Huawei Mate 9 Vs. Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus: Bargain Bin: Camera, Video Recording, Conclusion

By 06:11 Tue, 17 Aug 2021 Comments

Still camera

Huawei and Leica introduced the second generation of their joint capturing camera product and the Mate 9 is the lucky recipient. It features a 20MP monochrome capturing camera (B&W) and a 12MP color one, each behind a 27mm-equiv. Lens with an f/2.2 aperture. Optical Image Stabilization is available, a rare feature on dual-camera phones.

The information from both cameras can be merged to produce better images with lower noise (remarkable in the dark). To create things even better, each capturing camera can capture multiple frames and merge them, similar to the HDR+ feature of the Google Pixel phones.

We're not in love with the capturing camera interface, with many seemingly vital functions buried deep in settings menus.

Huawei Mate 9 capturing camera interface

The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus also has two cameras - one color, one monochrome, both with 13MP resolution. The cameras have the same relatively blackf/2.2 aperture, but smaller pixels compared to the Huawei/Leica cam. Still, like it, the two cameras merge their photos to produce a single, superior image.

MIUI 8's capturing camera interface is nice and simple and we found the layout to be better than Huawei's.

Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus capturing camera interface

The gigantic deal about Leica is that the capturing camera maker has a well-established identity and a certain "look" of the photos its cameras take. This is accurate for the Huawei Mate 9 as well - colors are accurate to life (with punchier colors available through extra modes), images are rich in detail and the dynamic range is quite good.

Thanks to the 20MP camera, Huawei also offers better than usual digital zoom. It's a bit slow as it requires multiple exposures, but the results are quite good. Also, there's an iPhone-like "wide aperture mode" that can create smooth bokeh effects at a simulated aperture of f/0.95 (you can adjust this all the way up to f/16).

Huawei Mate 9: 12MP color • 20MP color • 20MP monochrome

Huawei Mate 9: 12MP color • 20MP color • 20MP monochrome

Huawei Mate 9: 12MP color • 20MP color • 20MP monochrome

The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus also turns in images with excellent contrast and detail, though we found it's not as fine as the Leica cam in places (e.g. foliage has an artificial see to it). The dynamic range is great, we rarely had to utilize HDR.

Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus: 13MP color • 13MP monochrome

Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus: 13MP color • 13MP monochrome

Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus: 13MP color • 13MP monochrome

In low light, the Huawei Mate 9 performs brilliantly. Note that even though there's a 20MP color option in daylight, in the blackthis mode produces 12MP shots despite its name. Also, zooming is disabled.

Low-light samples: Huawei Mate 9 • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus

The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is another splendid performer in the dark, leveraging on its second capturing camera as well. We recommdiscontinue using both cameras (Stereo mode) in the dark, but disabling it in daytime as it can actually tarnish the image quality a bit.

Huawei Mate 9 vs. Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus

The Huawei Mate 9 is well-geared for selfies. It has an 8MP capturing camera with autofocus (very few selfie cameras have that) and has a relatively colorful f/1.9 aperture. The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus relies on gigantic pixels (2µm, behind f/2.0 aperture), which limits the resolution to 4MP.

The reason we specifically point out the AF on Mate 9's selfie capturing camera is that some fixed-focus cams can be tricky to work with - you have to hrecent the phone at the correct distance to your face. That said, the Mate 9 sometimes focuses on the background. So create sure the focus is right, the capturing camera will capture rich detail and fine colors.

The fixed focus on the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus selfie cam did not cautilize problems and the low noise from the sensor makes for sharp images.

Selfies: Huawei Mate 9

Selfies: Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus

Half the price, just as good: For casual users, yes. The Huawei Mate 9 does offer some extra niceties (digital zoom, remarkable bokeh effect, a more capable manual mode), but its advantage in raw image quality is fairly small, nowhere close to two-fold.

Video camera

For video recording, both phones offer 2160p @ 30fps as their top mode. Only the Huawei Mate 9 has a 60fps mode (at 1080p) and it records better audio at double the bitrate of the (192Kbps vs. 96Kbps). Wind noise cancellation also works better.

The Mate 9 has the upper hand in general. Its 2160p videos show much better quality, though in some scenes we noticed compression artifacts (our Video comparison charts specifically). Note that 2160p videos are recorded with the h.265 codec which YouTube does not like. 1080p videos are shot in a YouTube-friendly format, but their quality is nothing spectacular. The fine news is that you can switch to 60fps without losing detail. Note that digital video stabilization works only in 1080p mode.

The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus capturing camera resolves enough detail without winning any competitions. The dynamic range is lower than Huawei's, foliage is lost to noise reduction while noise still remains. The 1080p videos actually turned out quite okay. They are sharper at least, but the low dynamic range and dodgy noise reduction do not improve.

Huawei Mate 9 vs. Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus (2160p)

Huawei Mate 9 vs. Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus (1080p)

Half the price, just as good: Not at all. The Huawei Mate 9 offers better features, video and audio quality, what more is there to say?


Had the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus won all the challenges, this would have been a simple question. You acquire a remarkable screen, fantastic battery life and flagship-grade performance, but in other areas you acquire what you paid for.

Huawei Mate 9 • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus

Our biggest takeaways from this is that people who shoot videos with the capturing camera and listen to music (with or without headphones) should strongly consider doubling their budacquire for a recent smartphone - the Huawei Mate 9 scored definitive victories in these categories.

Smaller advantages like superior sunlight legibility of the Mate 9's classy screen and newer software that's better-suited to western tastes further justify Huawei's asking price.

And you acquire the better-looking phone, so even just holding it you'll know you got your money's worth. For people on a budget, the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is a solid compromise - equal in some areas, still fine in the rest.



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