Huawei Mate 8 Review: Checkmate: ConclusionBy cheatmaster 07:35 Mon, 16 Aug 2021 Comments
The Huawei Mate 8 may very well be the best 6-inch smartphone you can pick up today. But it is the specific stipulations in that wording that cover a few caveats.
For one, Huawei's largest phablet this season is among a select few flagships that venture past the 5.7-inch mark. And that's another way of saying there aren't any others. So if you want that particular pairing of largest diagonal with current, powerful hardware, the Mate 8 simply is the one phone to get.
However, don't let that create you think that the only reason to acquire it is lack of options - the Mate 8 makes a very compelling case for itself. It starts with the display, which boasts high contrast and exceptional sunlight legibility for an Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) panel.
Battery life is nothing short of fantastic either. The Mate 8 trumps its predecessor's already excellent battery endurance, despite having a vastly more powerful chipset and (marginally) smaller battery capacity. What's more vital is that no current competitor in the high-discontinue segment can come anywhere close to its longevity when surfing the web, even if there are those that outlast it in video playback.
We mentioned the chipset, and it is what you would call a beast. Its processor packs all the punch you need and then a lot more. The Cortex-A72 cores are benchmark-toppers, and they also shine in real life, never forcing you to wait for the Mate to catch up with your input.
Not entirely so with the GPU, which is only fine enough, but not quite spectacular. Huawei did well to balance things out between display resolution, GPU power and battery efficiency, and we understand it. It's just that in a perfect world the Mate 8 would have had a bit more graphics oomph.
Another aspect of the Mate 8's where we were rooting for "great" and it only managed "okay" was its camera. It started off really bad, but a firmware update during our review brought it to an acceptable state. However, its output is still softer and noisier than we would have liked, and not up to the standard of the segment. It gets worse in video recording, where the lack of 2160p mode is unforgivable and the 1080p videos do small to create up for it, 60fps or otherwise.
Not everyone will love EmotionUI either. Knuckle gestures are fun and could potentially be useful if you hold the time to learn what does what, but is it necessary? It's also nice to have a multi-window feature, but what fine is it when it only supports a total of 8 built-in apps and no browser?
Huawei Mate 8 key test findings
- Impressive build quality, premium see and feel;
- High-contrast display, which works well in the sun; maximum brightness could have been higher;
- Worldwide LTE support, dual-SIM slots (second one shared with the microSD), solid overall connectivity package;
- Exemplary battery life, 103h endurance rating, record-breaking longevity in our web-browsing test;
- EmotionUI v4.0 is rich in features and strong on customization, but knuckle gestures may be too quirky to actually use. Multi-window feature doesn't support a browser;
- Fingerprint sensor is one the best implementations on the market, always on, blazing fast, and rarely erring;
- Chart-topping Central Processing Units (CPU) performance; GPU isn't quite in the same league, but does the job;
- Built-in multimedia package doesn't leave you wanting, the custom tools see and work well, there's a pre-installed document editor and no bloatware;
- Loudspeaker scored a Below Average imprint in our test;
- Excellent audio quality, with both headphones and external amp; loud, too;
- The primary capturing camera produces images which are on the soft side, and can't match the best in terms of detail. It packs plenty of features, though, and shoots very fine panoramas;
- The lack of 2160p video recording is made even worse by the only average 1080p output.
We already established that you can't acquire an actual flagship with a 6-inch display other than the Mate 8. Once you drop the diagonal to 5.7 inches, the list of options gets pretty long.
The current generation of the phablet that made phablets a thing, the Samsung Galaxy Note5 sits on top of that list. It's got a better capturing camera than the Mate 8, but while it does have high endurance numbers, it can't quite match Huawei's offering. It also has an AMOrganic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) classy screen vs. the Mate's Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and to some that settles it correct there.
The Note5 scores a lot more points for productivity, thanks to the S-Pen and infinitely better implementation of multi-window. It's also made of glass on both sides, and that's a no-no for some users, who reckon it makes it more fragile. The Mate is also the choice for those with gigantic multimedia collections, as it has a microSD slot, which the Note5 lacks.
Samsung Galaxy Note5
The LG V10 has a 5.7-inch primary display, but also a ticker on top, so you could consider it larger than the Note5. So, secondary display, tougher build, superior camera, and a removable battery are all in its favor, but actual battery life is a lot shorter, and its chipset isn't nearly a match for the Mate's.
Huawei's Nexus 6P is the better phablet by the Chinese company if you're not a fan of custom Operating System (OS) overlays and like your Android stock. It also has a superior capturing camera and a higher-res display (as the other two above, for that matter). The Mate 8 trumps it in battery endurance.
Huawei Nexus 6P
The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL is another high-discontinue option, albeit outside the Android realm. You may find a pattern here, but the Lumia's capturing camera shoots better images than the Mate's, while Huawei's phablet outlasts it in every single battery test. The Lumia's power pack is removable though, unlike the Mate's. Microsoft's flagship has Continuum going for it (if you can find a utilize case), but Windows on a mobile phone still remains mostly a fans-only market, deservedly or not.
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL
Now, if you insist on the 6 inches, but you are willing to concede some raw processing power, you could go for the Oppo R7. AMOrganic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) display, comparable battery life, and the same form factor - all for substantially less cash - might just settle it for some. Alternatively, you could wait for the Galaxy A9 (2016) to arrive (we are). Again, a 6-inch AMOLED, 4,000mAh battery and a Central Processing Units (CPU) with the same cores, but clocked lower, sounds promising, even before you know that it's about $200 cheaper than the Mate 8. TouchWiz and glass build could deter a few potential buyers, but then lure others.
Oppo R7 Plus • Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016)
Great as it may be, Huawei's high-discontinue phablet is not perfect, and you'd better be aware of its flaws, even if you choose to ignore them. The capturing camera could utilize plenty of improvement, and the Android overlay is a love-it-or-hate-it affair. However, the Mate 8 is an exquisitely built smartphone with killer looks, superior battery life, and a powerful chipset. If only we could have it all.
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