If you’re in the market for a sleek, premium phablet with a great dual-camera setup, the Huawei P9 Plus is a great option. The 5.5in SuperAMOLED FHD display is bright and crisp, and shows off the detailed photos taken by the rear-facing dual 12Mp snappers. The processor is strong enough to compete with Samsung’s Galaxy S7, although it doesn’t quite compare in terms of graphical power. However, it’s worth noting that there aren’t huge differences between the P9 Plus and the flagship P9 so depending on what you want from the smartphone, it may be worth taking a look at the £100 cheaper Huawei P9. Otherwise, it’s a decent premium flagship that we’re impressed with.
Huawei is on the up and up in the UK with its latest flagships, the Huawei P9 and the larger Huawei P9 Plus. While the
Huawei P9 launched shortly after its announcement in April, it has taken a bit longer for the Huawei P9 Plus to reach UK shores. Is it worth the extra £100, and how does it compare to similarly priced
smartphones? We answer these questions and analyse the design, features, performance and cameras of the Huawei P9 Plus in our review. Read next:
Best smartphones of 2016
HUAWEI P9 PLUS REVIEW: PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Huawei P9 Plus is now readily available to buy after launching a month after the Huawei P9, launching back in May 2016. So, how much will Huawei’s larger flagship smartphone set UK customers back?
Surprisingly, Huawei has opted out of selling the P9 Plus SIM-free via its Vmall Store, and can instead only be purchased by third-party retailers where prices and shipping times vary. The cheapest we’ve seen the Huawei P9 Plus is
£549.90 on Amazon at the time of writing, although as mentioned this is fulfilled via a third-party and even though it states shipping times of 3-4 days, Amazon’s suggested delivery date is around 3 weeks after ordering. How does this compare to other smartphones on the market? Let’s say that it costs on average £550 – this puts it in line with other 2016 flagships including
HTC’s 10 and
Samsung’s Galaxy S7.
If that’s a little pricey for you then you might be happy to know that
Vodafone is currently offering the Huawei P9 Plus on contract, with current plans on the site starting at £32pcm with an upfront fee of £110.
Looks wise, the Huawei P9 Plus is simply gorgeous – with a design reminiscent of the Huawei P8, the curved metal unibody of the P9 Plus is sleek and with varying textures and finishes available for the smartphone, there’s something for all tastes. The model we’ve used had a rather smooth, shiny finish that admittedly does pick up fingerprints fairly easy, but if that’s not for you, you can also opt for a sandblasted finish which should stop grubby fingerprints from appearing as easily. In terms of colour options, you have four: Ceramic White, Rose Gold, Haze Gold and Quartz Grey.
As with the
Samsung Galaxy S7 and
S7 Edge, the P9 Plus is the larger option in Huawei’s 2016 flagship offering with a 5.5in display compared to the 5.2in display of the Huawei P9. So if a 5.2in screen is too small then you’ll be better off with the P9 Plus here and we must admit, we’re glad Huawei hasn’t gone for anything bigger as it has done with previous smartphone releases.
What’s impressive here is that despite the larger display and all the technology featured in the flagship smartphone, the P9 Plus is still very slender and lightweight – at 152.3×75.3×6.98mm and 162g. This makes the Huawei P9 Plus thinner and lighter than the iPhone 6S, and the impressive screen-to-body ratio of around 72.7 percent means the P9 Plus isn’t an unwieldy handful.
The bezels at the sides of the screen are just 1.7mm, meaning it’s not too hard to use one-handed although those with small hands may disagree. The curved edges of the smartphone combined with the 2.5D glass also make the smartphone comfortable to hold over long periods of time, with no complaints from us thus far.
HUAWEI P9 PLUS REVIEW: HARDWARE, SPECS AND PERFORMANCE
So, what does the Huawei P9 Plus have to offer, and how does this compare to the Huawei P9 which costs around £100 less at £449? Let’s start with the screen; Huawei has opted for a 5.5in display, which isn’t much bigger than the P9’s 5.2in screen. That’s a good thing if you ask us following the mammoth 6.8in P8 Max – hence the Plus branding, instead of Max.
