Monday, July 4, 2016

Huawei P9 Review; Smart Powerful Camera Phone

Huawei P9 Review; Smart Powerful Camera Phone
Huawei P9 Review; Smart Powerful Camera Phone

INTRODUCTION:

There is no doubt that Huawei's has been very successful with its mobile division, with many of its devices, whether entry-level or flagship offering, took huge success and enormous sales figures. To put that in numbers, that is 27.5 million units shipped, that alone is only for the first quarter of this year. One great contributor is the focus of this review, the Huawei P9.

The Huawei P9 is one of the two Leica-co-engineered smartphones, the other one is its bigger sibling, the P9 Plus. Leica on the other hand is a high-end iconic, or as they say - legendary, German brand, which is known for their excellent lenses and long tradition of incorporating skilled hands in manufacturing and assembly of their cameras.

That said, the Huawei P9 is a camera-centric Android phone built by the two popular names in the industry of camera and smartphone, ready to take the challenge of the already stiff competition of mobile photography.


PHYSICAL:

Huawei P9 Unboxing and Hands-on

There are three variants of Huawei P9, the EVA-L29, the EVA-L19 and EVA-L09, but no matter which model you have, they have the same weight and dimensions, which is 144 grams and 145mm x 70.9mm x 6.95mm respectively. The main difference in terms of aesthetics is the color option, the EVA-L29 has only Haze Gold, while the others have Prestige Gold, Titanium Gray and Mystic Silver.

Every inch of the handset shouts premium, the front is fully covered with 2.5D glass housed in an aerospace-grade aluminum with stunning edges and beautiful curvatures. For us, it is the most handsome creature from the Huawei line, and definitely on par with the 2016 flagship competitors. The build quality is awesome too, it feels solid with enough heft, and has the structure that can last a few knocks and bumps.

Huawei P9 Display Info
Display Info

Despite of having a slim profile, the P9 managed to tuck in a huge display, in comparison, there are only few millimeters difference between it and the Apple iPhone 6s, but it has a screen that measure 5.2 inches diagonally as opposed to only 4.7-inch of the 6s. Speaking of display, it has 1080p resolution, it may not have the QHD norm, but its 423 pixels per inch still provide razor sharp images with deep blacks and nice color temperature. The auto brightness also work perfectly fine too. Moreover, sunlight legibility, although not the best we have seen, still more than decent.

Huawei P9 micro SD and SIM tray
micro SD and SIM tray

The model that we have for this review is the EVA-L09, it is a single SIM variant with option for expandable memory up to 128GB via micro SD card. Unlike its other two siblings, it loses the dual SIM capability in exchange for NFC support. To learn more about its physical aspects, you can watch the above video unboxing.

See Also: Huawei GR5 Review: Mid-Range, New Heights


SOFTWARE:

Huawei P9 Software
Software

The Huawei P9 runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Emotion UI 4.1 on top, although it uses the latest EMUI version, the overall interface still looks (e.g. no app drawer) and works similar to the older version, such as the 3.1 on Huawei MediaPas M2 8.0 and the 3.0 on the Huawei Honor 4X. For me, the UI is pretty fine, maybe because I am accustomed to it since I have several Huawei devices. Of course, more people do not like skin and prefer to have stock Android, but for me it is still OK, as it is one of the separating factors among other brands.


PERFORMANCE:

Huawei P9 CPU-Z Info
CPU-Z Info

This handset gets all the hype mainly because of the its Leica branded image, but the truth is, its internals deserve to be applauded as well. Huawei has been using its own chip on most of its devices through HiSilicon, its fully owned fabless semiconductor company. For this particular device, it is equipped with the latest and most advanced SoC they have to date, the Kirin 955. It is a 64-bit octa core processor with four Cortex A72 CPU cores clocked at 2.5GHz each and another four Cortex-A53 CPU cores clocked at 1.8GHz each combined with 900MHz ARM Mali-T880MP4 graphics processing unit. It also packs 3GB of RAM for multitasking and 32GB of storage for apps and other contents. There is also a micro SD slot for memory expansion, however, be mindful that it does not support Adoptable Storage, meaning, you cannot install app directly to the micro SD card.

