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Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention

Posted: , by John V.

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Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention

Huawei is no stranger to making good Android smartphones, and the rise of the company's popularity among consumers proves it. A 9.7% global smartphone share is, indeed, a considerable figure. To succeed in the high-end segment, however, being good is not enough. It takes a truly great device to stand firmly at the top of the food chain, and the Huawei Mate 8 could be just that. Officially announced back in November, the phablet is now on display here at CES 2016, so we gave it the hands-on treatment without hesitation.


The Huawei Mate 8 is one of those phones that give you a positive impression the very moment you pick them up. Arguably, its design is its strongest asset, being a phone that blends premium looks, slim construction, and a killer scree-to-body ratio. Just holding it alone, the handset reminds us of the styling we've seen employed in the Nexus 6P – sans the hump over the camera module, of course. That metal build helps to elevate and exemplify the Mate 8's thin profile, which is incredible given the fact a beefy 4000 mAh battery is housed inside.

Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention
Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention

As far as size goes, anyone who's into big phones would be intrigued by the Huawei Mate 8. The phone is quite the beast, which doesn't come as a surprise given the 6-inch diagonal size of its display. This definitely isn't a phone suitable for every user and every pocket, but if you're okay with a phone of, let's say, the iPhone 6s Plus' width and height, the Mate 8's size shouldn't be an issue. At 185 grams, this is far from the lightest smartphones around, but it doesn't feel heavy either, presumably due to its weight distribution.

Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention
Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention

Taking a look at the back of the device, we see the Mate 8's main camera protruding slightly alongside a dual-tone LED flash. Below it is located a fingerprint reader, which is not difficult to feel with a finger thanks to its recessed design. There are two grilles at the bottom of the Huawei Mate 8, behind which are placed a microphone and a loudspeaker. That connector in the middle is of the Micro USB variety. None of that USB Type-C stuff here.


Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention
Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention
Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention
Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention
Seeing 1080 by 1920 pixels spread across a 6-inch diagonal size might seem odd, especially to one who's been around Android phones for a while. After all, screens of higher resolutions at smaller diagonals have been around for a while now. But Huawei's decision to stick with good ol' 1080p has its benefits, among them being that the phone's GPU won't have too much pixels to drive. Besides, 367 pixels per inch are enough for a pleasurable viewing experience, and our eyes do agree with that. 

The IPS LCD panel exhibits wide viewing angles and great color saturation, making us wonder for a moment if it isn't an AMOLED screen we're looking at. In any case, the Mate 8's display looks gorgeous despite the far-from-groundbreaking pixel density. Enriching the experience is the commendable screen-to-body ratio, as the screen nearly goes edge-to-edge. For a 6-incher, it doesn't really look or feel like one.

Processor, memory, and performance

Kirin 950 – that's the name of the SoC ticking inside the Huawei Mate 8. It is an octa-core chip packing four 2.3GHz Cortex-A72 cores and four 1.8GHz Cortex-A53 cores, doing the heavy lifting and lightweight tasks respectively. Meanwhile, a Mali T880 GPU handles the graphics. Huawei did point out that while the SoC is fast, it is also 70% more power-efficient thanks to its 16nm build process. Special attention has been given to the handset's design to provide great heat dissipation, which in turn should reduce the need for processor speed throttling. Technical details aside, the Mate 8 demo unit we have our hands on runs swiftly, as a phone of this class should, although further testing will be needed on our side to evaluate the phone's capabilities.

It is important to note that Huawei is launching two variants of the Mate 8 – there's one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, then there's another packing 4GB of RAM and 64GB for the user's files. Naturally, the luxury of having those extra gigs in the latter comes at a higher price. Still, both models accept microSD cards in the slot shared with the secondary SIM card. In other words, storage expansion won't be an issue, unless you demand having two Nano SIMs in the Mate 8. 


The Huawei Mate 8 is an Android phone at its core, and one of the very few running the newest Android 6.0 Marshmallow right out of the box. But the software is quite far from its purest form, as it has the EMUI interface layered on top of it. More than a few things look and feel different as a result – there's the absence of an app drawer, core applications have been replaced with Huawei's own interpretations, the option to apply visual themes is available, and a single-hand mode can be activated easily at any time. 


At the CES event, Huawei spent quite some time highlighting details around the Mate 8's camera, and for a good reason. The main shooter is a promising one, or at least that's the impression one may get judging by its specs – a 16MP Sony IMX298 sensor with f/2.0 aperture, phase detection auto-focus, and 3-axis optical image stabilization. Jumping into the camera app, we're greeted by a familiar interface with a rather simple layout. Digging into the menus and options, however, we do find plenty of tricks, including manual control over the image being taken. The front-facing camera is an 8MP one, featuring a Sony IMX179 sensor and f/2.4 lens aperture, in case you're wondering.

Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention
Huawei Mate 8 hands-on: a high-end phablet worthy of attention


Seeing that a 4000mAh cell is fitted inside the phone, we have high hopes for the Huawei Mate 8's battery life. Huawei's own data goes in line with our expectations – we're promised 17 hours of HD video, 98 hours of music playback, 20 hours of 4G browsing, or 28 hours of 3G calling on a single charge, which are all impressive figures. With normal use, the Mate 8 should last over 2 days between charges, and if used heavily, we should still be able to get over a day and a half of usage out of it. And when it is finally time for a recharge, the Mate 8 supports fast charging at up to 2 amps at 9 volts. 