However, if you assumed a bigger display would mean a higher resolution, you’d be wrong as the resolution is still Full HD (1080×1920), but the tech is SuperAMOLED rather than IPS. While SuperAMOLED displays are always a plus, it’s worth noting that the Samsung Galaxy S7 also has a SuperAMOLED display but with a higher resolution, 1440×2560. The SuperAMOLED tech provides users with a display that’s crisp, bright and generally gorgeous, although the contrast is a little too high for our personal taste – but on the other hand, it does make snaps taken on the phone look extra vibrant.
As well as this, the phone supports Press Touch, which is essentially the same as Force Touch on the iPhone 6S. The P9 Plus can detect different levels of pressure when you press it. However, there were only 18 supported apps for Press Touch at launch, and none (as far as we can see) have been added since launch. This is, we assume, because Huawei has to add support itself and isn’t something that third-party developers can add. And to be honest, with it not being readily available in certain markets, why would they bother?
Anyway, let’s look at the internals of the P9 Plus. Inside, it features the same Kirin 955 processor (a 64-bit octa-core chip) as its smaller brother, the P9, but with a few notable upgrades including more RAM at 4GB instead of 3GB, and a base storage of 64GB. The P9 also has a 64GB storage capacity option, but users will have to pay more for the privilege. However, it’s worth noting that the Huawei P9 Plus features a MicroSD card slot which can expand your internal storage by up to 128GB.
How does that translate to real world use? The P9 Plus is a speedy beast, that’s for sure. It’s extremely responsive, apps open almost instantly and the smartphone can go from standby to capturing a photo in 1.3 seconds (on average, anyway!). In our experience the P9 Plus can handle pretty much anything we throw at it – especially when it comes to gaming, as we’ve played a number of games and not really experienced any lag or screen tearing.
But the real question is “how did it perform in our benchmarks?” Before we go any further we’d just like to explain that in all of our Benchmark tests, the higher result, the better. Let’s start with Geekbench 3, which tests the processing power of the smartphone – it scored 1853 in single-core mode and 6682 in multi-core mode. To compare, it’s slightly more powerful than Samsung’s Galaxy S7 in terms of multi-core performance, which scored 2128 and 6466 respectively.
However, while the P9 Plus was the leader in our Geekbench 3 results, it wasn’t the case when we ran our GFXBench tests. We ran four tests – T-Rex, Manhattan, Manhattan 3.1 and Car Chase – which vary greatly in terms of graphics, with each designed to test the graphical power of the smartphone. While the Huawei P9 Plus managed a respectable 44fps in T-Rex, 20fps in Manhattan, 11fps in Manhattan 3.1 and 7fps in Car Chase, the Galaxy S7 wins by a long shot with 53fps, 27fps, 15fps and 8fps respectively. Despite this, it’s worth noting that both smartphones feature high-end GPUs and are more than capable of high-quality mobile gameplay.
Lastly, we ran the JetStream benchmark, which tests the speed of the mobile browser of the smartphone. Surprisingly, Huawei’s P9 Plus bested the Galaxy S7 in this aspect, achieving a score of 67 compared to 61, offering fast loading times when browsing the Internet on the smartphone. You can see our results below, which compare the Huawei P9 Plus with the P9 along with similarly priced smartphones.
Connectivity is top-notch with 11ac Wi-Fi, and infrared transmitter (or IR blaster, which is not on the standard P9). Of course, the phone supports 4G LTE networks, too. Although there is a Dual-SIM model, it’s not what we’re getting in the UK.
A fingerprint scanner features on both the P9 and P9 Plus and sits on the back, below the camera. The fingerprint scanner is incredibly fast and can unlock your smartphone almost instantly, and can also be used for gestures, like swiping down to access the notification center and swiping left to right to swipe between photos.
