Huawei P9 review: two eyes see more than one?

Last year was fantastic for Huawei, and it doesn't look like 2016 will be any different. Phones like the P family are largely to blame for their growth, as they bet on growing at levels closer to the high-end with solutions that offered a lot for less than other competitors. Much of the blame for your poster at this level can be attributed to the great Nexus 6P.

With the Huawei P9 / P9 Plus we reach the fourth generation of a family that wants to play with the bigger ones, getting a little closer every year, and I attest that in this iteration the jump is important, mainly in presence and camera. Reputation is another thing, since in such expensive phones you have to sweat blood quarter by quarter so that people change their minds. For advertising it will not be, there Huawei is throwing the rest.

Video review

The third phone maker is missing a step to annoy the highest range on the market, but that step is getting smaller

Before going to analyze section by section, we have to remember that the camera is a purchase factor with too much weight, especially in the price at which these phones move. Manufacturers know this and the P9 could not be born dead without significant improvement. The solution has been to join Leica and bet on being the first to put a different dual camera system on the market, in which one of the sensors records the information without color.

Huawei P9, technical characteristics Physical dimensions 145 x 70.9 x 6.95 mm screen IPS 5.2 inches Resolution 1,920 x 1,080 (423 dpi) Processor HiSilicon Kirin 955, 4 Cortex-A53 at 1.8 GHz and 4 Cortex-A72 at 2.5 GHz RAM 3/4 GB Memory 32/64 GB (expandable to another 128 GB via microSD) Software version Android 6.0 with EMUI 4.1 Connectivity LTE Cat 6, NFC, Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi 802.11ac Cameras 2 x 12 Mpixels (RGB + monochrome) without stabilization f / 2.2 Leica, front 8 MP f / 2.0 Others Fingerprint sensor, USB-C connector Battery 3,000 mAh Price 599 euros 3GB RAM / 32 GB
649 euros 4GB RAM / 64 GB

Design: prettier, better made

For being such a focused phone to demonstrate that your camera is special, it has nothing in its design to go with it in this theory: neither the position of the camera, nor a handle - even as an accessory - or even a special button to take the shots. The Chinese company has wanted everything to remain as a "normal Huawei" and current.

Another example that in quality, elegance and design, Huawei is at the level of the best on the market. Good materials and finish, a taste for detail

Well, normal and ordinary does not mean it is bad, here is a very high manufacturing technology, also a great choice of materials - it is aluminum. Huawei knows how to make attractive, elegant phones, and over time it is gaining a personality with its design language. It is difficult to achieve this in the high range, but they are already there. That you like it more or less than others is another story.

The phone tries by all means to fall comfortably into the hand, despite its metallic forcefulness. How? Well, rounding every possible part, from the front glass, to the sides, through a subtle bevel at each corner. It is very well made and in this size it can still be used easily with one hand.

The area of ​​the camera we can consider that it has a special design, placed on the upper back of the phone, and completely protected by a Gorilla Glass 3 type glass. Yes, starting from the two lenses to the right area where Leica confirms Its certification is defended by this type of surface, and the truth is that it is quite attractive.

Regarding the competition, it is quite powerful in thinness and lightness: 144 grams. In just 7 millimeters thick they have put 3,000 mAh of battery

In the back there is a fingerprint sensor, a place that seems more uncomfortable to me than in the front, but this is already a matter of taste. We do like the cleanliness of the set with respect to the antennas - they do not pass through the terminal in a very unsightly way, they are well integrated.

Some less important details but I would like to comment: the dotting that the power button has, recognizable without looking, or how attractive the line pattern on the front and camera area is. We do not forget the presence of a USB-C connector below, where we also have the mono speaker and the headphone jack.

Being very demanding with the design, and without wanting to enter a dispute of tastes, to me the only phone that seems different to me is the curved Galaxy S7, it is one step ahead, and it is the only step that I see that Huawei is missing for crossing to be outstanding. But as always, for tastes, colors. Continuing with things that do not make it perfect, say that the aluminum on the back is scratched if we are not careful enough.

The Huawei P9 is a great evolution with respect to the P8, in every way, but where it has gained the most is in presence

In what colors can you get it? Well, we have a Mystic Silver that mixes aluminum with white, and it is the one I like the most. There is also the very fashionable Rose Gold, a Titanium Gray and the one that Asians like, the Prestige Gold. Although there is no talk about its marketing, there is a ceramic variant of the phone.

