The Huawei Mate 7 was arguably the best phone of 2014 – it offered more features and, in some instances, better performance than every other flagship phone on the market while costing hundreds of dollars less. It also came to Australian shores early although its successor has come very late (it was launched in November 2015).
The Chinese telecommunications company has been manufacturing mobile phones since 1997. It is also the largest telecom infrastructure maker in the world. The company also makes Android smartphones and tablets. Recently it has stepped into the smartwatch market with an Android Wear based device. It is another one of the big smartphone manufacturers from China. The Huawei Mate 8.
Huawei has always made good hardware and the Mate 8 looks to be no different but has the Chinese company learnt anything from working closely with Google and in particular, is its UX any closer to stock Android? How does the Mate 8 compare to past Huawei flagships? Let’s take a look the written Mate 8 review;
|Display||6.0-inch IPS-NEO LCD display 1920 x 1080, 368ppi Corning Gorilla Glass 4|
|Processor||Quad-core 2.3GHz Cortex-A72 + quad-core 1.8GHz Cortex A53 HiSilicon Kirin 950|
|RAM||3/4GB, depending on storage option|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 128GB|
|Camera||16MP rear camera, OIS, phase detection auto focus 8MP front camera|
|Software||Android 6.0 Marshmallow Emotion UI 4.0|
|Dimensions||157.1 x 80.6 x 7.9mm 185g|
Looking at Huawei’s list of past flagships such as the Mate S, Mate 7 and P8, there’s one thing that’s clear: Coupled with the Nexus 6P, it’s clear Huawei understands exactly what premium hardware is and while the Mate 8 does have a few tweaks, the design language hasn’t changed all that much since the Mate 7.
That being said, Huawei has one of the strongest design languages in the industry and while a lack of significant change runs the risk of it becoming stale, the company isn’t there just yet. Although the Mate 8 design is more than acceptable, we would like to see the company show us the next stage of its design language in future flagship devices.
In January 2015, we sat down with Huawei’s executives in China and during the course of several discussions, one topic that kept creeping up was display resolution and whether Huawei would eventually offer QHD resolution (and above) on its flagship devices. At the time, the answer was a resounding no but fast forward to the latter part of the year and the Huawei-made Nexus 6P became the first Huawei-made smartphone to offer QHD resolution.
Less than two months later, Huawei unveiled the Mate 8 and, despite all the rumours and leaks suggesting a QHD display was in the works, Huawei chose to stick with its guns and opted for Full HD resolution. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue but the Mate 8 was meant to arrive with great aplomb onto the market and a 6-inch Full HD panel really does – at least on paper – stretch the boundaries of whether the display is good enough.
Overall, Full HD may not provide a great experience on paper but the Mate 8 screen is certainly more than satisfactory in real world usage and if you’re someone who prefers a bigger screen so you can see things more clearly, this is definitely the smartphone for you. However, if you’re a tech aficionado, you may find that you miss QHD resolution after using the Mate 8 for any substantial period of time but the battery life savings of opting for FHD more than make up for any shortcomings in the screen department.
Despite the 6-inch screen size, the thin bezel means this has virtually the same footprint as an iPhone 6S Plus. While the included case initially looks cheap and plastic, it leaves the phone (if not the screen) that bit more protected and sits securely in your hand – other phones feel very slippery these days. What we liked best was the fingerprint unlock button on the back. We were worried at first that this would be annoying but it’s now annoying when finding other phones don’t have it. It works incredibly quickly and is the surely best way of securely locking/unlocking your phone on the market.
The two quad-core processors help everything tick along quickly and apps all open near instantly. It’s rare that there’s a slow-down but that can happen if you don’t allow the automatic clean-up app to run periodically. The screen gets bright enough for sunny Australian days but dims enough to not blind you in the dark. While there are finer-resolution screens on the market, not everyone will like them due to the smaller text and icons. We found the 1080P screen here perfectly adequate for most functions (precise colour monitoring when dealing with high-end pictures might be a letdown for camera buffs), it’s very clear and readable.
Our main gripe is with the airy-fairy pastel colour themes (again). You can change them, but in most cases some (notification especially) icons look very similar and it gets annoying. You can’t separate ringtone volume from notification volume either. On some occasions, some people kept saying they couldn’t hear us during a phone call, but when call quality was good it was very crisp and clear all round. Where the Mate 8 excels, however, is with conference calls as the loud, internal speakers and multiple microphones work very well. Unless you really don’t like larger phones in general, it’s hard to imagine anyone having issues with this.
The huge 4,000mAh battery is said to last two days. In our experience it could do that if you didn’t use your phone much. However, this was our go to phone AND CAMERA during Computex when it was expected to take more than a hundred pictures a day, do GPS navigation and be online constantly. It always lasted the full day which few other phones would come close to.
However, the fast charging system uses proprietary Huawei technology and other charges and cables caused issues – some cables reduced charging to a tiny trickle, so if you’ve collected loads of charging accoutrements from over the years, they might not function properly with this phone.
The camera software is essentially stock Android but the front selfie camera has an airbrushing “Beauty” feature which actually works quite well. We used the main camera for the vast majority of our Computes slideshows, which varied from light to dark and awkward lighting situations. The results were all fine, sharp and useable. We’ve seen better colors and better low light performance from the likes of the Samsung S7 phones, but really, we rarely needed the flash and most of our pictures were fine.
The Beauty airbrushing tool had various levels. Turned right down it makes people look grizzled while turned right up made it makes people look like they’re related to Barbie. Set half way through, the results were mildly flattering. Video is limited to Full HD (4K is becoming normal elsewhere) and quality was acceptable if not great. At quiet times you could hear the focusing mechanism grate and things could get indistinct in noisy environments, but ultimately we had no real complaints.
The main thing here is that taking pictures and focusing is incredibly fast and as a result we took a great many photos. The high battery life meant that we could cover the Computex expo for ten hours a day and not worry about running out of battery.
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