Huawei P9 Plus In Depth Review
- Unique dual lens camera with good performance
- Top of the line processor and graphics
- Good Battery life
- Quick fingerprint scanner with added functionality
- Relatively affordable Flagship Device
- Lack of OIS in the Camera
- Interface looks too much like iOS
- Knuckle Gestures are not very effective
Years after entering the mobile market, it looks like Huawei has finally found its footing and niche when it comes to the smartphone. The Huawei P9 series consisting of the P9, the P9 Plus and the P9 Lite are undoubtedly standout devices with both software and hardware features. While other devices are loud and proud with aesthetics, the Huawei P9 series proves that sometimes it depends on the insides of the device. It embodies the importance of having well-tuned hardware with software to complement it.
Huawei’s P9 Plus is a device which is undoubtedly subtle in its outer design. However, while subtle, the design language of the P9 definitely brings a premium feel. It’s simplistic, industrial and angular design lack the ergonomics of many other devices out in the market. This was really obvious when you initially held the phone. The device feels angular and a little unnatural in the hand. That said, it’s not a sore point of the design. Over the course of reviewing the device, I found myself liking the feel and grip the angular design lends.
The Huawei P9 Plus is undeniably premium. The feel of the smooth metal of the smartphone’s unibody brings a sense of luxury and class. While the subtle highlighting of the camera module with a glass panel brings a sense of allure to the device.
The back of the phones is simplistic with only the cameras, flash, fingerprint sensor and Huawei branding. Over on the front, the 5.5-inch super AMOLED display is surrounded by a thin, black bezel which is flanked by two bars on the top and bottom. The top houses the front camera and the array of sensors while the bottom hold the capacitive keys for navigating Android.
The straightforward and simplistic design calls while subtle is somewhat signature. A Huawei P9 Plus can be recognised by the design a mile away. The subdued design also lends itself to a more avant-garde approach to smartphones.
|Processor||HiSilicon Kirin 955
Octa-core (4×2.5GHz Cortex-A72 + 1.8 GHz Cortex-A53)
Expandable with MicroSD (Max. 256GB)
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||Mali-T880 MP4|
5.5-inch (~401 ppi)
Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
|Operating System||EMUI on Android 6.0.1|
MicroUSB Type-C 1.0
Dual 12-Megapixel f/2.2 Leica optics
Dual tone LED Flash
Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF)
High Dynamic Range (HDR)
Video recording at 1080p (30fps)
Video recording at 1080p
Huawei’s approach to Emotion UI (EMUI) will be familiar to anyone who is coming over from an iOS device. However, Android purists will scream bloody murder. Huawei’s EMUI which runs on top of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow does away with the app drawer and instead opts to keep all your applications on the home screens; something iOS users will no doubt be familiar with. However, for Android users, the app drawer’s absence may be quite jarring for the first few weeks.
Other that the app drawer omission, EMUI brings familiar functions from Android including Google Now On Tap, the multitasking and back buttons and also the notification shade with actionable notifications. The overall user interface is simplistic and understated, complementing the overall feel and hardware design of the P9.
EMUI tries its best to resemble iOS from the design of the notification shade, the home screens and even settings menus. This is perhaps one of the biggest irks I had with the otherwise amazing device. Huawei’s approach to hardware design allows it to stand out as an understated yet fashionable piece. That said, the brand’s identity is nearly non-existent when it comes to its software. Instead, you get a drab, boring, iOS wannabe which dilutes Huawei’s strong start with hardware.
That said, EMUI does have its plus points. It’s an easy to use, simple user interface with a few bells and whistles hidden within. One feature which will definitely go unnoticed is their knuckle gesture feature which allows the user to launch certain function by gesturing with their knuckle. Things like launching the camera by drawing a “C” with your knuckle among other presets are available in this feature. However, more often than naught, I found myself opting to launch apps the traditional way rather than with gestures.
The Huawei P9 Plus has one of the best implementations of the fingerprint sensor I’ve seen to date. Huawei’s approach to the fingerprint sensor enhances the experience of their device and, unlike many other devices, the fingerprint sensor is not a one function feature. Aside from unlocking the device near instantly, the fingerprint sensor is able to pull down the notification shade with a swipe gesture. This is one feature which made interacting with the device that much easier. I really hope that we get more functionality out of the fingerprint sensor in Huawei’s next flagship.
Like many other devices, the benchmarks of the Huawei P9 Plus do not give us a true picture of the devices day to day performance. Instead, the benchmarks give us an indication of how much power is packed within the device’s components. Actual device performance is highly dependent on multiple factors including active applications, background usage and display settings.
The Huawei P9 Plus, with all its flaws, is one of the best devices we’ve reviewed to date. The device is a true powerhouse able to withstand the quite the beating during the review. There was very little the device couldn’t do.
Call Quality & Connectivity
The Huawei P9 Plus came with all the expected connectivity options such as mobile data, WiFi and Bluetooth. It also comes with the added functionality of near field communication. However, our primary focus in this section will be on how the P9 Plus performed with its array of connectivity options.
