Huawei Mate 9 Review
I have been using my Huawei Mate 9 instead of my Nexus 6P ever since I unboxed it.
The UI/UX have been very snappy. It scored 120,794 points on AnTuTu Benchmark whereas the Nexus 6P got 71,576 points. To be fair to the Nexus 6P, the phone has been out for almost a year.
My iPhone 7 Plus is still my primary phone. I am using an Android phone as a secondary phone to play around with apps.
I loved the almost bezel-less screen and the solid build of the Mate 9. The only complaint I have about the screen is that the resolution doesn’t seem to match the high end specifications of the phone. I wish they used the 1440 x 2560 screen from the Mate 9 Porsche Design.
The Mate 9 comes with a 4,000mAh battery and on paper, it is said to last you about 2 days of normal usage. I can’t really give an accurate test for this because my Android phone is not my primary phone. But to compare with the Nexus 6P, the Mate 9 lasts about 4 to 6 hours longer than the Nexus 6P based on my usage.
I am not a fan of fast charge because the implementation details is still fragmented, hopefully Google can fix it.
I have multi USB port chargers at home, office and in the car. I have to use standard USB chargers because I have lots of devices and not all of them supports fast charge. And even if they do, it is proprietary and that means I only have 1 USB port per socket which is not practical for me given the number of devices that I need to charge.
Till someone comes out with a universal fast charging standards, I am staying off it.
Mate 9 is powered by EMUI which stands for Emotional UI. It is in it’s fifth version and hence EMUI 5.0 comes with the Mate 9.
Because it closely mimics iOS UI/UX, the learning curve of the UI is not as steep as I expected.
You can choose from two home screen style. Standard or Drawer. Standard is the default settings and it shows all the apps on the home screen similar to iOS. Drawer shows all apps on the drawer screen similar to a standard Android UI.
Swiping down on the homescreen will bring about a search screen similar to iOS. I accidentally found out about this feature as I am used to swiping down on my iOS to search for apps.
EMUI comes with two input keyboards, the Google Keyboard and the SwiftKey Keyboard. As I am not used to SwiftKey Keyboard which is the default option, I changed it to the Google Keyboard.
Android and iOS phones comes with tons of settings and it can be overwhelming. It takes time to look through all the possible settings. iOS solves this issue in iOS 9 with a settings search.
In EMUI, there is a settings search as well and it is more obvious than iOS. It doesn’t require you to pull down on the settings page to reveal the search box. Stock Android OS also has this feature since Android 5.0 (Lollipop).
Mate 9 comes with a fingerprint reader at the back of the phone and you can use it to unlock the phone. Unlocking the phone is perceived to be faster on the Mate 9 as compared to the iPhone 7 Plus because there isn’t any animation after the phone is unlocked.
Every now and then, EMUI will warn you though a notification about power intensive app running in the background and asking if you want to terminate it. This feature kinda grow on me as I initially found it to be very irritating.
I also found of that the auto brightness adjustment on the Mate 9 works much better than the Nexus 6P. The problem I have with Nexus 6P auto brightness adjustment is that in dark areas, the brightness is still too high. I have experience a few times that the Nexus 6P auto brightness doesn’t even kick in. So far the iPhone 7 Plus and Mate 9 doesn’t have this issue.
It is weird that the Mate 9 defaults to Large View Mode and hence at 1920 x 1080, everything looks pretty big on the 5.9″ screen. Initially, I thought it is meant to be this way but luckily it is not. You can switch the View Mode to small or even medium. I chose small and it is perfect.
Apart from the usual bundled Google apps in an Android phone, the Mate 9 comes with Facebook, Twitter, WPS Office, Booking.com Hotels, News Republic and Todoist app pre-installed. Of course, you can uninstall them.
One of the new feature in EMUI 5.0 is called App Twin. When App Twin is enabled, you can log in to two difference accounts for the same app at the same time. Notice the number 2 on the Facebook icon below?
This is helpful especially for WhatsApp as the Mate 9 is a dual SIM phone. Right now only Facebook and WhatsApp are supported.
The Mate 9 comes with IR blaster and hence you can use the bundled app, Smart Controller, to control your television or any devices that are controllable by infrared.
Mate 9 supports Android Pay, but it doesn’t come with the Android Pay app. So you will have to download it off Google Play and you are good to go.
The camera app of the Mate 9 comes with many modes. 15 modes to be exact. You can take photos in beauty mode, add watermark to photos automatically and take light painting photos, etc.
The wide aperture settings of the Mate 9 is fantastic. The bokeh effect derived from that is much better than the iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode. The iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode looks artificial as it should be since it it is generated by algorithms.
On the other hand, the Mate 9 has two cameras at the back. The 12MP RGB camera is used to capture the colors of the scene and the 20MP monochrome camera is used to capture the details of the scene.
When wide aperture is enabled, both RGB and monochrome camera are used when a photo gets taken. This allows you to refocus on any subjects in the photos after the photo is taken.
In terms of zoom, I think the iPhone 7 Plus performs better as it is using optical zoom for 2x zoom. For the Mate 9, it uses something called Hybrid Zoom.
Hybrid Zoom uses the photo taken from the monochrome camera for lossless digital zooming and uses the color obtained from the RGB camera to give you the effect of the 2x zoomed photo.
If you are into photography, I think you will appreciate the camera of the Mate 9. You can tweak the ISO, shutter speed, exposure value, autofocus and white balance. You can activate the pro mode by swiping up in the camera app.
I find that the auto white balance on the Mate 9 is much better than the iPhone 7 Plus. When you compare using auto mode between the iPhone 7 Plus and Mate 9, the Mate 9 takes better pictures for day/bright scenes. When it comes to dark/night scenes, the iPhone 7 Plus performs better because of post processing.
I am not a photographer, so I let you be the judge of the photos taken with the Mate 9 vs the iPhone 7 Plus. The photos are taken using auto mode. I did not tweak any camera settings, everything is taken in auto mode.
Overall, I think the Huawei Mate 9 is a decent high-end Android phone that is reasonably priced at S$898.
It is hard to find a good high-end Android phone in Singapore as an alternative to the Samsung Note 7.
Just in case you are wondering, the Pixel and Pixel XL is not available in Singapore.
For a HTC built phone, I think the Pixel and Pixel XL is overpriced. I have used the HTC One before and I have no faith in HTC build quality.
Apart from the screen resolution, I don’t have any other complains about the Mate 9.
I have a pleasant experience using the Mate 9 and hence I will be permanently switching my Nexus 6P with it.
EMUI 5.0 takes a while getting used to and after a while, I find that some good features are missing from stock Android OS. One example is Lock Screen Data Usage Reminder. It will display the amount of data your hotspot used when the screen is off.