TLDR: Leica Leaves Its Mark on the Huawei P9 Plus
The Huawei P9 Plus is arguably one of the better devices on the mobile market at the moment. It seems like Huawei has also found its footing, niche, and signature with the P9 Plus. The device proves that the hallmarks of a standout device lie not in the aesthetics but in the software features it brings to the table.
Huawei’s approach to the P9 brings a very refreshing singlemindedness to mobile devices. There is only one feature that the Chinese manufacturer wanted to highlight and it shines as the cornerstone of the device. This unique approach highlights the dual lens camera which is co-engineered with Leica.
The single-minded focus on the camera is blatantly obvious from its design aesthetic. Huawei highlights the Dual Lens camera technology with a band which is a darker tone compared to the body of the device: black if you have the silver, darker “rose gold” on the rose gold, darker gold on the gold and a dark grey on the black. However, aside from the highlighting of the camera, the overall design aesthetic of the Huawei P9 Plus remains unremarkable and very industrial. The industrial approach to the overall design makes the device feel unnatural due to the angular design lacking any sense of ergonomics that remain cornerstones in many of the devices in the market. That said, the angular design is not a pain point for the device, in fact, the angular design gives the device more grip and has a nice premium feel to it.
Huawei’s Emotion UI (EMUI) makes it easy for users looking to move from iOS to Android. However, that said, the company’s approach to Android will have Android enthusiasts scowling. The most jarring omission is that of the app drawer which forces users to clutter up a myriad of home screens. The decision to imitate the user interface of iOS is pervasive; everything from the notification shade, the home screens and even the settings menus. This choice makes the device’s interface lack any sense of identity in any shape or form when it comes to its interface. Other than this, all the other hallmarks of Android including Google Now on Tap remains intact. EMUI isn’t all bad. Huawei has managed to pack the UI with some value add features which some might find useful; including the ability to bring down the notification shade by swiping down on the fingerprint sensor and knuckle gesture which allows you to quick launch apps by drawing predefined gestures on the screen with your knuckle. The latter, however, requires a little more thought and development as I found myself opting to launch apps the traditional way.
The HiSilicon Kirin 955 which the P9 Plus runs on has to be one of the more battery friendly processors to date. It was able to handle quite a heavy amount of multitasking between apps like Waze, Pokémon GO, Chrome and WhatsApp with ease. It also had good gaming performance thanks to the Mali T880 graphics processor. During gameplay, there was little to no dropped frames and sound from the bottom firing speakers was loud enough.
Call quality of the Huawei P9 Plus was good. The audio produced by the earpiece was warm, audible and clear. Noise canceling on the P9 is also commendable. Even in loud, congested surroundings, people on the other end reported clear, audible sound.The P9 is a 4G LTE capable device which gave it really good data speeds when carrier coverage was not an issue.
Finally, the hallmark feature of the Huawei P9 series, its Leica co-engineered camera is truly the hero of the device. The main dual lens 12-megapixel camera is able to produce vibrant, saturated pictures with a good amount of detail. The camera’s monochrome pictures stand out in particular with a good amount of detail being able to be caught in the picture. Huawei has bolstered the camera with a slew of modes which enhance the picture-taking experience of the Huawei P9 Plus including one where users are able to produce pictures with the “bokeh” effect. While the main camera is the mainstay, the selfie camera of the P9 Plus is no slouch either. Under good lighting, the pictures taken by the 8-megapixel come out with an amazing amount of detail. However, both cameras are challenged by low light conditions. Both cameras are also handicapped by the lack of Optical Image Stabilisation. This makes taking video and pictures with a shaky hand quite the challenge.
In essence, the Huawei P9 Plus is a proof that good software cannot be an afterthought when it comes to complimenting good hardware. While its Leica co-engineered camera was the focus, it seems like Huawei needs to find itself when it comes to their EMUI. An Apple look alike may be easy to jump to, but it loses its identity and fails to impress. At RM2,699 for the P9 Plus, EMUI needs more thought put into it to allow Huawei to truly shine.
- 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