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Huawei Mate 9 vs Google Pixel XL: Which is best for me?

Huawei Mate 9 vs Google Pixel XL: Huawei’s new phablet promises a big-screened experience with plenty of power and a killer dual camera, courtesy of the company’s ongoing partnership with Leica, but Google’s new Pixel XL is currently grabbing all the headlines with its powerful processor and class-leading camera. Which one works best for you?

Huawei Mate 9 vs Google Pixel XL: Specs at a glance

  Huawei Mate 9 Google Pixel XL
Screen size 5.9-inches 5.5-inches
Screen resolution Full HD (1920×1080) Quad HD (2560×1440)
Weight 190 grams 168 grams
OS Android 7.0 w/ EMUI 5.0 Android 7.1
Front camera 8-megapixels 8-megapixels
Rear camera(s) Dual 12-megapixels/20-megapixels colour/monochrome 12.3-megapixels
Processor 2.4GHz/1.8GHz octa-core Kirin 960 2.15GHz/1.6GHz quad-core Snapdragon 821
Memory 4GB RAM 4GB RAM
Storage 64GB. Expandable via microSD up to 2TB 32GB/128GB. Non-expandable
Battery 4000mAh w/ fast charging 3450mAh w/ fast charging

The Mate 9 ticks all the boxes of conventional Huawei smartphone design but takes a slightly different approach to the company’s other 2016 flagships, the P9 and P9 Plus. Whilst it should come as no surprise that the 5.9-inch display and the bigger battery render the Mate 9 larger and heavier than the Pixel XL, its bead-blasted aluminium unibody is thinner at 7.9mm versus the XL’s chunkier 8.5mm waistline.

The HTC-made Pixel XL also opts for a metal unibody and manages to do away with a camera bump altogether, unlike the Mate 9, but its rounded proportions and thicker bezels give it a slightly chunkier overall look. Both phones also feature Type-C USB ports and rear-mounted fingerprint sensors with gesture support.

On the display front, the larger Mate 9 actually utilises a lower resolution Full HD IPS LCD. It’s bright and has some of the best viewing angles we’ve seen from a display on a Huawei phone, but the resolution means that it plays second fiddle to the smaller and significantly sharper 5.5-inch Quad HD screen employed by the Pixel. The XL’s use of AMOLED technology also means better a contrast ratio and imperceptibly small pixels, giving you a clean, seamless image.

Media fans looking to carry a lot of videos, pictures and music with them, may still find merit in the Mate 9’s expandable memory, which supplement’s the phone’s internal 64GB of space with microSD support up to 2TB. As with the Nexus devices before it, the Pixel XL meanwhile lacks expandability altogether, giving you 32GB or 128GB models to choose from.

As with the Nexus line, which looks to have ended with the Huawei-made 6P which launched in 2015, the Pixel XL offers the latest stock Android experience straight from Google. Launching on Android 7.1 with a redesigned skin, the XL offers native split-screen multitasking and more readily accessible apps and features out the box, the Mate 9 however, is the first Huawei phone to run Android 7.0 out the box, with the company’s own Emotion UI 5.0 on top.

The custom skin is a little more convoluted than what’s on offer from the Pixel, but it’s packed with customisation options, including homescreen transitions, a removable apps drawer and a one-handed mode – essential on a phone the size of the Mate 9 and lacking on the still sizeable XL.

The software works in conjunction with Huawei’s new Kirin 960 octa-core chipset (paired to 4GB of RAM), which looks to serve up some of the best smartphone performance around, even trumping the XL’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 in some artificial benchmarks.

Both phones also promise respectable battery life, with the 3450mAh cell in the XL lasting up to a day and a half and fast-charging to seven hours use from 15 minutes at the wall plug, whilst the Mate 9’s capacious 4000mAh paired to the lesser demands of the lower resolution display will likely outlast the Pixel by up to two days if its predecessor is anything to go by. Like the XL, Huawei has also graced the Mate 9 with new fast charging technology of its own, working in conjunction with a new Super Charger power adapter to deliver 58 per cent charge in 30 minutes or a full charge in 90.

The 12.3-megapixel camera on the Google Pixel phone and Pixel XL has been making headlines, trumping the likes of Samsung’s S7 Edge and latest iPhones in some areas. It shoots in HDR by default, proves versatile, able to cope with a variety of scenarios, and enjoys the unique privilege of being the only phone to receive free unlimited photo and video backup (including 4K footage) to Google Photos indefinitely.

The Mate 9’s new camera might not enjoy the same cloud storage privileges, but the hardware is unquestionably appealing, offering up a second-generation dual lens Leica co-engineered camera. The primary sensor shoots at 12-megapixels in colour, boasting OIS (unlike the Pixel), with the secondary monochrome sensor boasting a 20-megapixel resolution, enlarged pixels, and EIS. Collectively it should be able to offer similar versatility to the Pixel XL’s main snapper and more seamlessly pull off DSLR-like bokeh.

Google’s Pixel XL looks to offer a cleaner package, with minimalist hardware and software design, a killer display and an excellent camera, but those after a productivity machine might prefer the Mate 9’s approach to Android, with its larger display, longer battery life, and impressive performance chops.

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