A remarkable and conservative display

The screen of the Huawei P9 is 5.2 inches, it is within what most are looking for, much better than the mammoth unit found in the Mate 8. As in this, the design is very successful so that almost all its surface occupy the front of the phone, and although the frames are minimal, there is a black line there that tries to fool us a bit.

From a technological point of view, it is remarkable, for technology and resolution. I do not think it will take long for Huawei to move to better panels, or at least more modern, but for now it is still planted in this, which is doing well to produce cheaply and get very good returns on their phones.

Gorilla Glass protection extends over the entire front of the phone, also on the camera. We like the curved effect that the 2.5D design gives you on the sides of the screen

With "old" technology I mean Full HD resolution, which at 5.2 inches is quite passable, maybe not so much in the Plus version of the phone. Looking at the performance of the new Kirin, this resolution has been shown to come from pearls, that's how it was with the Mate 8, and that's how it is repeated in the P9.

Regarding the usual parameters to assess, we find a level of brightness on the average, nothing remarkable, and hesitant when there is a lot of sunlight where we are. Moving on to the contrast, the level is outstanding on an IPS panel (they call it Neo). Ending with the color temperature, to say that it is configured to be very striking - saturated - but somewhat artificial with respect to the real tones.

Comment that the Plus model, 5.5 inches, has the same resolution, but they have a Super AMOLED panel that is possibly better in many sections. Also released in it is a system called Press Touch, which is like Apple's 3D Touch. Unfortunately I have not had a chance to try it, to help you understand if it is worth opting for that version.

Two cameras with Leica's consent

We have already talked about the technology used in the camera at length, now that we have it in our hands it is much easier to understand certain things, and we hope to be able to explain them better. First of all, having two cameras on this phone is not the same as what we have seen in previous configurations, here it is played with merging what it is to capture a "normal" and a monochrome sensor.

Theory says that the monochrome sensor does not have a bayer filter to record color, causing it to receive more light - three times more - and information than its fatigue partner. This implies that in the union of the photos there must be more detail, less noise, and better performance in low light situations.

Having two cameras also allows the system to better understand the distance to objects, which helps with autofocus and other tricks - extreme bokeh - that we'll cover later. Huawei adds laser assistance to this focus system. Leaving the ability to merge images aside, the monochrome sensor can go a long way on its own.

Performance is better than what Huawei already offered, so ‘Leica certifications’ on the sidelines, the mission is accomplished

The two cameras have 12-megapixel sensors - they are not Sony, Sunny Optical makes them - both with lenses with a maximum aperture of f / 2.2, which is not a record in the market, but has weapons to mitigate differences. Where it is one step behind is in optical stabilization, since it does not have it.

It is curious, apart from the double configuration, almost all the major manufacturers have decided that the ideal size for these small sensors is around that number of megapixels, seeking that the photodiodes are larger and better record the information.

In the case of the Huawei P9 they have a size of 1.25 microns, which is similar to that of an iPhone 6s, significantly smaller than those of a Galaxy S7, for me the best on the market. Continuing with important data, we have that the lenses are 27 millimeters.

The double sensor brings quality

The Huawei P9 takes very good photos, in most circumstances, although it tends to underexpose. There are some modes that work really well like night mode, monochrome, or panoramic, and others in which it lags behind, like when we talk about recording video, or HDR.

On the mobile screen it looks really good, as has been the norm, but when we pass the images to the computer, especially when we do it in DNG mode, we see that there is good material to work with. Pretty realistic color, good white balance, and a lot of detail, I would even say that too contrasted for it, possibly due to the fact of merging the info of the two sensors.

Running in low light is not great as you can see from the latest Samsung, LG or Apple mobiles. In general - speed, quality, video - we could say that they are one point behind the best in the market, an evaluation that may seem harsh considering the ingredients released, but the reality is that they started from a point quite far with the Mate 8 and other high ranges of the house.

See complete gallery »Huawei P9 - samples (19 photos)

Keeping in mind the competition, we can say that it is not the fastest high-end phone either, when it comes to focusing, or when registering the photo. Not having a stabilizer in the optics makes it difficult to take some objects clearly, especially if the lighting conditions are not good.

