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The Huawei Mate 9 Review: Leica and Bifrost

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Huawei

Introduction and Specifications

The Mate 9 is the current version of Huawei’s signature 6-inch smartphone, building on last year’s iteration with the company’s new Kirin 960 SoC (featuring ARM's next-generation Bifrost GPU architecture), improved industrial design, and exclusive Leica-branded dual camera system.

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In the ultra-competitive smartphone world there is little room at the top, and most companies are simply looking for a share of the market. Apple and Samsung have occupied the top two spots for some time, with HTC, LG, Motorola, and others, far behind. But the new #3 emerged not from the usual suspects, but from a name many of us in the USA had not heard of until recently; and it is the manufacturer of the Mate 9. And comparing this new handset to the preceding Mate 8 (which we looked at this past August), it is a significant improvement in most respects.

With this phone Huawei has really come into their own with their signature phone design, and 2016 was a very good product year with the company’s smartphone offerings. The P9 handset launched early in 2016, offering not only solid specs and impressive industrial design, but a unique camera that was far more than a gimmick. Huawei’s partnership with Leica has resulted in a dual-camera system that operates differently than systems found on phones such as the iPhone 7 Plus, and the results are very impressive. The Mate 9 is an extension of that P9 design, adapted for their larger Mate smartphone series.

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Continue reading our review of the Huawei Mate 9!

Here are the specifications for our Mate 9 (the Dual-SIM version, as reviewed):

HUAWEI Mate 9 (MHA-L29)
Processor HiSilicon Kirin 960 Octa-core SoC
(4x 2.4 GHz Cortex-A73 + 4x 1.8 GHz Cortex-A53 + i6 co-processor)
Graphics Mali-G71 MP8
Memory 4GB
Display 5.9-inch 1080x1920 (373 ppi) IPS LCD, Gorilla Glass 3
Storage 64GB
Cameras Rear Cameras (Leica Dual Camera): 12MP RGB + 20MP Monochrome BSI CMOS sensor, f/2.2, 27mm, OIS, PDAF/CAF/Laser/Depth AF, dual-tone LED flash, 2x hybrid zoom
2160p/30 + 1080p/60 video
Front Camera: 8MP sensor, f/1.9, 26mm
1080p/30 video
Network SIM 1:
4G TDD LTE: Band 38/39/40/41(100MHz)
4G FDD LTE: Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/9/12/17/18/19/20/26/28/29;
3G UMTS (WCDMA)/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA: Band 1/2/4/5/6/8/19
3G TD-SCDMA: Band 34/39
CDMA EV-DO Rev. A: BC0(800MHz), only for China Telecom
2G GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
SIM 2:
3G UMTS (WCDMA): Band 1/2/4/5/6/8/19
CDMA: BC0 (800MHz),only for China Telecom
2G GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
Wireless 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2.4G/5G) + BT 4.2 (support BLE)
Sensors Fingerprint Sensor, G-Sensor, Gyroscope, Compass, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity sensor, Hall sensor, Barometer, IR
Connection USB Type-C
Battery 4000 mAh
Dimensions Size (HxWxD): 156.9 mm x 78.9 mm x 7.9 mm (6.14 x 3.11 x 0.31 inches)
Weight: 190g (6.7 oz)
OS Android 7.0 (Nougat) with Emotion UI 5.0
Price $599 - Amazon.com

Specifications for the single-SIM variant of the Mate 9 (MHA-L09) differ only with 4G TDD LTE support, with Band 38/39/40 listed, rather than the MHA-L29's Band 38/39/40/41 (100MHz) - and the lack of a second SIM slot, of course.

First Impressions

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I’m expressing my own opinion here, but I think the Mate 9 is a beautiful phone. I don't think that it is hyperbole to say that the industrial design rivals Apple, and to me this feels every bit as premium a device as an iPhone 7. Huawei has emerged as a serious player on the hardware front, and in its dark color scheme especially (this is the 'Space Gray' option) it is a striking device, with a very nice contrast between the dark edge-to-edge glass and brushed metal sides.

The level of fit and finish is very high, and things are a little more rounded and smooth this time around compared to the Mate 8. The edges still have a bit of ‘sharpness’ to them where the corners have been cut (the edge chamfer), but the phone seems nicer in hand than the Mate 8, with a more substantial feel from increased weight (190g vs. 185g) and slightly smaller overall size (156.9 x 78.9 x 7.9 mm vs. 157.1 x 80.6 x 7.9 mm).

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Next we will take a closer look at the design of the phone, and its display.


February 15, 2017 | 03:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It's a sad day (and it has been for awhile) when the only company vaguely trying to innovate in the android market is Blackberry. Everyone else is content with copying Apple, but with a gimmick or two added on.

It would be nice if someone tried to make a phone with a decent interface instead of just throwing more cores, more pixels, and more cameras at it.

February 15, 2017 | 09:11 PM - Posted by Kevin S (not verified)

The Mate 9 is also one of the first smartphones that support the Galileo satellite systems. Which in theory can do 1m for public accuracy. Do you know if the accuracy is any better then the usual 3m or 5m of the american GPS satellites?

February 16, 2017 | 04:11 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Weird WiFi battery results, the anandtech review is complete opposite with mate 9 dominating mate 8 in all battery tests.

Still thanks for the info on the sound I didn't notice it and I have both phones.

February 18, 2017 | 10:03 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Battery results were surprising to me as well, considering both phones have the same 4000 mAh capacity, and same screen res. I measured both displays at 180 lux with my light meter before each test, and the phones were in exactly the same spot (I did the tests one at a time) so they should have had the same signal strength. However, it is possible there was some sort of issue at play, so I can revisit the tests, and help eliminate wi-fi concern by positioning them closer to the base station.

February 16, 2017 | 05:10 AM - Posted by Juliette Sheerin (not verified)

I was told my phone huawei was a great phone by three and i have to say its brilliant i love the camera and the storage and its sinple to use the extra apps are top . i wont be changing to any other make again . brilliant keep it up . juliette a sheeri

February 24, 2017 | 05:10 PM - Posted by Runner Max (not verified)

webrtc is not supported by huawei mate 9. If you want to use video conferences in browser, you must buy Samsung, Google Pixel s.o.

May 25, 2017 | 10:32 PM - Posted by cevirme1

I think the highlight of Mate 9 is Leica camera and battery, my mate 9 can be last 12 hours, the ROM is test score is only 580, from this teardown guide https://www.laptopmain.com/huawei-mate-9-teardown/, the RAM should be UFS2.0.