The Huawei Mate 9 continues a trend in the Mate lineup the big-screen lovers among us don't really appreciate - every two generations the display diagonal gets cut by 0.1 inches. The original Ascend Mate boasted a 6.1-inch screen, which the Mate 2 kept, then the Mate 7 and Mate 8 came with 6 inches flat, and now the Mate 9 has shrunk even further to 5.9 inches. What's going on Huawei, why is the Mate getting smaller every other iteration?
Anyway, the FullHD resolution stretched to a 5.9-inch diagonal results in a 373ppi pixel density. The IPS LCD panel has a traditional RGB arrangement with equal number of subpixels for each primary color.
The Mate 9's maximum brightness is excellent, just short of the iPhone 7 Plus and higher than the LG V20 when the two competitors are set to Auto and exposed to bright light. The Mate's Auto mode doesn't boost its brightness further, but it's super bright already, so it's all good.
Black levels are also kept well in check, and the Mate gets a superb contrast value exceeding 1600:1. Of course, the AMOLED team with its infinite contrast is out of reach, but the Mate 9 sets the benchmark for LCDs.
|Display test||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
It's not as great in color accuracy, where it manages an average DeltaE of 5.2 with a maximum of 9.5 in its default display mode. White and shades of grey are off the most, leaning heavily towards blue. The Warm setting brings the average DeltaE to 4.6, but whites do remain bluish.
You get a color wheel in the display settings where you can adjust the color reproduction to your liking, but you'd be unable to get rid of the blue cast. Not to mention that fiddling with those controls without a reference will more likely bring you less accurate results. Still, it's a nice option to have.
Ah, there's also a night reading mode, which warms up the output severely in line with the studies that have shown that the blue light emitted by the phone's screen might disrupt your nomral sleep cycle if you use it in the evening. The minimum brightness of 4.2nits should help put less strain on your eyes when using the phone in dark environments.
As for sunlight legibility, the Mate 9 does a wonderful job here as well.
We'll start with the FM radio receiver, for a change - the Mate 9 has none. Then again, the feature had already gone missing on the P9, so you could've seen that coming.
As for the fundamental stuff, the Mate 9 supports LTE-Advanced with 3-carrier aggregation, Cat.12 LTE for theoretical speeds up to 600Mbps down and 150Mbps up, 20 LTE bands, 6 3G bands and the usual quad-band 2G. The dual-SIM version we have for review (MHA-L29) also works on CDMA networks. The single-SIM MHA-L09 version supports one LTE band fewer, and no CDMA.
There's full-fledged Wi-Fi support - a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, with Wi-Fi Direct and hotspot support. You also get Bluetooth v4.2 for peripherals, A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, and Galileo for positioning, and NFC for, well, near field communication, right. We know some of you we'll be glad to hear there's also an IR emitter on the Mate 9.
The Type-C USB port only adheres to the USB 2.0 spec (480Mbps theoretical) and not USB 3.0 or 3.1. It's not your average Type-C port either, as it has two more contacts for the SuperCharge tech, but those don't interfere with using standard-spec Type-C accessories.
There's an old-school 3.5mm headphone jack too.
Large batteries have been a staple of the mate lineup since its inception, and the Mate 9 is no different. Its 4,000mAh capacity is no longer jaw-droppingly huge, but it's still one of the most generous offerings in the premium segment.
The Kirin 960 chipset is made on the same 16nm process as the Kirin 950 in the Mate 8 and the 5.9" vs. 6.0" display diagonal is marginal at best, so we approached the Mate 9's battery test expecting similar results to the ones from last year's model.
Not quite, but part of the difference could very well be attributed to our move to a standardized 200-nit brightness, while the Mate 8 last year was tested at 50% on the slider, which equaled 148nits in its case.
With that preface, the Mate 9's battery life is excellent. The web browsing endurance upwards of 14 hours is longer than the iPhone 7 Plus and Galaxy S7 edge (if only by some 45 minutes), and substantially better than the Pixel Xl's 9:20 hours.
In video playback, the Mate 9 can last 11 and half hours, more or less a match for the Pixel's 11:09h, much longer than the iPhone 7 Plus' 8h, yet nowhere near the S7 edge's 20 hours.
As for voice calls, 19 and a half hours are what you can expect to get out of the Mate, again outlasting the iPhone 7 Plus, but not as good as the Pixel XL and the S7 edge.
The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you're interested in the nitty-gritties. You can also check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we've tested will compare under your own typical use.
There's a few things to be said about Huawei's charging procedures. The phone ships with a beefy charger capable of outputting 5V/4.5A, 4.5V/5A and 5V/2A, with the 22.5-Watt maximum only exceeded by Oppo with their VOOC chargers (some of them 25W), and Motorola with its own 25-Watt TurboCharger, which doesn't seem to be available for purchase.
Now, similarly to Oppo's phones, to achieve these crazy numbers you need to use the Mate 9's charger with the Mate 9's USB cable (and the Mate 9 itself, duh). You do get some nice purple accents on the connectors, though.
Swap just the cable and you're down to 5V/2A, which is still not the worst case scenario - some third-party Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 chargers we had lying around were rendered nearly worthless as the Mate would only draw 1A at 5V. Then again, most existing 5V/2A chargers (say Samsung's bundled one with the Galaxy S7) will output exactly that with any decent cable.
We did suspect there's some VOOC-style trickery at play just by hearing the numbers at the Mate 9's announcement and it's proven to be the case. The Mate's cable has four extra pins on the Type-C end, two of those used when charging, the other two just for symmetry. Those are in addition to the standard Type-C power pins, obviously. So, much like the Oppo VOOC charging, Huawei's SuperCharge is actually filling two separate batteries. Nothing inherently wrong about that, just don't expect to get the same charging times with run-of-the-mill chargers as with the Mate 9's bundled one.
And speaking of, the Mate 9 with its own adapter and cable charges ridiculously fast. 10 minutes gets you from 2% (that's the lowest point before the device powers off) to 20%, another 10min and you're looking at 40%, and the graph still being linear in this range, 50% is achieved 25min after plugging it in. After the 60% mark charging speed starts tapering off, and 40 minutes into it you're a little over 70%. A full hour and you're at about 90% and the last mAhs take a while to fill up, so flat to full is two hours in total.
The phone does get warm in the early stages, but only slightly so, and past the fast charging stage it goes back down to room temperature. Quite an impressive feat overall, but with the caveat that all the bits of the charging system are proprietary.
There's the additional matter of the USB Power Delivery protocol, which is one of the key aspects of the Type-C appeal. We tried the Pixel XL charger and we tested it on the Mate 9 - it charged the phone at 5V/2A tops. So while the charger itself can output up to 18W, the Mate will only take 10W.