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Huawei Mate 8 Review: A 6-inch phablet in a 5.5-inch form factor

By James Lu - 9 Mar 2016

Benchmark Performance, Imaging, Battery Life and Conclusion

Benchmark Performance

The Mate 8 is the first smartphone to use Huawei's 16nm HiSilicon Kirin 950 octa-core chipset, which uses a quad-core 2.3GHz Cortex A72 and a quad-core 1.8GHz Cortex A53. The GPU is a 900MHz Mali-T880MP4m, which is the same GPU found in Samsung's new Exynos 8890-equipped Galaxy S7. There's also a mysterious 'i5' co-processor, but Huawei hasn't revealed any details on what this does exactly. There are actually two variants of the Mate 8, a standard model with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage, and a premium edition with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage. Our review unit, and the only version that will be available in Singapore, is the 4GB version.

Huawei Mate 8 compared
  Huawei Mate 8 Huawei Nexus 6P LG V10 Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Apple iPhone 6s Plus
  Huawei Mate 8 Huawei Nexus 6P LG V10 Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Apple iPhone 6s Plus
Launch SRP
  • From S$949
  • From S$1088
  • From S$1088
  • From S$1098
Operating system
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow with EMUI 4.0
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • iOS 9
  • HiSilicon Kirin 950 Octa-core (Quad-core 2.3 GHz Cortex-A72 + quad-core 1.8 GHz Cortex A53) processor
  • Qualcomm MSM8994 Snapdragon 810 v2.1 (Quad-core 1.55 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A57)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 (quad-core 1.44 GHz & dual-core 1.82 GHz)
  • Samsung Exynos 7420 octa-core (quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 & quad-core 2.1GHz Cortex-A57)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core (Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2 GHz Cortex-A57)
  • Apple A9 64-bit dual-core 1.8GHz processor
Built-in Memory
  • 4GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
  • 6.0-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (368 ppi) / IPS-NEO LCD
  • 5.7-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (518 ppi) / AMOLED
  • 5.7-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (515ppi) / IPS
  • 5.7-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (518 ppi) / Super AMOLED
  • 5.5-inch / 4K UHD 3840x2160 pixels (806 ppi) / IPS LCD
  • 5.5-inch Retina HD / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / IPS
  • Rear: 16-megapixel, f/2.0, 27mm, OIS, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
  • Front: 8-megapixel f/2.4, 26mm
  • Rear: 12.3-megapixel with f/2.0 aperture and laser autofocus
  • Front: 8-megapixel with f/2.4 aperture
  • Rear: 16-megapixel with f/1.8, optical image stabilization and laser autofocus
  • Front: dual 5-megapixel
  • Rear: 16-megapixel with f/1.9 aperture and smart OIS
  • Front: 5-megapixel with f/1.9 aperture
  • Rear: 23-megapixel, f/2.0, 1/2.3-inch sensor size, 5248 х 3936 pixels, OIS, autofocus, LED flash
  • Front: 5.1-megapixel
  • Rear: 12-megapixel iSight camera with phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilization and dual warm/cool LED flashes
  • Front: 5-megapixels FaceTime HD camera
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4+5GHz),DLNA, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS, GLONASS
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4+5GHz), MIMO (2x2), Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, USB 2.0 Type-C connector
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, A-GPS, GLONASS, CAT 6 LTE
  • Bluetooth 4.2, USB 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4+5GHz), Wi-Fi Direct, GPS, GLONASS, NFC
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, hotspot, NFC, Bluetooth v4.1
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v4.2, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector, 3.5mm headphone jack
Storage Type
  • 64GB internal storage
  • MicroSD card slot up to 128GB
  • 32 / 64 / 128GB internal storage
  • 64GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 2TB
  • 32 / 64GB internal storage
  • 32GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 200GB
  • 16 / 64 / 128GB internal storage
  • 4,000mAh
  • 3,450mAh
  • 3,000mAh
  • 3,000mAh
  • 3,430mAh
  • 2,750mAh
  • 157.1 x 80.6 x 7.9 mm
  • 159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm
  • 159.6 x 79.3 x 8.6 mm
  • 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6mm
  • 154.4 x 76.0 x 7.8mm
  • 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
  • 185g
  • 178g
  • 192g
  • 171g
  • 181g
  • 192g


Sunspider Javascript

SunSpider JavaScript measures the browsing performance of a device when processing JavaScript. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is at delivering a high-speed web browsing experience. The Mate 8 performed quite well here, with performance on par with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 found in the Nexus 6P.



