Huawei Mate 8 review: the ultimate companion

With the Mate 8, Chinese manufacturer Huawei wants to play in the big leagues. Does this device walk the talk?

Chinese manufacturer Huawei has been around since 1997, but only recently is it becoming an established force in the world of smartphones. Thanks to a recent influx of top-quality devices at a comfortable price point, the brand name is growing stronger, and Huawei’s new phone/phablet hybrid – the Mate 8 – is a real statement of intent. This is a premium phone that trades blows with heavyweights Apple and Samsung.
There’s no denying that the Mate 8 looks the part. It arrives in a gorgeous black case with gold-embossed text, and out of the box, offers up an impressive 6″ display with a quality glass screen and sharp, bold edges. It’s a premium phone with an eye-watering price tag (R10 500), but judged against the merits of the Apple 6S Plus, the Mate 8 is arguably the better buy. Apple has typically dominated the high-end market, but Huawei has created something special here.
Read: Huawei Mate S Review: Ahoy matey!
 
Huawei Mate 8

Performance

The Mate 8 is built on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, though Huawei has tinkered with the UI, injecting some familiar Apple features into the fold, like a rotating background. Power-wise, the Mate 8’s output is considerable. It ships with a 2.3GHz processor and, depending on the model you buy, either 3 gigabytes or 4 gigabytes of RAM. The L29 (4GB) has 64 GB of onboard memory, while the L09 (3GB of RAM) has 32 gigabytes. Both phones have space for a microSD card.
The good news is that no matter which model you buy, the Mate 8 runs like a dream. In our tests, it never slowed down, no matter how hard we stress-tested it.
When it comes to games, it’s similarly impressive. Though technically less powerful than the Apple 6S Plus and inferior to the Galaxy S6 too, the Mate 8 still keeps stride with technically advanced titles like Real Racing 3. If there is a difference in frame rate between the Mate 8 and its more illustrious competition, the difference is negligible, and thanks to the generous 6″, 1080p display, you’ll be too impressed to care.
Huawei Mate 8

Battery life

We love a powerful phone as much as the next person, but one of the most underrated attributes of any device is its battery life. The Mate 8’s enormous 4000mAh offering is absolutely superb.
Charging the phone takes 30 minutes, and once it’s fully charged, you can use it strenuously for 2-3 days before needing to plug it back in again. You can binge watch series, listen to music, chat to friends and play games for hours on end, and the Mate 8 keeps pace. To say we were impressed is a major understatement. Huawei has performed miracles, serving up a powerful performance phone that runs for days without needing to be charged. It puts its rival clearly in the shade, and edges well clear of the 6S Plus, Nexus 6P and Galaxy S7 edge on pure battery life alone.
Huawei Mate 8

Camera

The Mate 8 ships with a 16MP rear-facing camera, and an 8MP front-facing camera. Neither are market leaders, which is disappointing, given the quality of the screen. The 16MP camera is a particular letdown, delivering soft images that lack in crispness. If you’re after razor-sharp picture quality, you might be better served opting for the Samsung Galaxy S7, but casual Instagrammers and amateur photographers won’t look twice.
The video camera produces 1080p picture quality at 60 frames per second, but surprisingly, 4K is not supported (this, after all, is a feature that many of the Mate 8’s rivals have been offering for a while). Videos lack detail in places, and though the picture quality isn’t bad, it’s not particularly good either. At this price point, mediocrity doesn’t cut it.
In short, if camera quality is your number one requirement, the Mate 8 is something of a disappointment. Fortunately, it’s the only real letdown in a package that oozes quality in every other regard.
Huawei Mate 8

Build quality and screen

The Mate 8 is a joy to handle and feels like a truly premium offering. It’s constructed from high-quality metal and ships in four restrained colours: Moonlight Silver, Space Gray, Champagne Gold, Mocha Brown – the sorts of names copywriter spill hours of sweat over. Despite the dubious names, all four colours look great.
The screen is excellent too, and the Mate 8 delivers high-quality images at a 1920 x 1080 resolution. Huawei has gone to pains to make the phone form-friendly, and despite its 6′ screen, the Mate 8 is actually smaller than the iPhone 6S Plus, which ships with a 5.5″ display. In short, there’s not an inch of space wasted.
Huawei Mate 8 (2 of 7)

Overall

The Mate 8 proves that brand names mean nothing. Huawei has done a fantastic job with this handset, delivering a phablet that feels comfortable in-hand. It looks a treat too, both in its styling and the quality of its display, and though the camera is a letdown, the Mate 8 still represents a fantastic investment for anyone but the most hardened photographer (In fact, if you’re truly concerned with picture quality, you should probably be investing in an SLR anyway.)
All told, the Mate 8 stands tall as one of the finest phablets on the market. With its unmatched battery life, premium embellishments and striking design, this is a phone that justifies its asking price in spades.
Read: Huawei P8 Review: A flagship contender?
Huawei Mate 8
Score: 9/10 
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