Phones

Huawei Mate 8 looks good, can be better

The Mate 8's battery life is outstanding, but not its camera, with washed-out colours and grainy images.
The Mate 8's battery life is outstanding, but not its camera, with washed-out colours and grainy images.PHOTO: HUAWEI

Design gives device a premium feel, but some features don't match up to those of its rivals

China's Huawei is on its way to becoming the new Samsung.

The Korean company established itself as a phone giant by making inroads into the Android scene with notable devices filled with progressive features and designs.

Huawei started out the same way, and things picked up after it launched the Ascend Mate 7 last year.

Then, the world finally took notice when it launched the highly rated Nexus 6P in partnership with Google, and the public has been curious as to what it will come up with next.

The new Mate 8, which drops the Ascend branding, is a 6-inch device that bears many of Huawei's signature elements. Like Samsung, Huawei makes its own processor and its Kirin chipset has managed to stand up well to Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor, such that its use these days is rarely highlighted as a negative.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $888

    PROCESSOR: HiSilicon Kirin 950 Octa core (quad core 2.3GHz + quad core 1.8GHz)

    DISPLAY: 6-inch IPS-NEO LCD, 1,080 x 1,920 pixels (368 PPI pixel density)

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 6 (Marshmallow)

    CAMERA: (Rear) 16MP, f/2.0, optical image stabilisation, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, (Front) 8MP, f/2.4

    MEMORY: 32GB (microSD expandable up to 128GB), 3GB RAM

    BATTERY: Non-removable Li-Po 4,000mAh

  • RATINGS

  • DESIGN: 4/5

    FEATURES: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

The Mate 8 maintains Huawei's design language of using a chiselled unibody metal frame. The chamfered edges and 2.5D screen enhance the premium look and feel of the phone, and the edge-to-edge screen helps to establish a smaller device profile.

Despite the use of metal and a proprietary processor, the device did not heat up with extended use.

Battery life is outstanding, with the 4,000mAh battery routinely lasting me the entire day during the review.

Like the Nexus 6P, Huawei has placed the fingerprint sensor in the rear, just under the camera lens. Given the large frame of the Mate 8, this makes more sense than having the sensor  placed in the front, under the screen, and I could use  my forefinger to unlock the device.

The sensor is incredibly responsive, and a tap on it, even if the screen is on stand-by mode, will wake the device up promptly.

But while the Mate 8 is clearly aimed at the higher-end market, some of its features pale in comparison with its competitors'. For one thing, the display is still stuck at full high definition. With its 6-inch screen, the differences in colours and visual details are obvious when compared to the richer quad HD screens out there.

But the biggest letdown is the camera, which performs adequately but is no match for the likes of Samsung, LG or Apple.

Colours are slightly washed-out, especially in indoor and low light shots, and there is a pixelated, grainy hue to images.

Mind you, I am comparing the camera to last year's Samsung Galaxy Note 5, LG G4 and Apple iPhone 6s Plus, and not with this year's models, which have improved cameras.

• Verdict: Although the Huawei Mate 8 looks and feels good, it is nowhere near as accomplished as its Nexus 6P cousin. Its tiny flaws also give rise to the question of whether Huawei single-handedly designed the 6P with some help from Google or if Google steered that entire project.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Huawei Mate 8 looks good, can be better Phones'. Print Edition | Subscribe