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Huawei P9 first impressions: a loaded flagship with gorgeous design and promising cameras

|July 29, 2016 |Android Phones, Android, Huawei, First impressions

“The P9 can prove to be a worthy contender to Android flagships, if it's priced right”

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Chinese smartphone giant Huawei has been present in India for a long time. However, it only started getting aggressive in the market a couple of years ago, when it launched its digital-only Honor sub-brand. Interestingly enough, while Honor devices continued to rise in popularity, its parent company has been relegated to the back seat, with no phone launches since 2014 (unless you count the co-branded Nexus 6P). However, that’s set to change as Huawei will be bringing its latest flagship, the P9, in the subcontinent soon. The invite for the event has just become official, however we were able to get our hands on the smartphone before that. Here’s how we will sum up our first impressions of the upcoming Huawei P9, which seems to be special in more ways than one.

While we never really complained about the phablet trend picking up, there’s little argument that most such devices have resulted in users performing hand gymnastics one way or another. Thankfully, smartphone manufacturers are understanding this and are now bucking the trend by offering a manageable screen size for ease of operation. The Huawei P9 is no different as it’s fitted with a 5.2-inch display panel.

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The Huawei P9 is an attention grabber from afar and it manages to hold your attention even you are holding in the hand. The unit we checked out sported a silver hue and looked classy. Thanks to its compact dimensions, it fits in the hand extremely well and you can easily reach any corner of the screen.

The fascia of the Huawei P9 is dominated by the 2.5D display panel, which is flanked by an earpiece, a couple of sensors and a secondary shooter above, and Huawei’s branding below. There are no navigation buttons as they are available virtually in the software interface.

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The P9 is extremely slim at just 7mm, and offers the standard port and button placement. Towards the right sits the power button along with the volume rocker. The power toggle has a textured pattern, making it instantly recognisable. The ejectable slot is available on the left spine, which has an SIM-card slot and a hybrid slot.

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Both the headphone socket and USB-Type C port can be found at the bottom, along with a primary microphone and a speaker grille.

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Flip to the back of the Huawei P9, and the first thing that will draw your attention is the camera module, with not just one, but two sensors. There’s Leica’s branding in the camera strip as well, the significance of which we will discuss in a bit. Towards the middle, the smartphone has a fingerprint reader.

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The unibody smartphone is built entirely from metal, yet remains quite lightweight at 144g. Although the Huawei P9 might become slippery after extended usage, since it has a smooth finish.

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The 5.2-inch IPS-NEO LCD display on the Huawei P9 bears a full HD resolution. It seems odd that Huawei has opted for 1080p resolution at a time when all other Android flagships feature rich 2K resolution. However, you won’t be complaining about the display quality – it's sharp, bright and reproduces accurate colours. The viewing angles are impressive as well.

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Under the hood of the P9 lies Huawei’s flagship chipset, the Kirin 955. It’s an octa-core processor with four high-power Cortex-A72 cores tuned at 2.5GHz and the low-power Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.8GHz. The CPU is complemented by 4GB of RAM, which should ensure a smooth usage. During our brief time with the device, it didn’t stutter while navigating between screens or switching between apps. For storage, the phone ships with 64GB of memory on board, and you can extend it further with the use of a microSD card. There’s another variant of the Huawei P9 which has 32GB of memory and 3GB of RAM.

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Cameras are the highlight of the Huawei P9 as the Chinese company has partnered with popular German manufacturer Leica for the lenses used in the sensor. The P9 is also among the few smartphones that offer dual-cameras, and what’s even more interesting is the fact that both sensors are rated the same – 12-megapixels. The shooters support PDAF for fast autofocusing and are complemented by a dual-tone LED flash for low-light photography. To ensure accurate colour reproduction and better detailing, one sensor shoots in RGB, while the other shoots in monochrome, and then the software algorithm merges them together. The dual-cameras allow you to play with the images even after clicking them, as you can change the depth-of-field as per your liking. For selfies, the phone features an 8MP shooter at the front.

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The camera app on the Huawei P9 is also loaded. It has a number of modes, including the professional mode that lets you tweak ISO, exposure, shutter speed and more. It also offers you the ability to save images in RAW format.

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On the software side of things, the Huawei P9 comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow topped by company’s custom EMUI 4.1. We’ve already taken a closer look at the latest build of EMUI on the Honor 5C (review), and the P9 also offers similar features. The device also has several preloaded titles such as Facebook, Dropbox, WPS Office, etc.

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Similar to most Android flagships, the Huawei P9 sips juice from a 3,000mAh battery. The company has also optimised the battery life in its devices well, so we believe that the latest flagship would also be able to last a day’s worth of usage. Additionally, you can use various modes to help extend it further. One interesting mode is ROG, which downscales the resolution to 720p for enhancing the battery life, a feature that was present on the Honor 6.

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The Huawei P9 is available in a range of colours – from gold to silver, white to grey and more. However, it remains to be seen if all these hues would be making their way to the Indian market. The Huawei P9 is surely a notable flagship, and packs enough to stand out from other flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 (review) and LG G5 (review). But as always, pricing would be the key factor in deciding P9’s success as it’s international pricing seems a bit high. The 3GB / 32GB model is priced at €599 (roughly Rs 44,500), while the higher-end variant costs €649 (approximately Rs 48,000). However, our sources tell us that the P9 will be priced aggressively in India, so we hope Huawei goes for the kill with this one.

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