Huawei Mate 9 Pro review: Not just a souped up Mate 9

Published February 15th, 2017 - 10:42 GMT
All-in-all, the Huawei Mate 9 Pro is a fantastic phone any way you look at it.  (Huawei)
All-in-all, the Huawei Mate 9 Pro is a fantastic phone any way you look at it. (Huawei)

The Huawei Mate 9 turned out to be the biggest surprise from last year. Huawei had made a big and beautiful phone that was fast and had an excellent camera with a long battery life. So how do you make it even better? By releasing a Pro version that's even nicer to look at, has better specs and retains the camera and battery life of the original. 

Calling the Mate 9 Pro a souped up version of the Mate 9 would be wrong. Although it shares many internal components with the Mate 9, overall, it’s a very different phone. Even when you place the two next to each other, they don’t necessary look like they belong to the same family of devices. Where the Mate 9 had a towering look with it’s huge 5.9-inch screen, the Mate 9 Pro appears much more refined- with a smaller 5.5-inch screen that conveys a very “let’s get down to business” look. Its smaller size (152 x 75 x 7.5 mm) also makes the Mate 9 Pro much easier to handle with one hand.

Huawei is releasing the Mate 9 Pro in the UAE in two colors- Haze Gold and Titanium Grey. I received the latter and it looks stunning with a black front and a purplish-grey brushed finish on the back. It's a bit like the Galaxy S7 edge from the front and the HTC M8 from the back- a combination of two class leading phones. On the left you have the SIM card tray which can take a couple of nano SIMs, however, unlike the Mate 9, you cannot expand on storage using a MicroSD card. For most, this should be ok considering the Mate 9 Pro comes with 128GB storage built-in.

On the right, you have the volume buttons as well as the power button with a slightly different texture to easily distinguish it, while below the phone sits the 3.5mm audio jack and a USB Type-C port. The back of the phone still holds the dual Leica camera with a dual-tone LED flash and the top retains the IR blaster for controlling home devices.

The Huawei Mate 9 Pro can easily go down as one of the best looking phones from recent months, however it attracts fingerprints very easily and is on the slippery side. While I didn't drop the phone during the few days of testing, it has almost slipped out of my hands a couple of times. Huawei does bundle a cover with the phone to keep it protected from such mishaps. My only complaint about the design is that it’s not water/dust proof.

Coming to the specs, the Mate 9 Pro is based on the same Kirin 960 SoC as the Mate 9 which makes it incredibly fast. The Mali G71 continues to be the fastest GPU in the market even a few months after its release. Huawei has added more RAM and storage to the Pro version which now sits at 6GB RAM and 128GB Storage. There was not a single time during my testing when I felt that the Mate 9 Pro was struggling to keep up. It's incredibly fast and handles switching between apps with ease.

Other than the design, the most obvious difference between the Mate 9 and the Mate 9 Pro is the screen. Although the Mate 9 Pro looks like it has a dual curved edge screen, the curve is very subtle- to the point that you might not even notice it. I’d say it’s more of a design aspect than anything else. Brightness levels are decent but the auto-brightness setting is on the aggressive side, darkening the screen more than it should. I'm assuming it's something that can be addressed in a software update.

While the screen size on the Mate 9 Pro is smaller than the Mate 9, you get a higher resolution QuadHD AMOLED panel. Using AMOLED also allows Huawei to add an Always-On display like we saw on the Galaxy S7 last year. Besides showing you the clock, the Always-On shows battery levels, missed calls and SMS messages. Hopefully Huawei allows notifications from third-party apps in the future.

Another change that Huawei has made is moving the fingerprint sensor from the back to the front of the phone which now sits below the display. Huawei continues to have the fastest fingerprint sensor in the market and unlocking the Mate 9 Pro is instant. Other than unlocking the phone, Huawei also gives you the option to recognize gestures on the bottom bezel- so you can swipe sideways to bring up the task manager or swipe up for Google Now. I’d like to see Huawei exploring this further- such as adding an action for double tapping the sensor. That being said, if you’re not comfortable navigating Android in this new fashion, you can enable capacitive buttons on either side of the finger print sensor for a more traditional user experience.

On the software side, the Mate 9 Pro comes with Android Nougat out of the box with Huawei’s EMUI 5.0 that was introduced with the Mate 9. I’ve grown to really like the UI - it looks beautiful, is smooth in operation and provides you with all the functionality you’d want.

I did run into a couple of anomalies with background tasks. At one instance, I was listening to a podcast when a call came in and the Podcast didn’t pause when I answered the phone, even though the Podcast app showed it as paused. On another occasion, I was using Google Maps and when I switched that the background, I kept getting a you're back online message from Google Maps- which suggests that it’s data connection was being constrained. Again, software issues that should be fixed.

What Huawei doesn’t change is the camera. You get the same fantastic dual camera on the Mate 9 Pro as the non-pro version that takes breathtaking shots with bokeh effect. The two cameras present on the back are a 12MP full colour sensor and a 20MP monochrome sensor.

Here is a picture taken from the Mate 9 Pro.

Mate 9 Pro Camera Sample 5

Huawei has also kept the same 4,000mAH battery on the Mate 9 Pro which I found fascinating considering the smaller dimensions of the Pro. Kudos to Huawei for equipping it with such a large capacity battery. I am a fairly heavy user and also kept the Always-On Display enabled all the time but never ran out of charge on any given day. With lighter usage, you might even get a couple of days from a single charge, 

The Mate 9 Pro also comes Huawei’s Super Charger that recharges half the battery in under half an hour. One night, I had forgotten to charge the Mate 9 Pro and woke up to 40% battery remaining. By the time I finished showering and was ready to head out of the house, the battery was at 80% which was good enough to last the rest of that day. Also worth noting is that battery consumption under standby is minimal on the Mate 9 Pro- you lose around 1% per hour.

All-in-all, the Huawei Mate 9 Pro is a fantastic phone any way you look at it. It’s beautiful, very powerful and comes with a fantastic camera and a large battery. Simply put, it's the best Android phone released in the last few months. Priced at AED 2850, it’s definitely not on the cheaper side- but I don’t think Huawei wants it to to be. It’s a premium product meant to compete with the best and it succeeds. 

The Good

  • Gorgeous & Premium Design
  • Very High-End Specs
  • Long Battery Life
  • Takes Beautiful Pics With Dual Camera

The Bad

  • No Wireless Charging
  • No Waterproofing
  • No Expandable Storage

Average score: 9 

By Abbas Jaffar Ali

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