Display Measurement

The Mate 8 sports a 6” diameter 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution screen manufactured by JDI. This is again an IPS-Neo LCD screen which is supposed to offer higher contrast ratios compared to other LCD technologies. The display driver IC is NovaTek’s NT35695, the same one found in other devices such as last year’s Mate 7, the P8 or HTC One M8. The DDIC supports and is run in MIPI command mode, thus supporting panel self-refresh (PSR).

It actually seems as that the Mate 8 employs a very similar, if not actually the same display as the one found on the Mate 7 as at first glance it’s hard to distinguish between the two screens as they both seem to offer the same viewing experience. This also includes the same viewing angles as found on the Mate 7, which offered one of the best experiences among LCD devices. 

Huawei went with an AMOLED screen on the Mate S which offered substantially better viewing angles and overall display experience, but came at a price of extremely high power consumption as Huawei opted to use a less efficient display panel from Samsung. For the Mate 8, I think that sticking with an LCD was a wise choice as the Mate series is focused on battery life and such a large AMOLED display would have limited the device’s power efficiency.

2015 was a year where we saw the mainstream adoption of 1440p screens in many flagships, so it’s a bit odd to have Huawei still go with 1080p on the Mate 8. While this is a completely subjective matter and for many people the resolution is enough, I would have liked to see some improvement as 1080p on a 6” display such as the Mate 8 is stretching it quite a bit and visible to me when holding the device close up at about 25cm. Here’s hoping next year’s Mate manages to make the switch to 1440p.

Our display testing is done with an X-Rite i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer as our measurement hardware, in conjunction with SpectraCal's CalMAN software suite and our own workflow to be able to get an accurate display characterization.

Display - Max Brightness

In terms of maximum brightness the Mate 8 gets pretty bright as it’s able to show a luminosity of up to 522 cd/m². This is slightly higher than the Mate 7 and on par with some of the brightest LCD displays on current smartphones.

Display - Black Levels

The black levels on the Mate 8 are slightly worse than the ones found on the Mate 7 – this is partly due to the fact that the Mate 8 gets brighter but I also think there are small differences in the panel itself. For example, the Mate 8 is much more homogeneous and displays less backlight bleeding than the Mate 7, especially around the edges of the display.

At minimum brightness the black levels reach very low values so the IPS-Neo panel is able to perform well in terms of maintaining high contrast at low luminosities. I was a bit disappointed that the minimum luminosity reached only 10 cd/m², which can still be quite bright when browsing in bed at night. I think the low value of 2 cd/m² targeted by other manufacturers is a sweet spot for comfortable night viewing, and as I’ve mentioned in past Huawei reviews, I’m still hoping that we’ll be eventually able to see this change in future devices from the company.

Display - Contrast Ratio

Contrast ratio ends up at 1607:1 at maximum brightness, a good value in itself but still a bit lower than the Mate 7. I wonder if Huawei will in the future make more usage of AMOLED panels as it would greatly benefit this aspect of the device display quality.

    

Display - Grayscale Accuracy

Moving on onto the grayscale accuracy testing we see the Mate 8 performs averagely. At 200 nits the average gamma is higher than the desired 2.2 target making content darker and colours more saturated. Only at minimum brightness does gamma near an average of 2.2, but here we see a skewed gamma curve where lower luminosity values overshoot the target and thus become darker than intended, and higher luminosity values are brighter than intended. 

The greyscale accuracy reports a dE2000 of 3.23 at 200 cd/m². Oddly enough it seems the screen is more accurate both at minimum and maximum brightness. While falling around average among today’s flagship devices, this is much better than last year’s Mate 7 as the predecessor device suffered from a severe green tint which brought down both the measured colour accuracy as well as the overall screen experience.

Display - White Point

While the Mate 7 averaged a colour temperature default of 6605K (with very green whites), the Mate 8 is configured at a higher 7239K, displaying colder whites that tend towards blue. For people who like to adjust colour temperature Huawei again exposes a control slider for this. Unlike the P8 where you could hit outstanding display accuracy when configuring the slider to the warmest possible value, the Mate 8 is again a shot in the dark as hitting 6504K is a quite difficult task without proper display calibration equipment.

