Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Huawei P9

Rainbow hued: The P9 comes in many colours including Haze Gold, Ceramic White, Rose Gold, Prestige Gold, Titanium Grey and Mystic Silver.

Huawei’s flagship phone is an unexpected surprise.
I’M the type of person who picks the same flavour of ice-cream every time – pralines and cream – because it’s my favourite. I use a bag until it is well-worn, seams splitting at the sides, before I am forced to get a new one. I have lived in the same house for the last 16 years, and I have clothes dating back to the 1980s. Why change if you’re happy with what you’ve got, I ask? And so for the last three years I had been content using my iPhone 5. Though battered and bruised (not to mention, ghastly out of date), I never had the urge to run out – let alone queue up – for the next big thing on the mobile phone market.
But here I am now with the new Huawei P9 nestled comfortably in the palm of my right hand. And I am astonishingly happy.
The Huawei P9 is nice and slim at  0.28 in
The Huawei P9 is nice and slim at 0.28in. — KAMARUL ARIFFIN/The Star
I wasn’t expecting much, truth be told. This is, after all, a China-made handphone.
But right off the bat – or out of the box, to be more precise – I was surprised. Even the packaging has a minimalist chic to it – the P9 comes in an elegant white textured box with both Huawei and Leica branding on it.
And once I got to the phone – neatly fitted in a protective wrap – again I was bowled over. The mobile phone’s Titanium Grey body is instantly captivating. And Huawei has very thoughtfully included a clear phone case along with the other usual suspects – headset, charger, a high speed USB cable, eject tool and quick start guide – all very compactly ­packaged, and is easy to unbox and setup.
The phone is made up of what looks like just glass and metal, much like modernist architecture, and its curved edges add to this appeal.
It’s a snap
You’ll have heard of how the P9 is set to “reinvent photography”. The phone is co-­engineered with German camera company Leica and features two cameras, its main ­selling point.
The Huawei P9 comes in a sleek Titanium Grey body, and carries the German Leica camera branding on the top right hand corner
The Huawei P9 carries the German Leica camera branding on the top right hand corner. — KAMARUL ARIFFIN/The Star
The camera reputedly captures more light because it has two sensors, one RGB and one monochrome, that work together to create higher detail. I especially like the fact that these sensors are flush with the phone’s back – not just so grime doesn’t get in, but that it adds to the overall sophistication of design.
I like taking photos with my phone camera and the P9 gives you all the confidence you need to take great photos. The phone comes with pro features, but I am content using the auto-mode. Night-time photography turned out fine, and the colours in the day are super vibrant. Even the black and white photographs look much sharper.
Check out the one I took of my cat Bobby – you can see his whiskers in all their glory and even trace out the cornea of his eye.
A photo of my cat Bobby taken using the monochrome mode indoors, at night.
A photo of my cat Bobby taken using the monochrome mode indoors, at night. — ANN MARIE CHANDY/The Star
There’s also a range of modes and filters to mess around with, and a really cool wide aperture feature which allows you to take a photo with a shallow depth of field (the object must be at least within 2m of you and, more importantly, must be clearly defined). What this feature does is it blurs out everything else in the background. Then there’s the 8-megapixel selfie shooter, which you can also trigger from the back of the phone, but more on that in a little while.
Speaking of selfies, I’m not sure I enjoy the beauty tips the camera suggests (make your face thinner, smoothen out that rough skin, darken this bit or that – the phone actually identifies a “beauty level” that suits you if you let it!) – I like my face as is, thank you very much.
Fit for a spy
Okay, so fingerprint sensors on phones may have been around for the last three years, but this is the first time I have had the pleasure of testing one out. Did I feel like James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever? Well yes and no. Yes, because after a quick six touches to recognise my pointer finger, the P9 now calls me master and is happy to do my bidding. (No, because I didn’t have to resort to chopping someone’s finger off.)
At the bottom of the P9, you’ll find the Type C connector, loudspeaker, jack and microphone.
At the bottom of the P9, you’ll find the Type C connector, loudspeaker, jack and microphone. — KAMARUL ARIFFIN/The Star
The pattern or pincode method works just as well, so if the phone is lying on its back, fret not, you can resort to less ­spy-like tactics to unlock your device.
Oh and yes, I can even take photos using this function which makes it a cinch, ­especially for selfies.
Does size really matter?
I am just barely over five feet and so I’ve never ever liked to think that if something were bigger, it would equate to it being ­better. But I have to say, the 5.2in full HD screen on the P9 has made a convert out of me. If this review came with background music, you’d be hearing Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now.
A woman poses holding the new P9 smartphone by Chinese tech company Huawei during the phone's launch at Battersea Evolution in London on April 6, 2016.
The P9 was created in partnership with German camera manufacturer Leica and houses a dual camera system. / AFP PHOTO / JACK TAYLOR
Reading messages, watching YouTube videos, playing Candy Crush (the Jelly Version) have all just become so much more breezy on the P9. — AFP
Reading messages, watching YouTube videos, playing Candy Crush (the Jelly Version) have all just become so much more breezy. And while I previously used to gawk at people who used such LARGE ­handsets, in just three days I’ve grown so accustomed to lugging the P9 around. Of course, there will be those more used to a 6in screen who find this too small!
It’s a wrap
The battery life seems good enough – it lasts me throughout the day, and takes about an hour and a half to fully charge up at night. The phone also comes equipped with a large range of free downloadable themes which are quick to install.
The P9 from Huawei is not just sleeks, its got Leica on its side when it comes to taking photos. Photo: Huawei
The P9 is not just sleek, it's got Leica on its side when it comes to taking photos. — Huawei
There are lots of cool details which I find very helpful – for instance, the volume rocker comes with individual settings so you can ­customise different sound levels for ringtone, media, alarm and calls. Also the power button is textured which makes it easy to identify, even while it’s buried in your handbag.
Enough gushing then. Is there anything I don’t like about this phone? There are a few minor niggling details here and there.
No. 1 is that the phone comes with its fair share of bloatware – there are just so many apps here that I would never use, and I thought they could easily have been left out.
I also wasn’t a fan of the Huawei keypad, and kept hitting all the wrong buttons. But it was easy enough for me to switch to Google.
A pictures shows the new P9 smartphone by Chinese tech company Huawei during the phone's launch at Battersea Evolution in London on April 6, 2016.
The P9 was created in partnership with German camera manufacturer Leica and houses a dual camera system. / AFP PHOTO / JACK TAYLOR
The home buttons appear on the screen rather than the body, and this takes a bit of getting used to. — AFP
The home buttons also appear on the screen, rather than the body, and this takes a bit of getting used to. On WhatsApp, I find I am hitting the photo icons instead of opening messages, but that’s just me being used to how the iPhone works I think.
All in all, I’m quite smitten with the P9. And it’s fast becoming a favourite, like pralines and cream.
Pros: Camera has many modes and takes great photos; sleek design; speedy fingerprint sensor. 
Cons: Bloatware; average battery life.

