Huawei Mate 8 Review - The Do It All Executive Grade Phablet!

Huawei's rise to fame in the smartphone scene propelled into greater heights when they launched the Mate 7 last 2014. It's a premium phablet that's great on everything from build, ergonomics, functionality, performance, camera, and battery life during its time. Arguably, that device also started the trend of handsets with super accurate fingerprint scanners at the back that's proven to be easy to reach and locate.
Huawei Mate 8 Review - The Beastly High End Phablet
Huawei Mate 8 review

As a result, it was well received globally and many copied the "Mate design". Plus, even up to this date, the Mate 7 is still considered as one of the nicest midrange phablet. Recently, it was also updated into the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS w/ EMUI 4.0 on top to keep it in touch with the modern trends in Android today.

Fast forward early 2016, after making a lot of headlines with their monstrous Nexus phone, Huawei released the upgrade to the ageing Mate 7. Unsurprisingly called as the Mate 8, it aims to be one of the very best and fastest phone in the world. It boast its home brewed Kirin 950 octa core chip paired with an i5 co-processor and the high-end Mali T880 GPU.

We have that phone right now, let's check what is all about, here's our review.

Disclaimer: This unit was seeded by Globe Telecoms and Huawei Philippines for an honest review

Huawei Mate 8 Specs

Display: 6 Inch FHD JDI IPS 1920 x 1080 resolution w/ Gorilla Glass 4 and 2.5D curved glass at 368 ppi
CPU: 2.3 GHz 64 Bit Kirin 950 octa core processor with i5 co-processor
GPU: Mali T880
RAM: 4 GB LPDDR4
ROM: 64 GB expandable via micro SD card slot up to 128 GB
Back Camera: 16 MP f/2.0 Sony IMX298 sensor w/ PDAF, OIS, and LED flash
Selfie Camera: 8 MP f/2.4 Sony IMX179
Battery: 4,000 mAh
OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow w/ EMUI 4.0
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, HSPA+, LTE Cat 6, Bluetooth 4.2, OTG, NFC, dual SIM (hybrid nano)
Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, barometer, compass
Others: Aerospace grade aluminum body, fingerprint sensor, Colors: champagne gold, moonlight silver, space gray, mocha brown
Dimensions: 151 x 80.6 x 7.9 mm
Weight: 185 g
Price: FREE at Globe's myLifestyle plan 2499

Globe's myLifestyle plan 2499 includes: 499 Unli Call & Text to Globe/TM, GoSURF 999 (5GB Data Allowance), Unli Text Allnet 299, Work Pack 299, HOOQ 299, Viber 99

Freebies3 months 1GB Spotify Premium or HOOQ, Choice between Navigation Pack, Explore Pack, or Fitness Pack for 1 month, 1 month Gadget Care, 1GB Globe Cloud, Shipping

Unboxing / Accessories

The black stylish box of Mate 8
The black stylish box of Mate 8

Huawei made sure that you'll feel that this Mate 8 is truly a premium handset. It goes with a beautifully crafted black box with stylish gold print name of the phone.

Upon opening the package, the gorgeous Mate 8 will immediately greet you in its full glory. After digging further, I'm glad to say that the accessories included in this package is everything that I wanted to see from a high-end device.
Inclusions inside this phone
Inclusions inside this phone

It goes with an international version of 2A wall charger, long white micro USB data / charging cables, premium looking earpod like earphones with mic, SIM ejector pin, pre-installed tempered glass, stylish leather flip cover case, and Huawei's usual paper documentations.

Overall, I like nearly everything in its package except for the 2A wall charger that needs an adapter first for our local sockets and it would have been better if Huawei included here the great sounding IEM w/ mic from the Honor 6 Plus.

Note 1: In some color variant of the phone it goes with a slim plastic case instead of leather flip covers.

Build Quality / Design

Full metal build here and a premium one
Full metal build here and a premium one

There's a lot of expectation when it comes on how Huawei will make the aesthetics of this phone. For me, once again, Huawei did a great job in making this feel and look like a truly premium phone.

