The Mate 9 Pro is Huawei’s most refined and feature-packed smartphone yet.
Huawei’s latest flagship, the Mate 9 Pro, is a stunning device with a 5.5in display. It belongs in the phablet category but the curved screen makes it easy to grip the device comfortably even if you don’t have large hands.
However, the brushed aluminium back makes it a fingerprint magnet and a little slippery so it’s best used with a case.
The highlight of the Mate 9 Pro are the dual Leica-branded cameras – one 12-megapixel colour camera and one 20-megapixel monochrome camera – which work together to produce a single shot.
The dual-lens setup also allows the user to artificially recreate depth of field effects by selectively blurring out parts of a photo.
This effect, popularly known as bokeh, is fun to do on the Mate 9 Pro although it struggles at times when dealing with some objects like flowers or toy figurines. Hopefully, Huawei can issue a software patch to fix this.
For standard shots, the camera did a pretty good job – it was fast to focus and delivered detailed images.
In low light situations the pictures turned out decent but not as good, as the smartphone only has a small aperture of f/2.2.
Also, the camera has two rather interesting features – Phi grid and Fibonacci spiral – which can help you compose better images.
Why the Pro?
Unlike the Mate 9 which has an IPS (in-plane switching) screen with full HD (1,080 x 1,920 pixels) resolution, the Mate 9 Pro has an Amoled screen with a whopping 1,440 x 2,560-pixel resolution.
The Amoled screen is much nicer as the colours are punchier with deeper blacks, making it ideal for playing games and watching shows.
Also, the Mate 9 Pro has a smaller screen than the Mate 9 (5.9in) and because of the higher resolution it has a ridiculously high pixel density of 534ppi (pixels per inch). In other words, the screen is really, really sharp.
And did we mention that it comes with 128GB of storage – that’s right, you are not going to be running out of space soon.
Huawei has also moved the fingerprint sensor from the back to the front on the Mate 9 Pro. Personally, I like the fingerprint sensor at the back because it makes it easier to unlock the phone.
However, the front sensor placement makes it easier for you to unlock the phone when it’s, say, on a table.
Similar to other Huawei devices, the fingerprint sensor features self-learning capability so it’s supposed to get better the more you use it.
The Mate 9 Pro is one of the few smartphones that comes with Android 7.0 (Nougat) out of the box.
Huawei also includes its own user interface – EMUI 5.0 – and it’s quite feature-packed.
For instance, unlike many other Chinese Android smartphones, EMUI allows you turn on the app drawer, which is great for keeping your Home screen organised.
It also supports a few interesting gesture controls – knocking on the screen twice with a knuckle takes a screenshot and drawing a line using the knuckle turns on the split-screen mode.
Another feature which I found very useful is App Twin which allows you to run Facebook and WhatsApp with two different accounts each.
This means you don’t have to keep logging in and logging out of these two services if you happen to have two accounts. Sadly, only these two services support App Twin for now.
You don’t really have to worry about performance as this is Huawei’s flagship device and it’s one of the few phones to have a whopping 6GB RAM.
Throughout the review period, the performance was snappy even when running multiple apps in the background.
Also, we didn’t notice any lag when running games such as Banner Saga, This War Of Mine and Final Fantasy IX.
On top of that, the phone has a 4,000mAh battery which is rather big. It could easily last more than a day when used mainly for social media, occasional video and music streaming and casual gaming.
All in all, the Mate 9 Pro is easily Huawei’s best smartphone to date and it’s aimed at users who want a feature-packed device.
The only thing that you need to worry about is the price, as quality doesn’t come cheap.
However, if price is not an issue then this is one of the better flagship smartphones on the market.
Pros: Premium build quality; Amoled curved display; long battery life; twin cameras are great for bokeh effect; 128GB of storage.
Cons: Fingerprint magnet; pricey.
Mate 9 Pro
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 7.0 Nougat
DISPLAY: 5.5in QHD Amoled (1,440 x 2,560 pixels)
PROCESSOR: HiSilicon Kirin 960 octa-core (4 x 2.4GHz Cortex-A73 + 4 x 1.8GHz Cortex-A53)
CAMERA: 20 megapixels monochrome + 12 megapixels RGB (rear); 8 megapixels (front)
MEMORY: 128GB internal storage; 6GB RAM
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, WiFi Direct, USB Type-C
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 75 x 7.5 x 152mm
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Review unit courtesy of Huawei Technologies Malaysia, 1800-22-3366