Huawei P9 Review

Introduction


Some say that the best camera is the one you have with you, which is one of the reasons why people now turn to their phones for snapping the occasional photo. The Huawei P9, however, doesn’t want to be just another _phone_ with a good camera. It is here to reinvent smartphone photography with its dual-camera setup, engineered in partnership with Leica.

Huawei P9 Review
Huawei P9 Review
Bold claims aside, the Huawei P9 is the company’s latest flagship Android smartphone, and as such, it aims to impress with more than just its intriguing photographic capabilities. It has been engineered to meet the expectations of a broad range of customers, including those who demand the very best. Needless to say, high-end rivals from Apple, Samsung, and LG have set the bar high, but the P9 is shaping up as a _phone_ that can leap over it. Let us find out if that’s the case.

The box contains:

  • Huawei P9
  • Wall charger (Output: 5V, 2A)
  • USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable
  • Wired stereo headset with microphone and volume buttons
  • SIM card tray ejector
  • Quick start guide

Design


“I’m an individual that favors style and exquisite build quality. I’m also secretly into Battlestar Galactica.” – this is the statement you’ll be making if you’re seen holding one of these. Indeed, whoever designed the Huawei P9 knows their stuff. The chamfered edges make for a smooth transition between the curved-edge glass covering the screen and the metal back plate of this appealing handset, while the sides and corners are rounded just right to make the unit comfortable to hold. But a dash of “nerd” has been added to the formula, and we’re not sure whether we like it or not. That camera setup at the back spoils the otherwise elegant appearance of the P9, although it also serves as a reminder that the dual-lens snapper is the phone’s key highlight.

Front view | Side view
Huawei P9
Huawei P9
5.71 x 2.79 x 0.27 inches
145 x 70.9 x 6.95 mm
5.08 oz (144 g)

Huawei P9

Apple iPhone 6s
Apple iPhone 6s
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Apple iPhone 6s

Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S7
5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7

LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5



As we hinted above, the Huawei P9 is pleasant to touch and hold. It is light and not as large as you might expect considering the size of its display. Conveniently placed on its right side are the power key and volume rocker. And speaking of convenience, at the phone’s bottom we see a USB Type-C port, meaning that the charging cable goes in either way. Your old Micro USB cables will not work with this new connector, however.

On the back of the Huawei P9 we find a fingerprint reader – one of the fastest we’ve ever used. It is highly reliable as well, rarely failing to read our finger correctly from the first try. Moreover, it has been integrated into the software, but we’ll dive deeper into that on the next page.

 

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Display


With the P9, Huawei is aiming to deliver a bezel-less visual effect, as if there’s nothing between the handset’s sides and the display’s left and right edges. Turning the screen on, however, reveals that it is surrounded by a black border, which makes the effect much less striking when the phone is in use.

Huawei P9 Review
As far as technicalities go, the Huawei P9 sports a 1080x1920-pixel display measuring 5.2 inches in diagonal. It’s no Quad HD panel, but we’re perfectly happy even with the 424 pixels per inch that it packs. First of all, that’s more than enough resolution to deliver smooth, detailed visuals. In addition, sticking to 1080p over Quad HD means there will be less strain put on the GPU by visually demanding games and apps, which will result in higher frame rates and better battery life.

On the downside, the screen lags in color accuracy, and that’s clear to see even with a naked eye. The most noticeable flaw is the bluish tint that dominates whites and highlights being displayed. Furthermore, our screen tests indicate a tendency for oversaturation. We doubt that a typical user would ever be bothered by that, but we are, as the color boost gives images a slightly artificial, exaggerated look. At least the 450 nits of brightness are enough to provide adequate outdoor visibility.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Apple iPhone 6s 554
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1593
(Excellent)
7056
(Good)
2.21
1.47
(Excellent)
3.23
(Good)
Samsung Galaxy S7 484
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6852
(Excellent)
2.07
1.26
(Excellent)
2.09
(Good)
Huawei P9 458
(Good)
4
(Excellent)
1:1277
(Excellent)
8505
(Poor)
2.24
4.42
(Average)
9.72
(Poor)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 55.2%
50%
unmeasurable
5.2%
0%
254%
109.1%
Huawei P9 79.9%
75%
80.7%
2.2%
8.9%
0.7%
12.6%
Apple iPhone 6s 82.9%
83.3%
79.8%
5.1%
10.9%
56.5%
53.9%
LG G5 86%
87.5%
89%
4.7%
16.8%
8.5%
14%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Huawei P9 Review

Introduction


Some say that the best camera is the one you have with you, which is one of the reasons why people now turn to their phones for snapping the occasional photo. The Huawei P9, however, doesn’t want to be just another phone with a good camera. It is here to reinvent smartphone photography with its dual-camera setup, engineered in partnership with Leica.