Monochrome

This is a Leica thing, or at least it beats him a lot. As we have already explained, it is not about desaturating the images, it is not a typical filter: here the sensor collects the information in a range of grays, in monochrome. The detail that it captures is really remarkable, also the dynamic range in its particular scale.

We liked the monochrome sensor and the interface, here there is a level for a high-end phone, another thing is that there are phones one step above

If you like this type of photography, you can have a good time with its 12 megapixels. But we understand that it is not the most attractive mode of use for most, so it is not a factor to sell phones or weigh too much on the final note. It is also an interesting way to use in low light.

See complete gallery »Monochromes (10 photos)

Frontal camera

The P9's front camera is 8 megapixels, with a wide-angle lens with a maximum aperture of f / 2.4. The result of the shots is quite satisfactory, in colors and definition.

There is no shortage of the ‘Perfect Selfie’ mode that “beautifies” us, so appreciated in Asian markets, and this time it is also portable to video. There is also a flash mode that is done with the light on the screen.

Panoramic

As with the Mate 8, panoramas are one of the best-resolved modes on the P9, and with few rivals on the market. They come out easily and strange areas rarely appear with the joints, it is also quite effective with the areas where the exposure is changed.

The resulting files go above 22 megapixels if the shot is vertical, and we go to 30 megapixels in horizontal sweeps of 180 degrees. I post some examples in reduced size, if someone has an interest in seeing originals, just tell me.

Night mode

Another of the usable modes of the phone, yes with a tripod or some way to support the phone without moving anything at all. So it makes great pictures, which can take up to 30 seconds, which is the maximum programmable time.

There is an “auto” option that only determines the time necessary for a good shot, although we can pause it when we consider that what we see on the screen is already correct. Yes, we see live how the photo is changing and it is really useful.

The photos that result in this way are 8 megapixels, and for me one of the best implementations that are long-exposure in the mobile market. A couple of examples that look like quite normal photos, but are made in a much darker environment than it seems:

Bokeh to taste

We leave for the end the way in which the aperture is played and quite striking bokeh effects are achieved. There is a lot of software here to get the best out of both cameras, and it works well in some cases, in others it seems too artificial.

Once the image is taken we can change the focus point, also the aperture that interests us. The simulated result will be drawn on the screen, which we can save as a final image. At the maximum size we can put a somewhat exaggerated f / 0.95, inherited from the Leica Noctilux lens.

No 4K on video

Video quality is average, especially in good light, and as long as we talk about 1080p at 60 frames per second (34Mbps). We can go down to 720p by increasing the speed to 120 images per second.

We don't like the lack of stabilization in optics, faster focus, or the lack of 4K recording

There is not as much detail as we have in the photo, the dynamic range is fair, and the continuous autofocus is a little awkward. We can speak well of contrast and image stabilization, despite being done digitally.




There's no 4K mode on this phone, which sounds weird for a model who wants to be important when it comes to the camera. Possibly it has to do with the ability of the hardware to manage this amount of information with guarantees. Yes we can speak well of the recording of stereo sound, loud and clear (192kbps).

Interface

We found the interface of the application very good, it is learned in a moment and it is easy to use. They take advantage of the relationship with Leica to place the icons and typography of the Germans, which are very attractive.

The automatic mode of the P9 works very well, you don't have to be an ax to take good photos. Although we can play at a fairly low level the parameters

With a gesture from the left we have access to the main modes of use, with another from the right, as we access more advanced settings. If we do it upwards, a fairly decent manual mode appears - manual focus, shooting speed, balance, ISO -, and support for saving in RAW.

Although not new, we like the ability to tactually separate the light metering point from the focus point. Not so much how complicated it is to change the exposure of the photo by touch.

See complete gallery »Huawei P9 camera (11 photos)

Leica comes to mobile

Much controversy regarding this, that if Leica arrives to put the signature and receive money, that if she is involved from the beginning, many opinions about it and all seem to be a little right. Be that as it may, they have claimed our attention.

No one will doubt that there is a different job here than with other mobile cameras, and what is certain is that Leica is committed to certifying what the camera takes, which we can describe as remarkable. They also promise us that it is not a two-day relationship, they hope to continue growing together in the mobile market, and we hope to enjoy it.

