The Huawei Mate 8 Reviewby Andrei Frumusanu on January 5, 2016 1:00 PM EST
- Posted in
- Cortex A72
- Kirin 950
- Mate 8
- CES 2016
Conclusion & End Remarks
As we come to the end of the review I’m rather pleased with what Huawei was able to do with the Mate 8. Design-wise this is still very clearly a Mate device and fully embraces the form-factor and industrial design established by the Mate 7. This is clearly a large phone as the 6” screen is of the biggest on the market, and certainly one of the only devices of its size competing in the very high-end segment.
The small improvements that the Mate 8 design did bring were all beneficial. The move of the speakers to the bottom enables the phone to have better sound output, and we also saw improvement in build quality as the plastic top and bottom side-panels of the Mate 7 were replaced with aluminium ones. Although not sure if this affects other colour variants, I found the finish of the Mate 8 to be quite of a double-edged sword as while it offers very good grip for a metal phone it also is prone to collect smudges and due to the coarse anodization being hard to clean.
The screen of the Mate 8 has seen the least improvements over the Mate 7 as we’re still seeing usage of a JDI IPS-Neo 1080p panel with the same DDIC as last year’s model. It actually seems that this year’s display shows lower luminance efficiency which can slightly impact battery life. Display calibration has only seen slight improvements, although Huawei fixed the green tint that was present on the Mate 7, the Mate 8 still shows a calibration that favours a large colour gamut that exhibits more vivid and saturated colours.
Huawei continues to embrace dual-SIM capability in all of its phones and the Mate 8 is able to take advantage of this as well – although you have to sacrifice the microSD slot for the second nanoSIM. Coming in 32, 64 and 128GB variants with expandable storage the Mate 8 should offer plenty of space for even most avid power users.
Having discussed the Kirin 950 with HiSilicon during the November launch, I had sort of high expectations of the SoC as on paper it was able to show a lot of promise. Fast-forward to today and not only did the chipset fulfil the expectations and all of its promises, but it actually managed to exceed them as I hadn’t imagined that HiSilicon would be able to reduce CPU power consumption this much. This bodes well not only for the Kirin 950, but for what I hope is an indication of what other vendors with A72 silicon will be able to show. I’m now eagerly looking forward to testing the Snapdragon 820’s Kryo and Samsung’s Exynos 8890’s M1 to see if the two new CPU architectures will be able to match or beat the Cortex A72 implementation in the Kirin 950, as HiSilicon now sets the new bar in terms of power efficiency.
Performance of the Mate 8 was also extremely good. This was not only due to the 2.3GHz A72 CPU cores but also to what seems to be targeted software optimizations and improvements to Android. The Mate 8 is currently the fastest Android device on the market and should be able to perform very well against the upcoming generation of flagships.
On the GPU and 3D performance side Huawei and HiSilicon were able to show very large improvements compared to last year’s models. The new Mali T880MP4 at 900MHz enabled the Huawei device to showcase much needed performance boost. Although we saw large improvements, it’s unlikely that the Mate 8 will be able to compete against upcoming devices with new generation SoCs as the smaller Mali configuration of the Kirin 950 sacrifices power efficiency in favour of die size and thus when looking at overall power efficiency at the same TDP levels, the Mate 8 currently falls behind the competition. Nevertheless I applaud HiSilicon for balancing out the GPU in such a way that thermal throttling is not an issue, thus enabling the Mate 8 to be able to always operate at near its maximum performance, something we can’t say of many of today’s devices.
Through the efficient SoC and the large battery the Mate 8 is able to sport one of the best battery performances among today’s smartphones. It seems that the device is actually being held back by high RF power consumption, something especially visible in the LTE web browsing test where Mate 8 only narrowly manages to outperform the Nexus 6P. This skews usage patterns in favour of high CPU loads as that’s where the Mate 8’s strength lies, vastly outperforming the competition in terms of efficiency.
