Huawei is slowly but surely endearing itself to the forever fickle Western smartphone market. Like a roommate who cleans up after themselves and buys groceries every so often, Huawei has taken up residence in Australia, though you might not have notice them among the more popular models from Apple and Samsung.
This growing popularity can be attributed to the fact that each Huawei phone that hits the market is better than the last and we’ve reached a point now where the premium Huawei models are not just good, but good enough to be consider viable alternatives to the most expensive phones you can buy.
The Mate 8 is a great example of this. It’s design is slim and sleek, it’s screen is large and well made and it has the components inside to keep pace with best and fastest on offer from Samsung, HTC and LG.
In the hand, the Mate 8 is heavy, but obviously well put together. The bulk of the handset is brushed metal with tapered edges left reflective. These edges do feel a little sharp to us. Not that you’d be at risk of cutting yourself, but our fingers do catch on it when you pick the phone up and move it about in our hands.
The most impressive part of the Mate 8 is the amount of the front of the phone that is part of the touchscreen. Only small strip on the top and bottom are not the display, with Huawei reporting that 85% of the face is screen. What this means is that the Mate 8 is the same size as the iPhone 6s Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note5, but it has a screen larger than both — 0.5-inches larger than the iPhone.
There is a fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone positioned exactly where your finger might rest when you pick the phone up. It is lightning-fast to unlock the phone too, making it our go to security method while using the Mate 8.
As we touched on earlier, the performance of the Mate 8 is first-class. Huawei designed and manufactures it own processors, but while the innards don’t bear a Qualcomm badge, the speed is on par with what we’ve experienced from the other flagship phones this year.
Huawei also designs its own version of the Android OS giving it the ability to tailor the system requirements to the way that the processor handles them. This means the speed is good but it also gives Huawei control over battery life.
And, if there is a standout feature of the Mate 8, it is battery life. The phone has a huge 4000mAh battery inside (one of the largest of any phone) and it goes for days at a time between charges. We easily got through to the end of a second workday before charging the Mate 8, and we’d consider ourselves heavy phone users. More moderate users would like get another half a day again.
The rear-facing 16-megapixel camera is great and the photos it takes stand up to scrutiny, even after being transferred to a laptop for inspection. The camera interface is uncluttered, leaving most of the screen space to line up your shots, and the shutter speed is milliseconds at most.
Huawei includes a couple of shooting modes, including light painting — something we haven’t seen in a phone before. It works like a time-lapse photo, but stacks all of the shots on top of each other to create those awesome light streaks images you see of busy streets, or of stars across the sky. There is also a mode called ‘Time Lapse’, but this is more of an animated GIF generator than a true time lapse mode.
When you add up the various positives of the Mate 8 it is pretty obvious that it should be on your consideration list, especially if you are shopping for a phablet. It has the looks, the power, the camera and the battery to rival and better the competition, and you will find it outright or on plans for less than the big name, big screen smartphones.
In fact, the only reason you might not take a look at the Mate 8 is because you are unfamiliar with the Huawei brand, and considering everything we now know about the phone, you have to ask whether this is a good enough reason not to consider this great handset.