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HUAWEI P9 Review – Is it the Ultimate Camera Phone?

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HUAWEI P9, the successor to the last year’s P8 has put together an overall convincing package including its top-level Kirin 955 CPU, a dual camera setup featuring Leica lens, a better battery, and much more. The new flagship has significantly improved its camera and it stands out in the camera-centric smartphone competition. Let’s see HUAWEI P9 review.

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HUAWEI P9 is launched in India at a price of ₹39,999. It is launched only as a single SIM variant in India despite having a dual SIM variant options in other countries. But at this stage, there’s no clue if the dual SIM version of P9 comes to India. HUAWEI P9 is available to buy on Flipkart store.

What’s in the Box?

  • HUAWEI P9 with built-in battery
  • USB Cable (Type-C)
  • Earphones
  • Power Adapter (Output: 5V, 2A)
  • SIM Tray Ejector Pin
  • Quick Start Guide, Warranty Card, HUAWEI VIP Service Card

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HUAWEI P9 Specifications

  • Model: EVA-L09
  • Display: 5.2-inch Full HD IPS-NEO Display (1920 x 1080 pixels resolution | 424 ppi pixel density)
  • Display Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass 4
  • Software: EMUI 4.1 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Fingerprint Scanner: Yes, at the back
  • CPU: Up to 2.5 GHz octa-core processor, HUAWEI Kirin 955 SoC
  • GPU: Mali-T880 MP4 (900 MHz)
  • Memory: 3 GB LPDDR4
  • Storage: 32 GB eMMC internal storage, MicroSD up to 256 GB external
  • Main Camera: Dual camera (12 MP + 12 MP) f/2.2, 27 mm Leica Summarit H ASPH lens, dual-tone LED flash, 1080p video @60fps, 720p video @120fps
  • Front Camera: 8 MP, f/2.4, 1080p video @30fps
  • Connectivity: USB Type-C 1.0, 3.5 mm audio jack, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
  • Cellular: 4G LTE support, Single nano-SIM (GSM), No VoLTE
  • SAR Value: 1.430 W/Kg @1g (Head), 0.550 W/Kg @1g (Body)
  • Battery: 3000 mAh (non-removable)
  • Power Adapter: Fast Charger (Output 5V, 2A)
  • Dimensions: 145 mm x 70.9 mm x 6.95 mm
  • Weight: 144 grams
  • Colors: Mystic Silver, Prestige Gold, Titanium Grey
  • Price: ₹39,999
  • Warranty: 2 Years

Design and Build

HUAWEI P9’s design is in favor of a combination of its predecessor P8 and the Google Nexus 6P which was actually manufactured by HUAWEI itself. P9 has a 5.2-inch full HD IPS-NEO display, the new and powerful Kirin 955 SoC, 3 GB LPDDR4 RAM, 32 GB eMMC storage with microSD support, LTE Cat6 modem, and 3000 mAh battery. We received a 32 GB variant (LVA-L09) while there is a 64 GB variant having 4 GB RAM.

HUAWEI P9 is robust at its build, no gaps found, we applied some pressure. The housing is further comprised of an aluminum unibody with chamfered edges ensuring a comfortable grip. The overall design is a full metal giving an excellent impression in the design segment.

The screen is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 with a nice 2.5D curve on the edges. As compared to the P8, the handset width is slightly increased (7 mm) and I think it is due to the large battery (2680 mAh vs 3000 mAh).

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2.5D Curved Glass

HUAWEI again did not boast external touch buttons rather used the on-screen buttons as usual. Most of the smartphones from HUAWEI come with on-screen buttons only.

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No External Touch Buttons

No External Touch Buttons

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8 MP F/2.4 Front Camera

HUAWEI P9’s design beats many phones without having the infamous camera bump. A recent partnership with the German lens manufacturer ‘Leica’ has allowed HUAWEI to build a smartphone with dual cameras. According to the company, the dual camera setup allows a better image quality in low light scenes.

HUAWEI P9 features a dual camera (12 MP + 12 MP) f/2.2 with 27 mm Leica Summarit H ASPH lens. One camera uses an RGB sensor for capturing colors and another camera a monochrome sensor for acquiring details. This combination of camera leads to a perfect photography. The camera is aided with a dual-tone LED flash.

The back also houses a fast fingerprint scanner, and fast I mean it’s really fast. The fingerprint scanner further supports gestures like opening notification bar, swiping images in the gallery.

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Dual 12 MP camera, 27 mm Leica Summarit H ASPH lens

On the right side, P9 has a power button and volume control. The left side holds a SIM tray. As for a fact, now flagships also have started offering dual SIM options, but HUAWEI remains to pick a single SIM for P9. The metallic SIM tray carries one nano-SIM slot and a MicroSD card slot.