Still speaking of connectivity, Huawei has finally managed to equip one of its own devices with a competitive WiFi solution that is able to check all the feature boxes such as the much needed 5GHz band and 802.11ac compatibility. Performance is also good although we noticed some odd behaviour in the upstream bandwidth in the 5GHz band.
Lastly, there’s the Mate 8’s camera. In its current state with the B116 firmware version that the device was reviewed on the only way to accurately describe it is as a complete disaster. Huawei has promised that we’ll be seeing a software update in the near future that will be able to correct the problem – so until then we’ll hold out on a definitive conclusion. The Mate 8 did show promise in low-light photography so once and if the focus issue is alleviated and the camera sensor will be able to perform at its full potential, it should in theory be able to compete well against other flagships. Check back in the future as we’ll be updating the review for a complete camera evaluation.
As we arrive to the conclusion, I’m left relatively happy with the Mate 8. Over the last year since I reviewed the Honor 6 and Mate 7 I’ve seen Huawei being able to steadily identify and improve on its weaknesses. In terms of performance and power efficiency the Kirin 950 is able to mark an absolutely enormous jump over last year’s devices as we finally see a proper successor to 2014’s Kirin 920/925. Huawei has said that they’ve been able to gain a lot of software experience while working with Google on the Nexus 6P and it really shows in EmotionUI 4.0, as it showcases exemplary performance.
While this is definitely not a perfect device and Huawei can definitely improve in aspects such as screen quality, I’m tending towards calling the Mate 8 a worthwhile purchase – that is, if Huawei manages to fix the severe camera issues. Until we can revisit that aspect of the device and if the camera is a critical factor in one's purchasing decision of the phone, I’d recommend waiting out on the full evaluation before making a final decision.
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Beany2013 - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - linkLast update was that it's due - IIRC - before the end of this week unless other schedule conflcts get in the way, from the question being asked on another thread.
KPOM - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - linkRyan now says on Twitter that the iPad Pro review will be post-CES.
lucam - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - linkThanks. Still don't understand why it's taking so long...
Aenean144 - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - linkJoshua Ho had finals to study for and to take, then holiday break. Plus, it's going to be harder than your normal review as comparing x86 vs ARM isn't trivial.
lucam - Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - linkJanuary is getting over...and no IPad pro review yet...:(
ChronoReverse - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - linkThe CPU efficiency results gives me hope for this year's phones. I'm going to have to keep my 6P in good shape and hope that the 2016 Nexus will equal it in every way save the SOC.
phexac - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - linkThis is why I finally gave up and went with an iPhone after using exclusively Android phones:
"While this is DEFINITELY NOT A PERFECT DEVICE and Huawei can definitely improve in aspects such as SCREEN QUALITY, I’m tending towards calling the Mate 8 a worthwhile purchase – that is, if Huawei manages to fix the SEVERE CAMERA ISSUES."
There are issues like this with every device. Galaxy S6, good but loaded with crapware and has memory leak due to known Android issue. Recent Nexus devices? Fantastic, but color calibration on 6P is iffy and no image stabilizer and long post-processing...and daylight picture quality is inconsistent. Note 5...glass back and crapware. Samsung Edges? Looks GREAT but the edge is a useless gimmick and makes the phone harder to hold.
Finally got 6s Plus and love the fact that everything works without issues. Yeah, I wish the OS were a bit more flexible in some aspects, but it's great to have a phone where all features work well and navigation is ALWAYS smooth. And honestly, after a few weeks, I don't really notice the things I thought were going to annoy me. I do notice the smooth consistent experience every time though.
syxbit - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - linkAgreed. It seems like the ideal device would be Apple hardware with Google software.
QCOM is to blame for the utter disaster of 2015 Android phones. Who would have thought a single company could cause so much damage.
Maybe the ideal future device would be a Pixel phone :).
IanHagen - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - linkGoogle software? Oh god, no! Not that Android is bad. No, no, it's great, but for me OS X and iOS are very good reasons to use Apple hardware. From a developer standpoint too, great as Android is, no denying about that, sometimes it makes me want to cry for having to deal with sheer absurdities about it.
Ethos Evoss - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - linkAnother naive/pathetic person...