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Huawei Mate 8 Review: A Phablet That Can Go The Distance

Huawei Mate 8 14

We review Huawei’s Mate 8!

After months of waiting, Chinese giant Huawei is finally selling their latest phablet, the Mate 8. The Mate 8’s older brother, the Mate 7, was the showcase device of sorts for the company when it was released a few years ago and showed the world that the firm could make a metal smartphone, and do it well. Will the Mate 8 impress us like its older brother?

Huawei Mate 8 specs

  • Kirin 950 octa-core processor (4 x 2.3GHz, 4 x 1.8GHz) with i5 coprocessor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 6-inch full HD display, 2.5D curved diamond cut glass,  1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 64GB internal storage
  • 16-megapixel Sony IMX298 rear cam with f/2.0 aperture and 3-axis OIS
  • 8-megapixel Sony IMX179 front cam with f/2.4 aperture
  • Dual-SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, Fingerprint scanner
  • 4000mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow, EMUI

Huawei Mate 8 03

All metal beauty

The Mate 7 was a beautiful, all-metal smartphone at a time when the company was still struggling to make glass-backed phones. Since then they’ve only gotten better at the whole making phones in metal thing, and the Mate 8 is their latest masterpiece.

Huawei Mate 8 10

Huawei has set to make their most premium phablet yet (well, at least as premium as their Nexus 6p) in the Mate 8. The Mate 8 is made out of metal, and features copious design cues from the previous iteration. If you’ve seen the Mate S in the flesh, it kind of feels a little bit like that, but supersized.

Huawei Mate 8 09

Despite being one of the larger phones in the market today because of its 6-inch display, the Mate 8 is still relatively easy to use with two hands though one-handed use may be challenging because of its size. The phone’s gently curved back helps a bit when you’re handling it with one hand.

Huawei Mate 8 06

The front of the phone is dominated by the 6-inch display. Unfortunately, the display is merely full HD as opposed to the QHD panels of other phones, which is a bit odd considering that Huawei’s other phablet, the Nexus 6p, features a QHD panel on a smaller 5.7-inch display. The good news is that the bezels on the display are ridiculously small, which allows the phone to have an overall smaller size compared to other phablets that have the same screen size. The top and bottom bezels are also very small, a feat that’s accomplished with the help of on-screen Android navigation keys.

Huawei Mate 8 04

Once you flip the phone over you’ll see the camera along with a dual LED flash. The fingerprint scanner sits right below that. Huawei was one of the first (if not the first) company to have that particular scanner setup in a phone, which incidentally is right where your finger would be if you were holding it one handed.

Huawei Mate 8 07

The rest of the physical features of the Mate 8 include the power button and volume rocker, which are both located on the right side, 3.5mm jack up top and a USB port down below.

The display, while lacking in pixels, is a lovely one. IPS panel with Gorilla Glass protection. The JDI-NEO panel performs well, even in bright sunlight, and has excellent colors with generous viewing angles. Aside from our QHD gripe, there’s nothing to complain about with the display of the Mate 8.

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Kirin 950 is a beast

Just like with Huawei’s other flagships, the Kirin 950 octa-core processor in the Mate 8 is a beast. Made by Huawei’s subsidiary HiSilicone, the Krin 950 is blazingly fast. Despite our review unit being only the 3GB version (only the 4GB version of the Mate 8 will be sold in the PH) we’ve yet to see a performance dip with the device during daily use. Seriously, the Mate 8 just gobbles up and spits out anything we throw at it – games, apps – if it runs on Android, it’ll run well on the Mate 8.

If there’s one thing we don’t like with the Mate 8, it’s the UI that you have to go through to enjoy the phone. EMUI is back, layered on top of Android Marhsmallow. Just like similar UI “enhancements” of other companies from the mainland, it strips the app drawer and lays out everything in the open, just like iOS does. To be fair, Huawei’s domestic competitors does the same thing as well, though we’d love if there was an option to switch to a stock Android experience.

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It’s not to say that EMUI isn’t useful since there’s a few nice features baked in that you wouldn’t get otherwise. Huawei’s Knuckle feature which allows you to take a screenshot of an area that you highlight with your knuckle works as advertised, and you can now record your phone’s display quickly and easily by either double tapping your knuckle on the screen or pressing the power button and volume up key.

How about the rest of the performance package? Well, the speaker is plenty loud, though there’s only one – the other speaker grille at the bottom of the phone is just for looks. Call quality is pretty good as well, no dropped calls whatsoever, and calls from, and to, the Mate 8 were crystal clear. One thing that we like about phones that have Huawei’s Kirin chips is that they have excellent radios in them, able to lock on to both GPS and LTE signals faster than the competition.

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Camera performance is a bit disappointing

The Mate 8 is equipped with Sony’s IMX298 CMOS sensor that’s 1/2.8″ in size and clocks in at 16-megapixels. That’s paired with a f/2.0 aperture, phase detection AF, tri-axis OIS as well as a dual LED flash. One of the bright spots that come with EMUI is the rich camera app, which allows several shooting modes including full manual mode.

On paper the camera looks impressive, unfortunately, that’s not the case. While the Mate 8 has no problem taking excellent photos in well-lit environs, it struggles with low light and artificial lighting. There isn’t a lot of noise in the photos, but the details are noticeably softer. The camera does manage to hit some low-light shots out of the park, but it’s not consistent enough for us.

Very long battery life

The Mate 8’s large frame is put to good use by Huawei since the company stuffed a 4000mAh battery inside of it. That’s no mean feat, considering that the phone is only 7.9mm thick. The result is battery life that you count in days, not hours. For some reason our PCMark battery benchmark refused to finish its run on the Mate 8, but our own use recorded an average of two days on a single charge with moderate to heavy use. With better battery management (moderate use) that figure stretches to almost 3 days.

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Verdict: a solid phablet but faces tough competition from another Huawei product

On paper Huawei’s Mate 8 is a very good phablet. While its camera performance is a little disappointing, its beastly Kirin 950 processor, gobs of RAM and pretty face make it a phablet to be reckoned with. There is a rub however – the Mate 8 doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and unfortunately, faces stiff competition from another beautiful and cheaper Huawei product – the Nexus 6P. We wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to go with the 6P, since it has a lot of things on tap that the Mate 8 can’t give you (like guaranteed updates up to 2 years, for example).

The Mate 8 retails at around Php 32,990.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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    1. My only gripe is the word “beastly” that is thrown around far too frequently by this site’s editors.

  1. “Despite being one of the larger phones in the market today because of its 6-inch display, the Mate S(???) is still relatively easy to use with two hands.. “

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