The Huawei Mate 8 was released back in November of 2015, and with each new Huawei phone we have to ask ourselves: does it really have to come with this awful software? Can’t we just take the awesome design and runaway together?
The Nexus 6P, which is the Mate 8’s direct competitor, is far superior, and it’s just a little bit more expensive. Yet, the Huawei Mate 8 is still a great phone, but you have other, better, options in its price range.
Huawei Mate 8 Review
- Great design
- Incredible battery life
- Super smooth, and super fast
- Software is frustrating
- Camera is lackluster
- There are several color issues with the display
- Google notifications seems to be broken
Huawei Mate 8 Specifications: 1080p display, 6-inch, 3GB RAM, Kirin 950 processor, 32 GB storage, Android 6.0 OS, metal body, 4,000 mAh battery.
Huawei Mate 8 Price – About $600
Huawei Mate 8 Review – Design and Build
Flagship phones will always look stunning, and the Huawei Mate 8, along with the Ascend P8 and Mate S, easily match Apple’s latest iPhone in terms of design, and high-end materials.
Huawei follows a pattern – make it simple, but elegant; and the Mate 8 doesn’t stray away. The phone-maker takes a whooping amount of essential elements from the Nexus 6P, and it polishes them, turning the Mate 8 into a beast of its own.
If you take a look at the phone’s sides, you’ll notice that they are chamfered to reflect light exactly like jewelry does. Apple started using this trick with the iPhone 5, and there’s nothing wrong with other manufacturers doing so.
Taking cues from the Mate S, Huawei build the Mate 8 to have its back slightly curved. The curve is super-subtle, and only if you go looking for it you’ll find it. It makes the smartphone really comfortable to hold, as opposed to the plethora of flat-black competitor smartphones.
It’s just slightly shorter than the iPhone 6S Plus and Nexus 6P. Yet, it’s noticeably wider. This means that you’ll have to really envelope the phone with your hands to use it, which is a little bit disappointing for those of us who have little squirrel-like hands.
More so, it even poses a problem for individuals who have big hands as well. If you plan on holding it in one hand, forget about it. It’s simply impossible to do so.
Yet, surprisingly, given its immense size, it feels quite light. It weighs about 185 grams, but they don’t take a toll on your hands, as the weight is really spread out across the smartphone.
Huawei Mate 8 Review – Display
The display is great. For 2014, that is.
It’s a flag-ship phone for crying out loud, and it still has only 1080p. Sony’s Xperia Z5 Premium is 4K, and Samsung’s Galaxy S6 is quad-HD.
The thing is, quad-HD – 2560 x 1440; can really nest inside a 6-inch display, so it’s flabbergasting to see it completely missing from the Mate 8. We took into consideration that Huawei might’ve cut some corners to shave a few extra bucks here and there, but this is a premium device, not a budget one.
The screen is good, don’t get me wrong. It has more than decent viewing angles, the brightness is just fine, and it’s sharp enough as to not see pixels dancing on your screen. But, it just doesn’t meet expectations and it falls short when compared to its competitors.
Yet, I’ve noticed several color issues with the Mate 8. Whites aren’t booming, they have a pink tint, and reds come across as washed. Blacks, though, are deep enough and watching vids on YouTube is really enjoyable.
Huawei Mate 8 Review – Software
Now, software is where we’ve had constant problems with all the Huawei devices we’ve reviewed. Take HTC and Samsung, they implement a naked Android and they meddle with it just a bit, adding a few things here and there, tweaking the design, but nothing too much so the phone still has that relatable feel we’ve gotten accustomed with.
Huawei disregards this true and tested method, and rebuilds the software.
Everything is different – the lock screen, the quick settings, and even the notification panel.
I’m all for trying to breathe fresh air onto a device, and bring forth that wondrous joy that we’ve had with the first Android smartphone, but if you’ve witnessed users downright upset about these changes, why continue with the strategy year-in, year-out?
Basically, it’s an iOS-Android fusion, a mash-up done wrong, without any thought-through UI elements developed by Google. It tries to bridge both OSes, but it fails to deliver on the finish or style of either.
