Huawei revealed its latest flagship smartphone, the P8, at an event in London this week, and we were on hand to give it a whirl. Keeping up with what appears to be the leading trends of this year’s Android phones, the Chinese firm improved the craftsmanship and camera with this new device, alongside the expected incremental gains over last year’s Ascend P7 with regard to its display, chipset, battery, and the like.
More specifically, the P8 comes has a full aluminum unibody (losing its predecessor’s glass back cover) and is equipped with a 5.2-inch 1080p display. Internally, it features Huawei’s own octa-core Kirin 930 SoC, aided by 3 GB of RAM and 16 GB of memory storage, the latter of which is expandable with microSD cards. (A 64 GB model will also be available.) The device also carries a 2680mAh battery, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera with optical stabilization, and an 8-megapixel selfie camera.
Huawei has proven itself capable of producing phones that rival the quality of more established players in recent years, and P8 does nothing to dispel that idea at first glance. Its aluminum body feels exceptionally elegant in the hand, and actually comes off as lighter than its stated weight of 144 grams suggests. The phone is just 6.4 millimeters thick, a hair thinner than the already-slim Ascend P7, and its strict, squared shape feels cool and solid, although its lack of curves makes it less ergonomic than some of its competitors. Still, despite the sharp edges, it doesn’t feel particularly uncomfortable or awkward in practice. In fact, its display-to-surface ratio is nearly 80 percent, so it isn’t too tough to use that large display with one hand.
The P8’s design language mostly follows in the footsteps of the Ascend P7, which followed the Ascend P6 before it. Those phones weren’t too shy about their aesthetic similarities to various Other bits and pieces recall the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S6, but everyone borrows from everybody in the smartphone industry, and if it all results in hardware as pleasing as the P8’s, that’s a good thing.
Apart from the design, Huawei has put most of its energy into the P8’s camera. The company says that its OIS-enabled lens can rotate up to 1.6 degrees, allegedly twice as much as the OIS of the iPhone 6 Plus, theoretically allowing it to handle greater bumps and general instability without bringing more noise into a given photo. Additionally, Huawei says the P8’s camera is the first to feature a four-color RGBW (Red-Green-Blue-White) sensor matrix, making it possible to gather more light and provide more accurate contrast (again, theoretically).
All told, Huawei hopes this will all enable the P8 to take clear and detailed shots in poorly lit conditions. And indeed, after briefly testing the shooter out in various lighting conditions, the results appear to be promising, virtually on the level of most top-class flagship cameras. We’ll dig deeper in our full review, but so far, the only noticeable shortcoming we came across was some trouble focusing on darker objects against a brighter background. (And even then, that’s not a totally uncommon problem for these kind of cameras.) Going back around the device, the P8 supports dual SIM cards, which is convenient. Doing so prevents you from using a microSD card, however, as there are only two slots for the two cards.
The P8’s 5.2-inch Full HD display also looked good during our demo. Its pixel density of 424 ppi means it’s plenty sharp, and because it’s an IPS panel, it comes with high-quality contrast and wide viewing angles. It tends to place more emphasis on darker and colder colors, making blacks more prominent than whites, but in general tones are well saturated.
The same thing goes for the device’s software and performance, at least based to our brief hands-on session. It runs Android 5.0.2 (Lollipop) underneath Huawei’s Emotion UI 3.0 skin, which doesn’t stray far from its earlier iterations. It still uses an iOS-esque look that eschews any app drawers in favor of placing your apps across various home screens. As far as Android skins go, it’s a rather dramatic alteration, but it’s been easy to use and sufficiently smooth in the past.
Huawei’s eight-core Kirin 930 chipset played nicely with the company’s UI, smoothly performing all tasks we tried. Part of that is probably aided by the relatively undemanding (by today’s standards) 1080p resolution and the generous 3 GB of RAM.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of the P8 is its price: As it did with the Ascend P7, Huawei will try to undercut its competition by starting the phone at €499 (or about $530 or £360), around €100 to €150 less than most other flagships. The aforementioned 64 GB storage option costs €100 more.
The phone will go on sale in over 30 countries throughout Asia, Europe, and South America in a few weeks, with a release for other countries sometime in May. Huawei hasn’t provided any specific plans to sell the P8 in the US, but it did note that a variant of the phone will launch stateside in the next couple of months. A massive 6.8-inch version of the phone titled the P8 Max was announced during the event as well, and that phablet will start at €549.