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Huawei Mate 8 review: Big, Buggy and Beautiful


13 August, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Reviews



This week’s review is not about the iPhone Drone, and nor is it about the Galaxy Fallacy. It’s about Huawei’s Mate 8, and for that I’m thanking my lucky stars because off the top of my head I can think of dozens of useful words that go with Mate and Eight.

If our phone makers are going to go to the great trouble and expense of inventing phones that follow not just the latest trends in technology but also follow awesome rhyme schemes, then the very least we can do as consumers of those phones is to get on board with the rhyming ourselves.

So it follows that, if this week we were reviewing the Apple iPhone Drone, then that’s the rhyme we would adopt. If it were about the Samsung Galaxy Fallacy, then that’s what we’d rhyme with.

But this week’s review is not about the iPhone Drone, and nor is it about the Galaxy Fallacy. It’s about Huawei’s Mate 8, and for that I’m thanking my lucky stars because off the top of my head I can think of dozens of useful words that go with Mate and Eight.

Words like …

Plate

Huawei could so easily have named its new flagship phone the Mate 8 Slate, but we’re going with the more modest Mate 8 Plate. This phone is huge, and easily big enough to eat appetisers off.

The Mate 8 Plate has a 6-inch screen, bigger even than the very large screens on Samsung’s Galaxy Note (5.7 inches) and Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus (5.5 inches), although impressively enough it’s essentially no bigger to hold than the Apple device: the overall dimensions are all within a millimetre of being identical.

That’s because the iPhone has its home button/fingerprint scanner on the front, displacing the screen, but Huawei has moved its fingerprint scanner to the back to maximise screen real estate on the front.

Now, we don’t much like fingerprint scanners on the back of the phone, since you can’t use them to unlock the phone or to unlock apps when your phone is sitting face up on a table (something the Mate 8 Plate has made me realise I must do all the time, given how often I’ve been frustrated these past four days when I’ve been using the Huawei).

But, that said, the scanner is a good one. It’s accurate and very fast, and easy to access when you’re holding the phone.

I hasten to add that the Mate 8 Plate is not waterproof, so take care with the washing up.

Differentiate

Comparisons with the iPhone 6s Plus don’t just stop at size. In an effort to differentiate itself from other Android phones, Huawei has heavily skinned the operating system on the Mate 8, making it operate a little like an iPhone and a little like an Android phone, depending on what you’re doing.

All the apps are listed iPhone-style on the home screen rather than in an app drawer, for instance, and there’s an iPhone-like up-swipe gesture on the phone’s lock screen to reveal handy little apps such as a flashlight and (we love this one) a calculator that you can use without unlocking the phone.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we hate the skin, even though the Mate 8 Plate Hate does have a nice ring to it, but with apologies in advance I would Mate 8 … berate Huawai over its refusal to go with unadulterated Android, or at least to offer stock Android as an option the way competitors such as Oppo and Alcatel do.

Android has matured into having an excellent user experience, much better than any of the manufacturers’ skins, and the Mate 8 Differentiate would be easier and more consistent to use than if it were the Mate 8 Stock.

Although, of course, that wouldn’t rhyme.

Pate

The cameras on the Mate 8 are a bit of a mixed bag. At the rear there’s a 16 megapixel image sensor made by Sony and, while it’s not at all bad, it’s not as good as the camera you’ll find on the Samsung Galaxy S7 nor even the camera on the iPhone 6s (which, incidentally, the Mate 8’s camera software slavishly apes, in line with the overall iPhone-like theme of the phone).

Photos are a little noisy compared to the S7 (which we regard as having the best camera on the market), the colour is slightly over-saturated, but they are nice and sharp and the camera is by no means a disappointment.

It’s exactly the camera you’d expect from a phone that, at $899, is priced just below the top tier.

The selfie camera is a different matter. It’s got a “beauty” mode, which we found to be quite addictive, although not in a good way.

In order to use that mode, you first have to program in your “beauty” settings, such as how big and bright your eyes will be in your selfies, how skinny your face will be and how whitened and smoothed over your skin will be.

Then, when you take photos of yourself, it applies all of those settings and, depending on how much beauty you want (we had it dialled all the way up to 10), the results can be quite disturbing in a Michael Jackson sort of way.

How does the camera know how to narrow your face and enlarge your eyes cartoonishly?

Well, first you have to take three photos of yourself so it knows how to recognise you: one of your face straight on, one of your face side on, and one of your pate.

I don’t know why the folks at Huawei want a photo of your pate for the Mate 8. Perhaps they just liked the sound of it.

Copulate

By far the best feature of the Mate 8 is the battery, which is rated at 4000 mAh (a very large number in this context) and which just goes and goes.

We last charged our review unit 18 hours ago. We’ve used it to watch Netflix (at which the 6-inch screen excels), to play games and to surf the internet since then, and still it has 79 per cent charge left as I write this.

Huawei says you’ll get between 1.6 and 2.3 days of use out of a single charge and, while we haven’t had the phone nearly long enough to know for sure if that’s true, every indication is most users will easily get two days out of the Mate 8, at the very least.

Two days of usage is something we regards as a critical benchmark for mobile phones.

Two days means you can unexpectedly find yourself away from your charger on a Friday night wink wink, turn up to brunch the next day and not have to worry about charging your phone until you get home that night.

If Huawei would only call this phone the Mate 8 Copulate, or perhaps the Mate 8 Populate to be polite, they would sell truck loads.

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