I have never really used or even checked much on any Huawei devices before. When it comes to China made phone, it will be mostly Xiaomi with their low price phones and usually emphasizes on value for money devices. When StarHub offered me to review new Huawei phone, I was not sure what to expect, but it would still be interesting to try out new handset.
This review will not emphasize too much on technical details, but more how the phone is good for day to day use. Hope it helps in any possible way.
Upon taking out the phone from the box, I was pleasantly surprised with the high quality built of new flagship from Huawei, Mate 8. This is a premium gorgeous good-looking device with full metal unibody design. My review unit is gold. Although it is bit heavy, it is still nice to hold with display size of 6 inches which makes it phablet size, same family as Samsung Note and iPhone 6s plus. I really like the minimum bezel, the screen almost extends to both left and right edge of the screen.
Although the back looks smooth and slippery, it is still great to hold without accidentally dropping it. There is also fingerprint scan at the back, which is great to use when you hold the phone. The fingerprint scan works great, fast and pretty accurate. It can be even used to turn on the phone by just placing finger on the scanner. However, it is kind of hard to use when the phone lies on the desk. There is no double tap to wake up the phone or other physical front button, so the only way to turn on the phone is to take the phone and press the power button or put finger on the fingerprint scan.
The only part of hardware I do not really like is the holes at bottom for speaker. Frankly, it does not look elegant at all with the overall design. Many other phones manage to conceal the speaker better.
Most recent flagship smartphone offers Full HD, e.g. Huawei own Nexus 6P has display resolution of 2560 x 1440. However, Huawei Mate 8 only offers 1920 x 1080 resolution, which is kind of low for flagship device. Overall, the display still looks great on day to day usage, but it just does not have the sharpness you can find on other latest flagship device. I guess this is where Huawei manages to press down the price to be more affordable.
As what other Android manufacturer does, Huawei has its own Emotion UI to show its unique user interface. Overall, it is simple to use, however, it does not really follow basic design of Android. Rather than using app drawer to list all apps, Emotion UI merges the home display with icons of apps, similar to iPhone. To uninstall, you just hold and drag the icon to trash bin and it will also uninstall the app. Of course, you can still add widgets by just long tapping empty screen, and choose which widget to add. Frankly, I do not really like this design as it limits the way home screen can be managed. This is subjective and matter of preference.
Huawei does not add too much of its own apps, at least not at same level as Samsung or Sony does. One particular app that I find useful is phone manager, which you can use to optimize device, manage data traffic, manage battery, notification, etc.
One major complain of Huawei own software is its keyboard. I am not sure if this only happens to my review unit, but Huawei own keyboard crashes so often on me that I have to install swiftkey instead. The notification appears on top of the phone cannot be dismissed by swiping left/right, but up, which is kind of strange as notification is already narrow.
Overall, the display is generally highly responsive, app opens quickly, everything is just buttery smooth.
Huawei Mate 8 is powered by a very large battery, 4,000 mAH (iPhone 6s plus has 2,750 mAH or Samsung Note 5 has 3,200 mAH). This phone can easily survive full day of moderate usage without any charge at all. Most days, I can still have more than 20% of battery life, with casual chat on whatsapp, email, browsing, music, etc.
Huawei offers app to manage battery which provide user to simply change power plan to even increase the battery life (Performance, Smart or Ultra). The app can also tell you which app consumes more power, so you can choose to disable the app.
Huawei Mate 8 offers decent quality of camera, 16MP at the back and 8MP at the front. It is actually good enough for casual photo or video. Below are some sample pictures.
Huawei Mate 8 is a great phablet. Battery life is outstanding to last through a day, which most other smartphones might struggle with. Although it does not offer the head turning or evolutionary features, Huawei also strategically markets this phone with good value for money. On StarHub 4G 4 plan, it currently costs $149 for 64GB (Online Exclusive), compares to Samsung Galaxy Note 5 at $349 or iPhone 6s Plus at $689. So, if you do not really look for the greatest and newest phone in the world and prefer cheaper cost with still flagship quality, this phone might be a sweet spot.
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