still sound pretty good, and are nice and loud, to boot.
Like Apple's iPhone 7 models, the Mate 9 outputs sound simultaneously from its bottom-edge main speaker, as well as the phone's earpiece, for a stereo effect. Here, the earpiece audio isn't nearly as loud as the primary speaker, but it's still enough to broaden the aural landscape and make the Mate 9's audio output that much richer.
The included earbuds form a serviceable accessory that really does sound alright, but probably isn't going to replace your favorite pair – and thanks to the presence of an analog headphone jack, you can go right on using whichever you choose.
Headphones output power (Volts) Higher is better
Huawei Mate 9 0.296
Huawei Mate 8 0.368
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 0.992
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 0.707
Loudspeaker loudness (dB) Higher is better
Huawei Mate 9 75.1
Huawei Mate 8 71.4
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 77.4
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 72.9
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- 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