Android smartphone
Operating system: Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
Network: 4G LTE
Display: 5.2in (1,080 x 1,920 pixels)
Processor: Octa-core (4 x 2.5GHz A72+ 4 x 1.8GHz A53) Kirin 955
Camera: Two 12 megapixels cameras (rear); 8 megapixels (front)
Memory: 32GB internal ­memory
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; WiFi Direct; USB Type C
Battery: 3,000mAh lithium-ion
Size: 45 x 70.9 x 6.95mm
Weight: 144g
Price: RM2,099
Rating: 4 stars
Review unit courtesy of Huawei Technologies Malaysia, 1800-22-3366

Xperia Z5 Dual: Dual identity

Pretty as a picture: The Sony Xperia Z5 Dual is, as its name suggests, a dual-sim smartphone. — Photos: TAN KIT HOONG/The Star
Sony’s latest flagship smartphone houses a 23-megapixel camera.
Sony has long been one of the major players in the Android ­market but some of its newer ­flagship models have yet to see commercial success.
It now has a new strategy which may help it reach a wider audience – its latest flagship, the Z5, comes in three variants – besides the main Z5 model, there is also a more expensive Z5 Premium and a smaller Z5 Compact.
We review the Z5 Dual which, as the name suggests, is the dual SIM variant of the main Z5.
Familiar design
The Z5 has a symmetrical design that should be familiar to its fans. The metal frame gives it a premium touch while the four edges are reinforced with polycarbonate plastic for ruggedness.
A welcome change is the matte glass back panel, which feels a lot more consistent with the design language, compared to the glass back panels of its predecessors.
Sony Xperia Z5 Dual
Having the Home button on the side makes it easy to unlock the Xperia Z5.
The right side of the device houses all the physical buttons, including the home button which also doubles up as a fingerprint sensor. Having the fingerprint sensor on the side made it easy to unlock the device with just one hand, as the sensor was fast and accurate.
The Z5 has 32GB of internal memory and has an independent microSD card slot for those requiring additional storage. (Unlike other devices on the market, the second SIM card slot is not used to double as the microSD card slot.)
One of the unique selling points of Sony’s Xperia devices has been the water and dust resistance, a tradition that the Z5 continues. It adheres to the IP68 certification – the device is water resistant for up to 30 minutes and at a depth of 1.5m.
Turning up the heat
The Z5 features uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor and has 3GB RAM which is enough firepower for lag-free operation.
It runs on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop and Sony has said it’s committed to upgrading it to Android 6 Marshmallow once it becomes available.
Sony Xperia Z5 Dual
The Small Apps menu gives you quick access to apps and utilities.
Sony’s version of Android comes with some nifty features, such as the Small Apps menu which gives you quick access to apps and utilities such as the web browser, stopwatch and calculator.
It’s a shame that the device heats up very easily, a common issue with Androids fitted with the Snapdragon 810.
Using Google Maps, playing games and even watching YouTube videos heated the device quite a bit.
Megapixel machine
The Z5’s back camera boasts an impressive 23-megapixel sensor, which is ahead of most flagships on the market.
However, just like its predecessors, the Z5’s photo quality in auto mode is affected by poor software optimisation – pictures appeared softer around the edges more than they should.
While the photos are passable for social media usage, we were hoping that the additional megapixels would have been put to better use.
Manual mode produces much better quality photos than auto mode, but the average user may not have the time to fiddle with the manual settings to get the best out of the camera.
Sony Xperia Z5 Dual
The Z5’s back camera boasts an impressive 23-megapixel sensor, which is way ahead of most flagships on the market.
You can access the camera at anytime by holding the physical camera shutter button even when the device is locked. The camera button has two levels of pressure – press softly to focuses and fully press it to capture a shot.
