Camera Video Performance

Video recording quality was one of the weaknesses of previous Huawei phones. The Shenzhen manufacturer only introduces OIS last year with the P8 and in devices before that we saw poor ISP performance as videos generally lacked detail. In terms of video encoding we see usage the Kirin 950’s encoder block IPs by Imagination Technologies.

Note: We have yet to confirm if video recording is affected by the camera focus issue and thus can’t differentiate between lack of detail caused by either the optical system or the ISP’s processing.

1080p30​ - Optical Image Stabilization

At 1080p the Mate 8 is able to offer better detail than past devices such as the Mate S. We actually see the video bitrate more than doubled as by default 1080p30 is now recorded at 23.7Mbps instead of the 10Mbps of past Huawei devices. This really helps overall image clarity.

The Mate 8’s new 3-axis OIS does a better job at keeping a still image, however Huawei hasn’t managed to get rid of the abrupt module repositioning and we thus still see jagged motions. Unfortunately Huawei still has a lot of work to do to catch up to OIS systems of other manufacturers such as from LG or Samsung.

1080p30​ - Optical + Electrical Image Stabilization

The camera application offers the option to enable EIS in the settings (“Stabilizer” option). I’m a bit disappointed here to see that the new ISP still struggles to maintain proper quality as it’s very visible that the resulting video is just a cropped and re-scaled frame out of a native 1080p stream from the camera sensor. This results in large loss of detail and my repeated recommendation to just not use this feature.

1080p60​ - Optical image stabilization

I was surprised to find 1080p60 among one of the recording modes as HiSilicon had briefed me telling that the encode capabilities of the Kirin 950 hadn’t evolved, but seemingly this is wrong as 60fps recording is very well present and working. I was surprised by the video’s bitrate as Huawei set a rather high 47MBps encode configuration for the mode. This results in a noticeable improvement in detail which is welcomed. It also seems that OIS is functioning at a higher sampling rate as we see much less jagged “travel” as it looks as if we’re dealing with increased finer movements of the module.

Selecting 1080p30 disables the option to use a “Beauty” mode which is popular with some users, and again 1080p60 disables the option to use EIS. This points out that HiSilicon’s video ISP architecture is DSP based and has limited resources available to it as it needs to disable features as video throughput increases. This might also have been one of the reasons why the vendor chose not to employ 4K media encoders as it might have still been bottlenecked by the ISP.

Sound recording continues to be very clear for the Mate 8 although for some reason the default volume was much too low making it very hard to listen to recorded videos both on desktop as well as the phone itself. One can hear that in the first ~1s of the video the audio is louder after which it seems some sort of too high dynamic range compression is applied. This actually represents a large usability issue that I hope gets resolved in future software updates.

NAND Performance

My unit of the Mate 8 came with a SanDisk SDW32G eMMC chipset. This is an eMMC 5.0 part running in HS400 data rate mode, meaning at frequency of 200MHz DDR at with a bus width of 8 bit enabling a maximum throughput of 400MB/s. The controller used is one of the 3 Synopsis DesignWare blocks on the Kirin 950, with the second controller being used for the SD card with help of an Arasan PHY IP, and the third one connecting the WiFi combo chipset.

We’ve noticed that Android 6.0 has broken our usual test setup of AndroBench 3.6 as the random I/O tests aren’t able to properly report their scores. As such while we’re looking for better alternatives (Other than AndroBench 4.0) I’m keeping it simple and just reporting the sequential read and write speeds for 3.6.

Internal NAND - Sequential Read

The Mate 8 managed 127MB/s sequential read which puts it at the lower end of last generation flagships. Unless I’m mistaken the phone comes unencrypted and Huawei also doesn’t offer the option to encrypt the phone as it’s missing from the settings menus. HiSilicon has confirmed to me that the Mate 8 has FDE enabled by default and that the performance listed represents the encrypted performance of the phone. 

Internal NAND - Sequential Write

Write speeds come in at 31.2 MB/s which is relatively good in comparison to other devices. Here we see the huge improvement over last year’s Mate 7 as it notoriously suffered from horrible NAND speeds as it used a eMMC dated back to 2012.

