The Huawei P9 rolls powerful Leica camera tech into a well-made, attractive handset. The specs won't set the world on fire, but there's more than enough to admire.
Leica camera, attractive metal design, smooth performance, decent battery, sensible price
Emotion UI, no fast charging, gimmicky
Display: 5.2in Super AMOLED, 1,920x1,080 pixels at 424ppi
Processor: Octa-core 64-bit Kirin 955 chipset
Operating system: Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Huawei Emotion UI
Storage: 32GB, expandable up to 128GB
Cameras: Dual 12MP rear, 8MP front
Huawei has had a good run over the past couple of years. We were impressed with the P8, but feared that the Chinese company was in danger of aping Apple a little too much. Huawei needed to carve its own path through the tricky smartphone waters of the Western world to succeed.
It's a more a case of innovation than imitation with the P9. Huawei has collaborated with camera royalty to create a phone that smacks of an identity crisis on first impressions.
So can the P9's Leica credentials alone win out among the likes of the Galaxy S7, iPhone 6s and LG G5?
There's no doubt that the Huawei P9 is a good looking phone. The clean and simple design is evident in the chamfered edges and brushed aluminium finish. Huawei has gradually honed the design of its smartphones for a few years, and we reckon the P9 represents the pinnacle of that work. It's premium through and through.
It's a little longer and wider than the Samsung Galaxy S7's 142.4x69.6x7.9mm at 145x70.9x6.95mm, but it's thinner and lighter at 144g.
The recessed rectangle on the rear houses the fingerprint scanner, a style Huawei first explored on the Nexus 6P (only circular on that occasion). We had concerns about its position, but we adapted after a few days use and find it perfectly usable. The added ability to tap and take a photo is nice, and doesn't leave you scrambling around for the camera shutter.
Huawai has also done away with the unwelcome camera bulge that plagues so many of today's devices, and we really noticed the difference when placing the phone on a flat surface.
The power button is located conveniently on the right-hand side under the volume controls. A dual microSD/SIM slot lives on the left, while the headphone jack, USB-C port and front-facing speaker are at the bottom.
You can see the Titanium Grey model looking resplendent throughout our review, but the P9 also comes in Rose Gold, Mystic Silver and Prestige Gold.
The brains behind the operation is a 64-bit octa-core Kirin 955 chipset. This comprises four Cortex-A72 cores running at 2.5GHz, and four Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.80GHz.
The P9 uses the same Mali-T880 GPU found in Samsung's latest handset for graphics, but Huawei has unfortunately opted for a Mali-T880 GPU with just four cores, whereas the S7 and its ilk go for 12.
Kraken 5,450ms (S7 2,551.9)
Sunspider 462.6ms (S7 313.2)
A lower Kraken and Sunspider score is better.
Some of our other benchmark scores were higher than others we've seen in the field. We can't be sure whether this is down to handsets running different software builds or software being not quite finished. We'll keep an eye on things and report back.
One thing that we fear won't change, however, is the poor showing in the 3DMark tests. This will be down to the nobbled GPU as mentioned above.
PCMark work performance score 7,090 (S7 4,758)
3DMark 981 (S7 2155)
Antutu 98,480 (S7 126,092)
Geekbench single-core 1,798 (S7 2,092)
Geekbench multi-core 6,508 (S7 6,292)
A higher score is better in these more demanding tests.
Nevertheless, we successfully ran graphics and processor-intensive titles like Dead Trigger 2 and Need For Speed: Asphalt 8, despite the 3DMark results. The handset did get warm during heavy use, but not uncomfortably so.
Next: Camera and display