The Huawei G8 has landed on our shores, and it’s time to find out if this is South Africa’s new mid-range king. Can this phablet outsmart the competition?
Huawei placed in an interesting situation in South Africa. The firm’s flagship devices – the Mate S, Mate 8, and P9 – enjoy top-of-the-line advertising campaigns and are usually top of mind for consumers looking for their next phone. Unfortunately, this often means that whatever the firm produces in the mid and low end of the market usually becomes somewhat overlooked. With the Huawei G8, we have a chance to examine just what the company has brought to market.
The G8 flies the banners of the flagship-grade Mate S; for all intents and purposes, one could call this a Mate S Mini save for the fact it eschews any notion of doubling down its size. This is a mighty phablet, a cold-to-the-touch contender which arrives wrapped in an aluminium unibody.
Similarly, phablets themselves enjoy an interesting position in the South African market; most recently, AG Mobile debuted the #Hashtag, a new mid-range device, in conjunction with Cassper Nyovest. Similarly, LG has just brought the Stylus 2 to market, and our review will launch next week.
Read: Huawei Watch Review: Style and substance
It’s without saying then that Huawei have some tough competition on their hands, especially has the G8 was released in September of 2015. Has time diluted what could once have been a superstar, or does this device still manage to outshine the rest?
It‘s time to get down to it.
The G8 arrives with a powerful spec sheet for a phone designed to perform in the upper mid-range; the device sports a 1080p display at 5.5“³, with a pixel density of 401ppi. Powered by a Snapdragon 615 and complemented by 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, the G8 largely offers a flagship-grade specification.
Released in 2015, the Huawei G8 arrives running Android 5.1 Lollipop; a disappointment considering that many Android vendors are migrating upwards to Marshmallow, but considering that the device runs Huawei’s Emotion UI skin atop its operating system, users will need to be eagle-eyed to notice any visual changes.
One can very easily appreciate the G8’s design; Huawei have had years to distill a design language down from their premium line, and the G8 takes that idea and runs with it. This is one of the few large devices on the South African market at present which arrives in a gorgeous, all-metal build.
As I said in Bandwidth Blog On Air, an interesting caveat with the G8’s metal build is how cold to the touch the device is; you’re distinctly aware that you have in your hands a premium product.
The Huawei G8 feels like a close cross between the Mate S and Mate 8, with a splash of Samsung’s old pebble design style; corners are rounded and pleasant, while the device’s wide berth lets it sit comfortably in the hand.
On the rear, you’re offered a fingerprint scanner and large camera mount which disrupts the horizontal profile of the device. Interestingly, something which I grew irritated by was my propensity to place my index finger on the camera mount thinking that I had, in fact, reached the fingerprint scanner slightly below. While this is my error in use, it’s a poignant reminder that the G8’s camera module is physically disruptive for all the wrong reasons.
Overall, the Huawei G8 is a classy proposition that I imagine most will feel somewhat smug while using it in public. However, the device’s position in the mid-range of the market means that some small design caveats detract from a fantastic offering overall.
One either grows to love or hate Huawei’s custom Android skin, Emotion UI (EMUI), for good reason; it simultaneously comes with some of the best and worst features in the Android world.
Let’s run through some negatives; this is a heavy skin which utterly dominates every fundamental aspect of Android. Themes are aplenty, though I could imagine consumers will stick with either the default skin or one they like for their duration of use with the phone. Further, there are plenty of bloatware apps; including the likes of a redundant ‘mirror’ – quick selfie, anyone? – as well as Huawei’s default offerings for the likes of a Music or Movies app. I can understand the role of this in China – where many Google services are prohibited by law – though it speaks to an untailored offering in the South African market.
The positives? Huawei have consistently rendered their Android skin leaner with each iteration, and the G8 runs it with aplomb. EMUI is thankfully an attractive skin, and increasingly is becoming the trajectory many Android device manufacturers – such as LG – are headed; the removal of an app drawer being a case in point. Transitions, skins, and even default apps are downright pretty, making this – at face level – a far more pleasing offering that the stark, stock Android interface many manufacturers include on cheap and cheerful devices.
Receiving a new Huawei device to review both excites and terrifies me for one reason; how well the device runs underneath the weight of EMUI.
Earlier Huawei flagships – such as the P8 – gallop like a horse on fire out of the box, only to trot to a slower pace a few weeks later. Thankfully, the G8 arrives in an era where Huawei has taken the time it needs to slim down and optimize its devices performance requirements, and the G8 is indicative of this.
Running through EMUI is a breeze, and applications – default and third party – are quick, responsive, and imminently usable. Just how quickly the G8’s home screen responds to touch is a testament to Huawei’s consistent efforts to double down EMUI’s brain drain.
One area of disappointment I did encounter was the length of time it took Huawei’s default camera app to respond, which seemed only to increase after longer periods of use.
Overall, the Huawei G8 offers a startling performance factor for its price tag, and succeeds in out-manoeuvring many of its local rivals.
Yet another issue with EMUI has been its propensity to quickly drain a Huawei device’s battery; though the G8 sports a fairly large 3,000mAh battery within its shell, this is unfortunately no exception.
During heavy use, I managed to eke out just over 14 hours of use from the G8, and on standby, the device lasted a little over two days. For those seeking a long battery life for constant adventure, you might be better directed towards Sony’s Xperia Z5.
Sadly, my greatest disappointment with the Huawei G8 was its camera setup, which felt all the more perfunctory since the firm’s newest flagship – the P9 – arrives with one of the best cameras on the smartphone market, which was – no less -produced alongside Leica.
The Huawei G8’s primary 13-megapixel shooter delivered disappointing results; in-between being slow to fire, lacking suitable detail and often completely under or overexposing images, this is an unfortunate addition to an otherwise great phone.
Given that many of Huawei’s latest devices have centered around low-light photography, it’s somewhat startling to find that the G8 has great difficulty in accommodating decent results in low-lit environments.
The G8’s secondary 5-megapixel camera is little better; offering ill-defined results that only become more blurry as a result of the default camera app’s beauty settings.
Sharpness, tone, and exposure suffer greatly on the Huawei G8, marring otherwise rounds out to a compelling package.
The Huawei G8 is, as I mentioned earlier, positioned at an interesting juncture in the South African market. Huawei have brought the G8 months after its release in July last year to likely sate consumers hunger for cheaper, yet still effective devices.
Does the Huawei G8 succeed? Yes, on form and function alone, yet with little of the style and substance South African consumers have come to love from the firm’s flagship devices.
Compared to other mid-range phablet offerings, the Huawei G8 succeeds in offering a classy, all-metal design that will offer immense appeal to consumers. Huawei’s Emotion UI skin largely succeeds in powering the phone through a full day without much impact on its performance beyond its battery, and with a rough retail price tag of R6,500 ZAR, this could be an offering that succeeds.
However, the G8 will have its work cut out for it as other Android vendors slowly begin to release new offerings under the banner of Android Marshmallow; an excellent case-in-point being the LG Stylus 2, which is already on our shores.
Let’s wrap up. The Huawei G8 offers a compelling offering that will sate consumers looking for a mid-range phablet device. EMUI and the G8’s classy, all-metal unibody will appeal to those looking for function, and the device’s silky smooth performance will attract those in the market for function.
However, a lacklustre camera offering and the fact that the device has arrived on our shores nearly a year later equates to a belated offering with a somewhat niche appeal.
For those who’re looking for their next great phone and don’t require a state-of-the-art camera, this is a great device to splurge on. However, those who’re looking for a new, cutting edge device might want to look elsewhere.