Display - Saturation Accuracy

The Mate 8 comes with a wide gamut display calibration and thus saturation accuracy against our sRGB target is quite off with a dE2000 of 3.89. I wasn’t able to determine to what standard Huawei tried to calibrate the gamut to as it doesn’t match either DCI nor AdobeRGB, so it must either be the panel’s native gamut or some other standard we haven’t tested yet.

Display - GMB Accuracy

Finally the Gretag McBeth benchmark of commonly encountered colours such as skin tones of foliage shows a dE2000 of 3.68 which is slightly better than that of the Mate 7. As seen in our colour comparison strip, it seems that it’s especially the higher gamma which has an effect on the perceived colours as they’re all darker than the targeted values.

Overall the Mate 8 is a good screen. It seems that Huawei deliberately didn’t calibrate it for more accurate colours as it’s likely the general populace prefers wider gamuts with more saturated colours. Still the screen represents some improvements over the Mate 7 – it’s a brighter and more homogenous display (on our review samples) and it also fixes the green tint observed in last year’s device. Given the screen size it’s reasonable for Huawei to have gone with an LCD screen, although after seeing the Mate S I would like to see an eventual switch to AMOLED, that is if they’re able to choose an efficient panel. The 1080p resolution on the 6” screen is also somewhat outmatched in sharpness by competing devices, so again while this is a subjective matter, it’s definitely something to consider, especially when one is used to read with the device close up.

Display Power

As mentioned before, going with an LCD panel is required if one is focused on battery life as AMOLED displays still haven’t quite reached sufficient efficiency levels to say that they always outperform LCD screens. The Mate 8’s 6” screen is especially prone to this as going AMOLED would have increased peak power quite a lot, as well as considerably increasing the device’s bill of materials.

Screen Luminance Power Efficiency
100% APL / White
Device Screen Luminance Power
at 200cd/m²
Luminance Power (mW) /
Screen area (cm²)
Efficiency
Huawei Ascend Mate 7 ~379 mW ~3.82
LG G4 354 mW 4.11
Meizu MX4 345 mW 4.14
Huawei Mate 8 ~419 mW ~4.22
Huawei P8 ~341 mW ~4.43
Meizu MX4 Pro 386 mW 4.47
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 504 mW 5.64
Samsung Galaxy S6 442 mW 5.99
Huawei Nexus 6P ~615 mW ~6.88
Samsung Galaxy S5 532 mW 7.21
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 665 mW 7.22
Samsung Galaxy S5 LTEA 605 mW 8.20
LG Flex 2 765 mW 8.89
Samsung Galaxy S4 653 mW 9.22
Huawei Mate S ~769 mW ~9.24

For this test I went ahead and measured the luminosity curve on the Mate 7 as well so that we can have a comparison between the two device generations, and oddly enough it seems that the Mate 8 actually regressed in efficiency. Due to not having the opportunity to dismantle the device and hook up my power measurement equipment to it, I thus had to rely on the device’s own fuel-gauge. While this seemed seemingly accurate for the CPU and GPU figures, it’s odd to see the Mate 7 actually outperform screens such as LG’s latest generation panel in the G4 but may very well be possible due to the lower pixel density allowing better light transmission through the screen’s TFT matrix.

The Mate 8 seems to fall more in line with other measurements of LCD devices, displaying an estimated luminance power efficiency of ~4.22 mW of power for each cm² of screen area. At full brightness the Mate 8 uses 1541mW, of which ~1140mW can be attributed to the backlight.

Overall the Mate 8’s screen efficiency lands where we expected it to be for an LCD display and thus should be able to allow the device to perform well in our battery benchmarks.

GPU Performance & Power, Device Thermals Battery Life & Charge Time
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  • s.yu - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    Which will soon become among the slowest of all flagship CPUs. Please, it's one generation above Exynos 7420 (courtesy of ARM) and still doesn't beat it in all aspects. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    I don't think it makes any sense yet to name "phones" and "high end games" in the same sentence. (still doing it right now) Reply
  • beachletter - Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - link

    The mate 8 achieved similar if not better sustained framerates than the Exynos 7420 in demanding games like nba 2k15/2k16. And that is when the 7420 is also running on 1080p, not 2k (Meizu Pro 5).