For the sake of completion, the AndroBench 4.0 numbers for the device was able to attain 127.55 and 48.68MB/s sequential read and writes and 17.32 and 6.27MB/s random read and writes.

WiFi Performance

WiFi connectivity and performance was sort of an absolute disaster for Huawei over the last year as every device we’ve reviewed sported horrible WiFi speeds or outright did not even support the 5GHz band. 

The Mate 8 finally improves the situation as we see the old Broadcom BCM4334 dropped in favour of a new BCM43455. We actually covered this piece last MWC as it was introduced by Broadcom. Being a 1x1 HT80 solution capable of 802.11ac on both 2.4 and 5GHz bands we should see speeds of up to 433Mbps. As mentioned earlier in the NAND section, the WiFi chipset is connected via SDIO so it’s likely that the Mate 8 isn’t as power efficient as PCIe implementations and may be one of the factors of why maximum battery life isn’t quite as high as I expected it to be.

WiFi Performance - UDP

On the downstream direction we’re indeed seeing speeds somewhat in line with the theoretical maximum as the Mate 8 reaches 314Mbps. What continues to baffle me though is that we’re again seeing a large discrepancy between downstream and upstream as I was only able to reach 126Mbps upload on the device. It seems Huawei again is using some kind of limiter or traffic shaper on this device. Again I’m not too sure why they’re doing this and if it has anything to do with power efficiency but it’s definitely an odd characteristic exclusive to Huawei.

On 2.4GHz the Mate 8 reaches 78.6Mbps downstream and 67Mbps upstream, also displaying >2x improvements over past devices. While we don’t yet have objective testing for WiFi reception, I also noticed connectivity range on the Mate 8 greatly improved over the Mate 7.

Camera Still Picture Performance Conclusion & End Remarks
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  • syxbit - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    Despite only using the MP4 variant of the Mali-T880, I wish Google had used this SoC in the Nexus 6P.
    The Snapdragon 810 is garbage, and the only bad thing about my phone. It gets very warm when simply browsing webpages.....
  • jjj - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    Page 2 you do 810vs 820 FP comparison, wrong paste.
  • tuxRoller - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    Unless your browsing includes js/webgl heavy games, out benchmarks something is wrong with your phone.
    The only time I've noticed my gf's n6p getting noticeably warm was during benchmarks.
  • IanHagen - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    Is your girlfriend using her phone outdoors in Winnipeg, by chance?
  • tuxRoller - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    Oymyakon. Why do you ask? Do you think that's significant?
  • IanHagen - Thursday, January 7, 2016 - link

    Well tell her to be careful! The ground might be slippery with all this ice and fish laying around, she might slip and drop her brand new phone. That would be a problem. Erm... what was it we were talking about again?
  • tuxRoller - Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - link

    Oh, don't worry! The fish aren't a problem any longer. It's really the roving superpacks of wolves you need to watch out for...also, her phone has a case:)
  • Ethos Evoss - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    Ppl never learn that ShtDragon is epic fail..
    Now SD 820 is going to be tested on LeTV on purpose in case of ignite..
    LeTV not realising qualcom used them as experiment and others manufs. will be watching.. bcos nobody wants to implement SD anymore..
  • syxbit - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    SD800 and SD801 were brilliant chips, and SD805 was pretty good, but came out when others were further along with 64-bit. People have hope that SD820 will bring them back on track. However, if SD820 is bad, QCOM will risk losing permanent trust with everyone. They really have to nail SD820. Even Google was rumoured to be so unhappy with QCOM after SD810 that they began looking into designing their own SoC designs.

    SD810 was so horrifically bad, that they really owe everyone an apology. SD810 singlehandedly caused most flagship 2015 devices to suck, overheat, and have bad battery life. Worse still, QCOM denied the problems, claiming that people were just just spreading FUD about overheating SD810.
    Just look at QCOM's stock. They're at almost half their value from a year ago. All attributable to SD810. They need to apologize, and admit that SD810 was awful before people will believe their claims for SD820.

    However, most people believe that QCOM's custom SoC were great, so there's hope for SD820.
  • extide - Thursday, January 7, 2016 - link

    Well, the benches for the 820 are out ... and they look pretty good so I am pretty confident that the 820 will not be a disappointment.

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