Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS review

Big features at a big price

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You got me feelin’ Emotion UI

  • Heavily customisable
  • Supports multiple user profiles

Virtually identical to the Huawei P20 Pro on the inside, the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS runs Android 8.1 with Emotion UI 8.1 over the top.

Having the latest version of Android on here is a great start. This means optimal future-proofing and the latest security updates. Android also has stellar app support and mobile payment options too.

Emotion UI, or EMUI for short, supplements the experience with a host of customisations that can be found everywhere, from the home screens to the settings menus.

The Android applications tray is missing by default, à la iPhone, but can be restored easily. Home screen grid sizes, transitions, colour themes and always-on display information can also be tweaked, leaving you feeling like Charlie in the chocolate factory – weirdly wonderfully mesmerised and simultaneously perplexed by the sensory overload.

For any UI adventurers though, there’s real value to be had from familiarising yourself with EMUI.

Private Space for example supports multiple users, each with their individual, biometrically secured set of apps and files. Using a different fingerprint to log into each user profile, this is a smart way of separating work and play or sharing your phone without fear of sensitive content being stumbled upon.

It even supports two versions of the same app across spaces – Audible for example, with one space logged into a UK account and the other logged into a US account.

Knuckle recognition, scheduled powering on and off, native screen recording, fingerprint scanner gestures, AirDrop style file sharing features – this is only scratching the surface here.

While older versions of EMUI crammed much of this stuff in without nailing the basics – namely stability, speed and style, EMUI 8.1 manages to cut the mustard when it comes to the. first two.

The Porsche Design theme helps soften the blow of an interface which can be a little overbearing - especially for those used to the style of stock Android.

Heavy or not therefore, if you want a great out of the box experience, the Porsche Design Mate RS delivers, and if you want to get involved and shake things up, crack open a cold one – you could be here a while.

Look at me, touch me, touch me again

  • Includes an in-screen scanner
  • Also has a faster rear scanner and face recognition

The biggest talking point around the Mate RS, apart from its price, is its inclusion of an in-screen fingerprint scanner. This is the first commercially available product to ship with this new tech that we’re expecting to see plenty of in the coming years.

This is housed in a specific portion of the display, horizontally centred and an inch above the bottom of the screen. A fingerprint image pulses as a prompt to engage, and just like magic, when we do, the phone unlocks.

Not content with just one fingerprint scanner though, Huawei has also included a rear fingerprint scanner, pairing both with face recognition.

Practically speaking though, when we came to unlock the phone with our thumb on the in-screen scanner or with our forefinger using the rear scanner, face unlock beat us to the punch.

Using the front 24MP camera, it proved zippy and accurate. Also zippy was the rear scanner, unlocking in a fraction of a second when we got the opportunity to use it. As for the in-screen scanner, you can expect a delay of roughly one second for unlocking. In terms of accuracy and reliability, all three performed very well.

That said - once the novelty of the in-screen scanner wore off, we still found ourselves using it more often than the rear scanner, suggesting that the extra time taken to unlock isn’t damaging to the user experience.

The fact the phone has two fingerprint scanners both confounds and complements the unlocking experience. 

On the one hand, it’s a UX faux pas to have two ways of doing the same thing. On the other, whether this phone is on a surface or in your hand, it can easily be unlocked without punching in a code or awkwardly hovering your face over the screen.

There were times we had to use the rear scanner to verify our identity – when copying our Google account information to another device for example. As a result, if Android doesn’t support in-screen scanners at an OS level, which looks like it may be the case, Huawei’s decision to go with two makes sense. Let’s see if this changes in Android P.

Watch, read, play, listen, repeat

  • Powerful dual speakers
  • No 3.5mm headphone port
  • Not quite the best chipset

Just like the P20 Pro, the Mate RS is a multimedia dream – more so in fact given the extra screen resolution, storage and the lack of a notch.

We’ve gushed about the screen already from a quality point of view, but suffice it to say, this translates to picture-perfect video streaming, pin-sharp ebook reading and stellar gaming.

The dual speakers also feature Dolby Atmos tuning and are superb. Operating with a primary/secondary speaker setup the Mate RS is loud, clear, rounded and absolutely gives the best smartphone speakers around a run for their money – winning most of the time.

Headphone fans may grimace at the lack of a 3.5mm headphone port, but the inclusion of an adaptor in the box helps soften the blow.

As for the chipset, the Kirin 970 powering the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS along is the main area this phone drops the ball.

Huawei’s chip isn’t as new or as powerful as the Snapdragon 845. Geekbench scores are respectable, but with a multi-core score of 6,780, on paper numbers pale in comparison to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and its score of over 9,000.

Based on our experience, the Kirin 970 still has enough oomph to make short work of every game around, with slowdown only cropping up when handling 40MP 74MB RAW files in Lightroom or swapping out from one private space to another.

That said, when you’re spending in excess of £1,300 on a phone, you would be forgiven for expecting the best across the board.

It does at least sport a meaty 6GB of RAM though, along with a micro capsule cooling system. That capsule is a smartphone first and helps to keep the phone cool when you're pushing it to its limits.

It's hard to tell how well this worked, all we can say is that the phone stayed cool, even when putting it through benchmarks, but so did the Huawei P20 Pro and that doesn't have a fancy cooling capsule.

Basil Kronfli

Basil Kronfli is the Head of content at Make Honey and freelance technology journalist. He is an experienced writer and producer and is skilled in video production, and runs the technology YouTube channel TechEdit.