Moving further to the bottom, HUAWEI has used a newer USB Type-C port. You will also find loudspeakers and a 3.5 mm stereo jack, and a microphone. The top has another microphone and nothing more to offer.

Right
Right
Left Holds A Hybrid SIM Tray
Left Holds A Hybrid SIM Tray
Bottom Has A USB Type-C
Bottom Has A USB Type-C Port
Top
Top

Display

The 5.2-inch display on P9 uses a IPS LCD panel having 1080p resolution, providing a decent display quality and high contrast with good amount of sharpness. No matter the competitors offer better and crisp 2K displays, P9 is left for good and overall a great display for an average user.

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The visibility under sunlight shade is sufficient to read. Though it isn’t the best as more ambient and bright lights can create a tad difficulty in reading due to its high glossy screen reflections. The viewing angles are otherwise great.

The display is covered wtih Corning Gorilla Glass 4 giving you a nice feel with its 2.5D curved design. The competitors Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5 offer always-on display while HUAWEI P9 is still left behind. Besides, their AMOLED screen tend to use less power that means they are energy-efficient as compared to IPS displays.

Software and User Interface

Like the Mate 8, P9 also uses the Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system. Its user interface is customized by EMUI 4.1, which does take away the App Drawer. The same EMUI is seen in the Honor smartphones as well. We have the device with this version: EMUI 4.1 – EVA L09C432B136. Then came in the OTA update: EVA L09C432B170.

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EMUI 4.1 Based On Android 6.0 Marshmallow

The UI design may resemble the iOS, and you may not feel like it’s Android because EMUI is completely customized with heavy modifications. What’s not so good is the bloatware. HUAWEI P9 comes with preinstalled apps but it doesn’t need any kind of bloatware, that’s what I think. In addition, a Health app and Phone Manager are the two well-known apps we saw in the other EMUI based phones like the Honor 5C. HiCare app can be further used for HUAWEI support.

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Floating Dock
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Smart Screenshot And Gesture Controls

The rest of the software features are same as seen on EMUI. We have already covered the software part in our previous reviews of HUAWEI’s Honor devices having EMUI.

Fingerprint Scanner

HUAWEI P9 flaunts boasts blazing fast fingerprint scanner on the back. The scanner is highly accurate and unlocks instantly. The scanner also works with wet fingers and the best is it can unlock without pressing any buttons. Just placing the finger on the scanner unlocks right away.

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The fingerprint scanner uses enhanced security on the phone. It works in all directions i.e. 360 degrees no matter how you put your finger. Moreover, you can add up to 5 fingerprints. Adding fingerprints are very easy and hassle free. It requires verifying the finger 6 times to successfully add a fingerprint.

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Fingerprint scanner also features a number of gestures like tap and hold your finger on the scanner to take photos/selfies or capture videos, to answer calls, stop alarms, as well as more gestures like sliding down your finger on the scanner opens up notification panel and swiping left or right browses the images in the gallery.

In addition, the fingerprint scanner can lock apps using your fingerprint like we saw in the Honor 5C.

Hardware, Performance, and Gaming

HUAWEI P9 uses a flaghip-grade CPU named Kirin 955. The Kirin 955 is a high-end octa-core SoC integrated in the Huawei P9. This SoC is first seen in the HUAWEI P9 and we believe it will also be available in Honor flagship smartphones.

Kirin 955 has 8 cores which are divided into two quad-cores and uses big.LITTLE technology. The 4 cores use ARM’s Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.8 GHz while the other 4 cores use the high-end Cortex-A72 clocked at a whopping 2.5 GHz frequency. This ensures that the P9 is backed up with processing power. Furthermore, the Kirin 955 also integrates a Mali-T880 GPU and a 3 GB LPDDR4 RAM. The difference between the Kirin 950 (Mate 8) and Kirin 955 (P9) is the clock speed, the Kirin 955 is actually a higher clocked variant (2.3 GHz versus 2.5 GHz). It is manufactured in 16 nm TSMC.

According to the CPU-Z, the dynamic clock speed can go as low as 480 MHz consuming less battery power. The performance of the phone is amazing, we did not find any lags in the user interface and the using applications. The performance is also lag-free while surfing through Chrome and streaming videos on YouTube.

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Kirin 955 CPU

Moving to the benchmarks, AnTuTu scored a decent 85,598 points while its competitors are ahead. The Geekbench 3 scored 1,750 points (single-core) and a whopping 6,407 points (multi-core). On the performance side, the multicore CPU performance is outstanding, close to what it competitors offer. The multicore performance on Geekbench 3 is the highest in its class.

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The 3 GB RAM could sound too mainstream initially since smartphones nowadays in sub ₹10,000 price bracket boast 3 GB RAM. However, kindly note that HUAWEI P9 boasts 3 GB LPDDR4 RAM which is far better in terms of performance as compared to LPDDR3 RAM in other cheaper alternatives. Remember, it’s quality over quantity.

