Both phones come bundled with fast chargers with a proprietary USB-C cable (regular cables may make the Xiaomi charge slower and certainly will top up the Huawei at a lower rate), plus a basic bumper case. Huawei's retail package is richer - there's a solid headset and a microUSB to USB-C adapter.
Neither bumper case is particularly great, especially if you buy these phones for the premium metal feel. As for the headphones, a good pair of Xiaomi Pistons costs from sub-10 to around 25 for the High-Definition, dual-driver model.
Half the price, just as good: We think so! Xiaomi's headphones are good and affordable, you can order a pair along with the phone.
Huawei was quite proud of how it managed to slim down the bezels on the Mate 9 and indeed it is roughly the same size as the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus, despite having a screen that's 0.2" bigger. We also loved the curvature of the back - 7.9mm at its thickest, the metal tapers off to even thinner side.
The Mate 9 chassis has been machined on a CNC mill in an hour-long endeavour that includes 50 steps. The lengthy process was worth it as the phone has a distinct premium feel, but the finish of the metal is too smooth for our liking (it makes the phone slippery, not what you want from a 200g, 700 gadget).
Xiaomi had different ideas. The back of the Mi 5s Plus is flat (with beveled sides), even the glass on the front is flat (contrasting with the 2.5D glass of the Mate). The metal back has a brushed texture which you can feel as you brush your fingers across the back. Unfortunately, this doesn't give it more grip. Another complaint is that the plastic antenna lines on the back are a bit too prominent (Mate 9's are more discreet).
Okay, so Huawei's cost of labor was higher, and the design team must have charged more. There are subtle differences and more noticeable ones that amount to the Huawei Mate 9 looking like sleek, high-end equipment.
It definitely helps that Huawei matched the color of the front to the color of the back. Xiaomi meanwhile offers only White and Black fronts, which don't match well with all color options for the back.
Xiaomi did manage to get the dual camera on the Mi 5s Plus flush with the back, though, while the Leica cam on the Huawei sticks out.
Finally, time to talk accessories. The Mate 9 has double the loudspeakers (two) and microphones (four) of its opponent. Huawei kind of cheated here and use the earpiece as the second speaker and it just doesn't sound as good as a dedicated loudspeaker.
Both phones have IR blasters on top and dual card trays. However, Mate 9's is a hybrid - you can replace SIM 2 with a microSD card. Xiaomi opted out of expandable storage.
Half the price, just as good: Not in this case. A discerning eye can tell which is the more premium offering and expandable storage is certainly handy.
Both companies picked IPS LCD panels, even though they have each dabbled in AMOLED. Still, they picked some very good units, so we have no complaints.
Both are very bright (around 650 nits) with amazing contrast ratio (around 1,500:1, with a slight edge for the Huawei). Both can scale down to very low levels for late-night viewing, but neither has an Always On mode.
|Display test||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
From a fairly even start, the Huawei Mate 9 and Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus trade victories. The Huawei has superior sunlight legibility, in part thanks to the higher contrast of the display but also (we think) because the glass is less reflective.
Xiaomi did a better job of tuning for color accuracy, though - it achieved a deltaE of 3.3, the mark of a well-calibrated screen. The Mate 9 can get close to that in the right mode (Warm), but it remains above the 4.0 threshold.
If we had to pick, we'd go for the better sunlight legibility. Yes, on a flagship phone we expect to have at least the option of switching to accurate colors, but from a practical standpoint we're more likely to notice a washed out screen in the sun than an if the fuchsia color is off.
Half the price, just as good: We'll call this 'close enough.' We do prefer the better sunlight legibility of the Mate 9, but the differences aren't dramatic.
The Huawei Mate 9 enters this challenge with a slight advantage - it has a 4,000mAh battery, compared to Xiaomi's 3,800mAh. The chipset in both phones are built on roughly the same process (16nm and 14nm respectively), but both companies tune their OS customizations to handle app power use differently.
The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus wins this challenge handily - almost a day's worth of Endurance rating more. With the exception of the video playback, the individual tests are quite close. However, the Mi phone is a lot more efficient in standby mode.
The Huawei Mate 9 has the benefit of Doze, an Android 7.0 feature. It's supposed to put the phone in deep sleep when it detects that you are too (e.g. the accelerometer hasn't noticed the phone moving in a while). We don't know the exact impact of this feature (it cannot be switched off), but it wasn't enough to push the Mate 9 on top.
When it comes to charging, the phones perform equally well. Xiaomi used Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0, Huawei their own SuperCharge. Still, the bundled chargers provide a similar amount of power with a slight edge for the Mi 5s Plus - 24W vs. 22.5W.
Half the price, just as good: Better even! When the Endurance rating is on the order of several days, efficient standby is most important.