The Good The Huawei Mate 9 has more power than you need, a camera that’s great for art shots, and a battery that won’t catch your dinner.
The Bad Its screen is full HD and its design is absolutely unforgettable.
The Bottom Line It doesn’t have the nice lines and curves of the Note 7, but if you’re using a high-performance, large-screen phone that won’t burn your pants, the Mate 9 is a great option.
So you have to send your Galaxy Note 7 back before it explodes, but you still want a high-performance giant phone in your pocket. Come and check out the Huawei Mate 9.
It’s a whimsical thing, with a 5.9-inch display that encloses the 5.7-inch now dead Note 7. It is wrapped in an all-metal body, packs two cameras at the back, and is packed with powerful components.
Apart from the lack of stylus, the Mate 9 has just about everything you’d expect from a Note plus one. And if you live in the US, he has a Alexa Amazon Echo Voice Assistant. This means that you can ask for the basics by voice, such as setting an alarm and receiving a weather report. But Alexa will also be able to control other smart devices.
Huawei released the Mate 9 in the U.S. on January 6. It is now available for $599 in both grey and silver from Best Buy, Amazon, Newegg and B&H. We’re checking to see whether (and when) Alexa support might be offered in other countries beyond the U.S.; we’ll keep you posted.
Huawei has stolen an even better sound version of the Mate 9, called the Mate 9 Pro. With a curved screen that looks identical to the Note 7, the Pro packs up to 6GB of soft memory, up to 256GB of internal storage, and a fingerprint scanner mounted in a physical home button on the front. This is really a phone that the Mate 9 should be.
Huawei told me that this supercharged variant is only for China, but the product is on the UK website, so I can’t say for certain that the UK, US and Australia will not see this model at all.
There is also a Mate 9 Porsche Design, which has the same high interior features as the Pro, but has aesthetics thanks to the hands in the Porsche design house. It is available in Europe right now, but it will return € 1,395 (approximately £ 1,180, $ 1,485 or $ 1,980). I would suggest just waiting for the Pro, which I think will cost about double.
I asked Huawei if the Pro version could get on the shelves outside of China, and of course, update this review with information when we receive it.
Full metal jacket
- 156.9×78.9×7.9 millimeters (6.17×3.1×0.3 inches)
- 190 grams (6.7 ounces)
- USB-C Charging Port
- 64GB storage
- MicroSD card slot
Squashmaking on such a large display made the Mate 9 a great guy. If you have moons size hands, holding them in one hand won’t be a problem, but even then it’s hard to stretch your thumb across. Publishing a long email? Use both hands.
The metal body feels sturdy and doesn’t have any of the curves at the back that you could find on cheaper phones. In doing so, it lacks the luxurious, sleek design of curved glass and metal Note 7. This may be an alternative in specifications, but in appearance, the Mate 9 does not fit the Samsung phone.
The back of the phone has a fingerprint sensor that works quickly and rarely misread your prints. It charges through the USB-C connector at the bottom of the phone, and the top has a 3.5mm headphone jack – perfect if you don’t want to give up the iPhone 7 Plus headphone cable.
The phone comes with 64GB of memory that can be further expanded with a microSD card.
Bright display that needs more
- 5.9 inches
- Resolution 1 920×180 pixels
- 373 pixels per inch
The large size of the display helps to display pictures and movies well, but I am disappointed to see only the full HD resolution. Although full HD is sufficient for everyday tools like Twitter, WhatsApp, etc., it doesn’t have the same clarity as you would find in higher resolution panels like the Note 7 with its 2,560×1,440 pixels.
Indeed, in Mate 9, the pixel density is 373 pixels per inch. The Note 7 packed more pixels into less space, making 515ppi much more impressive, and Google Pixel XL beat them both with 535ppi. High resolution is especially important if you ever want to use your VR headset like Daydream Google – when the screen is right in front of your eyes you really notice extra pixels.