It's made out of meticulously crafted high-grade metal uni-body all over and there's a 2.5D curved glass with the latest Gorilla Glass 4 protection apart from the pre-installed tempered glass to avoid cracks and scratches.
As a whole, Huawei's Mate 8 won't break or bend unless you apply too much force, it feels that solid and I have a lot of confidence with its durability.
We also noticed that this phone isn't prone to hairline scratches even if you're not using its case. As matter of fact, my unit now still looks and feels like brand new even after a month f usage. If you remove the tempered glass, there's an oleophobic coating that prevents annoying fingerprint smudges.
Top view showing a the first mic and 3.5 mm jack
Top view showing a the first mic and 3.5 mm jack
There's also an LED notification on top
Another microphone (left), micro USB charging port, and speaker below
Another microphone (left), micro USB charging port, and speaker below
Ejectable hybrid SIM placements at the left side
Ejectable hybrid SIM placements at the left side
Textured power button and volume rocker at the right side
Textured power button and volume rocker at the right side

Design-wise, the Mate 8 is a stunner in person. It's highly stylish and elegant that gives the Note 5 a run for its money. It's pretty slim at just 7.9 mm, sleek looking with its contours / curves, and has that always pleasing to the eyes 2.5D curved glass. There's just a slight protrusion on the camera part, but it isn't a deal-breaker at all.
The Mate 8 is a 6 inch phablet that feels like a 5.7 inch device.
Ergonomically, this phone did just fine for a phablet. While it won't really be great and close to impossible to use on one-handed operation, Huawei made sure that it won't be that huge for a phablet. Due to its very slim near bezel-less body, they manage to make the Mate 8 nearly just as big as the supposedly smaller Nexus 6P.

That made it quite fine to hold on two-handed use, has that still easy to reach buttons, and perfectly placed fingerprint scanner at the back.

However, cramping all those big things in a smaller body has some consequences. Gone are the dual front facing speaker setup that we loved from the Nexus 6P.

Anyway, that's won't remove the fact that this handset touts one of the best design, build, and ergonomics on modern high-end phablets today.

Display Quality

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The Mate 8 comes with a large 6 FHD JDI IPS OGS type of screen with 386 ppi. That's a special one as it is one of the nicest panels with full HD resolution. It provides natural looking colors with good accuracy, details, less saturation, and better balance. What's special here is it mimics AMOLED displays with its rich and deep blacks.

However, while it's the best FHD screen out there, it lags a step compared with other high-end phablets that's on QHD already. Gladly, the difference, won't be that distinguishable unless you have super picky eyes or you'll use VR headsets to watch or play games.

Going to the strong point of its screen, it's one of the most legible even under some harsh direct hit of the sun. It has bright display and comes with a nice light sensor accuracy for proper lighting adjustment.
It's still has great legibility even under direct hit of the sun on max brightness.
Anyway, this handset also goes with Huawei's usual color temperature adjustment settings to let you mix the right color setup for the comfort of your eyes. Plus it has 10 points of multitouch to let you enjoy navigation, gaming, and typing better.

Audio Quality

For a large device, I was expecting a loud and great speaker setup here. It doesn't have to be front firing setup just like what the Nexus 6P has, but at least something that's nice enough for your multimedia needs.

On first look, it appears that we got what we wanted as there's two speaker grills below. However, upon checking it properly, the left panel is actually a mic, not a speaker. Instead, there's only a single down firing speaker below.
It's average speaker output isn't a deal breaker, but the we would have liked it better if Huawei placed something louder and clearer here.
Even if it sounds actually on the average side of the spectrum, it left me craving for better tunes considering that Mate 8 is labeled as a phablet that's great for your entertainment. Sadly, even the lower end G8 sounds wider with better details. For now, that's something that Huawei should improve in the future.

Fortunately, the company made out for its lack in great speaker with stellar audio out thru headphones. The Mate 8 comes with improved audio output. It's actually great enough to categorize this as an audiophile friendly music player on a phone just like what every flagship should be.

I was able to experience clear and energetic tunes accross the spectrum that's more on the balances side of things. The bass sounds full, tight, accurate, and enjoyable. Sub-bass goes with that nice amount of oohmp if you like tracks that requires a lot of bass.

Clarity is also one of the best on a phone. Playing vocal centric tracks would be great, there's little noise, and has great detail all over.
There's very little noise and distortion with the Mate 8.
The same goes with the highs, its more than enough for most. There's some hiss, but its definitely lesser than what I experienced with lowe end phones. In addition, this is not fatiguing type of player.

Soundstage is about average, pretty wide, and has better than most separation to let you distinguish tones accurately.

