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Huawei P9 review

 Review: April 2016  

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Huawei P9 is the most capable phone you can buy for less than 30 per month right now. With a superslim aluminium body, impressive 5.2 inch Full HD screen, 8-core processor and 3GB of RAM, it's definitely a top performer. Add in a big 3,000mAh battery, USB Type-C connectivity, and dual rear cameras, and you'll find that the P9 really is something quite special.

Today's best buy: Huawei P9 from Laptops Direct (£209.97)


An ultraslim design

Over its past few releases, Chinese smartphone-maker Huawei has developed a distinctive look of its own, and its latest P9 smartphone picks up where the impressive P8 left off. Slightly industrial in looks, the P9 has an ultraslim and lightweight aluminium body that's uncompromisingly flat and rectangular. It's similar in some ways to the iPhone SE, but significantly larger; thinner too, and without the circular home button below the screen. Instead, the P9 has the three familiar virtual buttons of Android Marshmallow along the bottom strip of the display.

The front face is filled edge-to-edge by the large 5.2 inch screen. This is a Full HD IPS screen with a very high 423ppi pixel resolution, and is an excellent screen - bright, sharp, and with good colours and viewing angles.

The phone comes in a choice of colours - Titanium Grey or Mystic Silver. There's plenty of detailing on the phone, with a mix of reflective and matte surfaces and diamond-cut highlights. The slightly small power button and volume rocker are located along the right hand edge, and on the back is a fingerprint scanner that can be used to unlock the phone. The speaker grille is placed at the bottom edge of the phone, and the twin rear camera lenses sit totally flush with the rear face.

At face value, this is Huawei's best-designed phone to date, and one that can sit next to flagship rivals without shame.

8-core Kirin processor

Huawei isn't afraid to do things differently and has shunned the usual Qualcomm processors in favour of the Kirin 955 64-bit octacore processor. This is nearly as fast as the latest Snapdragon processors, incorporating 4 A72 Cortex processors running at their maximum clock speed of 2.5GHz, plus 4 A53 processors running at 1.8GHz. Kitted out with a massive 3GB of RAM, it's an impressive configuration, and very fast.

The phone has 32GB of memory available, plus a microSD card slot, so there's plenty of storage available to users.

This internal power makes the P9 a formidable force, able to match the performance of more expensive models.

Android 6 Marshmallow

The P9 runs Android 6 Marshmallow, with the latest version of Huawei's Emotion UI on top. This Apple-inspired user interface adds some interesting features, but isn't our favourite mod. It doesn't appear to give the phone any noticeable performance hit however.

Dual cameras

Why settle for one camera when you can have two? On the rear of the P9 you'll find two Leica lenses. Behind these lenses are two 12 megapixel cameras - one captures full colour images, the other black & white. The imaging system then merges the two images, combining the full colour of the RGB sensor with the detail of the monochrome sensor. That's the theory.

In practice, photos do look very good, and the P9 must rank as one of the best camera phones of 2016. The hybrid focus system results in fast and accurate focusing, even in low light. In the right conditions it can outperform the iPhone 6s, but at other times, it can't match the low-light performance of the Samsung Galaxy S7. That's probably due to the slightly smaller sensor size and narrower aperture (f/2.2).

But the collaboration between Huawei and Leica has given more than just premium lenses and dual cameras. As well as the Picture Quality algorithm, which merges the RGB and monochrome images, the camera has a wide choice of film modes available, including a wide aperture effect, which reduces the depth of field. Serious photographers can even save their photos in professional RAW format.

So serious camera enthusiasts can take matters into their own hands and use the P9's cameras to great effect - perhaps more so than with any other camera phone. Mainstream users won't be disappointed either, as in auto mode, the P9 works well and captures good shots 95% of the time.

The front camera is more conventional. It's an 8 megapixel f/2.4 camera with fixed focus, and it does a good job of capturing selfies.

Connectivity - fast Wi-Fi and USB-Type-C

The P9 has more connectivity options than any other smartphone for the price. Fast Wi-Fi is included, with fast 2.4GHz a/b/g/n/ac support, as well as Wi-Fi Direct. It also features Bluetooth 4.2, the new USB Type-C connector, NFC, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Positioning is catered for by GPS, Glonass and Beidou (BDS) compatibility.

In addition to the Fingerprint sensor, the phone also includes a G-Sensor, Gyroscope sensor, Compass, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity sensor, and Hall Effect sensor.

Strong battery life

Despite the phone's sleek design, Huawei has found room to pack in a very large 3,000mAh battery. This is a very generous size and can easily power phone use for 1-3 days, depending on usage. Additionally, the phone is very fast to recharge.

Conclusion - the best for your bucks

£25 per month is a nice amount to spend on a phone, and at this price you won't find better than the Huawei P9. Generally speaking, flagship phones start at £30/month and head upwards, so the P9 is a very good choice if you want to buy into the latest technology without breaking the bank.

Admittedly, the name Huawei won't impress the brand-conscious, but those who understand technology might well be impressed by the large screen (bigger than a Galaxy S7), twin cameras, USB-Type C connection and 8-core processor. Even those who judge a phone by its looks may buy into the ultraslim and lightweight metal body.

There's nothing here for anyone to dislike, except perhaps the slightly clunky Emotion user interface, and the P9 is definitely a phone that we can recommend.

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Huawei P9 user reviews

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Average rating from 2 reviews:

Reviewed by Brad from Wales on 11th Jun 2017
Been using the P9 for a few months and it's such a great experience!

Reviewed by ian from united kingdom on 19th Aug 2016
Just bought this phone today. I went on specs and not name obviously. But I'm so glad i did. It really is an excellent phone. Camera is top class. good battery life. no lagging in apps. good looks. feels good in the hand.
It has brought to my attention even more than I had previously thought. You definitely pay a premium for the name of SAMSUNG and APPLE.
So if you want top specs and aren't a brand snob, then you could do a lot worse than the P9.

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