Huawei brings future camera tech to smartphones, but it needs some fine tuning
Let us answer the most important question first – does the Huawei P9’s industry-first dual lens LEICA camera make it the best camera phone on sale right now? The answer to that is a disappointing ‘No’. It’s no Samsung Galaxy S7-beater when it comes to camera art work, and that’s a bit underwhelming, as with its dual cameras, we’d hoped it would create new benchmarks for mobile phone photography, especially in low-light conditions. But the results do not match the hype created around its best-in-class camera hardware. Don’t get us wrong, the results are pretty good, but with the S7 and the latest generation iPhones setting the bar so high, it’s a tough ask for its rivals to match them, and the P9 does fall short of being brilliant.
It’s got two 12-megapixel Sony sensors, each with a f/2.2 lens, and they do help create great depth-of-field. And that’s where it has an edge over other flagship phones. But we would have liked the entire mechanism to be a bit faster with its focusing and clicking process. It’s not painstakingly slow, but quicker reactions would definitely help capture sharper photos more often. What we do like about the camera is that its works great when lighting is suitable and the camera app lets you choose from a vast array of modes and settings to get the best out of the mobile photographer in you. The black and white photographs come out really well as one of the P9’s dual lenses is strictly monochrome only.
What’s also impressive is its build quality. No plastic bits found here as this 5.2inch ultra-bright touchscreen is wrapped within a metal unibody frame that feels uber-premium. Plus, the ultra-slim figure and the curved edges means it’s quite comfortable to hold, too. To our eyes, the new flagship Huawei looks fantastic and that screen size is just perfect. However, those with butter fingers will find it a little tricky to keep this shiny piece of metal dent-free.
While the P9 runs on the latest version of Android Marshmallow, it comes bundled with the updated EmotionUI. We don’t like the fact that Huawei doesn’t provide a separate menu for all your apps, so everything is on your home screen and that makes it look a bit untidy. What we do like, though, is the fingerprint sensor. It unlocks the P9 in a jiffy, and works nine times out of 10.
The P9 gets the Huawei-made Kirin 955 octa-core chipset, which feels powerful enough to match the S7’s performance, and coupled with 3GB of RAM (for the 32GB version, 64GB version gets 4GB) offers fluid performance. One of P9’s highlights. Multi-tasking isn’t an issue here and at any point of time, there’s always more than 1GB of RAM in reserve.
It’s not like the P9 doesn’t have issues. The phone heats up with extended use of the camera app, browsing and social media apps. The P9 comes with a decently-sized 3,000mAh battery, which should last you for a good 12 hours of heavy use, and since it comes with a USB Type-C fast charging cable, the battery can be fully juiced up in a little more than an hour.
To sum it up, the P9 impresses on many fronts – superb performance, fast fingerprint sensor, solid build quality, a decent camera, sharp and crisp 5.2-inch screen and sound ergonomics. But is it a flagship-killer? Sadly, no. There are quite a few areas where Huawei could have paid more attention, especially the LEICA-sourced camera tech, which is the P9’s ultimate talking point. Yes, full marks to Huawei for incorporating the tech of the future, but it needs a lot of optimisation, especially when it comes to low-light photography. Also, there’s no 4K video recording – which on a 2016 flagship is a big drawback. Also, Huawei would do well do get rid of the bloatware. And finally, we think the kind of hardware and software that it comes bundled with, the P9 fails to justify its Rs 39,999 sticker price.