Huawei P9 Review
Huawei P9 Review
Bold claims aside, the Huawei P9 is the company’s latest flagship Android smartphone, and as such, it aims to impress with more than just its intriguing photographic capabilities. It has been engineered to meet the expectations of a broad range of customers, including those who demand the very best. Needless to say, high-end rivals from Apple, Samsung, and LG have set the bar high, but the P9 is shaping up as a phone that can leap over it. Let us find out if that’s the case.

The box contains:

  • Huawei P9
  • Wall charger (Output: 5V, 2A)
  • USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable
  • Wired stereo headset with microphone and volume buttons
  • SIM card tray ejector
  • Quick start guide

Design


“I’m an individual that favors style and exquisite build quality. I’m also secretly into Battlestar Galactica.” – this is the statement you’ll be making if you’re seen holding one of these. Indeed, whoever designed the Huawei P9 knows their stuff. The chamfered edges make for a smooth transition between the curved-edge glass covering the screen and the metal back plate of this appealing handset, while the sides and corners are rounded just right to make the unit comfortable to hold. But a dash of “nerd” has been added to the formula, and we’re not sure whether we like it or not. That camera setup at the back spoils the otherwise elegant appearance of the P9, although it also serves as a reminder that the dual-lens snapper is the phone’s key highlight.

Front view | Side view
Huawei P9
Huawei P9
5.71 x 2.79 x 0.27 inches
145 x 70.9 x 6.95 mm
5.08 oz (144 g)

Huawei P9

Apple iPhone 6s
Apple iPhone 6s
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Apple iPhone 6s

Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S7
5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7

LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5



As we hinted above, the Huawei P9 is pleasant to touch and hold. It is light and not as large as you might expect considering the size of its display. Conveniently placed on its right side are the power key and volume rocker. And speaking of convenience, at the phone’s bottom we see a USB Type-C port, meaning that the charging cable goes in either way. Your old Micro USB cables will not work with this new connector, however.

On the back of the Huawei P9 we find a fingerprint reader – one of the fastest we’ve ever used. It is highly reliable as well, rarely failing to read our finger correctly from the first try. Moreover, it has been integrated into the software, but we’ll dive deeper into that on the next page.


Display


With the P9, Huawei is aiming to deliver a bezel-less visual effect, as if there’s nothing between the handset’s sides and the display’s left and right edges. Turning the screen on, however, reveals that it is surrounded by a black border, which makes the effect much less striking when the phone is in use.

Huawei P9 Review
As far as technicalities go, the Huawei P9 sports a 1080x1920-pixel display measuring 5.2 inches in diagonal. It’s no Quad HD panel, but we’re perfectly happy even with the 424 pixels per inch that it packs. First of all, that’s more than enough resolution to deliver smooth, detailed visuals. In addition, sticking to 1080p over Quad HD means there will be less strain put on the GPU by visually demanding games and apps, which will result in higher frame rates and better battery life.

On the downside, the screen lags in color accuracy, and that’s clear to see even with a naked eye. The most noticeable flaw is the bluish tint that dominates whites and highlights being displayed. Furthermore, our screen tests indicate a tendency for oversaturation. We doubt that a typical user would ever be bothered by that, but we are, as the color boost gives images a slightly artificial, exaggerated look. At least the 450 nits of brightness are enough to provide adequate outdoor visibility.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Apple iPhone 6s 554
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1593
(Excellent)
7056
(Good)
2.21
1.47
(Excellent)
3.23
(Good)
Samsung Galaxy S7 484
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6852
(Excellent)
2.07
1.26
(Excellent)
2.09
(Good)
Huawei P9 458
(Good)
4
(Excellent)
1:1277
(Excellent)
8505
(Poor)
2.24
4.42
(Average)
9.72
(Poor)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 55.2%
50%
unmeasurable
5.2%
0%
254%
109.1%
Huawei P9 79.9%
75%
80.7%
2.2%
8.9%
0.7%
12.6%
Apple iPhone 6s 82.9%
83.3%
79.8%
5.1%
10.9%
56.5%
53.9%
LG G5 86%
87.5%
89%
4.7%
16.8%
8.5%
14%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Interface and functionality


EMUI 4.1 – this is the name of the custom software running on the Huawei P9. It is based on Android 6.0, but looks and feels nothing like it, having undergone a thorough visual and functional overhaul. All in all, the software is one of the things that you’ll either love or hate about this smartphone. If you consider yourself a power user, if you are into knobs, switches, and dials, then the latest version of EMUI might be just your cup of tea. A more typical user, on the other hand, might find themselves overwhelmed by all the settings and features they’re given access to, especially if they’re never going to need them.

