After weeks of leaks, it’s finally here – Huawei has officially taken the wraps off its latest flagship smartphone, the Huawei Mate 9, here in Munich, Germany. Sporting a design that’s familiar to previous Mate devices, the Mate 9 brings a series of improvements and changes we think you’re going to like, including the all-new Kirin 960 processor and a revamped EMUI software experience. Alongside the flagship Mate 9, Huawei has also teamed up with luxury car manufacturer Porsche on a limited edition Porsche Design Mate 9.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
The Huawei Mate 9 sports a 5.9-inch Full HD display on the front with 2.5D glass, offering a pixel density of 373ppi. Given the large size, opting for just Full HD resolution may seem like a downgrade, but Huawei hopes to offset this with a color gamut that meets 96% of the NTSC standard and a high contrast of 1500:1. Like most other flagships, the handset also comes with a blue light filter, designed to protect your eyes from harmful blue light that’s most apparent in dark conditions.
Under the hood, the Huawei Mate 9 is powered by the Kirin 960, which is the first chipset to not only offer 4 carrier aggregation, but also brings the latest ARM Cortex-A73 architecture partnered with the latest 8-core Mali-G71 MP8 GPU and an i6 co-processor. Huawei claims the multi-core CPU performance tops all other processors – including the A10 Fusion chipset powering the iPhone 7 Plus, and the Snapdragon 821 inside the Pixel XL – while GPU performance is 180% faster than previous Mali GPUs.
The Kirin 960 is also Daydream-ready, allowing the Mate 9 to be used with Google’s latest VR unit. Huawei promises it will offer a next-level VR experience. Also onboard is a machine-learning algorithm that is used to analyze user behavior and optimize the user experience through smart memory and CPU allocation, along with smart storage optimization. Partnering the Kirin 960 is 4GB of RAM (in the Mate 9 at least), as well as 64GB of storage, which can be expanded further using the microSD card slot.
Huawei says the package inside the Mate 9 allows it to offer an experience that’s 20% smoother than previous iterations of EMUI, as well as a 50% increase in system response and a 20% increase in the speed of the GPU. One of the big key focuses for the Mate 9 is a “born fast, remain fast” mantra, which aims to ensure your handset remains as fast as the day you bought it, even after 16 months of use. Using an iAware intelligence monitor system to manage resources and provide additional resources temporarily when needed, Huawei says the Mate 9 is up to 80% faster than other smartphones after 16 months of usage, at least according to its internal benchmark.
|Size||Height: 156.9mm; Width: 78.9mm; Depth: 7.9mm|
|Colors||Space Gray, Moonlight Silver, Champagne Gold, Mocha Brown, Ceramic White|
|Display||5.9” FHD display|
|1080p (1920 x 1080), 373ppi|
|16.7M colors, Color saturation (NTSC) 96%|
|High contrast 1500:1 (Typical)|
|CPU||HUAWEI Kirin 960; Octa-core (4 x 2.4 GHz A73 + 4 x 1.8 GHz A53) + i6 co-processor|
|Operating System||Android™ 7.0 (Nougat)|
|Emotion UI||EMUI 5.0|
|microSD card slot, support up to 256GB (uses SIM 2 slot)|
|Dual SIM||Dual SIM|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 2.4G/5G, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with Wi-Fi Direct support|
|BT4.2, support BLE|
|USB Type C (High Speed USB)|
|Camera||Front: 8MP AF, F1.9|
|Main: Dual, 20MP Monochrome + 12MP RGB, F2.2|
|OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)|
|Battery||4000 mAh (Typical Value)|
On the back, there’s a dual-camera array similar to the one found in the Huawei P9 and Huawei P9 Plus. The camera array features a 12MP RGB sensor coupled with a 20MP monochrome sensor and an f/2.2 aperture, offering up 4K video capabilities, as well as laser autofocus and Optical Image Stabilization (in the RGB sensor only, that is). The cameras also offer a wide variety of extra features, including a wide aperture effect mode, a neat light painting feature, and the ability to refocus images after you’ve captured them to change the bokeh effect. It is also the first to use the h.265 codec. Huawei says it has managed to compress video file sizes by up to 50% to allow you to capture more moments.