The physical camera button itself is something that we are glad to have, as hardly any of Sony’s rivals on the market have it. The button is also helpful when taking underwater shots.
While the autofocus speed was very fast, we were a little disappointed with the slight delay after capturing each photo.
We thought it was caused by the large resolution, but the same delay is there even when we lowered the resolution to 8 megapixels. There was an update during the review period that improved the speed to a more acceptable level.
Multimedia Xperience
Sony has done a very good job with the speakers on the Z5. We are great fans of devices with front facing speakers, and the Z5’s stereo speakers are perfectly placed at the top and bottom of the device, which makes perfect sense when you are watching videos in landscape mode.
The way it’s positioned is also aesthetically pleasing as it doesn’t look out of place from the overall design of the device. Audio quality is as good as it gets from smartphone speakers.
The Z5’s 5.2in screen is good for multimedia consumption. The device comes with white balance adjustments for the screen to cater to the different tastes of users, whether they want their screen to be more natural or vibrant.
Sony Xperia Z5 Dual
The Z5 Dual has a more humble full HD resolution but is no less pretty.
Unlike the Z5 Premium which boasts a 4K resolution screen, the Z5 Dual has a more humble full HD resolution, which to us makes more practical sense.
The screen is more power efficient, and chances are you won’t be able to tell it apart from higher resolution screens with the naked eye anyway.
One area where the screen can be improved upon is visibility under the sun, as we had trouble using Google Maps outdoors even with the brightness at max.
Battery life was actually respectable and held up better than most other smartphones — it managed to easily last from morning to night on a single charge with average usage.
Battery drain was a lot faster while playing games though, which is a pity as the Z5 handled graphics intensive games like Need For Speed and Temple Run without a hitch. Game play was smooth and we enjoyed the experience with the front-facing speakers.
The improved design and physical camera button are among the things that we really like about the Z5 Dual. And Sony’s decision to have the home button on the side is just brilliant because unlocking the device has not been this easy before.
The 23-megapixel camera of the Z5 came with much promise, and it did deliver in a few ways, but is let down by the delay after capturing pictures. Hopefully this can be fixed with a future software update.
Where the Z5 disappoints is that it doesn’t remain cool under pressure. We understand that graphics intensive games and prolonged periods of picture taking will inevitably heat up the device, but it was surprising that it heated up even after watching YouTube videos.
Despite the Z5 Dual suffering from middle child syndrome – it’s not the most premium or affordable device in the range – it’s a good upgrade for Sony lovers.
Pros: Nice design; IP68 certification for water and dust resistance; smooth interface; memory card slot; 23-megapixel camera. 
Cons: Overheats; camera could have been better.

Xperia Z5 Dual (E6683)
Android smartphone
Operating system: Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop)
Network: 4G LTE
Processor: Quad-core 2GHz Cortex-A57 + quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53
Camera: 23 megapixels with LED flash; 5.1-megapixel front-facing camera
Display: 5.2in (1,080 x 1,920 pixels)
Memory: 32GB Internal ­memory, 3GB RAM
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1, USB 2.0, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; WiFi Direct; DLNA
Features: Fingerprint sensor; IP68 certification; physical shutter button
Battery: 2,900mAh lithium-ion
Size: 146 x 72 x 7.3mm
Weight: 154g
Price: RM2,699
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review unit courtesy of Sony Malaysia Sdn Bhd, 1300-88-1233. 
- Donovan Quek, The Star