Considering the minuscule space left by mobiles, it seems logical to think that the multiple camera configurations manage to steal the terrain from larger sensors. Not only Huawei is going to advance in this way, we have seen it in LG, and everything indicates that Apple is in it.

The P9 does not revolutionize cameras in the mobile world, there are better phones in most of the important sections, but we know how to value their novelties

Kirin 955, fair performance for the high-end

For those who do not know how Huawei does things, quickly summarize that they are capable of creating their own chipsets, that is, the processor and added circuitry necessary to operate a mobile phone, is designed and manufactured by them. They do it with a company called HiSilicon, and their creations are baptized as Kirin.

About the hardware that we find in the Huawei P9 we have spoken at length in the analysis of the Huawei Mate8. Despite not being the same, the Kirin 955 is a small evolution over the 950, but we practically have the same element structure, somewhat more squeezed in their speeds.

Being concrete, we have eight cores, four of them are the modern Cortex-A72, which here operate at 2.5GHz (2.3GHz on the Mate 8). The other four are 1.8GHz ARM Cortex-A53. The graphics processing unit is the same, an ARM Mali-T880 MP4 GPU, much better than previous Huawei, but it still lacks to deal with more powerful displays.

Great performance of the Kirin 955 in most things that we can do with a phone, although it may not be ideal to play with the latest that appears

Overall we get a bit better performance than the Mate 8, one step behind the latest Qualcomm and Samsung chipsets. Comment that Samsung also opts for a T880, but with triple the cores. Where this hardware is really efficient is in multi-core CPU work, somewhat less in GPU, so the idea of ​​placing a Full HD screen is good.

The phone moves the system perfectly, you will not find lags in the main interface, nor can we say that there are current games that move badly on it. Although I am not a friend of benchmarks, I understand that there are people who want to know how the team works, I will share here some data about benchmarks:

See complete gallery »Benchs (8 photos)

As for games, we have tried Fifa 2016 and Real Racing and they work really well, better than in the Mate 8 and at the height of the best phone. The car game is very fluid, but we cannot say for this reason that the performance of the GPU will be the same with titles to come. Remember that here we always stay in Full HD resolution, the Kirin 955 will not have as much ease with new screens.

In the version that we are dealing with we find 3GB of RAM (DDR4) and 32GB for storage - about 25GB are free for the user. There is a variant that doubles this last amount, and adds a giga of RAM. In any case we can expand using microSD cards.

The phone doesn't heat up significantly, even in games like Real Racing 3 that works really well on the P9. There are specific cases in which it is noted that the metal rises in temperature as when a WiFi point is created with it.

Great fingerprint sensor that Huawei implements in its high range. We have 32GB of expandable memory with microSD card

We can take a moment to comment on the fingerprint sensor, as it works perfectly. It is as fast as accurate recognizing our fingerprints, although I would have liked it to be on the front, which is here designed to place the brand's logo, there are no navigation buttons.

Improves autonomy, but is not brilliant

The P8 was not a portento in autonomy, that in Huawei they usually leave it for the fireproof Mate, but in the P9 a significant better was needed to match the competition. Well, the first thing they have done is raise the battery from 2,600 to 3,000 mAh, without the body suffering.

Reality says that autonomy is better than in last year's model, but it is not an element to highlight either. We move in the middle of the high range, you know, use it intensively during the day, and charge when the night comes.

Significant improvement over P8, but on a phone that moves in the autonomy range, fast charging should be required

We have a Performance mode that eats the battery before but everything works better, then a normal one that adds a couple of hours of use. There are two more steps, an economy mode and one known as ROG that lowers the resolution to 720p. It is very curious, not only improves autonomy, it also raises frames in games.

One point that they could have bet on is that of fast charging, which is not that it does not have it, but not as much as the competition that uses Quick Charge 3.0 or similar. Some examples: 40% in half an hour, 70% in one hour, in full in two hours. Fortunately we have a reversible USB-C that makes connections comfortable.

For those looking for better performance in this regard, perhaps you should take a look at the P9 Plus model, we have not tested it but its battery goes up to 3,400 mAh, and it does have a fast charging system. In both models the battery is fixed, it cannot be removed.

