- Great build
- Excellent performance
- Camera photo quality top notch
- Long-lasting battery
- Large phone can be unwieldy
- US carrier support limited
- Display resolution lower than other flagships
There is a lot to like in the Huawei Mate 8, including its excellent build, performance, and battery life. But whereas its large size might prove too unwieldy for some, it's high price will prove too unwieldy for others.
Huawei is the number three smartphone vendor in the world, but it’s not well known in the US, where Samsung and Apple dominate. There were good reasons for that in past years. Huawei handsets typically topped out at the mid-range, and carriers were reluctant to offer them on contract. Add to that 2012 privacy and spying concerns raised by a U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence investigation into Huawei and ZTE, which centered around enterprise communication devices.
But three years later, those concerns have subsided in regards to smartphones (and were probably overhyped to begin with). Look no further than Huawei’s involvement with the Nexus 6P for evidence. In addition, all the major carriers in the US have dropped contracts and largely opened up to unlocked devices, the very kind that Huawei produces.
That leads us to the Huawei Mate 8, an Android phablet Huawei is pushing as its new flagship, complete with fingerprint sensor, Android Marshmallow, and a mammoth battery. Circumstances in the US market now may favor Huawei, but does this phablet deliver the goods? Read on to find out.
Build & Design
The Huawei Mate 8 is a good looking smartphone. It’s large, and all-metal, with a good heft and solid build that implies a quality device.
It measures 6.19 x 3.17 x 0.31 inches and weighs about .4 pounds, making it larger than most phablets. It’s wide, with flat edges, rounded corners, and a slightly rounded back. We found it easier to grip than skinnier phablets, like the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, but those with small hands will still want to stay away owing to its large size.
The Mate 8 display size is buttonless, with very thin side bezels. The top bezel is a bit thicker and houses an indicator light, ear speaker, 8-megapixel front camera and various sensors. The bottom bezel is thicker still, and it only features Huawei branding.
Looking at the sides, the top contains the 3.5mm audio jack and pinhole microphone. The bottom sports the microUSB charging and data input, sandwiched between two speakers. The left and right sides house the dual-SIM card slot and the power button as well as the single-piece volume rocker, respectively. Both sides also contain two antenna stripes.
We are not fans of having both the volume rocker and power button on the same side. Even though the power button is slightly textured, it’s still too easy to confuse the two without looking. More than once we almost powered down the device when only looking to lower the volume.
The back panel has the 16-megapixel rear shooter, centered on the upper portion, just above the circular fingerprint sensor and to the right of the dual-LED flash.
Huawei thankfully includes a clear plastic case with the smartphone, and we applaud them for it. Sure, it only offers minimal protection, but it’s perfect for providing peace of mind while users choose a real case. But again, this is a well built smartphone, and the all-metal build suggests it will survive an accidental drop or two.
The Huawei Mate 8 has a 6-inch LCD IPS display with a 1080 x 1920 resolution, which results in 368 pixels per inch. That’s a good number, but it’s not great considering flagships like the Samsung Galaxy Note5 and S6 edge+ top 500 pixels per inch. It’s also outfitted with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 to protect from scratches and cracks. It’s not Moto Shattershield, but it’s the next best thing.
As we’ve stated in past reviews, smartphone displays are no longer a matter of good and bad, but rather good and better. The Mate 8 has a good display, with excellent contrast reminiscent of OLED and bright colors. The whites tend toward the warmer side of things by default, with an almost orange tint (this can be adjusted in the settings), and max brightness is enough to cut through moderate glare. But it’s not the best.
The best are the aforementioned Galaxy displays (as of this writing). Compared against the best, the Mate 8’s limitations are more apparent. The Mate 8 suffers from minor but noticeable pixelation, and the display lacks the fullness of the higher-resolution screens.
It’s the same with the speakers. Isolated, they sound fine and are loud enough for personal use. Compared against other flagships, the Mate 8 sounds limited and muddied, lacking in crispness. Turning to headphones evens things out a bit, and the Mate 8 excels. Of course, smartphone speakers are the opposite of displays in that they are either bad or worse. This is the last thing that should sway a buying decision.