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Thursday, 02 February 2017 14:50

Huawei’s Mate 9 – a whole lot of phone (first looks)

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Huawei’s new A$999 Mate 9 will go on sale on 7 February. Pre-orders are very strong, perhaps sweetened by the inclusion of a Plantronics BackBeat SENSE Bluetooth headphone at A$199.

I attended a media briefing today for the new Mate 9, an innovative smartphone with a 5.9” screen, dual lens Leica “Mark 2” camera, machine learning, and pretty well everything else you could ever want, except perhaps a stylus.

I was intrigued by a previous statement from Richard Yu, Huawei consumer head who said, “We are going to take Apple, step by step, innovation by innovation.” After all, that is a huge statement to live up to.

Comparisons are odious so I won’t mention the iPhone 7 Plus except to position this device on a hardware level where it meets or exceeds that of the class leader.

  iPhone 7 Plus Huawei Mate 9
Screen 5.5 IPS LCD 401ppi 5.9 IPS LCD 373ppi
Screen to body ratio 67.7% 77.5%
RAM/Storage/microSD in GB 3/32/nil 4/64/256GB
Size/weight 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm x 188g 156.9 x 78.9 x 7.9 mm x 190g
Rear camera Dual 12 MP, (28mm, f/1.8, OIS & 56mm, f/2.8), phase detection autofocus, 2x optical zoom, quad-LED (dual tone) flash Dual 20 MP +12 MP, f/2.2, 27mm, OIS, 2x zoom, Leica optics, phase detection & laser autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, 4K record
Battery mAh/endurance hrs 2900/75 4000/82
Headphone jack No 3.5mm

Let’s step back at little. Last year Huawei got serious about taking on Apple and released the P9 flagship at an amazing $799 that, specification for specification, blew Apple's iPhone 7 out of the water. It was a valiant effort and my review stated “It proves that Huawei can do a “proper” flagship at a lower cost. The P9 is a big leap forward in build quality and design over previous models.”

But in practice, the dual lens Leica camera was not the giant killer that Huawei thought it would be and it got a DXOMark of 80 – the iPhone 7 got a well-deserved 86.

The Mate 9 is the Leica dual lens camera “Mark 2” and has added everything the Mark 1 should have had. In early tests, DXOMark give it 85 and stated that it would get higher ratings once some firmware issues were sorted. On paper, it may well end up beating the Google Pixel (89), Samsung Galaxy S7/Edge (88) and Sony Xperia XZ (88) – that is saying something.

Professional photographer Kristian Dowling was at the briefing to instruct us all in how to use the camera to its best effect. While it is capable of some amazing things in manual mode, 99.99% of us use it on full auto, idiot-proof mode, and once reviewed all will be revealed.

From what I have seen today, the Mate 9 is a real winner, not only at $999 but in overall specifications and impressive build quality, great camera, big battery, big screen, and I think Huawei has the formula right in Australia.

Available in space grey (single sim) from Optus and Vodafone and the coffee coloured mocha version is to die for (unlocked dual sim) from JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, and Allphones.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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