'Huawei P9' review: Big aspirations, but falls short
The highlight of the P9 is the camera. This is the first phone camera that Leica has lent its name to, so it’s kind of a big deal.
Price: Rs 39,990
In a space measured in millimetres, there’s not a lot you can fit in. Smartphone cameras have hit a wall with the kind of quality they can deliver. One approach is to have two cameras and somehow combine their capabilities to produce a better, final image. This has been done before: by Huawei (Honor 6 Plus), by the short-lived Qiku (Q Terra), by HTC (in the One M8 etc), by Xolo, LG G5 and more.
Sometimes, the approach is to use one camera for depth sensing while the other captures light. Sometimes, the approach is to combine their capabilities. This brand new flagship from uses a combination of the two approaches. One sensor captures colour information while the other captures in monochrome.
Data from both is combined to create a higher quality image. Since there are two sensors, there is double the light available to create an image. At the same time, you can capture images in a mode that gives you amazing depth of field — plus refocus the images later and adjust the aperture (and depth of field).
The highlight of the P9 is obviously the camera. This is the first phone camera that Leica has lent its name to, so it’s kind of a big deal. Note that the cameras have been ‘certified’ by Leica and not manufactured by them.
Huawei has gone to great lengths to deliver a good camera experience. The app starts fast and you’ll be greeted with more modes than you can shake a shutter button at: monochrome, beauty, HDR, beauty video, panorama, night, light painting, time-lapse, slo-mo, watermark and document scan. Swipe up on the screen to get manual mode where you can adjust metering modes, ISO, shutter speed, exposure value, autofocus and white balance.
And yes, you can also shoot in RAW, if you want to edit like a pro later. Other settings include eight different live filters, object tracking, smile shutter, grid, audio control (say cheese to take a photo), burst shooting, image adjustment (individual adjustment of saturation, contrast and brightness). The list goes on — you get the picture!
Leave the camera on auto and it will give you stunning results in most conditions. Aperture shooting mode can give you a shallow depth, but go overboard with the setting and the edges of your subject won’t be sharp anymore. Monochrome images are particularly amazing.
In its current form, the P9 is powered by Huawei’s own HiSilicon chip — it offers almost the same levels of performance you would expect from a flagship class processor like the Snapdragon 820. The square fingerprint scanner on the back panel falls right where your index finger rests — it’s one of the fastest around and can also wake the phone up from standby. The screen may be only 1080p but at a screen size of 5.2-inch, pixel density is 423ppi which is really sharp. It’s also got great colour, contrast and saturation.
The rest of the device is nice, albeit somewhat conventional. If you’re spending Rs 40k on a smartphone, certain things are a given: premium-feel, unibody design, fast fingerprint scanner, high quality screen and flagship level performance to name a few.
However, we feel this device should have had optical image stabilisation, more RAM (4GB), IR emitter and the ability to record 4k video. It should have had better battery life and support for fast charging. It will struggle to last a full day for heavy users — and it’s roughly 8.5 hours of screen-on time while playing video.
The P9 is not easy to recommend – especially with the likes of the Rs 23k Mi5, Rs 23k LeMax 2 and the Rs 28k OnePlus 3. To add more fuel into the fire, the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6S are priced in the vicinity too. Huawei needs to drop the price on the P9 fast — till that time, it remains a good phone on paper with very interesting camera capabilities but one that is not enough value for money.
Specifications: 5.2-inch IPS LCD (1920 x 1080 pixels), HiSilicon Kiron 955 octa core processor, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage + micro SD (up to 256GB card supported, separate slot), dual SIM, dual 12MP f2.2 rear camera with dual LED flash, 8MP f2.4 front camera, fingerprint sensor, A-GPS, WiFi ac, Bluetooth 4.2, 3,000mAh battery, Android 6.0, 144 grams
Pros: Leica certified dual camera system, excellent performance, stellar build quality and design, ultrafast fingerprint sensor
Cons: 1080p LCD & lack of optical image stabilisation not befitting this price class, records max 1080p video, priced way too close to popular flagships like iPhone 6S, Galaxy S7, no fast charging