Since the phone itself is larger than its smaller brother, there’s more space for the battery. The P9 Plus features a 3400mAh battery instead of 3000mAh, which Huawei claims will provide up to 14 hours’ video playback. While we found the battery life to be generally good and last all day with average use, we’re not sure it’ll provide 14 hours of constant video playback.
We’ll be running our battery test over the coming days, and will report back once we have more specific results. The battery is non-removable, but the P9 Plus features reversible USB Type-C and dual-IC Rapid Charging to get you untethered quicker.
Like the Huawei P9, the main selling point is the dual-camera Leica-certified set up, which consists of two 12Mp sensors. One is a regular BGR while the other is monochrome. Why? Huawei says that the cameras can combine the two separate images to produce better quality images with 300 percent more light and 50 percent better contrast. That’s not all either – the Huawei P9 Plus also takes incredible black and white filters because unlike most smartphones, it features a black and white lens instead of applying a black and white filter over a colour photo. There’s also an 8Mp front snapper for selfie lovers and video chatters.
What does this translate to in real-world use? Photos taken on the Huawei P9 Plus generally capture a great amount of detail in well-lit conditions with vibrant colour reproduction, however despite the ability to capture 300 percent more light than a standard one-lens setup, the Huawei P9 Plus starts to fall over in low-light environments. As with many smartphones, the levels of noise began to rise and colours became flat as the light in the environment dropped. You can see a selection of photos taken on the Huawei P9 Plus below (click for full-res images).
One feature that Huawei does offer with the cameras of the P9 Plus, as with the P9, is plenty of control with different modes, including a pro option. Huawei even offers a Leica UI, fonts and shutter sound for the camera which is a nice touch. It can perform tricks like we’ve seen on other dual-camera phones such as refocusing a shot after it’s been taken and adjusting the depth of field, adding a professional feel to even simple selfies.
There’s no optical image stabilisation (OIS) as Huawei says the camera takes pictures so quickly that it doesn’t need it, although we’re left wondering if Huawei forgot about the benefits for video. Another thing lacking on the video side is no option to shoot in 4K resolution, which is strange as it’s a feature of many other 2016 flagships (and a few 2015s, too!). The Huawei P9 Plus features the ability to record at a maximum of 1080p@30fps, quite surprising when the company invested so heavily in the camera setup.
Huawei P9 Plus review: Software and apps
As you’d expect from a 2016 flagship phone, the Huawei P9 Plus runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It’s also not a surprise that Huawei adds its own software user interface, Emotion UI (or EMUI) 4.1 this time around, which the firm says it’s fully committed to with a team of developers constantly working on improving the UI.
As with previous Huawei P devices, the software is a weaker element to the experience with choices like the lack of an app menu/tray. It results in an iOS-like setup with app icons all displayed on the homescreen, which may be a plus for those recently jumping the iOS ship, but not for long-time Android fans.
There are many other tweaks throughout including the notification bar which is laid out like a timeline of notifications rather than a list, and it doesn’t feel as ‘Androidy’ as many rivals.
Unfortunately, as with other Huawei smartphones, the device comes packed with bloatware – much of it Huawei branded, but also with apps it thinks you’d like including Facebook, Twitter and demos of paid-for games. We’re not really a fan of pre-loaded apps as we’d like to make the choices ourselves straight out of the box, but Huawei does let you remove many of the pre-installed apps (although not the Huawei-branded ones!).
Huawei P9 Plus: Specs
Android 6.0 Marshmallow with EMIU 4.1
5.5in IPS SuperAMOLED Full HD screen (1080×1920, 401ppi)
Lewis Painter is a Senior Staff Writer at Tech Advisor. Our resident Apple expert, Lewis covers everything from iPhone to AirPods, plus a range of smartphones, tablets, laptops and gaming hardware. You'll also find him on the Tech Advisor YouTube channel.