Huawei Mate 9 review: The U.S. perspective

Huawei’s devices have been primarily targeted at European and Asian markets, but the company has more recently been trying to enter the US market. The Mate 9 is, without a doubt, one of Huawei’s few flagship devices that have made it to the US, but unfortunately, it hasn’t really made as many waves as, say, Samsung or LG. Things are changing, though. Huawei is beginning to attract the attention of US carriers, giving them a wider audience to market to instead of just from an Unlocked standpoint.

They’ve still got a long road ahead, but with a premium handset like the Mate 9 available to buy in the US, perception of the company is definitely changing. If you’re on the fence about buying a Chinese phone like the Mate 9 on Unlocked channels, follow along below and we’ll hopefully show you that the Mate 9 can be just as good as something like the Galaxy S7.

Design

As you might expect, in terms of design, the Mate 9 is essentially just like every other phone. It does look good, though. The unit I received has a white front, but around the back, it’s more of a silver with different tones of silver at the very top and bottom — it’s a nice blend of colors.

Looking at the front, it’s your standard smartphone. The one fairly unique thing you’ll notice is just how small the bezels are. Beyond that, you have your standard earpiece and front-facing camera.

On the left side of the device, you have your SIM card tray and then on the right is your volume rocket and power on/off button. At the bottom of the device, you have your speaker grille and a USB Type-C port. Interestingly, Huawei chose to place the auxiliary port at the top of the handset.

Looking at the back, you have a 12-megapixel dual-camera setup. To the left of the camera is your dual-LED flash and then to the right is the laser autofocus.

All in all, it’s a very nice looking phone, feels very comfortable in the hand, but for the most part, is what you’d expect out of your standard smartphone.

Hardware

 Mate 9
AnnouncedNovember 3, 2016
ReleasedDecember 2016
Display5.9-Inch Full HD (1920x1080) IPS LCD
ProcessorHiSilicon Kirin 960
RAM4GB
Storage64GB with microSD card slot
Rear Camera20MP Monochrome and 12MP RGB with OIS, 4K video, dual-tone LED flash
Front Camera8MP with Auto-Focus, F/1.9
Battery4000mAh (non-removable)
ChargingUSB Type-C
SoundBottom-facing speaker
SoftwareAndroid 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.0
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, compass, fingerprint
ConnectivityDual-SIM, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, fingerprint scanner, WiFi Direct
Measurements156.9 x 78.9 x 7.9mm
Weight190g
ColorsSpace Grey, Moonlight Silver, Champagne Gold, Mocha Brown, Ceramic White

Performance

One of my favorite parts of the Huawei Mate 9 is its display. You get a big and beautiful 5.9-inch 1920 x 1080 Full HD display. It’s certainly no Quad HD panel, but you’ll hardly notice a difference. Putting it side-by-side with an iPhone 6S, the Huawei Mate 9 is without a doubt even on par with Apple’s retina displays. And with a 77.5% screen-to-body ratio, you get an excellent amount of real estate, too.

The display can get bright enough where you can easily use it in direct sunlight. Viewing angles are great, too. And with it’s large 5.9-inch size, watching movies, video and viewing general media is an enjoyable experience. Text is sharp and easy to read, too.

As far as the processing package goes, you get Huawei’s latest HiSilicon Kirin 960 processor, 4GB of RAM and a Mali-G71 MP8 GPU. Suffice to say, this phone is able to handle any task you throw at it. Whether you’re gaming, watching high-definition media or doing a good amount of multi-tasking with multiple apps, the Mate 9 is able to breeze through it all. EMUI is a fairly heavy Android skin as well, and the Mate 9 is still able to breeze through everything quite quickly.

There’s plenty of storage, too. You get a whopping 64GB of internal storage, but you can add even more storage to it with a microSD card. It can actually support up to 2TB. While the phone has 64GB of internal storage, you’re not going to have access to all of that. The operating system itself takes up a hefty 11.34GB, and then there’s about 0.5GB of apps you aren’t able to remove. So, in reality, you’re getting around 50 – 52GB of usable storage. It’s still plenty of room for apps, photos and video.

Battery

Battery life is as you would expect. I was able to get a full day out of using the Mate 9 with a good amount leftover. Of course, you’re mileage will vary there. I wouldn’t consider myself a “power user,” so those results are based off of off-and-on usage every couple of hours, mostly responding to text messages and phone calls.

