For company that is relatively new to producing premium handsets, Huawei have been on a roll. The P8 was the best value premium smartphone on the market in 2015, then Huawei backed it up by producing the Nexus 6P, easily the best Nexus smartphone to date. Heading into 2016 the Mate 8 proves that Huawei have no intention of resting on their laurels, continuing to challenge the status quo by producing yet another high quality device that should not be taken lightly.
When it comes to form factor the Mate 8 falls into the Phablet category. The mate 8 is 157.1 x 80.6 x 7.9mm and weighs in at 185g. Yes this is a big device but that does mean you get an enormous 6 inches of screen real estate to play with (more on that shortly). For those with smaller hands you’ll definitely want to hold the Mate 8 with two hands. I was able to do most things one handed but trying to reach up to the top corner I did have to go with the two handed approach to safely navigate around the device.
For the most part the Mate 8 follows the same design philosophy of the P8 with nice sharp lines and a minuscule bezel that gets the screen as close to the edge of the phone as possible. Unlike the P9, the camera does protrude ever so slightly from the rear of the phone and on the back you’ll also find a very responsive fingerprint scanner to give your Mate 8 that extra layer of security. For those with smaller hands you’ll definitely want to hold the Mate 8 with two hands. I was able to do most things one handed but trying to reach up to the top corner I did have to go with the two handed approach to safely navigate around the device. There is some conjecture about whether a fingerprint scanner is better suited to the front or rear of a device. The front fingerprint scanner is very handy but there’s nothing wrong with a rear fingerprint scanner if it is well placed and the Mate 8 has placed it in the middle of the phone about 3/4 of the way up which is pretty much bang on optimal placement for quickly unlocking with the index finger. With how fast the Mate 8 responds the rear fingerprint scanner is spot on.
Enough on the fingerprint scanner, let’s get back to that all important screen and start talking specs and PPI. The size of the Mate all has to do with the 6 inch screen that it is packing. 6 inches of screen on a smartphone is a hell of a lot of screen, it can take some getting used to but once you’ve adapted it is very hard to go back. That extra space makes consuming content a joy, be it YouTube videos, surfing the web or reading books, the 6 inch screen is made for entertainment. Some people will baulk at it but the Mate 8 comes equipped with a Full HD screen. Before you write it off, Full HD does not mean you’re going to be underwhelmed. The screen comes in at 368PPI so there is more than enough pixel density to make this a sharp screen, sure it isn’t as sharp as some other handsets out there but it is still more than adequate and will still deliver crisp clean images and text. THe other benefit of going FHD over QHD is that you won’t get the same battery drain as you would get with a QHD screen so there are clear reasons why the FHD screen was given preference.
Sitting behind that screen is Huawei’s latest processor, the Kirin 950 plus 3GB of RAM. The Kirin 950 is an Octo-core processor that works in two different ways, it has 4 cores that run at 2.3GHz to do the really instensive processing and the uses a further 4 cores at 1.8Ghz to take care of the more basic tasks that smartphones do behind the scenes. What you probably won’t realise unless it’s pointed out is that the Kirin 950 is extremely efficient, regardless of how many tasks are thrown at it. What this means is that the device barely outputs any heat. Even when you’re using GPS, the Mate 8 manages to stay remarkably cool.
The efficiency of the Kirin processor leads me on to my next piece that puts all and sundry to shame. Battery Life. Hiding inside is a monster 4,000mAh battery and if I could perform anywhere near as good as this battery I’d have been a massive hit with the ladies! I’m a heavy smartphone user so typically by the time I get home from work I’m starting to reach for the charger with around 15% battery life remaining. The Mate 8 got me through Day 1 with around 60% battery remaining and when I got home on day 2 I still had about 20% left over. When I hit it with all I had I still managed a day and a half of juice left in the tank and when I decided to see how long I could go with less than my average use I got through 2 days with 70% battery left. Put simply there is no other smartphone in the world today that can even come close to matching the Mate 8 in battery life, yes that 4,000 mAh battery has a lot to do with it but don’t underestimate how valuable that Kirin 950 is at conserving battery life and delivering maximum efficiency.
The Mate is running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow but has Huawei’s custom EMUI interface running over the top. For Android purists EMUI is about as far from the pure Android experience as you can get. For iPhone users making the switch to Android, EMUI is the closest Android UI you will get to iOS. Some will love it, some will hate it but the simplicity makes it highly intuitive. Backed by the power of Marshmallow, EMUI runs like an athelete on steroids, performing incredibly quick and responding almost instantly to your touch commands.
Oh and how could I forget, as with any self respecting smartphone of course there are cameras on board. You’ve got an 16MP rear facing camera and an 8MP front facing camera. The Mate 8 has a good Auto mode so even the most amateur pocket photographer can take some impressive pics. Optical Image Stabilisation is in use which helps with shots, especially under low light where the Mate 8 shines (in fact night shooting is a strength of the P8 and Nexus too). For taking video you only have Full HD shooting available but unless you have a 4k TV or PC monitor is there really anything to be concerned about? No not really, Full HD is still the standard format so until 4k goes mainstream I’m more than comfortable shooting on a device that gives me 1080p footage.
So there you have it, that is the Huawei Mate 8. It is a beast of a phone in every sense of the word but it delivers on all fronts and with a price tag of $1,099 you are getting incredible value for money. When you take into account a processor and battery combination that absolutely destroys the competition in terms of time between charges it is very hard to go past the Mate 8. Once again with the Mate 8, Huawei continues to lead the way in price vs performance.