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Huawei P9 Plus Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Great battery life
  • Sleek design
  • Capable cameras

The Bad

  • Pricey
  • Software issues
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Huawei P9 Plus Review: We test out this mighty 5.5-inch version of the original Huawei P9 phone to see what the difference is, and decide if the P9 Plus can stand up against rival 5.5-inch mobiles like the OnePlus 3, Moto G4 Plus and Galaxy A7 2016.

If you haven’t read our thoughtful dissection of the Huawei P9, let me sum up our thoughts in one simple sentence. It’s one of Huawei’s best premium phones for some time, helped along by some gorgeous design and awesome hardware, although as usual the software isn’t quite as strong as we’d like.

There you go, all caught up. So, three months after we reviewed the Huawei P9, we now have the all-new, bigger Huawei P9 Plus, which boosts the original 5.2-inch phone up to 5.5-inches and throws in some bonus features to boot. We’ve used this mighty mobile as our full-time phone for a week now and here’s our in-depth Huawei P9 Plus review.

Read next: Huawei P9 vs P9 Plus vs P9 Lite, what’s the difference?

Huawei P9 Plus Review: Design

Design is an area that Huawei has definitely nailed, and the P9 Plus, like the P9 before it, is one of the best-looking smartphones to be released in 2016. Sure, there’s a chance that Apple provided some serious inspiration with its iPhone handsets, as the P9 sports a similar curved metallic frame with aerial bands hugging the back, but Huawei has added a few premium design touches of its own.

We love the subtle lines that streak across the P9 Plus’ top and bottom bezels, while the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is perfectly positioned and neatly indented to make it easy to locate. But of course, it’s the funky camera bar at the top of the P9’s rear plate that really gives it a distinctive look, just like the Huawei-crafted Nexus 6P stood out from the crowd with its unusual hump.

The P9 Plus is only really different in design to the P9 when it comes to dimensions. It’s noticeably heavier at 162g compared to 144g, although still not exactly wrist-spraining. However it is quite bulky too (despite its pleasingly slender finish), which makes one-handed use very difficult indeed.

Thankfully you can call up Huawei’s one-handed mode at any time by flicking across the on-screen Android toolbar, which bumps the desktops down towards the lower half of the screen. It’s a bit of a cheat, but it’s a handy feature all the same.

On the rear of the phone you’ll spy a fingerprint sensor, which appears to be a dinky divot in the centre of that metallic plate. It may be tiny but it’s impressively responsive, picking up your print the moment you touch your fingertip to the indented surface. The sensor is pretty much one hundred percent accurate too, instantly recognising your print and unlocking the phone in one smooth motion.

Huawei P9 Plus Review: OS

All three P9 phones run Android Marshmallow, with Huawei’s own Emotion UI spread neatly over the top, giving Google’s OS a unique look and feel. Your feelings on this are likely to be directly impacted by which phones you’ve previously used, as the P9 Plus ends up feeling like a halfway house between an Android handset and an iPhone.

The main reason for this is Huawei’s insistence on removing the apps tray and lumping all of your apps on the main desktops. A scenario that isn’t helped much by the P9 Plus coming pre-stacked with all kinds of apps. Thankfully this can be overcome, via a bit of a cumbersome strategy, if it really bugs you. And other little features such as Huawei’s media and shortcuts bar, which can be dragged up from the bottom of the lock screen, are perfectly innocuous additions to Android.

Huawei P9 Plus Review: Screen and media

With its increased size comes an all-new 5.5-inch AMOLED screen, an improvement over the already-very-good 5.2-inch display of the original P9.

The P9 Plus’ mighty panel once again sports a Full HD resolution, and you basically have to squint quite hard and press your face up to the glass to see any individual pixels. Viewing angles are solid and on top brightness you’ll have no trouble seeing, even on super-sunny days.

The P9 Plus’ screen is also impressively vibrant thanks to that switch to AMOLED tech, with the option of boosting colour richness with a Vivid Colour Mode. As before you can manually fiddle with colour warmth too, which is handy if you want a warm, easy-on-the-eyeballs display for night-time use.

Another display feature found on the P9 Plus but not the smaller P9 handsets is Huawei’s ‘Press Touch’ tech. This is pretty much the same as Apple’s 3D Touch feature found on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, allowing you to fast-access app features with a hard push on the shortcut app. You can also zoom into photos by pressing hard, and setup other shortcuts that use Press Touch.

As with 3D Touch, it’s a feature that has a couple of half-decent uses, but ultimately it’s very easy to forget that Press Touch even exists.

If you want to carry around a massive media collection, the good news is that you get a massive 64GB of on-board storage (over 50GB of which is free to use), expandable via a microSD memory card slot.

Huawei P9 Plus Review: Performance and battery life

Like the P9, the P9 Plus packs in a Kirin 955 processor (although this time there’s only a 4GB RAM option), so you’re guaranteed a smooth user experience. You don’t get as much power as rival Snapdragon 820-toting Androids, such as the OnePlus 3 for instance, but for everyday use it’s absolutely fine. In a week of using the P9 Plus as my full-time phone, I haven’t seen a single stutter.

As for battery life, the P9 Plus once again impresses just like the smaller P9 handsets. On a full charge you can expect a day and a half of pretty full-on use, or two days if you restrain yourself and simply check messages and occasionally browse the web. When the phone is hibernating, the power barely drains at all.

Huawei P9 Plus Review: Cameras

One of the most distinctive features of the Huawei P9 and P9 Plus is the dual-lens camera designed in collaboration with optics expert Leica. On the P9 Plus you’ll find the same snappers as the P9; that’s two 12-megapixel lenses around the back and an 8-megapixel selfie camera at the front.

Check out our P9 Plus camera review and comparison feature for our in-depth thoughts, plus photo and video samples.

Huawei P9 Plus Review: Verdict

Huawei’s P9 Plus is yet another 5.5-inch smartphone, a previously niche category that’s rapidly expanding in 2016 with the likes of the OnePlus 3 and Moto G4 handsets hitting UK shelves. Good news is, the P9 Plus more than holds its own thanks to the gorgeous design, effective dual-lens camera and impressive battery life, although the software could use a bit of love.

Of course, the P9 Plus is also one of the more expensive 5.5-inchers out there, which makes it hard to recommend compared with some of its rivals. The Galaxy A7 offers pretty much the same pros but for over £150 less, for instance.

Specification

Screen size5.5-inches
Screen resolution1920x1080
OSAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow
Rear Camera12-megapixel
Front camera8-megapixel
ProcessorKirin 955
Memory4GB
Storage64GB + microSD
4G LTEYes
Bonus featuresFingerprint sensor

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