So, when you start throwing in things like social media, regular Internet browsing and other tasks, you can imagine that you wouldn’t have too much leftover by the end of the day. If you are a power user, the Mate 9 is the perfect phone, though. Thanks to the integration of USB Type-C, you can get a good charge after being on the wire for just 15 minutes.

That said, I’d the battery life on the Mate 9 is fairly average — nothing spectacular, but something you’d expect out of any phone.

Software

When it comes to the Huawei Mate 9, software is probably one of the largest concerns. In the past, it’s been significantly different than anything you might see in the US, but with its latest iteration — EMUI 5 — things have gotten a lot better.

Overall, the experience is quite responsive. There’s little to no lag, thanks to fewer animations, performance enhancements and cutting down on some of the bloat the previous version of EMUI had. That’s not to say EMUI is free of features. On the contrary, EMUI 5 is packed with extra applications and features — it’s just not bogging down the system anymore.

With EMUI 5, the user has a lot of personalization options — you can customize the navigation pane, choose to have an app drawer or no app drawer, change Viewing Modes, and so much more. Models in the EU and Asia have no app drawer by default; however, with the US model I received the app drawer seemed to be enabled by default after booting it up for the first time.

All in all, Huawei has done a fantastic job trimming down EMUI to where it’s not only easy to use, but navigate as well. They’ve really come a long way with it.

Camera

Personally, I’m very picky when it comes to cameras — and we all are, really. We like our photos to look good. There’s not many phones that have come close to the camera ability of the iPhone 6S or iPhone 7, except for Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and the Google Pixel. The LG V20 and LG G5 cameras were okay, but nothing to write home about. I have to say though, Huawei with the Mate 9 has come pretty close to iPhone-level or Galaxy S7-level photos. Not quite, but very close.

With the Mate 9, you get a dual-camera setup. One sensor is set at 12-megapixels for capturing color while the other is a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor.  These two sensors, with f/2.2 aperture, work together to create superb image quality in black, white and color.

The Mate 9 is able to capture every detail in a properly-lit photo. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that it did well in low-light shots, and some photos I took almost felt overexposed. These are some of the best photos I was able to take with the camera:

If you’re buying a smartphone based on the camera, the Huawei Mate 9 is a great choice. It does take stunning photos, and if you can adjust settings properly, a low-light photo certainly won’t look bad by any means.

Closing

All in all, the Huawei Mate 9 isn’t a bad smartphone in the least. There’s some obvious hints that it was geared towards the Asian and European market, but at the same time, Huawei has really come up with something that could compete with the big players in the US market.

So, Huawei finally has a premium handset for the US market here — the Mate 9. It’s only hurdle now really comes down to marketing and carrier channels — getting the word out. And, if carriers start picking up interest, Samsung, LG and others will have another company to compete with. And that’s not a bad thing. Huawei is doing great things, and the Mate 9 is the culmination of all that. If you don’t mind purchasing a phone from Unlocked channels, the Mate 9 will not disappoint.

Buy it now: Amazon, Newegg


About the Author: Brad Ward

Brad is a tech enthusiast, writing and tinkering with all things technology since 2011. He currently bounces between the LG G3 and his beloved Moto X! His interests include reading, entrepreneurship, the gym, and of course, queso.


  • Notpoliticalyet

    Excellent device so far for the last two months. I can’t put it down..lol Great value for what you get. Battery life is amazing and the screen quality and size are awesome.

  • Ivan Ramos

    I was going to get the OnePlus 3T but I read reviews stating that their customer service was not that good. I’m happy to say they I’ve enjoyed the Mate 9 these past two months. I’ve reached out to their customer service a couple of times and they’ve been very helpful. The screen is beautiful and the battery lasts me a little over a day. I do everything on my phone except gaming. The battery charges from 20% to 95% in under 40 minutes. This phone is gorgeous. I don’t miss the iPhone or LG!

  • 1solo

    I Just got the Mate-9 a few days ago I’m digging it.

  • http://www.bloggingtriggers.com/ MANOJ

    Chinese models are ruling the smartphone sector for the past couple of hours. They offer excellent features and specifications than similar models in US, Europe & South Korea.