The Mate 9’s screen is at least bright enough to withstand the worst of CNET’s light-emitting offices, and its colors are rich and bright. Colorful games like Riptide GP look great. If you are not indifferent to VR, then a full HD display like this one will work for you.
- Octa-core Kirin 960 processor
- 4GB RAM
- Android 7.0 Nougat with Huawei Emotion Skin
The phone runs on the latest eight-core Kirin 960 Huawei processor, which supports 4GB of RAM. It is a powerful processor that flashed thanks to our benchmarking tests (see results table below) and is assisted by several software settings. After launching the phone, Huawei explained that a variety of behind-the-scenes software changes help the phone manage memory and background tasks more efficiently.
How much work has been done by Huawei, it is impossible to say, but despite the fact that I am happy to announce that the phone is really small in use. It has no lag and stutter when running the Android interface, as I’ve seen on many previous Huawei phones. Add-ons are also quick to download and rarely fail while using them – something I can’t say about the previous Mate 8.
The powerful processor was able to handle photo editing issues in Adobe Photoshop Express and Snapseed, Netflix ran smoothly and required games such as Riptide GP: Renegade and Asphalt Xtreme to have consistently high frame rates for smooth gameplay.
In the past, I have not used Huawei software because it changes so much of the Android stock interface that as a result it feels bloated and clunky to use. However, the changes were reduced this time. The most important thing is the return of the Android application tray. While previous versions removed the application tray, forcing you to keep your applications scattered on your home screens, Mate 9 gives you the ability to bring it back. This will help experienced Android users feel more at home.
The software is still not perfect. The settings menu is not complicated, and although you can change themes on your phone, I can’t figure out how to download other ones beyond the pitiful six “local themes” that are pre-loaded. The Huawei special leather has been redone enough to make it a little nicer to use overall.
Two cameras are better than one
On the back of the phone is the same setup of the dual camera Leica, which we have seen on her phone P9. One 12MP sensor makes the photos color, while the 20MP sensor is specially designed for shooting in black and white only. I was impressed with the black and white shots of the P9, and the Mate 9 gives similar results.
The winter colors really penetrated this picture. Resolution helps to make the veins on the leaves clear.
The Mate 9 did a great job of fixing the details in the shadows on the pillars, while still reaching the intense blue sky above.
In low light conditions, the camera still did a good job. Colors are vivid and precise and not too many.
The dedicated monochrome camera takes really great looking black and white shots, which deep contrast and plenty of detail. I much prefer the look of the B&W shots from the Mate 9 than simply using a filter on a regular colour photo.
CNET video producer Jonathan Garnham was born to black and white.
The front has an 8MP camera for selfie lovers. The shots are clear enough for Facebook or Instagram, and the lens has a wide enough angle for you to get your face into the frame without stretching your arm too hard.
Inside the Mate 9 is a neat 4,000 mAh battery that is easy enough to get you through the day of use. On our Mate 9 battery test, it lasted 18 hours 35 minutes, which is one of the best results we’ve seen this year.
As with all phones, the actual battery results will be slightly different depending on how much you use. The screen is the highest power consumption – especially when it is as big as this one. Decrease screen brightness if you want to accelerate the clock, and avoid difficult tasks such as games or streaming video until you are near the connector.
However, it is one of the few phones that you can comfortably use throughout the day and not be too afraid that you will have a battery left to call home by taxi.
It’s not a Note, but it’s a close comparison
The death of the Galaxy Note 7 is truly a great loss for anyone who loved to wrap their excited hands around massive, powerful phones. Although the Huawei Mate 9 does not have the extremely beautiful design of the Note 7 and its ultra-high definition display, it compensates for it elsewhere.
It is loaded with more power than you might need, the battery is setting up a hell of a fight, and the Huawei software now seems to speed up the phone rather than slow it down. The Mate 9 monochrome camera on the back lets you look like one of those cool art types, but you don’t have to grow silly mustaches.
If it’s the big screen you’re after, the Mate 9 is a good option to consider.