A large display smartphone in a compact form factor with outstanding battery life.
Huawei Mate 8
Huawei has been making some really nice looking hardware recently, and its new flagship phablet, the Mate 8 is no exception. Easily matching the level of craftsmanship you would expect from Apple, the Mate 8 has a sleek all-metal body and is available in Champagne Gold. The sides have chamfered edges with a very slight curve to the rear making it more comfortable to hold. Despite having a huge 6-inch display, the Mate 8 doesn’t feel much bigger than other phablets in the 5.5- to 5.7-inch range. Thanks to its incredibly thin 1.7mm bezel, the phone has a near 80-percent screen-to-body ratio. In fact, it’s only about 3mm wider than the 5.5-inch iPhone 6s Plus, and amazingly, 1mm shorter. At just 185g, it’s even 7g lighter than the iPhone 6s Plus too.
There’s a fingerprint scanner on the back that’s slightly recessed and perfectly round. It’s not a button, so you don’t have to press down on it, but the sensor appears to be the same one used in the Nexus 6P and is lightning fast. Above the fingerprint scanner is a 16-megapixel camera with an f/2.0 aperture, 27mm focal length lens and Sony’s new IMX 298 sensor. The camera has tri-axis optical image stabilization, dual LED flash and phase detection autofocus. Camera performance was reasonably good, but photos weren’t as sharp as they could have been, especially in less favorable lighting. While graininess is kept under control, there’s some noticeable processing which causes softness. Furthermore, unlike most flagship smartphones, the Mate 8 cannot record video in 4K - the best it can do is 1080p at 60fps or 720p at 120fps.
The bottom edge of the phone houses the micro-USB port as well as two speaker grilles. The speaker is a little underpowered, but what sound it does produce is balanced and accurate. Conversely, with a good pair of headphones plugged in, the integrated DTS audio suite can deliver a rich and enjoyable listening experience. A dual SIM card tray, with the second slot doubling up as a microSD card slot that accepts up to 128GB cards can be found on the left side. Both the power button and the volume rocker can be found on the right. The power button has a circular pattern etched into it so it’s easier to locate.
While many of its competitors have moved on to Quad HD resolution displays, Huawei stuck to Full HD for the Mate 8. To its credit, even at 6-inches, the phone’s 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution (368 ppi) is sharp enough you won’t see pixels. Having said that, we do wish Huawei had opted for an AMOLED display—as it did with the Nexus 6P—instead of an IPS-NEO LCD. Blacks aren’t quite as deep as the Nexus 6P, and colors look slightly off too - whites are slightly warm and reds oversaturated.
The Mate 8 is one of the first phones to launch with Android 6.0 Marshmallow pre-installed. However, Huawei uses its own EMUI 4.0 interface on top of it, drastically changing the experience. The new UI takes a lot of cues from iOS, completely removing the app drawer and making big changes to the look of the notification panel, lock-screen quick panel and even the icons.
On the plus side, EMUI 4.0 comes with its own unique features that you won’t find on any other Android phone. The most prominent is Huawei’s Knuckle Sense 2.0, which allows you to perform various actions using different knuckle gestures. Knuckle Sense is a bit of a hit-or-miss affair and honestly not the most intuitive, but if you train yourself to use it, it does actually work quite well.
The Mate 8 is the first smartphone to use Huawei’s 16nm HiSilicon Kirin 950 octa-core chipset, which uses a quad-core 2.3GHz Cortex A72 and a quad-core 1.8GHz Cortex A53. The GPU is a 900MHz Mali-T880MP4m similarly found in Samsung’s new Exynos 8890-equipped Galaxy S7. Benchmark Performance was about on par with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810, but it remains to be seen if the Mate 8 can keep up with this year’s Qualcomm 820-powered flagships.
Battery life is fantastic on the Mate 8, thanks to its huge 4,000mAh capacity battery. The phone lasted a massive 13 hours and 36 minutes on our video looping benchmark. In fact, the battery is so big you can actually use the Mate 8 as a powerbank and charge other devices with it.
All things considered, the Mate 8’s huge 6-inch display but relatively compact dimensions should appeal to anyone wanting a larger without trading off one-handed usability.
AT A GLANCE
HiSilicon Kirin 950 (quad-core 2.3GHz Cortex A72 and a quad-core 1.8GHz Cortex A53)
6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 pixels IPS-NEO LCD (368ppi)
16-megapixel, f/2.0 aperture, 27mm, OIS, dual-LED flash
1 57.1 x 80.6 x 7.9mm
The Mate 8 uses the same circular fingerprint scanner as the Nexus 6P
The phone’s ultra-thin 1.7mm bezels give it a much smaller footprint.