The Huawei Mate X foldable smartphone, launched last year, did not make it outside China. However, its successor, the Mate Xs, will be available here on Saturday.
As its moniker implies, the Mate Xs is an incremental upgrade from its predecessor.
For one, with its new Huawei Kirin 990 5G chipset, the Mate Xs is said to have faster overall performance (up by 23 per cent from the Mate X), better graphics performance (up 39 per cent) and improved power efficiency (up 23 per cent), as well as support more 5G bands.
DESIGN & DISPLAY
Design wise, the Mate Xs is relatively unchanged from the original. Still drool-worthy with its foldable Oled display.
Its hinge design is said to be improved with the use of more than 100 high-precision components.
The foldable display itself is made of plastic with a screen protector that you should not peel off, as it is made of an aerospace-grade optical polyimide material that is three times the price of gold by weight, according to Huawei.
When folded, the Mate Xs has a 6.6-inch main display and a 6.38-inch rear display with a sidebar that houses a quad-camera system, USB-C port, volume rocker and power button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor.
Press the release button on the sidebar to unfurl the smartphone and turn it into an 8-inch, almost-squarish tablet, with the thinnest part at only 5.4mm thick.
This "back-folding" design has several benefits. First, when folded, it looks and works like a regular smartphone. It is a bit thick at 11mm and a tad heavy at 300g, but should fit in most pants pockets easily. Second, it obviates the need for a front-facing camera system, since the folded rear display can be used as the viewfinder. As a result, there is no need for a hole-punch or notch found in other flagship smartphones.
Folded or unfolded, the display is sharp and gorgeous whether playing games or reading e-books (especially unfolded).
On the downside, when unfolded, you can still see a very slight crease in the middle of the display where the hinge underneath it resides. Not obvious, but still visible at certain angles.
There is no official word on how many folds the display can endure. Huawei says it will charge owners only 50 per cent of the cost of replacing the display for the first replacement.
There is no wireless charging support and no water-resistant rating. But given how expensive the phone is, I doubt its owners will be using it out in the rain.
Offering up to 3x optical and 30x digital zoom, the Mate Xs' quad-camera system comprises a 40-megapixel (MP) wide-angle camera, a 16MP ultra-wide-angle camera, a 8MP telephoto camera and a 3D depth-sensing camera that captures the depth information needed for rendering bokeh, or depth of field, effects.
The images I shot are crisp with great dynamic range and plenty of details. Even in challenging conditions like sunsets, it manages to keep the foreground "bright" with sharp details. The portrait mode offers natural-looking bokeh effects, with subjects in sharp focus.
Its Night mode is also stellar, with its ability to shoot with up to six seconds of exposure. The night shots are pretty stunning - I got nicely exposed scenes, highlights that are not overblown and dark areas without too much grain.
Colours are however slightly on the warm side. And I do not recommend using the digital zoom, as the images would look over-sharpened and grainy.
With the US ban on Huawei yet to be lifted, the Mate Xs does not have Google Mobile Services such as Google Play Store.
However, the Mate Xs still runs on Android 10 and, like the Mate 30 series, it has the Huawei AppGallery app store. Many apps, like Grab, Carousell, Lazada, The Straits Times and Microsoft Office, are on Huawei AppGallery.
Some essential apps, though, like WhatsApp and Facebook, are not available natively. But the Huawei AppGallery has app links for you to download these apps. Or you can use a third-party app store such as APKPure to do so.
I downloaded games such as Robot Wars and PlayersUnknown Battlegrounds (Pubg) Mobile using APKPure and they ran without issues.
Most of the apps installed support the dual windows function of the smartphone. Drag inwards from a side of the screen - whether folded or unfolded - and hold to pull out a vertical bar of apps, then tap on the app and drag the resulting window to fill one half of the display. Great for multi-tasking.
In the Geekbench 5 benchmark test, the Mate Xs scored 758 (single-core) and 3,014 (multi-core). In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra scored 917 (single-core) and 2,769 (multi-core).
For everyday use, it feels speedy and responsive. When it is unfolded, most apps will expand seamlessly to fill the big screen.
Games such as Asphalt 9, available in the Huawei AppGallery app store, will be able to fully utilise the Mate Xs' 8-inch display and runs as smooth as silk. But even games that are not officially supported, like Robot Wars and Pubg Mobile, were playable full-screen.
The Mate Xs has two batteries - one on each side of its hinge - for a combined battery capacity of 4,500mAh.
In our video-loop battery test, the Mate Xs lasted 12hr 25min when using its 8-inch display. In comparison, Samsung's 6.8-inch Galaxy Note10+, which has a 4,300mAh battery, clocked 17hr 45min.
In everyday use, which for me involves constantly checking social media notifications and reading news and e-mails throughout the day, I found the battery level dropping to about 60 per cent by bedtime.
TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY
Perhaps, the biggest obstacle for anyone who wants to get the Mate Xs is its price. At $3,788, it is around $300 more expensive than the base model of Apple's flagship 16-inch MacBook Pro.
But you do get an unrivalled wow factor. While no one bats an eyelid when you open a laptop, you can expect admiring glances galore when you do the same with the Mate Xs - perhaps enough to justify spending the moolah.
• Drool-worthy design
• Looks and works like a regular smartphone when folded
• Gorgeous display
• Great image quality
• No need for front-facing camera
• 5G ready
• No Google Mobile Services
• No wireless charging
PRICE: $3,788, available Mar 21
PROCESSOR: Huawei Kirin 990 5G (dual-core 2.86GHz, dual-core 2.36GHz and quad-core 1.95GHz)
DISPLAY: (Unfold) 8 inches, 2,480 x 2,200 pixels/(Fold) 6.6 inches, 2,480 x 1,148 pixels ; 6.38 inches, 2,480 x 892 pixels (secondary screen)
OPERATING SYSTEM: EMUI 10.0.1 (based on Android 10)
CAMERAS: 40MP wide-angle (f/1.8), 16MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 8MP telephoto (f/2.4), 3D Depth-sensing
MEMORY: 512GB, 8GB RAM
BATTERY: Non-removable 4,500mAh
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5