The Huawei Mate 8 is exceptionally quick, but this 6in phablet is held back by a hopeless camera and a frustrating UI
Processor: Octa-core 2.3GHz Kirin 950, Screen Size: 6.0in, Screen resolution: 1,920×1,080, Rear camera: 16 megapixels, Storage (free): 32GB (24.6GB) / 64GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 157x81x7.9mm, Weight: 185g, Operating system: Android 6.0
Huawei recently made the Nexus 6P for Google but the Mate 8 phablet comes under its own branding. It’s a surprisingly compact for a 6in phablet too, sharing an almost identical footprint to the 5.7in Nexus. This all thanks to its miniscule 2.5mm bezels, Huawei’s ensured that the Mate 8’s huge display takes up as much of the front of the phone as possible, and the end result is one of the most manageable 6in phones I’ve ever used.
Unlike Motorola’s giant Nexus 6, whose slopping sides I found difficult to grasp in one hand, the Mate 8 has hard, chamfered edges that provide plenty of grip. It’s still a bit of a stretch for my thumb to reach the other side of the screen, but I don’t feel like it’s about to fall out of my hand in the process. Likewise, the rear-facing fingerprint sensor is perfectly positioned for your index finger when you want to unlock your phone, and you can configure it to take pictures, answer calls and silence alarms as well if you so wish. It can unlock your phone in a heartbeat, too, and it rarely made a mistake even when my finger wasn’t covering the entire sensor.
The 6in screen itself is a beauty, covering an impressive 99.3% of the sRGB colour gamut. Colours really pop out of the screen without appearing too oversaturated, and its contrast ratio of 1,402:1 means there’s plenty of dark shadow detail as well. Black levels are a little average at 0.32cd/m2, but a peak brightness of 505cd/m2 is more than enough to help combat bright, sunny weather conditions.
More unusual is the display’s 1,920×1,080 resolution. I would normally expect to see a 2,560×1,440 resolution on a phone of this size, so for Huawei to opt for a Full HD panel seems positively backwards. However, with a pixel density of 367ppi, it’s really not that much of a problem. I couldn’t see any evidence of pixilation around app icons or letters, and from a normal viewing distance, web pages looked just as sharp on the Mate 8 as they did on the Nexus 6P.
It’s exceedingly quick, too, as its octa-core 2.3GHz Kirin 950 chipset and 3GB of RAM produced an astonishing 6,210 in Geekbench 3’s multicore test, which is the fastest score I’ve ever seen. That’s almost 2,000 points in front of the iPhone 6S, and around 1,200 points ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. More importantly, it’s 800 points faster than the pre-production Snapdragon 820 chipset I benchmarked just before Christmas, potentially making its multitasking capabilities faster than all of this year’s top-end flagships.
Admittedly, the Mate 8’s single core score of 1,786 wasn’t up to the Snapdragon 820’s 2,356 result, but it’s still quicker than every other Android smartphone I tested last year. That’s a remarkable result for Huawei, and it makes the Mate 8 one to beat in 2016.
At least it does for raw processing power, as the Kirin’s mediocre graphics capabilities are once again its biggest weakness. It’s certainly a marked improvement from the abysmal framerates produced by Huawei’s Mate S and P8, but a result of 1,060 frames in GFX Bench GL’s offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test only equates to around 17fps in real terms, which is a figure that’s been comfortably surpassed by almost every major flagship smartphone over the last twelve months. It’s still perfectly fine to play Hearthstone smoothly, but when the Snapdragon 820’s can reach up to 2,860 frames (or 46fps) in the same test, its GPU is hardly as futureproof as its processor.
Fortunately, the Mate 8 is great for browsing the web, as its Peacekeeper score of 1,527 can attest. While not quite as fast as the Sony Xperia Z5, it still surpasses Samsung’s Galaxy S6 family, and it handled media-heavy web pages with no problem whatsoever.
Battery life was good, too, as its 4,000mAh battery lasted a respectable 11h 54m in our continuous video playback test with the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2. While not exceptional for a phablet, you’ll still comfortably get at least a day’s use out of the Mate 8, with more to spare if you’re careful.
|Processor||Octa-core 2.3GHz Kirin 950|
|Front camera||8 megapixels|
|Rear camera||16 megapixels|
|Storage (free)||32GB (24.6GB) / 64GB|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||microSD|
|Wireless data||3G, 4G|
|Operating system||Android 6.0|
|Warranty||One year RTB|
|Price SIM-free (inc VAT)||£429|
|Price on contract (inc VAT)||N/A|
|Prepay price (inc VAT)||N/A|