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Huawei P9 review: Once the camera smartphone to beat

Our Rating :
£134.99 from
Price when reviewed : £450
inc VAT

The Huawei P9's Leica dual-lens camera is its crowning achievement, but the P9 isn't without its flaws


  • Dual-lens camera
  • Lightning fast fingerprint reader


  • Huawei Emotion UI

Huawei P9 review: Design and fingerprint sensor

The camera isn’t the only part of the P9 that catches the eye, however. The full aluminium chassis is another gorgeous piece of Huawei design, and it very much feels like a premium, flagship handset. It’s nicely weighted, and its 6.95mm edges are delicately chamfered. It might sound like a trivial observation, but I liked the way it slid in and out of my pocket with ease.

If it’s important to you, the P9 is a good size for one-handed use. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the rear found in a small recessed cove, and this proved easy to use and was quick to unlock. Like Huawei’s Mate 8, it can be configured to perform different functions aside from unlocking the phone. You can use it to answer calls and silence alarms, but the option I found most useful was having the notification shade open and close with a swipe of the sensor, which assisted one-handed use.

Huawei P9 rear

Otherwise, there are the now familiar Huawei Emotion UI Android customisations in place, complete with the same grievances we’ve aired on several occasions. The lack of an app tray still means that your home screen can become a cluttered mess without careful management and the notification pane always feels like it’s overly-populated.

Huawei P9 review: Display

The 5.2in display on the P9 is excellent and dominates much of the front of the phone thanks to its thin bezels. Its 1,920 x 1,080 resolution isn’t as high as other flagships this year, resulting in a pixel density of just 423 pixels-per-inch, but text and images still looked perfectly sharp and crisp.

Colour accuracy at 99.2% of the sRGB colour gamut was also fantastic, giving it one of the highest colour accuracy scores we’ve seen this year. Black levels of 0.39cd/m2 were a little more mediocre, but a maximum brightness level of 489cd/m2 is good enough to use outdoors without issue. Its respectable contrast ratio of 1,246:1 also does plenty of justice to the punchy photos captured by the P9’s cameras.

Huawei P9 review: Performance and battery life

With both a high-quality camera and display, the chipset used for the P9 is far more modest. Powered by 3GB of RAM and one of Huawei’s proprietary octa-core Kirin 955 chipsets, which has four cores running at 2.5GHz and another four running at 1.8GHz, the P9 had exceptionally quick CPU speeds but terrible graphics performance. This has been a long-running theme with Huawei’s Kirin chips, and it showed in our benchmark tests.

For instance, its Geekbench 3 multicore score of 6,309 puts it just behind the Samsung Galaxy S7, inching just in front of the LG G5 and Huawei’s own Mate 8. Its single core score of 1,774, however, was considerably less impressive, as this was almost 400 points behind the S7 and more than 600 points behind the G5, showing it’s not terribly efficient at low-level tasks.

Huawei P9 top angle

You’ll probably want to buy a different phone if you like playing lots of demanding games, too, as the P9 only managed 1,024 frames in GFXBench GL 3.0’s offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test, which amounts to just 12fps. The P9 also found itself lagging behind the competition when it came to browser performance as well, managing just 1,115 in the Peacekeeper browser benchmark. That’s around 500 points behind the lightning-quick LG G5 and 700 points behind the S7.

Fortunately, Huawei’s made several improvements to the P9’s battery life this time around, as it managed a much more respectable 11h 24m in our continuous video playback test when we set the screen brightness to our usual measurement of 170cd/m2. While still not great for a 3,000mAh battery, at least it reaches double figures this year, which is more than can be said of the 7h 26m we managed with last year’s P8. Just be aware that the P9 has a USB-C port rather than a regular micro USB port, so you’ll need to take its bundled charging cable with you if you need to top it up during the day.

Huawei P9 review: Verdict

For many people, camera quality is right up there with battery life as one of the most important considerations when choosing a new smartphone. In both regards, the Huawei P9 acquits itself well, and its camera performance, in particular, is very good indeed. If the camera’s your main priority, then the Leica collaboration can be considered a success, and Huawei should be commended for trying to innovate, even if the overall execution of the P9 overall doesn’t quite deliver. Huawei’s Emotion UI still proves to be a sticking point, however, and the P9’s general performance isn’t particularly stellar, especially around gaming.

It is, however, much cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5, which might be preferable for those with more limited budgets. In my book, I’d probably prefer to pay a bit more for a better all-rounder, but if you’re looking for a great camera without breaking the bank, then the P9 is a good choice.

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ProcessorQuad-core 2.5GHz Kirin 955
Screen size5.2in
Screen resolution1,920×1,080
Screen typeIPS
Front camera5 megapixels
Rear camera12 megapixels
FlashDual LED
Storage (free)32GB (24.6GB) / 64GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
BluetoothBluetooth 4.2
Wireless data3G, 4G
Operating systemAndroid 6.0
Battery size3,000mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£449
Price on contract (inc VAT)Free on £29-per-month contract
Prepay price (inc VAT)N/A
Part codeEVA-L09

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