It’s a frustrating experience, to say the least.
You have no Google Now Tap, for starters, and the software annoys you constantly with close power intensive apps. Why would I want to force quit my WhatsApp and Facebook app when they are working perfectly on a much weaker, performance-wise, phone?
Google notifications are just broken, but this isn’t anything new. This seems to be a tradition for Huawei as the P8 and Mate S were also sporting this flaw.
The cherry on top? You can’t change the notifications panel.
Indeed, it does run Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but what good it is to me if it’s so frustrating?
Huawei Mate 8 Review – Performance
Even though I bashed it for its software-design choices, performance-wise, it’s a power-house.
The Huawei Mate 8 is one of the fastest, and smoothest running smartphones I’ve ever used. Sure, I still haven’t put my hands on a Snapdragon 820-equipped smartphone, but if it’s like the Kirin 950 octa-core proc that’s being used on the Mate 8, we’re in for a fantastic year.
It’s built directly by Huawei, and the smartphone boasts a 64-bit chip with four 2.3 GHz cores, and another four 1.8 GHz. Tucked inside the metal/glass chassis, you’ll also find 3 GB of RAM.
Apps open in a jiffy, and I haven’t seen the Mate 8 freeze, nor to have its bouts of lagginess – I’m looking at you, Samsung. Indeed, it struggles with the camera app, but I’ll go over it in the next section.
If you usually game on your smartphone, rest assured that everything runs buttery-smooth – Asphalt 8, Lara Croft GO, Hitman Sniper, all of them performed incredibly-well without a hint of judder.
The standard model comes with 32 GB of internal storage, which is quite enough for the average Joe, but if you want more, you can add a microSD card.
Huawei Mate 8 Review – Camera
The Huawei Mate 8’s primary camera can be found on the back, and it sports a 16-megapixel camera unit. It has phase detection autofocus, f/2.0 aperture and optical image stabilization.
It includes loads of modes as well, and you can manually alter the white balance, ISO and focus.
Yet, for absolutely no reason, those specifications really don’t count as the camera is somewhat broken. Not as broken as its software-counterpart, but still, it’s highly noticeable.
The camera app slows down at odd times, and I can’t quite put my finger on why it’s doing so. It opened the app and focused in a matter of seconds, and after a few uses, it begun to stutter and jitter and I have to wait for north of 20 seconds for the phone to open it, all while staring at a black screen.
However, results are bleak even when it does work. The 16mp sensor can capture a lot of detail, but it can easily overexpose the picture even when lighting conditions seem to be more than fine.
The camera app resembles the one found on iOS, and it wouldn’t have been a bad thing as long as it didn’t suffer from those random performance drops.
Video recording is topped at 1080p – there’s no 4K; and footage comes clean with little to no shakiness.
The secondary, front-facing 8-megapixel camera is more than decent for selfies, but one word of advice – stay away from that incredibly weird beauty mode. It’ll make you look like a bald Swedish Steve Buscemi.
Huawei Mate 8 Review – Battery
The Huawei Mate 8 houses a great 4,000 mAh battery, and given that it doesn’t have a power-draining display there’s really nothing else that can suck all its juice.
The company claims that it can last more than two days on a single charge, and they are quite right.
Our tests ranked it up at:
- 12:43 hours of video playback
- 17:30 hours of web browsing
- 27:53 hours of call time
On a single charge, it managed to hold up for just slightly over the 100 hour mark, which is fantastic.
It wasn’t under a massive amount of stress just the odd game, web browsing during the morning commute, listening to music, calling friends and talking with them for no more than 10 minutes a pop, you know, the usual.
Huawei Mate 8 Review – Verdict
It’s a great looking phone, with an even greater battery life, that nests a power-house. Yet, I don’t feel like I should recommend it to anyone.
Given that for $50 more you can buy the exquisite Nexus 6P, which doesn’t have an infuriating Android skin, there’s no need for the Huawei Mate 8.
You can even purchase the Moto X Style, which is much cheaper, and also a great pick.
The Huawei Mate 8 is great, and while the company helped develop the best phone of 2015, we really do hope they work out their issues to do a similar thing this year as well.