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Usually Gets 1 GB Free RAM

Gaming on P9 is among the best and can keep up with its performance. The GPU Mali-T880MP4 can handle high-end games with ease but the current competition isn’t at par with the GPUs like Adreno 530 (Snapdragon 820) and Mali-T880MP12 (Exynos 8890). Mali-T880MP12 comes with 12 clusters versus the 4 clusters in the Mali-T880MP4 (Kirin 955) present in the HUAWEI P9.

We have tested games like Real Racing 3, Asphalt 8: Airborne, N.O.V.A 3, Modern Combat 5, Spider-Man Ultimate Power, Puzzle Pets. All the games are playable.

Games Tested on HUAWEI P9:

  • Real Racing 3
  • Asphalt 8: Airborne
  • N.O.V.A 3
  • Modern Combat 5
  • Spider-Man Ultimate Power
  • Asphalt Nitro
  • Puzzle Pets
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Real Racing 3
Real Racing 3
Real Racing 3
N.O.V.A 3
N.O.V.A 3

The temperatures remains cool on load. It doesn’t gets too much hot while playing games or prolong use of the cameras. It gets a bit warm due to its metal body but it isn’t a big issue and can be ignored without any hazzles.

Storage and Connectivity

P9 comes with a decent 32 GB internal storage from which you get 25.08 GB of free space. You still have the option to expand the storage with MicroSD. A 64 GB variant is also available with 4 GB RAM but currently it isn’t available in India.

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We checked the storage performance using AndroBench and A1 SD Bench and here are the results. The storage performance turns out to be good but not great. OnePlus 3 and Samsung Galaxy S7 gave with better results on AndroBench. We got sequential read at 272.22 MB/s and sequential write speed at 77.38 MB/s. The random read speed is at 39.29 MB/s and the random write speed is at 47.24 MB/s. On A1 SD Bench, we got 210.58 MB/s read speed and 77.39 MB/s write speed.

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AndroBench (Left), A1 SD Bench (Right)

Cameras

HUAWEI P9 is better known for its camera, perhaps the signature move from P9. It uses a dual 12 MP f/2.2 camera with a 27 mm Leica Summarit H ASPH lens. HUAWEI and Leica (the German lens maker) have partnered with each other to build a phone with ultimate camera P9 being the first smartphone to use dual cameras. As per HUAWEI, two cameras allow better quality images even in low light scenarios.

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HUAWEI P9 Camera Specifications

  • Camera: Dual 12 MP f/2.2 aperture, laser autofocus
  • Lens: 27 mm Leica Summarit H ASPH lens
  • Image Sensor: CMOS, Sony Exmor IMX286
  • Optical Image Stabilization (OIS): No
  • Rear Flash: dual-tone LED
  • Features: Monochrome, Tap to Focus, HDR, Pro mode, Beauty mode, Beauty video, Panorama, Night Shot, Light Painting, Geo-tagging, Slow-Mo, Time-Lapse, Burst Shot, Watermark, Audio Note, Document Scan
  • Video Recording: Up to 1080p video @60fps, 720p@120fps (slow motion), Pro video, Beauty video
  • Front Camera: 8 MP, f/2.4 aperture
  • Front Flash: No, Screen Flash
  • Video Recording: Up to 1080p video @30fps

The dual camera combination works to provide the best quality image. Each camera lens has its own functionality, one uses an RGB sensor to capture the natural colors while second one uses a monochrome sensor for detailing the image. The camera further supports a dual-tone LED flash and Extended Depth of Field as a camera feature to control the focal length. Unfortunately, both lens do not support OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)

The camera software supports a variety of functions the first being the Monochrome which captures B&W images with better detailing. You may notice the difference with a normal B&W image and the image captured using Monochrome feature on HUAWEI P9 camera. Do check the HUAWEI P9 camera samples below.

Moreover, the camera also supports Pro mode, Beauty mode, Beauty video, Panorama, Night Shot, Light Painting, Time-Lapse, Burst Shot, Watermark, Audio Note, Document Scan and Slow-Motion videos. The camera interface remains to the be same with some upgrades. The interface has added two options, one is the for the depth of field and other for colors. There are three color options to choose from – Standard, Vivid colors and Smooth colors.

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HUAWEI P9 Camera Samples

Check out the camera samples of P9 captured from the its Leica dual camera and front camera. We also check its Monochrome feature and it captures the best B/W as far as I know.

The camera uses a fast laser focus. The extended depth of field can be used to focus on different objects, thanks to the dual cameras. In addition to that, it has support for RAW images. Moreover, the Pro mode will let you tweak the camera setting like ISO, shutter speed, manual focus, exposure levels and more.

