Huawei Mate 8 Review: Big and bold

Alex Kidman 3 June 2016

Mate8_450

The Huawei Mate 8 provides solid performance and excellent battery life at an appealing price point.

Huawei’s positioning in the mobile phone space is pretty well established, with the vast majority of its phones fitting in the budget and mid-range spaces. The Mate line is Huawei’s stab at a "premium" phone, but like its siblings it keeps a focus on affordability relative to the rest of the premium pack.

Huawei Mate 8
OSAndroid 6.0 ("Marshmallow")
Screen size6in
Resolution1080x1920
Display density368ppi
Storage32/64GB
Weight185g
ProcessorOcta-core Kirin 950
Rear camera16MP
Front camera8MP
Battery4000mAh

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Upsides: Why you’d want the Huawei Mate 8

  • Nearly bezel-free: The Huawei Mate 8’s design doesn’t rely on having a thick bezel around its 6 inch screen. Instead, the display wraps to just about the edge of the phone itself. This is visually pleasing, but also means it’s easier to grip the Mate 8 in one hand while in use, which isn’t always the case for 6-inch screen phones.
  • Good application performance: The Huawei Mate 8 uses Huawei’s own Kirin 950 processor rather than a more stock processor from  MediaTek or Qualcomm. Running on Android 6.0, the Mate 8 is generally highly responsive, and this is also reflected in benchmarks. Using Geekbench’s cross-platform benchmark suite, the Mate 8 shows solid performance against a range of premium handsets:
    HandsetGeekbench 3 Single Core (higher is better)Geekbench 3 Multi Core (higher is better)
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge21696446
    Samsung Galaxy S721566240
    Huawei Mate 817386092
    LG G523055243
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+14924893
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge13244626
    Google Nexus 6P12514597
    Samsung Galaxy S613474569
    Apple iPhone SE25384455
    Apple iPhone 6S25404410
    Apple iPhone 6S Plus24914391
    HTC 1019424191
    Sony Xperia Z513584134
    Samsung Galaxy Note 511113686
    BlackBerry PRIV11963396
  • Great battery life: One of the advantages of larger phone bodies is that you can cram more batteries in the body of the phone. Like other unibody phones like the HTC 10 or iPhone 6S, the Mate 8’s battery is non-removable. However, it’s a hefty 4,000mAh unit, so testing using Geekbench’s battery test with screen dimming enabled, the Mate 8 showed itself as a very capable performer:
    HandsetGeekbench 3 Battery Test DurationGeekbench 3 Battery Score
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge11:55:007150
    Huawei Mate 811:14:406659
    Samsung Galaxy S710:01:206013
    Samsung Galaxy Note 59:18:005580
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+8:24:105041
    LG Stylus DAB+8:11:403278
    Apple iPhone 6S Plus7:48:104681
    LG G57:36:104561
    Alcatel Go Play7:21:102941
    iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case7:21:104407
    Google Nexus 5X7:14:204062
    Oppo R7s7:002800
    HTC 106:54:304145

    Only the exceptional Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge outperformed the Huawei Mate 8 in battery life, and that’s a phone with a specific asking price much higher than that of the Mate 8.

  • Fast fingerprint sensor: The days when the good fingerprint sensors were only found on Apple products are well and truly over. The Mate 8’s circular fingerprint sensor resides on the rear of the phone, and it responds very quickly indeed.
  • Decent camera: The Huawei Mate 8’s 16MP camera performs well for most photographic situations. Predictably it does suffer in low light, and it’s not quite the best camera we’ve tested on a smartphone this year, but for most purposes it will respond quickly and with generally pleasing results.

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Downsides: Why you might not want the Huawei Mate 8

  • Display is mid-range at best: 2016’s premium phones all tend towards QHD display screens, but the Huawei Mate 8 sticks with a plain old 1080p display instead. That probably saves it some battery power, but put it side by side with a richer display and the differences are quite noticeable.
  • Ordinary gaming performance: For general processing tasks the Kirin 950 performs well, but where it stumbles somewhat is when you throw games its way. We noticed some stuttering in gameplay compared to other premium handsets, and this was borne out by the Mate 8’s anaemic 3DMark scores. Here’s how it compares against a range of handsets:
    Handset3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result
    LG G529597
    Apple iPhone SE29276
    Samsung Galaxy S728903
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge28402
    Apple iPhone 6s28171
    HTC 1027392
    Google Nexus 6P24703
    Sony Xperia Z519197
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus17981
    Huawei Mate 817947
  • Emotion UI is an acquired taste: Most Android phone makers have been shifting towards very light makeovers of recent Android OS releases, but that’s not Huawei’s way. It’s not quite the full rework of Android that Oppo applies to its phones, but it’s pretty close, with no app drawer and a range of shiny effects overlaid on common UI elements. Some may find these cute, but heavier Android users will most likely find them annoying.

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Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?

The Huawei Mate 8 isn’t without its drawbacks in the fiercely contested premium space, but the essential core of what Huawei’s offering here is essentially solid. If you’re interested in a premium experience without the $1,000+ price point that other premium handsets attract, it’s well worth considering.

In the larger screen phone arena you do have quite a lot of choice. Currently we’d say that Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge sits on top of the pack, although if you’re more budget constrained its large screen Galaxy Note 5 is also worth consideration. If you’re in a more constrained budget space, consider LG’s Stylus DAB+ or Oppo’s R9 Plus.

Where can I get it?

Huawei sells the Mate 8 in Australia for $899 outright if you’re happy going on a prepaid or month by month contract plan with it.

If you want the Huawei Mate 8 on a contract, it’s an exclusive with Vodafone over a 24 month contract. Here’s what it will cost you at each pricing tier:

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