    I'd say GPU on the 950 is totally comparable to Exynos 74xx in actual gameplay because it has so little thermal throttling. In fact, it is probably superior to some phones using snapdragon 810, especially after a few minutes of playtime and on 2k screens. I know because I have a Oneplus 2 which plays like shit after 10-15 minutes game time.

    This GPU won't compete with 2016 flagship SoCs, but it can easily match the high end chips currently available in actual usage. The graphics benchmark really don't tell you the whole story.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    It seems only Apple, Samsung and maybe Xiaomi cares about display accuracy which is better than focusing on gizmos. Reply
  • 5th element - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    Google's devices arent half bad, but I agree with you display accuracy should be of primary concern and I, for the life of me, have no idea why it isn't an this extends right across the board to LCD TVs and monitors. Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    The reason is because more people prefer the overly saturated colours. The most common comment I get when people look at my previous phones where the colours were set to as accurate as possible for that model is "why does it look washed out?".

    This is why a screen capable of colour accuracy like the Nexus 6P ends up with a saturated default setting.
    Reply
  • s.yu - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    That's why Samsung's approach with multiple screen modes makes so much sense. Most will leave it on Adaptive, those who care will change it to Basic or AMOLED Photo. Those watching really badly compressed videos could use AMOLED Cinema. Reply
  • s.yu - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    One up that! Reply
  • NZtechfreak - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    I've had one of these for nearly three weeks, a 4gb/64gb one (coming from Note 4 and Nexus 6P previously). This review aligns with my experience. Battery life is easily the best I've had, in the same use it is basically doubling what I had with the Note 4 and 6P. Battery life is fairly high on my priority list and this device is a breath of fresh air in this regard. I had noticed the camera issues, but hadn't picked the reason until Andreilux informed me a few days ago. I'm on a newer B129SP02 firmware, which somewhat ameliorates the issue but not as successfully as it needs to. I think this should be able to be resolved in firmware though, so hopefully will see more of the sensors potential in upcoming updates (I've had three firmware updates so far, so certainly they are moving at a reasonable pace to address issues thusfar). Can update as more firmwares come in if people are interested. Regards the screen my subjective experience matches the review. Coming from the Note 4 in basic screen mode and the 6P in sRGB mode, the garish colours are a bit of an eyesore. Not sure if you mentioned it, but the screen is fairly reflective too, so despite a reasonable brightness sunlight viewing is mildly irritating at times. Blacks for a non-AMOLED screen are sufficient for me, white on warmest colour temp also good enough for me. Overall though the panels performance is acceptable for me. The last firmware update changelog mentioned changes to the colour temp adjustment, but I'm not perceiving a difference. I hope they can refine colour temp adjustment further with firmware updates. Again, not sure if I missed it, but the speaker performance here is really enjoyable - best bass I have heard from a smartphone till now. Speaker performace gets noticeably stressed as you approach 70%+ of the volume range, but volume is plentiful enough beneath that to not give me cause for concern. Pleased with your GPU write-up, a balanced viewpoint (it matches my own, so I suppose I would say that). While GPU performance is not wonderful in raw terms, it exceeds most devices this year for native resolution workloads on account of the 1080p screen. Throttling behaviour is particularly pleasing, since I do mostly emulator gaming on my phone and it's really nice playing the Gamecube's Fire Emblem Path of Radiance at fullspeed here (Dolphin overclock setting at 0.2). Overall I'm well pleased, the camera issue needs resolution, but I use my GH3 for when I really want to take nice shots, so for me it isn't the showstopper that it will be for some on current software. Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    "One characteristic that might be defining for the Kirin 950 is that it still uses a CCI-400 fabric"

    Might I suggest as a future article one that clarifies what the relationship is between all these ARM terms. We have AMBA, CHI, ACE, CCI and probably a few more I've forgotten. They all seem to have something to do with coherency between different "ARM ecosystem" cells, but what exactly, and how are they all related?
    Reply

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