The Mate 9 also signals the launch of a new version of EMUI. With EMUI 5, this marks the most significant departure from the way Huawei has approached software in years.
Visually, it hasn’t changed much – you’ll still get the clean home screen with white and blue accents around the interface. Running on Android 7.0 Nougat, it brings a lot of the core features including multi-window support, quick app switching using the recent apps button and quick replies from the notification shade.
There are several big changes here, however, and the first of these is that you can now, finally, add an app drawer using the option found in the settings menu. Another change is that Huawei says you can now accomplish 92% of common tasks (such as connecting to Wi-Fi, etc.) in 3 steps or less. While some of these features do seem to be prevalent in core Android, it’s nice to see them implemented with no modification. EMUI 5 also brings a Privacy space, where you can store contacts, photos and apps and protect them with your fingerprint. This space also allows you to switch between users with your fingerprint.
Also onboard is a new “App Twin” feature that lets you sign in to the same single-account app (such as Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, and more) on a single phone. App Twin will definitely come in handy if you’re someone who has multiple of these accounts and could mean, in some cases, you can ditch the second phone. Huawei also showed off its new miss-touch feature, which essentially means it will recognize when you’re holding your phone for comfort (such as accidentally putting your thumb on the screen when holding your phone to take a selfie) and ignore these touches so you can continue to use the phone.
Other notable specs of the Mate 9 include a USB Type-C port, a single speaker, a fingerprint sensor on the rear and Category 12 LTE support, offering download speeds of up to 600Mbps. The whole package is powered by a non-removable 4,000mAh battery that supports Huawei SuperCharge, which is the company’s fast charging technology. Although it’s proprietary (and therefore requires using the cable and charger that comes with the phone), Huawei says it uses an SCP (Supercharge processor) to continually talk between the phone and the charger to automatically control current and voltage output and avoid excess voltage input.
As a result, Huawei claims it charges four times faster than the iPhone 7 Plus and 50% faster than the Mate 8; a 30-minute charge can top you up to 50%, while a 10-minute charge apparently offers enough battery for 3.5 hours of video playback. In a dig to a certain rival, the company also says that Supercharge is Super safe, with five secure protecting points and three layers of net per point providing ‘ultimate safety’ to ensure your handset doesn’t blow up or overheat. In the box, Huawei says it plans to include a Supercharge car charger, but for those hoping for a power bank, sadly the company has no plans to make one at the moment.
Huawei has also teamed up with Porsche on a limited edition of the Mate 9, that brings a few key differences. While most of the internals are the same, there is now 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage (but with no microSD), making this one of the most feature-rich handsets on the market. The Porsche also offers us a 5.5-inch curved QHD display, a first for Huawei. We’ll be taking a closer look at the Porsche Design model in another upcoming post, but really the biggest difference here are the aesthetics, size, and slight upgrades in the RAM/storage department.
The Huawei Mate 9 and Porsche Design Mate 9 are expected to arrive in Europe and other select markets starting in December in your choice of Black, Space Gray, Moonlight Silver, Champagne Gold, Mocha Brown or Ceramic White. Unfortunately, neither model has a firm date for North American launch at this time, though hopefully we get more details on this a bit later. As far as pricing is concerned, the Huawei Mate 9 and Porsche Design Mate 9 will set you back 699 Euros ($773.62) and 1395 Euros ($1543.92), respectively.
What do you think of the Huawei Mate 9 and do you plan to buy one? What about the Porsche Design Mate 9, is that more your style of handset? Check out our Huawei Mate 9 and Porsche Design Mate 9 hands on and let us know what you think in the comments below!