The best part on its music playing abilities it loads 192 KHz / 24 bit audio with a lot of ease. Plus the driving power (loudness) of this phone is louder than the likes of ZenFone Zoom and Nexus 6P.

That's a great thing if you like to use bigger headphones rather than small earphones or in ear monitors.

As a whole the Mate 8, together with the P9 Lite, as a dedicated audio player ranks among the nicest I heard from Huawei. It could still be improved by adding higher-end DACs and better tuning, but this one is definitely one the better sounding high-end phone.


Note 1: It also pairs very well with my favorite sets such as RHA S500i and Focal Sphear
Note 2: Spotify Premium sounds better with Mate 8 against most handsets.

A great all around phone should also be good in terms of voice clarity thru mic and recordings. Gladly, this performed well, can very clear in calls, can record vocals with less noise, and even noisy concerts with acceptable quality.


Battery Life

Almost 12 hours in battery bench
Almost 12 hours in battery bench

Battery life is the main highlight of its predecessor, the Mate 7 as it houses a pretty large 4,000 mAh of battery capacity with nice software power management and optimizations.

The same goes with this Mate 8. It still has that big 4,000 mAh of juice and better power optimizations from Android 

6.0 Marshmallow OS to ensure that the battery life will still last quite long even if there's significant upgrade im processor speed that usually drains battery life faster.

GLADLY, even with the use of the new Kirin 950 paired with an i5 co-processor, the battery life of this Mate 8 is still more than stellar.

It still boast that more than 2 days of battery life under light to casual use, more than a day if your're a pretty heavy user, and 12 hours straight when abused.

There are even times where we use the Mate 8 as our 4G LTE WiFi dongle for more 8 hours.
Plus, the Mate 8 comes with a good type of power management tool that enables you to do power saving mode, get notifications and close the unnecessary apps at the background, and further optimize your phone for longer battery life.

Charging time has average speed of around 2:30 mins using the stock 2A wall charger. (That's actually fast considering that it has large 4,000 mAh battery)


Clearly, for me, battery life is one of the strongest points of this handset. It has the longest battery life among all the high-end flagship phones we tested.


Camera

The main camera at the back
The main camera at the back
A high-end phone should come with powerful and feature packed cameras and the Mate 8 didn't disappoint. It packs an aperture f/2.0 (for low-light) 16 MP Sony IMX298 that's complete with PDAF (phase detection autofocus), OIS (optical image stabilization, and dual tone LED flash. In front, you'll be treated with an f/2.4 8 MP Sony IMX179 front facing camera w/ wide angle lens and screen flash.

In terms of camera performance, the main camera is one of the nicest on a phablet today. While the Nexus 6P is still a notch higher, the setup found here is more than great enough as long as you have proper lighting.

By default, the Mate 8 comes with a little brighter than usual Huawei tuned cams tone making it appear soft and easy on the eyes. However, it's also noticeable that it's a tad less in punch, saturation, and details against the likes of P9. Fortunately, that amount of detail is still sharp enough for a flagship phone.

On the brighter side of things, it's focus speed and color adjustment is one of the nicest in the market. It beats the Nexus 6P in that sense where it focuses on subjects faster, has near macro capability, and renders images faster.

If there's some visible grains in the brighter parts of your image, you may want to tune or correct the subject with its effective spot metering and HDR mode. There's also a full manual mode to give you better controls before taking a photo.

In lowlight, it's above average in performance. We noticed that it can still take nice images with less blurs and noise. Of course there's still struggles in places with poor lighting, but at least you'll get better than average photos. On worst case scenarios, its dual tone LED flash is quite strong and effective to rescue your shots.
This phablet is a nice all around shooter in case you don't have professional grade cam.
In front, even if it on fixed focus only, the 8 MP IMX179 sensor proved to be a great performer. It'll give you better than most saturation, decent dynamic range, nice naturalism, average sharpness, wide angle capability, and pretty fast shutter speed. At times, you can even nail that nice "bokeh" at the back that's rare on a selfie cam.

