Huawei P9 Review – The Mobile Camera Titan

It seems like for a long while now it’s been a constant war of the mobiles on which handset is going to win the best camera title. And newcomers Huawei are no different, teaming up with camera experts Leica to create their P9 flagship smartphone. We’ve already seen some pretty sweet camera phones released of late like the Nokia 808 megapixel powerhouse and the LG G5 implimenting optical image stabilisation called laserfocus inside their snapper. Has the Huawei P9 really hit the nail on the head this time round?

 

Design

The Huawei P9 looks as if it’s taken most of its design influence from an Apple iPhone 6S. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and Android users would be very pleased with how good this phone actually looks. In a similar fashion the rear of the phone has been shrouded in a metal finish. Combine this with its almost flat but slightly rounded sides and an almost bezelesss screen and it creates for one super smart-looking phone.

Down the right hand side you will find your volume rocker as well as a lock/power button. On the bottom is a single USB connection for charging and file transfer to a computer as well as your 3.5mm auxillery headphone jack. The top left side is a housing for your microsim and microSD card which will need the small but included in the box metal tool to open. The rear and sides have a matte silver type finish to them while the front is covered in black.

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The phone is compatible with storage capacities of up to 128GB on a microSD card on top of the 32/64GB in-built storage. This enables you to store a lot of music and photos/videos to your device. There is no Adoptable Storage feature here so no apps can be installed to the microSD card.

The biggest issue for me in terms of design was with the rear of the phone. Because of the matte metal finish, the phone tended to be very slippery to hold. I never really felt as if it was secure enough. I would recommend – which is terrible as it’ll ruin so much aesthetic – to house the phone in some kind of protective case, just so it gives you that extra security and removes any kind of slippery feel.

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On the rear of the phone you will find a fingerprint scanner which was actually pretty accurate during our testing and managed to unlock the phone relatively quickly.  At the top of the rear of the phone you will find two cameras and your LED flash. All in all, the Huawei P9 is easily good-looking enough to take on some of the prettiest handsets we’ve seen this year like the Samsung Galaxy S7 or even the newly released iPhone 7.

 

Display

With regards to Huawei’s choice of display, there really isn’t anything to shout about here. Coming in at 5.2 inches with a native resolution of 1920 x 1080, it doesn’t quite add up to the quality of some of the other flagship phones out there; like the QHD 2560 x 1440 resolution on the Samsung Galaxy S7. Although saying that, there wasn’t any issue with colour reproduction or even reading text as everything seemed as sharp as my Samsung daily driver.

The pixel density sits at 423ppi, which was pleasing enough to the naked eye. I didn’t really notice any kind of pixelation when looking through even the more detailed photos taken with the camera. Reading text on the Google Chrome app was pleasing too, and didn’t find myself zooming in to read some of the smaller text. Technology of choice here is LCD, which is great for colour reproduction. The blacks are reletively deep, but white levels were not the brightest or whitest we’ve seen on a handset.

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Truth be told, the display on the Huawei P9 will suit pretty much everyone unless you’re that one person who has perfect eyes that notice minute differences in pixel density or resolution on a five-inch screen. These people I don’t think exist, not without looking at a spec sheet first.

 

Performance

Performance is where the Huawei P9 shines. Over the few weeks of testing, I never saw the phone to really slow down. Apps opened seamlessly and quickly swishing from menu to menu was a faultless task. Yes, there were a few stutters at times, but what phone on the market doesn’t experience these? I didn’t feel that this really hindered any kind of performance the flagship phone had to offer.

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Running the phone through our benchmark of choice Geekbench 4 gave us a score of 1,746 on a single core and 5,278 on multi-core processors. This is pretty impressive and generally tells that you will be able to multitask with very small slowdowns on the device. The 3DMark benchmark wasn’t quite there compared to other flagship devices on the market like the Samsung S7, but it was good enough to play some 3D games such as Real Racing 3 or Modern Combat 5. The 3DMark score was 869.

 

Camera

What is interesting here is Huawei’s implementation of two cameras. That’s right, there is a dual-system in play here when taking photos. The camera’s hardware and software was developed by Leica exclusively for the P9. This is where this phone absolutely shines, and in my experience with the phone, was definitely one of the best cameras attached to a flagship phone. The phone isn’t that expensive in comparison either which means you’re getting a wicked snapper for a decent price.

Technical specs include two cameras, both with a 12 megapixel Sony IMX286 sensor. There is also a two-tone LED flash to give you a more natural skin tone shade during low light photography as well as a pretty quick autofocus. The difference between both lenses is that one captures a full RGB spectrum while the other captures a monochrome image. These two images are then combined using the phone’s camera technology to give you a more realistic and sharper colour spectrum compared to other phones.

Both lenses have a f2.2 aperture setting which is where the camera is able to capture sharper images during low-light conditions. This is by no means best in class as Samsung and HTC with their flagships hit as low as f1.7. However, the shallow depth of field performance from the Huawei P9 definitely outshines anything that comes out of a competitor’s handset.

The best way we found to take images was using the P9’s manual modes giving you control of the focus, ISO, aperture and shutter speeds. You would definitely need a little bit of knowledge to be able to match the settings to the subject. But once these settings have been sussed, and you can find a healthy balance, the photos able to be taken are absolutely on point.

The video camera unfortunately only uses one of the lens. However it does capture some pretty smooth looking 1080p video at 60 frames per second which is very impressive for such a small camera. Quality when you transfer the video to a larger screen on your laptop, desktop or even HDTV is seamless. It doesn’t capture 4K video like some of the other flagship phone models but again, this I didn’t see as a huge problem.

There are also modes which you would expect from such a high-end camera like panoramic, slo-mo, timelapse and even Instagram inspired filters that can be applied before or after a photo has been taken. Overall, the camera performance on the Huawei P9 is stunning, and definitely a tool that any budding photographer would need in their pocket incase their main driver ran out of battery on a shoot.

 

Verdict

The Huawei P9 by a long shot isn’t the highest specced phone on the market, nor does it do, except the camera, anything exceptionally well. It is however a good all-round device if you are looking for something that will not break the bank but still perform well enough for your every day tasks. As I said above, the real reason this phone would come out on top is for its camera. It’s one of the best, if not the best camera we’ve seen attached to a mobile phone to date.

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Price wise the P9 is one of the cheaper flagship phones on the market, making this a very lucrative deal if you are after an everyday device. If you would like to find more information on the handset, or even make a purchase yourself, you can visit the Vodafone website.