The Huawei Mate 8 is shaping up as an Android phone without any weaknesses, or at least not any that we could notice during our brief hands-on experience with the device. It has the hardware, software, design, and battery life to stand its ground firmly, even among a number of fearsome high-end competitors. But all this comes at a price, and the Mate 8 won't be cheap. The phone's price starts at €599 for the 3GB/32GB model, and the 4GB/64GB variant costs €100 extra. In other words, Huawei's phablet costs about as much as offerings from its rivals, such as Apple, Samsung, and LG. Still, the Huawei Mate 8 is not a phone to be underestimated, as it could be well worth of its price.

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posted on 05 Jan 2016, 20:24 2

1. Khyron (Posts: 298; Member since: 28 Sep 2015)

Nice designado Huawei its truly captching the big oems

posted on 06 Jan 2016, 05:27 1

15. vincelongman (Posts: 5068; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)

Their SoC is catching up too
Geekbench scores are 6200/1850
But GPU is roughly on par with the 805/5433, although it doesn't throttle which is awesome


posted on 05 Jan 2016, 20:26 2

2. Adsr14 (Posts: 118; Member since: 08 Aug 2015)

I can get over the fact the GPU is the MP4 version , this phone is just amazing and it would be a major upgrade from my Oneplus One. I'm not much of a gamer anyway.

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 22:17 1

5. zeeBomb (Posts: 2304; Member since: 14 Aug 2014)

True. Although I despise them for making the GPU a four cluster than something more preferable like the MP6, all I could say that this phone is one of huaweis big step into a better future for their smartphone product line. Their chipsets were often weak, and the ISP performance was just trash. And I'm not a heavy gamer, so like it matters.

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 22:27

7. Adsr14 (Posts: 118; Member since: 08 Aug 2015)

You're right it is a big step. So far the con's for me are the price and the UI. I need an app drawer and installing google now launcher is not doing much. I'm also not familiar with Kirin chips and custom Roms. They can't be flashed just like mediatek am I right?? Or are custom Roms possible??

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 20:28

3. shiftt (Posts: 333; Member since: 03 May 2015)

That price, my goodness. God bless Huawei's soul..

posted on 06 Jan 2016, 02:25

10. Bondurant (Posts: 573; Member since: 04 Jun 2014)

Those prices are "recommended prices" that always gets confused with actual market price.

posted on 06 Jan 2016, 04:33

13. skyline88 (Posts: 610; Member since: 15 Jul 2013)

Note 5 32GB is selling for 500 euros in my country.

Huawei for 599 and 699 euros? thats a joke.

posted on 06 Jan 2016, 05:39 1

16. Hexa-core (banned) (Posts: 2131; Member since: 11 Aug 2015)

Not a joke as compared to Apple's ludicrous offerings. €600 for 16GB iPhone 6S!
A phone with 750p screen and no OIS!

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 21:00 1

4. Tziggy14 (Posts: 539; Member since: 02 Sep 2014)

Except the software UI. Still a horrible iOS knockoff. improve the design Huawei.

And i'm not quite sure if people in the US are going to pay $700 for a Chinese phone no matter how good it is.

posted on 06 Jan 2016, 05:19

14. yoosufmuneer (Posts: 1518; Member since: 14 Feb 2015)

Agreed. Their skin is so similar to iOS.

posted on 06 Jan 2016, 05:41

17. Hexa-core (banned) (Posts: 2131; Member since: 11 Aug 2015)

It isn't the only one. MIUI is another one similar to iOS.

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 22:19

6. hanabi (Posts: 177; Member since: 08 Oct 2015)

Lol i never saw non_chinese ppl using huwei

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 23:45

8. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Huawei had a phone with Cricket in the US when it first started out. It was terrible in all aspects. Only pro was that it had 12 homescreens instead of 5 at the time lol.

posted on 06 Jan 2016, 02:10

9. Ghost04 (Posts: 349; Member since: 03 May 2014)

So, that means you haven't saw the greater part of the world .

posted on 06 Jan 2016, 02:38

12. ibend (Posts: 6675; Member since: 30 Sep 2014)

how often did you see non_chinese?

posted on 06 Jan 2016, 02:31

11. Acer_Predator (unregistered)

LeTV Max pro is much better..
Let's see which will be cheaper

posted on 06 Jan 2016, 06:23

18. ProblemSolver15 (Posts: 356; Member since: 14 Jun 2010)

"For a 6-incher, it doesn't really doesn't look or feel like one."

The hell is this? Anybody edit this article, or nah?

posted on 07 Jan 2016, 09:56

20. ToastedBacon21 (Posts: 47; Member since: 18 Oct 2015)

What's the matter with it? They're talkin 'bout the bezels. 6" and they are shorter than the i6s. A true engineering craftsmanship.

posted on 06 Jan 2016, 16:19

19. belovedson (Posts: 1052; Member since: 30 Nov 2010)

john v did you really write this article?

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