Moving into specifics, the UI drops the app drawer entirely in an effort to emulate the feel of Apple’s iOS. All installed apps are placed on your homescreen, with the options to have them organized in folders. We don’t mind the change, actually, as many would find this UI layout simpler to use and manage. Speaking of software, some bloat apps comes pre-loaded, but they can be uninstalled the usual way.

EMUI gives us plenty of freedom to customize the look and feel of the interface, which we have nothing against. We’re given a selection of themes, various transition effects, and the option to switch to Simple mode, which gives you a clean, minimalist UI layout. An added bonus is the one-handed mode, accessible by swiping sideways over the on-screen buttons.

Another feature we’re content with is the integration of the fingerprint scanner into the UI. For instance, it can be used to restrict access to certain applications and files. Also, swiping down on the scanner pulls down your notifications panel, which is neat. Moreover, a tap on the reader triggers the camera shutter, thus making it easier for us to snap selfies from extreme angles.

And there’s even more to like about Huawei’s software. For example, the built-in back-up solution could be useful one day, and the fitness assistant tracks our activity pretty accurately. All in all, EMUI 4.0 is a refinement over its previous iterations. It is still the feature-rich UI we know from other Huawei handsets, but with less getting in the user’s way. If you’re into simpler, minimalist solutions, however, you might need some time to get used to its peculiarities.

System performance


Huawei P9 Review

The brains of the Huawei P9 we’re reviewing is an octa-core Kirin 955 SoC, paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. We must make it clear that a 4GB/64GB model will be available as well, albeit at a much higher price. But even in its current configuration, the phone runs very smoothly through the interface. Lags and slowdowns are nearly non-existent, and even demanding 3D games run at high framerates. Sure, the chip lags behind in benchmark scores when compared to the Snapdragon 820, but it is still competent enough to handle whatever we throw at it in our day-to-day use.

As we mentioned, there will be a 64-gigabyte Huawei P9, but the model we’re reviewing has 32GB of the stuff, with 25GB available to the user. That’s plenty of space already, and in case you need extra for your photos and media, there’s a microSD card slot at your disposal.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 136695
LG G5 134074
Huawei P9 96185
Apple iPhone 6s 59075
Vellamo Metal
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 3632
LG G5 3515
Huawei P9 2940.33
Vellamo Browser
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 5339
LG G5 4498
Huawei P9 6679.66
JetStream
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 62.049
LG G5 52.218
Huawei P9 67.93
Apple iPhone 6s 118.91
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 53
LG G5 54.33
Huawei P9 42.66
Apple iPhone 6s 59.1
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 29
LG G5 17
Huawei P9 11
Apple iPhone 6s 56.1
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 1943
LG G5 1913
Huawei P9 1946
Apple iPhone 6s 2139
Geekbench 3 single-core
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 2327
LG G5 2344
Huawei P9 1756
Apple iPhone 6s 2539
Geekbench 3 multi-core
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 5455
LG G5 5442
Huawei P9 6475
Apple iPhone 6s 4421
View all

Internet and connectivity


Chrome is the browser of choice on the Huawei P9 - Huawei P9 Review
Chrome is the browser of choice on the Huawei P9 - Huawei P9 Review

Chrome is the browser of choice on the Huawei P9

Chrome is the browser of choice found on the Huawei P9 and it works as reliably as always. Page rendering is fast, scrolling is smooth, and you have access to goodies like data compression and the ability to sync data between devices you’re logged into. And on a screen of this size, browsing the web is mostly a hassle-free experience.

Having decades of experience in wireless communications, Huawei has thrown some of its own tech into the P9. For instance, the triple cellular antenna configuration automatically adapts to the way you’re holding the phone, thus optimizing reception strength. We find it odd, however, that the 64GB and the dual-SIM versions of the phone lack NFC.

Camera


Huawei P9 Review

We’ve seen dual camera setups before, but never one quite like what the Huawei P9 packs. The phone boasts two 12MP F2.2 snappers co-engineered with Leica – a company known for its high-quality cameras and optics. In essence, one of the modules takes color images, while the other shoots monochrome photos. The two images are then merged intelligently in software to produce a photo combining the colors of the regular sensor with the detail of the black-and-white one, or at least that’s the theory.

The stock camera application takes a few seconds to load, probably because it is packed with knobs and switches for us to tinker with. The default shooting mode is plain and simple, but a swipe up brings out manual camera controls for focus, white balance, ISO, and exposure time – handy for photography enthusiasts. There’s also a mode that adds a bokeh effect to the image, presumably by using visual data from both cameras. In plain words, the background is blurred to accentuate on the subject being photographed. HDR, Burst Mode, RAW output, and object tracking are also present. There’s no 4K video support, however.

