The Huawei P9 Plus is the slightly pumped up version of the regular P9, (click here to read Dom’s full review). In short he actually liked it, to the point where he now owns one. When Vodafone said that they had a P9 Plus that I could review I bit their their hand off. Here’s what I thought.
The main reason I wanted to look at this device was EMUI. EMUI is the Huawei theme that sits atop the Android operating system and has been much maligned in the past. The one thing people have moaned about when it comes to Chinese phones is EMUI. I could see why, but before I go into detail lets cover the specs and unbox the P9 Plus.
- 5.5 inch Super AMOLED 1080 x 1920
- 3400mAh battery
- Android 6.0
- HiSilicon 955
- Micro SD card up to 25GB
- 64GB Storage
- 4GB RAM
- Dual rear 12 MP – 1080p@30fps
- 8 MP front camera
- 3.5mm Headphone jack
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band
- Bluetooth 4.2
- IR Blaster
- Type C 1.0
- Fingerprint scanner
We now know the specs, lets get it out of the box. The first thing I noticed about the box was that it felt premium. This is something almost all smartphone manufacturers are starting to take more car over and it shows here. It’s an odd thing to say but just take my word for it – it matters to some! Sliding the lid off you are greeted with the device itself. Pulling the device and the tray out you then find everything in smaller boxes. This takes me back to when I had my 2012 Nexus 7. So emptying the smaller box you will find:
- Type A to Type C cable
- Wall plug
Standard really, though the fact everything comes in little boxes was a pleasant surprise.
Tour of The Device
So starting round the the front of the device you’ll find the very nice 5.5 inch Super AMOLED display and above that there is the earpiece, camera. Flipping it to the right you find the volume rocker and power button. Toss it round to the back there is the dual camera, flash and then below that you find the fingerprint scanner. Personally this is where I prefer the scanner to be.
Flip it to the right again there is the SIM and micro SD card tray. Looking at the top we find the IR blaster which is a feature I kinda miss from the HTC One M8 in daily use. The app that Huawei have installed for the IR blaster is brilliant. I was able to add all the IR “things” that I could find. Finally on the bottom of the P9 Plus you find the 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone, USB Type-C port and single speaker. Now whilst I have a huge love for front facing speakers, the one on the P9 Plus is actually pretty good.
So this is an area were I wanted to throw the damn thing out the window and is the reason many have, when it comes to crunch time, looked elsewhere. As I previously mentioned the P9 Plus uses Emotion UI, or EMUI as it is commonly known. For years people have moaned about it and to be honest I can see why. It is bloody horrible! The main problem being that there is no app drawer and the fact it looks to much like iOS. You could argue some will like that, and I’m sure they will. It’s just not something I look for when I purchase an Android phone. Usually its just a case of going into the launcher settings and applying something else as the default launcher. This time I had to go to settings>advanced>default app setting >launcher and then select the launcher that I wished to use. Way too complicated for no real reason. Once you know how to do it, it no longer becomes an issue but it’s the first experience which isn’t pleasant. It’s just an inconvenience really. I would have definitely preferred a stock look and feel here but we doubt that’s going to happen unless Huawei release another Nexus! Not to mention stock would mean an app drawer by default!
So the camera is an area that I was actually very impressed with. As previously mentioned the P9 Plus has two 12MP on the rear. The photos that come out are very satisfying. It handles day time shots fine and they look great. But where these pair perform brilliantly is at night. As you can see with some very low light it takes some amazing shots, out performing every phone camera I’ve used to date. I would go as far as to say that this is my favourite smartphone camera yet. The pictures really tell the whole story, and you can make your own minds up about them.
So if you were impressed the photos then you’ll be sure the like video results too. Now I was shooting in 1080p with everything set up in the way it comes out of the box. As you can see it reacted pretty quick to changes in light. It’s auto focus was also on point too. What I’m trying to say is that it is fine for the average Joe. Personally I love the camera.
So as you can probably guess the first thing I’m going to complain about here. Yes, it’s the lack of front firing speakers. More manufacturers need to be looking at ways to include these! If you’ve not read any my previous reviews, I have become very fond of front firing speakers. The one thing I hate is speakers that are quiet and mounted at the bottom of the device. Although whilst the P9 Plus’ speaker is at the bottom it actually sounded pretty good so I’ll give it a little bit of a pass there and add the fact that it gets loud and doesn’t distort until you get to a very high level, and it’s really something that I got used to. Being honest I never need to turn the volume above half. So yes I actually like the way Huawei has deployed the speaker, much to my surprise.
The P9 Plus has a 5.5 inch Super AMOLED display and boy does it look very nice. I thoroughly enjoyed reading websites, watching videos and just generally browsing apps and using social media. Were it really did well was the contrast between brightest bright and dimmest dim. Now I like to use my phone when laying in bed and some phones just don’t get dim enough without using third party applications that add filters and (can) cause additional issues. If you can easily see the display and identify screen real estate with ease then it clearly wasn’t dim enough! With the P9 Plus, I actually struggled to see the thing in the morning, meaning that I had to hold the phone under the covers to be able to readjust the brightness. After about 3 days I was able to do it by memory. It also gets quite bright too to the point where I could see the display in sunlight, with sun glasses as well. So yep very happy here too, and whilst it might sound like a strange way to praise the display, having something that becomes too dim to read is actually a sign of the display doing exactly what it should!
Battery, Benchmarks and Performance
Battery on the P9 Plus was bloody amazing. As you can see from the two screenshots, I was taking the phone off charge anywhere from 8am to 8:30am and I was finishing the day with 16%-25% of juice. Now I wasn’t heavily using the phone, I would say it was moderate use. You know, social media a bit of YouTube, Slack etc. To get to past 11pm with that amount of percentage points left – I am very impressed.
Whilst I didn’t store the screenshot showing the GeekBench benchmark, it ran to around 6463. Performance was once again another thing I was happy with. I didn’t unlock developer options this time and being quite honest I didn’t feel the need to fiddle with animation scaling or graphics performance. Games ran fine, the back didn’t get hot (just warmish) and nothing stuttered (even with God knows how many apps running in the background). So performance gets a thumbs up too.
So to round it all up, the P9 Plus is so close to being a possible daily driver. The camera is great, the build is great, the battery life is great and so is performance. The fingerprint scanner also worked with out a hitch too, plus its in my favourite spot (on the back). In fact it would be easier to say what I didn’t like about the phone. Obviously the P9 Plus doesn’t have front facing speakers which is one thing I personally bitch about, although the speaker does actually sound good. Then there’s EMUI. My God EMUI is still a pain in the rear end and I hate it – hate it! I suppose it’s a subjective opinion, but I’m sure Android purists would be up in arms over using EMUI as a daily driver and would soon be reaching for a new launcher. The final slight issue was that the back used to collect all sorts a bits of gunk, fingerprints etc. Solution? Stick it in case!
So you get good hardware with iffy (to say the least) software – what does it cost? The P9 Plus costs £500 flat on a PAYG deal from Vodafone, and being honest I can’t really understand why they’ve priced it at this point. You can buy a Nexus 6P 64GB model, with comparable specifications, from the Play Store for £499 – and it’s stock! To me the price should be around the £450 mark, though the regular P9 is sitting at £450 so that isn’t really an option.We’re sure to see this reduce over time, and as this phone itself is outstanding generally, keep your eyes out for any deals!
If you have any additional questions, are thinking about getting a P9 Plus, or own one, let us know your thoughts in the comments.