The Huawei P9 was released towards the end of last year and they ended up with 3 separate models, The P9 Lite, The P9 and P9 Plus. So what’s the difference between these models and which one should you go for?
Let’s start with what's in the box, all three phones came with documentation, chargers and headphones as well as a nice plastic case which was surprising. The P9 Lite's case has a more frosted plastic on the back compared to the clear cases from the other two. These should provide an adequate amount of protection from surface scratches.
The design of the phones is also similar, The P9 and P9 Plus have unibody aluminium housings, with the Plus model having a subtle brushed material. The P9 Lite on the other hand is a smooth plastic but its not a cheap feeling device and this is due to the phone still having that aluminium chamfered edge. The only other physical changes is the P9 Lite is the only phone out of the three to be using micro USB, while the other two are using USB-type C, the headphone jack on the P9 lite is also located at the top of the device rather then the bottom and the P9 Lite is also rocking a solo camera lens on the back, where as both the P9 and P9 Plus have a Lycia dual lens setup.
All 3 phones have fingerprint sensors on the back, and as you would probably expect from a modern smartphone they're fast and reliable and I found them consistent. You can also swipe your finger along the back to pull down the notification panel or swipe through images in your gallery which is a nice touch. As for the displays, all 3 phones are sitting at 1080p. The top 2 models are coated in gorilla glass 3, but the P9 Plus is the only model to feature a force Touch Display. If you're familiar with 3d touch on the iPhone this is the same pressure sensitive technology, and allows you to push down harder on the screen to access shortcuts.
I did find that the colours seemed to pop a little more on the P9 Plus and this will be due to that AmoLED display. The bezels are sitting at only 1.7mm thick giving the displays an almost edge to edge feel. Overall very impressed with the screens on all these phones, they all get quite bright and have good colour reproduction, and you can change the colour temperature yourself in the settings to something more your taste.
Moving onto the hardware, the P9 Lite has a Kirin 650 while the other two models have a Kirin 955, which is essentially a beefed up version of the Kirin 950. Regardless, all 3 phones performed really well, Running the Epic citadel benchmark the P9 Lite came in at only 10fps lower, considering that it’s basically a third of the price of the P9 plus I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not the fastest GPU on the market but will able to power through all the modern 3d games and Counterstrike clones.
As for CPU geek bench stats the phones performed as you would expect. With good, better and best. But that P9 Plus isn't playing around, beating out Samsung’s S7 in both the single and multi-core scores. The battery size is also impressive when you look at how thin all three phones are, I easily got through a whole day and if you're a moderate to light user you may even see 2 days of usage.
Moving onto the software these phones are running Android 6 with Huawei’s emui on top which seems to be a bit of a polarising launcher, there’s no app drawer, and apps are just placed on your home screen similar to iOS. I personally don’t mind it but if you need an app drawer you may have to look at downloading another launcher. As well as UI changes there is also lots of additional features that you don't get with stock Android, such as motion gestures, where you can flip your phone to mute, raise to your ear to answer calls and double tap with your knuckle to take a screenshot. There's a theme engine for easily changing up the look of your device and the battery manager app gives you a good amount of control and warns you about power-hungry apps. You can even downscale the screen resolution to only 720p to save power, all these little things add a lot to the end user experience and Huawei have done a good job.
And then finally we move onto the cameras, as mentioned the P9 lite has a single lens 13MP camera, and it takes very nice photos for a phone around this price point. Moving onto the other 2 models, the P9 and the P9 Plus are both rocking the Lycia dual lens system, which uses two 12MP sensors. One SRGB and the other monochrome working in tandem to produce very sharp images with good colour reproduction.
The P9 Lite's camera is really good, looking at the photos on their own they look great, it's only when you place them side by side with the P9 and P9 Plus that you notice a jump in quality, the dual lens Lycia cameras produce better colours and an overall sharper image. Video seems to be much the same, decent quality although there is no optical stabilization so footage gets very shaky if you're moving around.
Really what it comes down to is the P9 Lite is a great performing device for the price, its snappy and above what you'd expect for a phone under $400 if you pay a little more. The P9 gives you can get a better build quality, better cameras and a bump in the specs, and then a with little more than that, the P9 Plus gives you the complete experience with a bigger screen, some more RAM, a bigger battery that force touch screen and an IR blaster.
It’s up to you whether you find these extra features and specs worth that price bump, but regardless Huawei have done well across the board with all 3 of these devices.
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