The images snapped from the dual camera are one of the best images I have ever seen. They have a substantial amount of colors and detailing. Better at contrast levels, thanks to its IPS display, the image quality is top notch. The monochrome are another great charmer. Although, P9 lacks OIS, the images captured are pretty good as well in daylight scenarios. The camera captures night shots with long exposure and you certainly will require a tripod. The light sensitivity ranges from ISO 50 to 3200 and exposure times from 1/4000 to as much as 30 seconds.

The font 8 MP snapper is good at snapping better selfies. The overall camera performance of the front camera is above average.

The camera captures 1080p video on 60 frames per second and 720p video slow motion videos at 120 frames per second. While the 1080 video recording is quite an average, other smartphones are able to record 4K videos. The overall quality of the videos are very good, thanks to the Leica lens, videos turn out out to be as good with balanced colors and contrast. The pro video can be used to tweak the video recording as per the need. Camera enthusiasts are going to love it. I will say this is the ultimate camera phone if you are into smartphone photography.

Call Quality and Audio

Cellular network performance on the P9 is above average better than many phones out there. The P9 uses Signal+ 2.0 technology. It comes with triple virtual antennas for best signal no matter what position you hold the phone. HUAWEI P9 is the first smartphone to have triple virtual antennas. The signal reception is brilliant, the triple antennas comes handy searching the network parallel and thus least call drops and better call quality. The call quality remains to be loud and clear while on the calls. The loudspeakers on the P9 sounds significantly loud. The output of the audio is crystal clear.

Battery Runtime

HUAWEI P9 packs a larger battery 3000 mAh compared to its predecessor P8 (2680 mAh) and hence, the battery life can be substantially improved due to the higher capacity. In most cases, the battery runs easily a day and a few more hours on moderate use. Our test with Wi-Fi always on dominated the competition with one and a half days with below moderate usage. On heavy usage (includes 4G Data and GPS), the battery runs close to one day which is pretty good for a flagship.

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Moderate Usage
Heavy Usage
Heavy Usage

The battery standby time is excellent, if you are not using the device, it hardly drains the battery. A feature offered in EMUI is you can put the phone’s resolution to 720p with ROG power saver. It lowers the screen resolution to 1280 x 720 pixels to help save battery power.

The battery runtime is much better than the phones we saw using Snapdragon 820 and Exynos 8890 chips. The battery even ran slight better than OnePlus 3 and Samsung Galaxy S7. HUAWEI did a great job with the battery optimizations.

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Here are the battery test results we did on the HUAWEI P9. This table should get you an idea how fast battery drains on performing various tasks

Apps/GamesBattery usedRuntimeBrightnessWireless
1080p Video3%20 minutesAutoOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Mobile Data)
4K Video3%20 minutesAutoOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Mobile Data)
YouTube (1080p)4%20 minutesAutoOn (Wi-Fi)
YouTube (1080p)6%20 minutesAutoOn (4G Data)
Asphalt 88%20 minutesAutoOn (Wi-Fi)
N.O.V.A. 38%20 minutesAutoOn (Wi-Fi)
Real Racing 36%20 minutesAutoOn (Wi-Fi)
Music Playback (Offline)2%1 HourAutoOn (4G Data)
Music Steaming (Online) - TuneIn Radio3%30 minutesAutoOn (Wi-Fi)
Facebook4%20 minutesAutoOn (Wi-Fi)

Pricing and Variants

In the flagship competition, HUAWEI P9 remains to be a bit cheaper alternative than the top variants Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5. Otherwise, could be no value for money if you look performance wise if you look at OnePlus 3, Xiaomi Mi5 and LeEco Le Max 2. HUAWEI P9 is priced at ₹39,999 with 2 years smartphone warranty. It is available on Flipkart in three variants:

  • HUAWEI P9 (Mystic Silver)
  • HUAWEI P9 (Prestige Gold)
  • HUAWEI P9 (Titanium Grey)

Verdict – Final Thoughts

HUAWEI P-series succeeded its flagship variants consistently. P9 convinced us with the image quality of its Leica Dual Camera, amazing application performance, and good IPS display, and finally the strong battery life for a flagship. In addition, P9 comes with 2 years warranty.

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The pricing could be a higher for those who have already seen other Chinese powerhouse (Snapdragon 820) like the OnePlus 3, Xiaomi Mi5 and LeEco Le Max 2. But when it comes to camera and battery life, P9 is ahead in the game. On comparing to the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7, P9 is tad lower on price point. The build quality yet another area to look for and its compact form factor as well.

That said, P9 is among the best camera smartphone. If you love photography, we highly recommend it if you have that much budget to spend.

Strength

  • Dual-Lens Technology
  • Excellent Photography
  • Top-Grade CPU Performance
  • Robust Build Quality
  • Super-fast Fingerprint Scanner
  • MicroSD support
  • Good Battery Runtimes

Weakness

  • Lacks OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)
  • No VoLTE Support
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