Quadrant is an Android benchmark that evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performances. As this is an Android benchmark, the Apple iPhone 6s Plus is not included here. The Mate 8 did really well here, outperforming all of our Snapdragon-equipped phones, and lagging behind only Samsung's Exynos 7420. It's worth remembering though that the 810 is a year old now, and it remains to be seen how the new Snapdragon 820, which is what the Mate 8 will be competing with, fares.


3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

3DMark Ice Storm is designed to test the gaming capabilities of a device, putting its GPU through a rigorous OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark test that uses fixed off-screen rendering with high quality textures and post-processing effects. The Unlimited version of the benchmark disables v-sync, display scaling and other OS factors, making it ideal for chipset comparison. Surprisingly, the Mate 8 didn't do so well on this gaming benchmark, and trailed behind everything except for the Snapdragon 808-equipped LG V10. The Mate 8's Mali-T880MP4 GPU is ARM's newest and highest-end GPU, so it shouldn't be the weak link. It's possible that the Kirin 950 doesn't handle the processor-heavy physics section of the 3DMark benchmark well. 

Having said that, we played a few games on the Mate 8 and didn't notice any sluggishness, so it could just be this one benchmark that's tripping it up.



The rear camera on the Mate 8 is a 16-megapixel, f/2.0 aperture, 27mm lens, using Sony's new IMX 298 sensor with 4,608 x 3,456 1.12-micron pixels. The camera has tri-axis optical image stabilization, dual LED flash and phase detection autofocus.

The camera software includes a number of useful features, such as independent focusing and brightness metering via two draggable circles that appear on-screen when you tap and hold in Photo mode. The default automatic camera mode, comes with options for regular photo and video shooting, as well as time-lapse photography, and light painting (long-exposure photography), which itself has four settings ('Car light trails', 'Light graffiti', 'Silky water' and 'Star track'). There's also a beauty mode, which is best used for selfies with the 8-megapixel front-facing camera.

For even more options, the menu includes modes for Panorama, HDR, automatic watermarking, document adjust, which automatically straightens text images captured at an angle for easier reading, Super Night, which is also for long exposure photography, and Professional mode, which lets you manually adjust ISO, exposure, focus and white balance.

The camera software isn't the most intuitive to use (when do you use 'Star Track' and when do you use 'Super Night'?) but there are settings and options for almost any conditions - you just have to figure out which is the right one to use.

Professional Mode

One thing missing from the camera software is the option to record in 4K video, something that most other flagship smartphones have had for a while now - the best you can do is 1080p at 60fps, or slow-motion 720p at 120fps.

Image performance was reasonably good, but not quite class-leading. Color reproduction was generally accurate but photos weren't as sharp as they could have been, especially in less favorable lighting conditions. While graininess is kept under control, there's some noticeable processing which causes softness (see the closeups below).


Battery Life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters:

  • Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

The Mate 8 boasts fantastic battery life, thanks to its huge 4,000mAh capacity battery, lasting a massive 13 hours and 36 minutes on our video looping benchmark. The only phone that currently has longer battery life is Samsung's Galaxy Note 5. Interestingly enough, you can actually 'reverse charge' with the Mate 8. That means you can plug in another device via the USB port and use the Mate 8 as a power bank.

Unfortunately, there's no wireless charging support on the Mate 8, but it does support fast charging, with up to 40 percent battery life possible with just 30 minutes of charging. Additionally, there are a ton of options for tweaking the handset's power consumption in the Settings menu.




The Mate 8's huge 6-inch display but relatively compact dimensions should appeal to anyone who wants a larger than average screen without trading off one-handed usability. Its Full HD display and 4,000 mAh battery give it outstanding battery life, and there's a host of interesting software features to play with too.

What remains to be seen is if the Mate 8's Kirin 950 SoC can compete with Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 820 processor, as well as Samsung's new Exynos 8890 chip. We already know it fares well against last year's chipsets, but its the 2016 models that it will be in competition with. Additionally, while we think everyone will like the design and build of the Mate 8, we imagine some people will wish it shipped with stock Android, just like the Nexus 6P. 

The Mate 8 will be available in Singapore on 10th March for S$888, which makes it quite a bit cheaper than most flagship smartphones. At that price you're getting a flagship handset with a premium build and design that rivals anything else out there, with an exceptional battery life and a pretty decent camera. Additionally, Huawei Singapore will be running a limited time promotion for the Mate 8's launch where buyers will also receive a free Huawei B0 smartwatch (worth S$129). 

  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 8.5
The Good
6-inch display in a 5.5-inch form factor
Elegant all-metal construction
Superb battery life
Good value for a flagship phablet
The Bad
EMUI 4.0 may not be for everyone
Benchmark performance may not be able to compete with 2016 models
No support for 4K video recording