Under challenging light, don't expect this to be that great. Fortunately, there's a bright screen flash to make you visible in the dark.
Manual mode
Manual mode

Moving to the camera interface and features, it's a clear improvement coming from the Honor 6 Plus and Huawei G8. It's easier to use, now has a full manual mode w/ grids, light painting, and super slow motion. It's also complete with other cool functions such as: super night mode, all focus (refocus), super night mode, time-lapse, and beautify.
Other modes and features of its camera
Other modes and features of its camera

However, Huawei missed that effective "food mode" here that's found with the GR5 and P9 Lite that's useful to saturate your food automatically to make it look yummier in photos.
The Mate 8 is the best Huawei phone for videos yet.
Often, Huawei phones usually performs just okay when it comes to video recordings. Fortunately, the company stepped it up with the Mate 8. Even with the lack of 4K video recording, the main camera can shoot up to 1080p videos w/ 60 frames per secondAs a result, videos looks very smooth, not that shaky (due to OIS), and even has EIS.

In front, it takes up to 1080p videos in 30 frames per second that's more than decent for a selfie cam.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight morning shot
Daylight morning shot
Normal vs HDR
Normal vs HDR
(Notice how the cam corrected the left image without overexposure)
Even its digital zoom is actually great
Even its digital zoom is actually great
Daylight flower shot
Daylight flower shot
Good for food bloggers out there
Good for food bloggers out there
Nice background blur
Nice background blur
Good performance in dim light
Good performance in dim light
Super night mode test
Super night mode test
Running water light painting mode
Running water light painting mode
Light trails
Light trails
Flash test
Flash test

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie 
Indoor good light selfie
Indoor good light selfie 
Selfie with swirlingovercoffee in harsh lighting
Selfie with swirlingovercoffee in harsh lighting w/ beautify
Selfie with Angel in the dark

Video Samples


Performance

Very high benchmark scores
Very high benchmark scores

As of this writing, the Huawei Mate 8 ranks among the fastest phones in the world with outstanding efficiency and optimization. At Antutu, the Kirin 950 chip paired an i5 co-processor and Mali T880 GPU w/ 4 GB RAM was once the top scorer. At Geekbench, Huawei's home-brewed SoC still loads one of the top multi-core scores you'll find on a high-end phones.



Those numbers aren't just numbers, they translated to actual great performance. The Mate 8 is truly speedy, doesn't lag, loads all things with ease, and allows you to open tons of apps all at the same time. There's also a large 64 GB of expandable to 128 GB storage to compliment that speed with a lot of space.
This phablet is a superb gaming machine!
In gaming, we loved everything that we experienced here so far. It's very smooth on any games we tested from light games, internet games, average 3D games, and even resource hungry games such as Asphalt 8. Going to the always talked about 2K16 by NBA, even if you set all the settings to high, it's very playable with little to no frame drops a times.

The best part here is this phone barely heats up even under intensive use compared with other Snapdragon powered flagships, an aspect where their competitors has a lot of catching up to do.
EMUI 4.0
EMUI 4.0

Software-wise, we loved that phone loads with Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS out of the box. Apart from that, it's paired with EMUI 4.0 that's pretty optimized as well. In contrary to what most critics say, this UI is a speedy and very easy to use

It's complete with one of the easiest navigation, phone management, battery manager, gestures, and themes you can play around with. If bloatwares are major issues with other custom skins, Huawei made sure that you can uninstall the unnecessary apps that eats space here for you to maximize the device.

Another thing, Huawei ensured that the Mate 8 comes with a speedy and feature packed type of fingerprint scanner at the back for your added security.

In terms of connectivity, the Mate 8 ranks among the best out there. My Globe GSM and 4G LTE signal is always strong, it has the wide range WiFi reception, latest Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC connectivity.

Having said that, this device performs very well in almost every aspect that you'd like to experience on a big screened phone.

Pros - Top notch craftsmanship, super speedy performance, doesn't heat up, strong signals, much improved headphone audio out, fast and accurate fingerprint scanner, great cameras, good non-stock UI 
Cons - Might be too big for some, not on QHD (for a 6 inch phone), no 4K video capability, single speaker only

Verdict

The Mate 8 cemented Huawei's reputation as one of the top makers of high-end phones in the world today. It flaunts top notch aesthetics for reprentation, blazing fast and efficient performance that you can trust, great cameras to capture your special moments, and very long battery life to keep you connected always.

Overall, this handset near do-it-all type of machine that's perfect for professionals who needs a device that they can rely on. Despite its few shortcomings that can be improved on their future phones, the Huawei Mate 8 is clearly one of the very best in the world today.

GIZ Rating: 4.75/5 Stars
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