Everything in the lower area: reversible USB-C connector, headphones and speakers. The phone internally is known as EVA-L09

Ending with the operation as a phone itself, saying that the quality of reception of the antennas is fantastic, also the sound, here Huawei always gets a good grade. Obviously it supports all the important networks that we are going to use in Europe - it is LTE Cat 6 -. The speaker is not a big deal, you have been warned, and for those who always ask about the NFC, say that it is present.

Smooth but unattractive software

The Huawei P9 debuts with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but as is the norm of the house, they put the Emotion UI customization, in its version 4.1. I'm not very fond of her by design and bloatware - many double what Android already does - but there it is and the truth is that it works quite well. I am going to comment on details that I find interesting, you can expand on the Mate 8 analysis.

The first point to note is that there is no "drawer" for applications, that is, they are all scattered by the screens that make up the desktop, something very iOS. The solution is to organize folders and screens well, which can be up to a maximum number of eighteen.

I am not fascinated by customization, but it must be recognized that it works well and is built on Android 6.0 Marshmallow

From the point of view of personalization, the typical in Chinese brands, a theme manager and many things to change, also many own applications, which frankly, I have more than enough. There is a "Simple" mode that draws us a very simple interface, useful to use in the car.

Here it is not as useful as in the Mate, but with a gesture from left to right it makes the interface decrease to be used with one hand. If you don't like too much that the phone is constantly changing the lock images, we can remove the so-called 'Magazine' mode.

The fingerprint sensor is more useful than recognizing our finger, it can often serve as one more control method. For example, we move our finger down and the notification and settings bar appears. It can also be configured to enter certain applications and zones. Comment that this notification / shortcut screen is the same, it changes from one to another with a horizontal gesture.

It is curious how the open task manager works, we can mark with a padlock - gesture downwards - those that we do not want to disappear when we do a complete memory wipe. A gesture that becomes useful is the one that opens universal searches on the device: downward gesture in the middle of the desk.

Xataka's opinion

It is not the best phone if we evaluate it for its camera, especially in the “video” field, but it more than meets the eye and provides different things like the monochrome sensor. The hardware in general is better than its specifications, both the chipset and the screen, or the exterior of the phone, which has a better and more careful design than previous P.

The future of mobile cameras will very likely go through these kinds of dual camera setups, and here is Huawei to move the way ahead of others. I hope that Huawei and Leica will be provided with updates that improve this unique system.

This is the most beautiful Huawei I have had the opportunity to test, and at all levels it is better than the P8. A generational jump much larger than usual in other brands

There are things that I still do not like in Huawei, such as the customization they make of Android. Okay, it doesn't hinder the performance, but I've seen many better designs and I have too much left over. Nor can we put a medal for its autonomy, quite normal, and the truth is that one always expects a lot from Huawei, after that wonder called Mate 8.

The main problem to be rubbing shoulders with the high-end is the price, if you want to be more interesting than Samsung or Apple, you have to sell cheaper, otherwise people hesitate enough to make the change. The reality is that Huawei starts with a high price - from 599 euros -, but we will see it go down and appear in powerful combinations with operators.

Most roosters on the market cost 150 euros more, and for that price there is a Huawei P9 Plus that adds very interesting things such as a 5.5-inch AMOLED screen, with '3D Touch' support, doubles the memory and has a battery considerably larger. I think Huawei has a winning horse, which could be disturbed by phones like the Mi 5, unfortunately it is not officially sold in Spain.

This is the catalog of Huawei smartphones after the arrival of the new Huawei P9, P9 Plus and P9 Lite

See complete gallery »Huawei P9 (11 photos)

8,5

Design9.25 screen Performance9 Camera8.75 Software7.5 Autonomy8,25

In favor

  • Design and build quality
  • Monochrome sensor, RAW usability, and camera interface
  • Kirin is shown as the ideal hardware in the important proposals of Huawei
  • There is no better fingerprint sensor
  • Call and reception quality

Against

  • Display one step behind the competition
  • Autonomy in the mean
  • Huawei's interface is not the one I like the most
  • Video recording, dare not with 4K
  • No fast charge

The terminal has been loaned for testing by Huawei. Can inquire our policy of relationships with enterprises.

In the making of the video we have Pedro Santamaría.

Huawei P9 - Smartphone (5.2 ", 4G, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB, 12 MP), gray color

Today in amazon for € 198

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