Huawei P9 Benchmark Scores
Benchmark Scores

In essence, it is a powerful phone ready to deliver big hits against its major competitors. On our usual synthetic benchmark applications, it scored more than 96K in Antutu, which is almost twice compared to Qualcomm Snapdragon 810-powered devices, such as Huawei Nexus 6P, 1840 and 6586 in Geekbench single-core and mutli-core tests respectively, which place it at par with SD 820 phones like Samsung Galaxy S7. Other results are 7301 in PC Mark, 33424 in Quadrant and 60fps in NenaMark2.

In real-world use, its raw power holds true, navigating between pages, menu screens and applications are generally smooth, and within more than 3 weeks of use, I never encountered a single software crash. Playing high-intensity games like Real Racing 3, OverKill 3, and Mortal Kombat X, are swift as the wind with almost no lag at all. However, in about 45 minutes of playing, you will feel the phone heating up, it is slightly warmer compared to other phones that we have tested, but not to the extent you cannot touch it.

It is also worth noting that it can decode 4K videos and play it stutter-free. And, if you love watching movies or TV series on the go, you will definitely appreciate the audio quality output of the 3.5mm audio jack, even with the kit earphones. That being said, using more sophisticated IEM will provide better output, which audiophiles will enjoy better as it is capable of playing lossless files like FLAC and AIFF.

By the way, the fingerprint scanner found on its back is pretty fast and accurate, it can recognize print in almost an instant. Like the Huawei GR5, it also has other functions other than just unlocking your phone, scrolling through the gallery and checking alerts and notifications.


CAMERA:

Huawei P9 Dual Camera, Dual LED Flash, Hybrid Autofocus
Dual Camera, Dual LED Flash, Hybrid Autofocus

It is not the first time that Huawei implemented dual-camera feature on its phone, but it is the first time that they included two separate image processing sensors for each, one to shoot in RGB and the other one to capture it on monochrome, then combine the results to produce better output. Specification-wise, the two cameras are made by SONY, IMX286 to be exact, with 12MP resolution, f/2.2 aperture, 1.25 micron pixel, topped with Leica's SUMMARIT lenses. In comparison, it has the same aperture with the Apple iPhone 6s, but smaller when compared to Samsung Galaxy S7's f/1.7.

Huawei P9 Camera UI
Huawei P9 Camera Interface
Camera Interface

Going to the software side, the UI itself looks pretty much similar to that of a Leica camera. Although most, if not all casual users will prefer to use Auto Mode, there is a Pro Mode with extensive tweak options for advanced users. If that is not enough, there is also an option to save the image in both RAW and JPEG format.

Like the Honor 6 Plus, it also has a Wide Aperture Effect, wherein it adds depth on the image in order to create those nice bokeh, whether the blur is in the foreground or the background. Its advantage over the latter is that it allows you to do so even before taking the shot.

Aside from the two things mentioned above, there is also Monochrome mode for shooting artistic black and white photo, Light Painting mode that captures broad swaths of light. These are just some of the features the camera software offers, and there are more than meets the eye - tons of customization, modes and settings.

Below are some of the sample images we captured with the P9.

Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot - Antipolo Cathedral
Antipolo Cathedral
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot - Antipolo Cathedral in Monochrome
Antipolo Cathedral in Monochrome
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot - Windmill
Windmill
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot - 100% Crop of Above (the word GAMESA is easily readable)
100% Crop of Above (the word GAMESA is easily readable)
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot -Windmill in Black and White
Windmill in Black and White
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot -Artistic Monochrome Shot
Artistic Monochrome Shot
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot - Panorama (Complete Frames)
Panorama (Complete Frames)
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot - Panorama (Incomplete Frames)
Panorama (Incomplete Frames)
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot - Overlooking Laguna Lake
Overlooking Laguna Lake
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot - Jump Shot (Burst Shot)
Jump Shot (Burst Shot)
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot - Inside the Mall
Inside the Mall
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot - Hanamaruken Happiness Ramen
Hanamaruken Happiness Ramen
Huawei P9 Sample Camera Shot - Hanamaruken Spare Rib Ramen
Hanamaruken Spare Rib Ramen

I shoot mostly in auto mode, and it works perfectly most of the time, especially in good lighting conditions. I said most, because there are times that the output tends to be a little darker than it should be while sometimes, it softens or shades away the subject. But then again, that seldom happens, only around 5 to 10%.

