Huawei Mate 9 Review
Phablets may be great for productivity, but they're still less than ideal for voice calls
With its dual-SIM support and broad band coverage, the Mate 9's well equipped to get you through a few voice calls – should you still insist on communicating in such an archaic fashion. The good news is that everything sounds fine, just like we'd expect from a phone of this caliber.
The only real downside is that it still feels a bit unwieldy to be using a handset this size to make calls. The experience may be alright as you navigate through apps at arm's length, but feeling this huge expanse of phone pressed up against your face isn't necessarily the user experience we dream of. Users used to phablets may not share the same concern, but if you're coming from a smaller phone, expect a period of adjustment.
With 4,000mAh of power at its disposal, the Mate 9 can easily handle a day's worth of usage
Anytime we're looking at phablets, there's the chance for really crazy battery life; big phones afford manufacturers more room to fit in big batteries. Sure, sometimes that extra capacity is squandered, but we tend to go in with high hopes. Would the big screen on the Mate 9 end up negating the phone's 4,000mAh battery (not unlike what we saw with the Pixel XL)?
Good news: it doesn't. In our custom constant-brightness screen-on battery test, the Mate 9 lasted for over twelve hours of continuous operation; this is very much a phone that will push through a full day on a charge. Now sure, with the phone's super-bright screen, there's the potential to cut into that figure if you crank screen brightness as high as it will go, but with more conservative usage, we doubt you'll run into any problems.
Recharge times are also decent, taking about two-and-a-half hours to hit 100% with the included fast charger. That may sound like a long time, but considering the battery size we're working with, it's not half bad. Look at it this way: the Mate 9 takes roughly as long to recharge as the iPhone 7, a phone with a battery less than half the capacity of the Mate 9's.
Battery life (hours) Higher is better
Huawei Mate 9 12h 14 min (Excellent)
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 9h 5 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 7h 18 min (Good)
Charging time (minutes) Lower is better
Huawei Mate 9 144
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 197
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 99
Huawei Mate 8 156
Huawei Mate 9 hits a lot of strong notes: it's fast, has tons of storage, and offers a really large screen for the size of the handset. And while we wish that the display was higher-res and a little better balanced, the fact that it's incredibly bright is a big plus. Audio performance isn't overlooked either, and the use of multiple speakers helps the Mate 9 stand its own against its peers.
The system software is a lot of fun to use, and Huawei really goes out of its way to add significant value beyond what Android 7.0 Nougat already delivers. All the features and customizable options can seem like a little much for new users to take in, but everything's arranged smartly and presented in a clean manner that makes discovery and use pretty fun.
Really, there's not a lot the Mate 9 does wrong, and our biggest issues with the handset are areas where we just wish it offered a little more. Take the new dual-camera system, for instance: it's mostly fine, but when you hear the Leica name, and learn about the combination of monochrome and color sensors, you expect it to all come together with jaw-dropping results – and those just aren't here.
The standard Mate 9, with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage, sells in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East for about 700 euros; that's 200 euros less than the 32GB iPhone 7 Plus. In that light, the Mate 9 represents a decent value. But it's also really easy to get hung up on things like the lower pixel density screen than a lot of its competition, and feel that you really should be paying less for the Mate 9.
Ultimately, you're going to choose the Mate 9 because you want a big-screen smartphone above all else, and this phone offers that without making too many other sacrifices. It's not necessarily the best phablet around, but it's certainly one of the more compelling options you'll find.
- Super-bright, large screen for the phone's size
- Ample storage, with easy expansion
- Kirin 960 offers some speedy performance
- EMUI 5.0 is quite well done and useful
- Long-lasting battery
- We expected more from the dual-camera Leica system
- No waterproofing
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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