Huawei Mate 8 review

The latest phablet from Huawei might well be its best yet

Huawei Mate 8
Huawei Mate 8

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Huawei has put a lot of work into its latest phablet and it has paid off well. The company is starting to create some phones that really rival the top end of the market with the big name Android phone manufacturers.

The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 was a good phone, but not really inspiring anything. The Nexus 6P and the Huawei Mate 8 are both a distinct move on from the Ascend Mate 7, and different to each other thanks to the Mate 8's slightly better camera and very different design and feel.

Huawei Mate 8

We liked

I especially like the design of the Mate 8. A lot has been improved in this version of the phablet and it all feels more premium than what we've seen before from Huawei.

The bezel on the side of the screen is a particular highlight that means you get more screen squeezed into the body. I also really like the look of the side of the phones with its slim stylish edges and premium feel finish.

The fingerprint sensor has been improved quite some way on the one on the Ascend Mate 7. The round design is much nicer and it doesn't stand out as much anymore. It's also one of the fastest I've used on a smartphone and anything that unlocks my phone quicker is always exciting.

Battery life on the Mate 8 has also been a great surprise. I was shocked by how long I was getting out of the phone and it feels like Huawei have made significant steps here so you can really get a full day out of a large screen phone.That may decrease in time, most phone batteries do, but right now this is one of the best phone battery lifes I've experienced over the last year.

We disliked

The Emotion UI has improved in the latest update, but it's still not great. I'd much prefer to see a stock look to the phone like it was on the Nexus 6P but it doesn't seem like Huawei is interested in doing that at all.

Living without an app drawer takes some getting used to, and it just doesn't work when it's this heavily overlayed. Having a searchable app drawer is one of the best elements of Android: this feels like dumping them all on the floor and shuffling them around.

I also wish Huawei would hide the speakers. Rival phone manufacturers conceal them behind other elements of the phone but instead Huawei chose to put a big grill along the bottom of the phone. It just looks ugly.And then there's the lack of the fast-charging cable in the box, which feels like a cheap trick to get you spending more money.

Final verdict

Huawei's Mate 8 is a fantastic phone. In terms of price, it has managed to undercut heavy hitters like Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 and the iPhone 6S Plus. But it still offers a similar level of functionality to go alongside it.

It's one of the best larger phones you can buy right now and if you're looking at a phablet, but don't want anything all that expensive then this is a great choice.

There are issues such as the Emotion UI software and the ugly speakers, but overall the Mate 8 is a good looking phone and it does run the latest in Android software.

I wish Huawei would embrace a less heavy handed overlay for its Mate series, but some people don't dislike it as much as me and will find it a lot easier to use.

The camera and battery life both proved huge highlights. The fact it offers a stronger life than the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is a great sign. It doesn't feature the innovative edge screens, but it still looks great in the hand and feels premium every time you touch it.

If you're in the market for a cheaper phablet, you'd struggle to go wrong with the Huawei Mate 8.

First reviewed January 2016.

James Peckham

James is Managing Editor for Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.