The P9’s twin, the P9 Plus, also has dual cameras to give it an edge where it counts.
From being relatively unknown, Huawei has been making a name for itself with some excellent products, most recently the Huawei Watch and Mate 8.
Its latest entry is no less ambitious – for the P9 Plus, it collaborated with renowned camera company Leica.
The partnership was not just skin deep – you can see the German camera company’s touch everywhere, from the sublime Leica shutter sound to the DSLR-like user interface.
The Android smartphone has not one but two rear cameras, one colour and one monochrome, both at 12 megapixels.
It’s a case of two is better than one, and a trend that’s likely to be adopted by more smartphone companies.
As the black and white camera sensor doesn’t have a filter, it helps the phone capture photos with better contrast and detail, which is then combined with the colour image from the other sensor.
This design has one disadvantage – having two cameras makes it impossible to include OIS (optical image stabilisation).
Huawei overcomes this little problem by making the cameras shoot really fast. It seems to work, as we didn’t notice any blurry shots.
The well-designed user interface makes the features of the camera easily available to both beginners and pros.
Swiping to the right reveals all the camera modes such as Night Shot, HDR and Time Lapse. My favourite has to be Light Painting which captures lights trails (from a moving car, for instance) as the effect is always amazing.
Having two cameras also makes it easy to create the Bokeh effect where selected areas of the photo are intentionally made out of focus.
Swiping upwards reveals the pro mode – here you can bump up the ISO up to 3200, adjust the shutter speed (from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds) and change the white balance. To access the camera setting, you just have to swipe to the left.
Pictures shot with the P9 Plus turned out great with natural-looking colours and excellent clarity.
There is little to fault the camera – if anything, I found its performance in low light situations a bit wanting. Although there is a Night mode, I found it much quicker and easier to just increase the ISO (at the risk of more noise).
And one last thing – you can shoot photos in RAW format. This results in much larger files but it’s the best for post processing.
I usually find it hard to switch brands because I have gotten used to the user interface of a particular brand but the P9 Plus made the jump a much easier one.
It’s mainly because the user interface – Huawei calls it EMUI – is highly customisable and I could tweak the look and feel of this Android to my liking.
Huawei has also made good use of the fingerprint sensor – you can create a “safe” for your sensitive media files and unlock it with one of your fingers.
The sensor is also fast and highly accurate so it doesn’t feel tedious to keep the phone secured.
There was one thing I sorely missed though – the App Drawer. It goes a long way in helping you organise apps. Huawei, like many Chinese phone makers, has chosen to leave it out.
The P9 Plus is the bigger sibling (5.5in vs 5.2in) to the P9, and as such they share many similarities, including the same processor and rear cameras.
Although both screens share the same full HD resolution, only the P9 Plus has a Super Amoled display which gives it a slight edge, as the colours are a little more vibrant.
Being the bigger brother it has a few extra features, namely Press Touch. Press Touch works just like Apple’s 3D Touch – pressing harder on icons and within apps will bring up additional options.
For instance, pressing down on the camera icon will give you options to shoot a selfie, record video, capture black and white photo and shoot in pro mode. In other words, Press Touch lets you get things done faster.
When viewing photos, Press Touch allows you to zoom in, which is one of the best uses for this feature.
However, as Press Touch is unique to Huawei, sadly not many apps take advantage of it at the moment so it’s more of a novelty.
The P9 Plus also has a bigger battery – even when used a lot for social media, games and photo shooting, I didn’t feel in any danger of running out of battery before I reached the end of the day.
It also has stereo speakers which are loud and clear – great for watching movies or listening to music in a group.
There’s a lot to like about the P9 Plus, especially the design. The phone has an aluminium body with a brushed metal back – it’s sleek, slim and sure to impress anyone.
And Huawei has gone to great lengths to create a product that offers quite a lot for the price tag.
Not only will you find a casing for the phone in the box but also a microUSB to USB Type-C converter. This is really great, as Type-C cables are hard to come by and expensive, so you don’t have to waste money buying another cable.
About the only thing absent for a flagship phone is a heart rate sensor. If you own a smartwatch however, you probably won’t miss it.
If you are in the market for a large phone, don’t miss checking out the P9 Plus.
Pros: Nice design; friendly user interface; excellent cameras; uses USB Type-C.
Cons: Too many pre-installed apps; lacks heart rate sensor.
Operating system: Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
Network: 4G LTE
Display: 5.5in Amoled (1,080 x 1,920 pixels)
Processor: Octa-core (4 x 2.5GHz A72+ 4 x 1.8GHz A53) Kirin 955
Camera: Two 12 megapixels cameras (rear); 8 megapixels (front)
Memory: 64GB internal memory
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; WiFi Direct; USB Type C
Others: Press Touch
Battery: 3,400mAh lithium-ion
Size: 152.3 x 75.3 x 6.98mm
Rating: 4 stars
Review unit courtesy of Huawei Technologies Malaysia, 1800-22-3366