The Huawei Mate 9 slipped between the cracks of high-end U.S. releases in late 2016, but I'm here to tell you that, in 2017, you should give it a look.
I've used a lot of phones in the past year, and one device continues to age better than most: the Huawei Mate 9.
For me, the phone kind of came out of nowhere: it was my first interaction with Huawei's flagship lineup, after having suffered through the middling performance and aging software aesthetic of the Honor 5X, and the Mate 9 came out swinging. You can read more about the phone in our review, but the thing that I can't say seven months later about every phone I review is that everything holds up.
Pretty much everything is great except the low-light camera performance.
From the screaming performance of the phone's Kirin 960 chip to the seemingly-everlasting battery life, the Mate 9 impresses as much today as it did in December. Perhaps even more so, actually, given the relatively frequent software updates that cleared up some performance issues and software inconsistencies.
Truly, the one thing that irked me, and continues to do so to some extent, about the Mate 9 is the camera. Not that it's bad, because it's not, but it is easily outperformed in low light by newer devices. Even the separate-but-equal P10 and P10 Plus seem to be a better job in darker situations. But that hasn't stopped Huawei from issuing a bunch of updates to improve how the camera reacts to particular situations, and while I can't say the results are night-and-day improved, they're certainly better.
But I'm not the only one who loves the Mate 9 all these months later. In our forum, people continue to praise the phone for its great value-to-performance ratio:
DamianP05-22-2017 08:00 AM“
I got the Mate 9 back in Feb and used it as a daily driver for a while and switched to a pixel XL, and LG G6. Ultimately I came back to the Mate 9 for a few specific reasons that are important to me. 1. Radio - it's incredibly strong. It's typically 4-10 db better than my G6 in the same location. I haven't found a phone that I have used that's better. I have been carrying both the G6 and...Reply
All of this poster's points are true: the phone does have a great, bright screen despite its relatively low pixel density — something that I don't notice at all during day-to-day use. The battery is astoundingly good, and that Huawei fit a 4000mAh cell inside this slim and almost single hand-friendly chassis is amazing. And the black-and-white secondary sensor is one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had with a camera phone in years.
Gayle Lynn07-05-2017 01:47 PM“
5 hrs sot and 70% left. How many phones can do that? 5.8" screen real estate. Would love to see more but hey. There were 4 updates. Bought it Jan 5th from Amazon. So yes it does. Would like to see 7.11 and EMUI 5.1 but at least seems to get essential security update. Wickedly fast fps. Paying is more reliable fast and easy without even installed Android Pay, even than iPhone 6S...Reply
The phone also posts battery numbers that are really hard to account for by any other device except, perhaps, the original Moto Z Play.
And though the form factor does seem a bit wide when placed next to the Samsung Galaxy S8+, the perfect placement of the rear fingerprint sensor and high-quality aluminum chassis more than makes up for it in my opinion. Huawei also arguably got on board the slim bezel train before LG debuted the G6 four months later, since despite retaining a 16:9 screen aspect ratio there are barely any bezels on the sides of the LCD panel, and the ones above the screen are impressively tiny.
You may want to wait for the Mate 10, but if you need a great unlocked phone right now, you should consider the Mate 9.
With the Mate 10 approaching in October or November, normally recommending this phone would be a cautionary tale, but with its frequent discounts to under $500 on Amazon, its primary sales channel in the U.S., I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the phone right now. Huawei has already committed to an Android 8.0 update, though it's pretty slow on the trigger in general, and the Kirin 960 chip inside the phone is actually faster in many respects than the much-newer Snapdragon 835, for what it's worth. I wouldn't pay its MSRP of $599, but even its current-as-of-writing price of just under $550 is a pretty great deal.
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