It also able to produce quality images even in the low-light environment or harsh lighting scenario, it may not be the best in this category, but it still tops more than 95% of the camera phone we have used before. Moreover, if you are accustomed to PASM, you will get the best out of the camera using the Pro Mode.

The P9 received much attention from tech enthusiasts and photographers alike when Huawei announced its collaboration with Leica. The name alone from the famous German camera brand brought high expectations from many people, including ours. Thankfully, it does not disappoint us at all, in fact, its overall performance is applaud-worthy and the quality can match those from the top competitors.

Also Read: Huawei MediaPad M2 8.0 Review: Entertainment Amplified 


CONNECTIVITY:

As mentioned earlier, the unit that we have for this review is the EVA-L09 variant, it is a single SIM version that supports both TDD (3) bands and FDD LTE (15) bands. The other two variants are dual SIM capable, but loses the NFC chip. Other connectivity sets include dual band WiFi, Bluetooth v4.2, CTIA-compliant 3.5mm audio jack and high speed USB Type C. We do not have USB Type C OTG cable/adapter, so we have not tested it works with it.


BATTERY:

The battery life is one of the major factors consumers are looking when buying a smartphone, and we are glad to say the 3000mAh non-removable that Huawei P9 used is able to last more than a day in regular use in a single charge. That usage includes about half to an hour of phone calls, around 50 SMS, checking of emails from multiple accounts, web browsing and posting on different social media channels.

Playing Asphalt 8 for 1 hour consumed about 13-14% of battery juice, while watching a 68-minute e-learning video has dropped the percentage from 97 to 82. Meanwhile, as a back-up phone, it lasted for 4 days. Of course, your output differs to ours, but based on our own usage patterns, we can say it is above average.

While most high-end, and even mid-range Android devices has the wireless charging capability, the P9 seems to forgot to include one. Thankfully, it supports fast charging and most of the time, you only need to spend a nominal of 70 minutes to get it fully charge, that, is using a compatible fast charger, as the included charger would normally need a time twice as long.


CONCLUSION:

The Leica branding comes as a nice uplift, especially that it is able to deliver people's expectation. The processing power is not shabby either, as it is able to match or even topped the competitions. It is also quite thin with a beautifully crafted body that packs a good battery. In short, the Huawei P9 has an excellent hardware that is great for both mobile photography enthusiast as well as to those who like to have a powerful smartphone companion. And if you add the less expensive price tag to the equation, it definitely becomes more attractive.

Huawei P9 (EVA-L09) Specifications:

  • GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • 3G: 850/900/1900/2100MHz
  • LTE FDD: B1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/12/17/18/19/20/26/28
  • LTE TDD: B38/39/40
  • Single nano SIM
  • 5.2-inch IPS capacitive FHD (1920x1080) touchscreen display
  • Dimensions: 145mm x 70.9mm x 6.95mm
  • Weight: 144 grams
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow with EMUI 4.1
  • 2.5GHz 64-bit quad core Cortex-A72 CPU + 1.8GHz 64-bit quad core Cortex-A53 CPU, 900MHz ARM Mali-T880MP4 GPU, HiSilicon Kirin 955 chipset
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32GB internal storage, expandable via micro SD card up to 128GB
  • Dual 12MP f/2.2 hybrid autofocus main camera with dual LED flash, Leica-co-engineered
  • 8MP f/2.4 secondary camera
  • Multimedia player
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
  • NFC
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual band
  • USB Type C
  • Bluetooth v4.2
  • Sensors: accelerometer, light, proximity, magnetic, fingerprint
  • Battery: 3000mAh lithium-polymer, non-removable
  • Colors: gold, gray, silver
  • Price: Php23,990

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