As far as image quality goes, the Huawei P9 takes good photos. Really good, in fact, with faithful color representation, accurate white balance, plenty of detail in the shots, and well-controlled sharpness. Dynamic sceneries – where both bright and dark areas are within the frame – tend to look underexposed, however, so you might want to give these a little boost with a tap on the screen. The HDR mode is very modest with its intervention and rarely makes a striking difference.

At night, the Huawei P9 takes decent photos, but it doesn’t set a new standard in smartphone photography. We’d rank it on par with other high-ends in this respect. Its secret weapon – the monochrome camera – can be of some advantage in low light as it is more sensitive to light, but you’d be sacrificing color, obviously. Interestingly, the Night Mode can shoot excellent images – the best night shots you’ll ever see out of a phone – but a tripod is a must when using the feature, as it uses long exposure times, over 10 seconds at times.


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Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 1.5
1.6
315
281
Apple iPhone 6s 1.7
1.9
485
293
LG G5 2.2
2.7
505
480
Huawei P9 2.7
3
No data
No data
View all

Then there are the gimmicks thrown in the P9’s camera app. As we mentioned, there’s a mode adding background blur to images, but we don’t see ourselves using it daily. True, it works really well in certain cases, but the effect looks artificial and forced in others. If you want to use it anyway, try to avoid setting its strength to the maximum. This can be done even after the photo has been taken, which is nice.


Video quality is average, both in daytime and low-light scenes. Details are lacking and the continuous autofocus takes a long while to kick in. At least the stereo sound being recorded is loud and clear.

Multimedia


Huawei P9 Review

The stock photo gallery on the Honor P9 is what you use to view and share images. It also holds a valuable cache of image editing tools – from basic cropping and rotating to highlights and shadows adjustment. Videos can be viewed in the same application, but you don’t get any more advanced tools, such as video trimming.

Sound comes out of a single loudspeaker placed at the Huawei P9’s bottom. Its quality can be best described as average, as it is sufficiently loud and doesn’t crackle, but lacks in depth. Besides, its position makes it prone to being covered while we’re holding the phone in landscape orientation. We’re not thrilled by the bundled set of Earpod-esque earphones, but they get the job done.

Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 0.986
Samsung Galaxy S7 0.704
Huawei P9 0.32
LG G5 0.29
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 69.6
Samsung Galaxy S7 72.7
Huawei P9 76
LG G5 73
View all


Call Quality and battery life


Huawei P9 Review

We have no complaints about the way the Huawei P9 sounds during calls. The earpiece is sufficiently loud, and voices coming out of it are natural in tone. On the other side of the line we’re easily understood, without having to repeat ourselves.

Battery-wise, our custom battery benchmark drained the Huawei P9’s 3000mAh battery in less than 7 hours, which is an average result. It puts the phone ahead of rivals like the Galaxy S7 and LG G5, at least in this respect, but leaves it far from the leaders on our endurance chart. We’d say that our benchmark result reflects the P9’s day-to-day battery life, as we couldn’t get through more than a day of regular usage. Actually, we’re certain that heavy users will be reaching for a charger by the evening.

As far as charging goes, the Huawei P9 charges more slowly than its high-end rivals. It goes from flat to full in over 2 hours, which is relatively slow. A quick, 30-minute boost gets its battery from empty to 33%, which is okay, but not impressive.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 8h 15 min (Excellent)
Huawei P9 6h 51 min (Average)
Samsung Galaxy S7 6h 37 min (Average)
LG G5 5h 51 min (Average)
Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
Apple iPhone 6s 150
Huawei P9 146
Samsung Galaxy S7 88
LG G5 76
View all

Conclusion


There’s a steep price tag attached to the Huawei P9. In its basic configuration, the smartphone retails for $600 to $650, which means that buyers will be expecting to get tons of value in return.

All in all, Huawei’s new flagship is a good smartphone. Not a ground-breaking one, but a good one nonetheless. Throughout our testing, we did not come across any major, deal-breaking flaws. The UI ran smoothly, the camera worked fine, and the screen, despite its inaccurate color reproduction, got the job done. But at the same time, there doesn’t seem to be anything to make the Huawei P9 stand above the competition. True, its camera can snap pretty pictures once you get the hang of it, but it failed to meet the high expectations set by Huawei’s marketing department.

Huawei P9 Review
Huawei P9 Review
Huawei P9 Review
Huawei P9 Review

Ultimately, is the Huawei P9 a worthy pick? Well, we did enjoy the time we spent in its company, but there’s one thing we wish its maker could improve on – battery life. The phone is an average performer at best, as confirmed by our battery benchmark and real-life experience. Honestly, we we were expecting better results given the P9’s price point.



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