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The Mate 9 is the latest flagship from the up and coming Chinese manufacturer, Huawei. Its series of P9 smartphones blew the world away with their stunning dual-cameras and powerful onboard processors. The Mate 9, does just as well for itself, living up to the benchmarks set by its predecessor. The phablet built by Huawei is a consumer-centric device that gives you what an everyday metropolitan would want in a smartphone, outstanding dual-cameras, a snappy processor, and a long-lasting battery life.

Design

The Mate 9 is honestly not a smartphone that is particularly eye-catching. It has a simple curved unicolour metallic body that exudes a silent classy feel towards it. The Mate 9 measures 157 x 79 x 7.9mm in dimension, similar to the iPhone 7 Plus and weighs 190g, which I consider to be slightly heavy, even for a phablet. The heavier weight could be attributed as a trade-off for a large 5.9” screen and a longer-lasting battery onboard.

The fingerprint sensor can be found on the rear under the dual-cameras and under your device, you will see 2 speaker grilles with a USB Type-C port in the middle for charging and data transfer.

Display

The standard Mate 9 has a full-HD screen, which features a resolution of 1920 x 1080. It has a meagre 373 pixels per inch, however, the display will feel very similar to most other flagships in the market and it doesn’t really have an edge over or lose out to any of them. What is worth noting though, is the wide range of brightness that the Huawei Mate 9 display is capable of reaching. The maximum brightness of 665 nits surpasses that of the iPhone 7 Plus’ 573 nits and the LG V20’s 628 nits (on Max Auto). The minimum brightness of 4.2 nits was also useful for texting at night in bed when all the lights are off, and doesn’t strain your eyes too much. This is also aided by an Eye-Comfort mode that allows you to filter bluelight to help reduce the harshness of screen light on your eyes.

Hardware

The Mate 9 is marketed as the world’s fastest smartphone, but no one can really prove that. It holds a new Hisilicon Kirin 960 processor with 4GB of RAM, which is typical of flagship smartphones. This processor is relatively new and it has a quad-core Cortex-A73 cluster that clocks in at 2.4GHz, alongside a quad-core cluster of the classic Cortex-A53 cores which clocked a speed of 1.8GHz. The newer Cortex-A73s is reportedly 30% more power efficient compared to the old A72 design.

Running the Antutu benchmarks gave me a score of 117,416, which in my opinion is more than enough for any single phone in the market. That pretty much guarantees lag-free experiences with the smartphone. However, it is still lower than the 129,229 that the Samsung S7 Edge provides.

Graphics processing benchmark, 3DMark gave the Huawei Mate 9 a 2140 score, making it one of the most powerful smartphones in the world in this field, surpassing the iPhone 7 Plus’s 2094.

In my own usage of the Mate 9 smartphone, I never had it lag on me despite running dual-SIMs, with 2 WhatsApps and 2 Telegrams at the same time.

The 64GB worth of memory on board is also more than sufficient for most intents and purposes. You can add a microSD card to expand the storage if you want, but that would mean forgoing the 2nd SIM slot.

The Huawei Mate 9 is approved for Cat.12 LTE just like the LG V20 for theoretical speeds up to 600Mbps down and 150Mbps up as well.

User Experience

The Huawei’s old user interface was quite annoying and rigid, catering mainly for Chinese consumers. However, the newer UI on the Mate 9 seems to have gotten rid of all the past problems that plagued Huawei smartphones. The latest UI seems to be quite aesthetically-pleasing and yet functional at the same time. There were many intuitive features I loved such as using your knuckles to take screenshots and drawing letters to open up applications anywhere. Double-pressing the volume down button also allows you to pull up the camera immediately and you can choose to take a photo immediately with that feature if you want too.

The thing I loved most about the Mate 9 was its ability yo use App Twin, which means if you’re a dual-SIM user, you can use 2 WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook and other applications without running a 3rd-party software.

For those of you who don’t know, Huawei’s UI also lets you change the bottom buttons so you can shift the back button to the left or right depending on your preference too.

Camera

How can we forget about the Mate 9’s signature camera? The Huawei Mate 9 sports 2 cameras on the rear. It has a 20MP monochrome sensor, and a 12MP coloured one. The more detailed monochrome sensor will be capable of capturing detail better and when combined with the coloured image, you get better resolution and contrast.

There is a feature on the Mate 9 called Light Painting which allows you to create cool lightworks using long exposure, but its not something most would use it often to be honest.

The greatest benefits of owning a dual-camera smartphone is wide aperture mode. If you choose to take a photo with this mode, you can adjust the focus point even post shoot, to decide whether you want the background clear or blurred, a feature I found incredibly useful.

The rear cameras do very well for themselves, giving clear photos, with great colour reproduction and fairly good low-light shots. This makes them a worthy rival to the Samsung S7 Edge. However, the front camera that is 8MP in resolution is not so spectacular. It is alright, but nothing really special about it to be honest.

Battery Life

The Mate 9 holds a 4,000mAh capacity, which is considered above average even for flagship devices. I found the Mate 9 to be capable of a full day’s worth of usage and still have some extra juice left, so I’ve never needed a portable charger with the Mate 9 when bringing it out at 100%.

If you use the Mate 9 continuously for work purposes without break, I expect it to last about 12 hours, which means a full day’s worth of usage shouldn’t break a sweat for the Mate 9.

Conclusion

The Mate 9 is an all-purpose phablet that does Huawei proud. At a retail price of S$898, the Mate 9 is not an expensive flagship. Its strong battery life, powerful rear cameras, and incredible graphics performance and speed is what makes it shine amongst the sea of smartphones in the market. The user-friendly EmotionUI further adds value to the Mate 9 and Huawei’s new line of devices. The only room beef we have with the Mate 9 is a slightly dull design and a heavier than average weight on the device.

Zayne Seah
A tech geek going beyond specs.

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