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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s.yu - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - linkYou're the real pathetic one. Falling for the Huawei crap. Just watch, Kirin 950 will end up among the slowest of all SoCs using a72, just watch.
Ethos Evoss - Sunday, January 24, 2016 - linkJesus just go away weirdo..where am falling ? And u talking bullshit..it is fastest phone..
tuxRoller - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - linkHow is the n6p's color calibration "iffy"? Just toggle srgb and it's one of the best calibrated screens available. Also, dxomark ranked the n6p camera as better than the new iPhone. Yes, post processing takes awhile BUT it's in the background and you can capture photos in the meantime.
Ethos Evoss - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - linkYou stupidly and naively went for ''tacky'' boring iphone JUST because it has highest bars on pictures right .. OOh man I hope you will grow up within few years and realize how naive you were yesterday .. Saying that android phones are bad is just stupidity of person.. And media and internet pushed you to buy ancient same iphone with boring icons only on home screen..
osxandwindows - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - linkIf you are a nerd, its boring.
From a normal users perspective, its just a phone.
What if he went with an iPhone?
Thats his own problem.
phexac - Thursday, January 7, 2016 - linkIt was like 3 days before the Android police showed up. I was getting worried all of you on this site had grown up!
ummduh - Friday, January 8, 2016 - linkI almost went there myself. Every single 2015 phone has some kind of fairly major compromise. Not a single one did/does everything. Great phone, no OIS. Great phone, no SD card. Great phone, no nfc. Great phone, 32GB max storage and no SD. Etc, etc.. 2015 phones need to just go away already. I ended up giving the 64GB S6 a go, just because my Note 4 was getting to be too big and getting in the way. I regret that, and will be dumping it as soon as something else viable comes along that isn't making me compromise.. It may end up being apple, unfortunately.
s.yu - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - linklol wrong. S6 crapware?? Blame your vendor! Or get it TOTALLY CLEAN like I did in Europe! The memory leak was fixed months ago, 3-4 firmware updates ago!
"Samsung Edges? Looks GREAT but the edge is a useless gimmick and makes the phone harder to hold."
?? At least it looks great unlike any other of those on your list! And I don't think it's hard to hold at all, how it feels in the hand also has to do with what case/frame you get to go with the phone.
tipoo - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - linkLooks like they decided to pair decent CPU performance with ho-hum GPU performance. I'm curious if this visibly affects the performance of any high end games at present, or if they're all still tailoring to the average market performance where far lower end phones can still run every game fine.
syxbit - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - linkdecent CPU? It's the best CPU available that isn't shipped by Apple