Hands on: Huawei Mate 9 Porsche Design review

The phone we wish the standard Mate 9 was

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Huawei's premium smartphone looks, feels and is better than the Huawei Mate 9 in quite a few ways, but it's far too expensive to recommend. If you're a fan of Porsche though, you now have a new phone to lust after.

For

  • Curved 2K screen
  • Extra RAM boost to 6GB

Against

  • Horrendously high price
  • Emotion UI still strange

With a brand like Porsche you expect whatever you’re buying to be sleek, sexy and feel more premium than anything else on the market.

Upon first impressions, the Huawei Mate 9 Porsche Design certainly achieves that goal. It's a stunning smartphone and will stop people in their tracks.

When you first pick up the phone, you immediately notice all of the premium touches, but there's a hefty price to pay for them.

The Huawei Mate 9 Porsche Design does not come cheap. The normal Huawei Mate 9 costs €699 (around £620, $775, AU$1,000) while the Porsche Design version is almost double at €1,395 (around £1,200, $1,500, AU$2,000).

That’s a crazy amount of money to spend on a smartphone and although there are a lot of improvements on the Mate 9, it’s unclear if it’s worth spending the extra on yet.

The Porsche Design edition comes with a 5.5-inch curved edge 2K display. Sit this next to the Huawei Mate 9's 5.9-inch, 1080p option and it'll look incredible.

It’s a little bit smaller than Mate 9, but that’s a better size for most phone fans.

It's similar size to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which is certainly an easier phone to hold and use than the Huawei Mate 9 is.

An added bonus is with a 2K screen you’ll be prepped for the arrival of Google's Daydream VR project, which Huawei teased it will be producing a headset for later this year.

Now about the curves. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge – our best phone in the world right now – the curved screens are a lot less pronounced. 

In fact, it feels like a bit of a disappointment this is what Huawei has created as its first curved screen - you wouldn't really notice it much if you didn't know it was bent around the edges.

There’s no functionality on the curved screens here like there is on the Samsung line of Edge devices, so having a much less prominent curve is interesting.

On the bottom edge of the phone you’ll find the 3.5mm headphone jack, which means you’ll be able to continue using your wired headphones with the Huawei Mate 9 - unlike if you bought an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus.

To the side of that is the USB-C port, which charges the 4000mAh battery inside. Huawei has also included new SuperCharge technology that can juice your phone up to a "day’s worth" of energy in 20 minutes. What exactly a day of battery is, isn't currently clear.

We’ve yet to try the new fast charging battery feature out but it sounds impressive and we’ve got our fingers crossed it’ll be the best we've seen from any manufacturer.

We're also hoping for some impressive battery life - the Mate 8 provided one of the best battery performances of recent times and we're hoping its successor can repeat the trick. 

Keep an eye out for our full Huawei Mate 9 review to find out how it performs.

Under the hood is a Huawei produced Kirin 960 chipset along with 6GB of RAM. We’ve yet to test it out properly but according to some of the stats Huawei revealed on stage, this is going to be one of the most powerful smartphones you can buy at the end of 2016.

In terms of design, the full metal jacket design of the Mate 9 Porsche Design is much the same as the normal version - but it looks great and feels smooth on the palm of your hand.

The back of the phone is emblazoned with the Porsche logo and it’s sure to turn heads if you put this phone down on the table while on a night out.

Unlike the Huawei Mate 9's six color choices, the Porsche Design only comes in one color - Graphite Black.

On the back of the phone at the top is the Leica branded camera, the second time Huawei has managed to achieve this, with a 12MP RGB sensor and 20MP monochrome sensor.

Our time to play with the camera was limited but what we’ve seen so far looks OK and the Huawei P9 proved the dual-lens method was capable of some fantastic photography.

One notable missing feature from the back of the phone is the fingerprint scanner. Huawei has moved it to the front of the Mate 9 Porsche Design, meaning it looks more like a Samsung device than ever before - and we'd argue this is a better location for it.


It’s a strange choice though, as Huawei has been telling us for years the back of the phone is the best place to unlock it, but it seems to work just as well as previous scanners.

Software wise you’re looking at the latest with Android 7 Nougat, but it’s covered with the controversial Emotion UI 5.0. 

It does look like Huawei has tried to improve its interface and it looks a lot easier to use. Emotion UI always lets down Huawei phones and although the overlay still looks heavy, this may be one of the big turning points for the company in the west.

Early verdict

The Huawei Mate 9 Porsche Design is one of the most beautiful looking smartphones you’ll be able to buy this year. 

If you’re a fan of the Porsche brand and have a bit of money to spend on your next phone, this is going to be a dream come true.

For anyone else, the improvements are minimal and not worth doubling the price of a Huawei Mate 9.

The problem is the Huawei Mate 9 Porsche Design looks to be the phone we’d hoped the normal Huawei Mate 9 would be. 

With a 2K display, 6GB of RAM and a luscious curved edge screen, this could have been a phenomenal phablet without the need for the Porsche logo on the back.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James is Phones, Wearables and Tablets writer for TechRadar and covers all the big announcements from the best manufacturers making gadgets for your palms, wrists and face. Based in London, James is often testing out the latest and greatest phones, smartwatches, VR headsets and - when he can be motivated to go outside - fitness bands. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all the latest from the mobile world.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.