The Huawei P9 Plus has one of the better earpieces in the market. The audio produced by the earpiece was not robotic or metallic, instead it was warm, audible and clear. Given the hardware design, I expected holding/pressing the phone against my ears for prolonged periods of time to be quite uncomfortable. However, to my surprise, it was quite the opposite. The experience of the P9 Plus was comfortable with little complaints. People on the other side of the line could be heard with clarity and there was little muffling or loss in audibility barring carrier problems. People on the other end also commented saying the audio was clear and loud. This held true even in loud, congested areas.
Using the speaker phone was no different. It was simple to trigger and the speaker was loud and clear. That said, if you are planning to use the speaker phone in an open, crowded area, you’re going to be disappointed. It comes as no surprise though since there are very few speakers that can audibly deliver speaker phone capabilities under those conditions. However, the quality of our voice on the other end saw no compromise. There was hardly a “pardon me” or “excuse me” even when surroundings were noisy and congested.
4G connectivity on the Huawei P9 Plus was smooth with little problems. Of course, this will be very dependent on your carrier reception quality. When there was good coverage, the line was quick and loading webpages was effortless. WiFi connectivity was the same and at times, a little bit faster compared to other devices on the network.
Gaming was no challenge to the HiSilicon Kirin 955 and the Mali T880 processors in the Huawei P9 Plus. Overall, the gaming experience of the P9 Plus was enjoyable with little hiccups or dropped frames. Sound was loud and allowed for a more immersive experience.
During the review, I played games such as Marvel’s future fight, Injustice, Hearthstone and Asphalt 8. In all games, gameplay was smooth and there were hardly any dropped frames. The Huawei P9 Plus had the additional advantage of not getting too warm to touch during gameplay.
The P9 Plus is truly a powerhouse which can perform under pressure.
The 4GB of RAM which comes with the Huawei P9 allows the device to multitask quite efficiently. Having multiple apps running in the background did little to slow the device’s overall performance. In fact, even running heavy applications such as Pokémon GO and Marvel’s Future Fight didn’t really affect the phone’s performance.
The Huawei P9 Plus handles multitasking in a relatively stock Android way with the multitasking button pulling up a screen with your apps stacked on each other. In addition to this, the added advantage of being able to do things like split screen multitasking is a most welcomed addition.
The P9 Plus comes with a 3,400 mAh battery which lasted me about two days with background synchronization, emails, calls, light browsing and Facebook. With heavier use, I still managed to get about 1.5 days in total. I managed to get a full day’s worth of Pokémon hunting with a single charge – that’s about 7 hours!
That said, if you need to top up your battery, the USB type C cable is able to quick charge getting you about 30% in about 15 minutes in my review period.
However, as with benchmarks, actual battery life will be affected by the usage patterns of the user.
The display on the Huawei P9 plus is a Super AMOLED display with 1080p Full HD resolution. That’s about 1080 x 1920 pixels of space and delicious high resolution eye candy. The display is crisp and while it doesn’t come with the QHD (quadHD) resolution of some of its competition, the P9 Plus proves that the 1080p display can be just as eye catching.
There’s a unique familiarity with the device’s display which lacks any of the other “curved” features I’ve seen in its competition. The flat uber functional display leaves little to the imagination and instead just works without any hiccups.
The Huawei P9 Plus comes with amazing cameras. One of the first to have functional dual cameras with 12-megapixel f/2.2 lenses. This is undoubtedly the main reason for purchasing any iteration of the P9 series.
However, before we delve into the main camera, let’s talk about the front facing 8-megapixel camera. The camera produces good quality pictures with quite a little bit of detail. Under good lighting, the pictures produced by the front camera are of better quality and detail. However, when it comes to low light, the camera generally loses quality and detail. The front camera also comes with HDR and beautify features which help with capturing good quality pictures.That said, the real hero of the P9 is the back cameras. Huawei worked with camera experts, Leica, to develop a unique dual sensor back facing camera which excels at taking some really stunning pictures. The dual lenses allow the camera to pick up even more details and allow more light to be captured in a fraction of the time.
In addition to the capable hardware, Huawei has added many software features which add value to the camera’s very capable technology. One of the main features of the camera is being able to capture a picture with a “bokeh” effect. With the P9 Plus, there was no need to manually fiddle with the settings of the camera to achieve the effect desired. Huawei has optimised the app to allow you to achieve this feature with a simple tap for focus.
Further, Huawei bolsters its offerings with a whole slew of camera centric modes from monochrome, HDR, beauty, panorama, night shot, light painting, time lapse and slow-mo. Each mode allows the user to achieve different effects and pictures.
Pictures taken with the P9’s Leica Co-Engineered camera produce really vibrant, saturated colours with an amazing amount of detail. This is something I’ve not seen as of yet with most of the competition out there.
However, the P9 Plus’ camera is not without its flaws, the cameras both lack optical image stabilization (OIS) which results in blurring in pictures and headache inducing sways when recording video.
Overall, the Huawei P9 Plus’ camera is a standout camera with amazing picture quality and some of the more unique features out there.