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HUAWEI Mate 8 Smartphone Review: Enter the Kirin 950

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: HUAWEI

Introduction and Specifications

Immediately reminiscent of other phablet devices, the Mate 8 from HUAWEI is a characteristically large, thin slab of a smartphone. But under the hood there's quite a departure from the norm, as the SoC powering the device is new to the high-end phone market - no Qualcomm, Samsung, or even MediaTek here.

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"The Mate 8 takes the look and feel of the Mate series to a whole new level. Boasting a vivid 6" FHD display, an ultra slim design, a re-designed fingerprint sensor that's faster and more reliable, and a sleek aluminum unibody design, the Mate 8 is sure to impress."

The HiSilicon Kirin 950 powers the Mate 8; an 8-core design comprised of 4x ARM Cortex-A72 cores clocked at up to 2.3 GHz, and 4x ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at up to 1.80 GHz. Memory is 3GB for our sample, with 32GB storage; with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage is also available.

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The Mate 8 looks every bit a premium device, and the metal and glass construction of the handset feels solid. It also feels rather light (185g) given its size. But how does it perform? This is an especially interesting question given the unusual silicon in the Mate 8, but the Kirin 950's Cortex-A72 is the most powerful ARM design (at least until the Cortex-A73, announced this summer, finds its way into devices).

In this review we'll explore the overall quality of the HUAWEI Mate 8, and go over usage impressions. And, of course, we'll look at some performance benchmarks to see how this Kirin 950 SoC stacks up against recent Snapdragon and Apple SoCs.

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Continue reading our review of the HUAWEI Mate 8 smartphone!!

There are two versions of the Mate 8: the dual-SIM NXT-L29 (same as our review unit), and the single-SIM NXT-L09. Here are the specifications for our Mate 8:

  HUAWEI Mate 8 (NXT-L29)
Processor HiSilicon Kirin 950 Octa-core SoC
(4x 2.3 GHz Cortex-A72 + 4x 1.8 GHz Cortex A53)
Graphics Mali-T880 MP4
Memory 3GB
Display 6.0-inch 1920x1080 (368 ppi) IPS-NEO LCD, Gorilla Glass 4
Storage 32GB
Cameras Rear camera: 16MP, f/2.0, OIS, PDAF+CAF auto focus, dual-tone flash, 1080p/60 video
Front camera: 8MP, f/2.4, 1080p/30 video
Network 4G TDD LTE: Band 38/39/40
4G FDD LTE: Band1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/12/17/18/19/20/26/28
3G UMTS: 800(B6,Japan)/800(B19,Japan)/850/900/AWS/1900/2100MHz(Band6/19/5/8/4/2/1)
2G GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
Wireless Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2.4G/5G) + BT 4.2 (support BLE)
Connection MicroUSB 2.0
Battery 4000 mAh
Dimensions Size (HxWxD): 157.1 mm x 80.6 mm x 7.9 mm (6.19 x 3.17 x 0.31 inches)
Weight: 185g (6.53 oz)
OS Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) with Emotion UI 4.0
Price $489 - Amazon.com

HUAWEI has the Mate 8 on the premium side of the unlocked pricing model at around $499 for the dual-SIM version, but first impressions will confirm that you are looking at a premium device. The build quality looks top-notch, and the phone has a nice look and feel.

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The large screen looks really good, and though only FHD (1920x1080) - which is lower than you might expect from a 6-inch Android device these days - text and images appear crisp, and with very nice color. I found nothing to complain about after my initial inspection. Actual usage can be a different story, of course, and I was especially curious about the unique choice in SoC powering the Mate 8.

On the next page we'll take a closer look at the design and display quality.


August 26, 2016 | 10:34 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

A shame about the GPU results. If it had done better the Kirin chip could have been a real contender for high performance phones. Unfortunately (as far as I see it) these results are more indicative of a lower mid range item.

August 26, 2016 | 03:40 PM - Posted by remc86007

Would a person who doesn't play mobile games notice the slower gpu?

August 26, 2016 | 10:58 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'll agree the comment above, the HUAWEI looks more like a lower mid-range office.

Although the US just got the S7 with the 820 version, it's still good enough it looks like.

August 26, 2016 | 12:04 PM - Posted by zaq (not verified)

May be a firmware update might fix the GPU performance later on.

August 26, 2016 | 04:03 PM - Posted by Katalmach (not verified)

Unfortunately, this is the real performance, cause Kirin 950 uses just 4 shader cores of Mali T880, while Exynos 8890 uses 12 and its closer to Adreno 530. The full Mali T880 (16 shader cores) could be faster than Adreno 530 (SD820) but it seems it might not be suitable for smartphones.

August 27, 2016 | 12:02 AM - Posted by zaq (not verified)

What a shame.

August 26, 2016 | 12:37 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Am i the only person that looks at all the current phone releases and says why?!? Until Google outlines DayDream further why would anyone consider a phone that is more than $200 right now?

Apple is probably doing the same thing as Google with the next release.

All phones on the market are about to be considered bargain bin phones with the exception of the photography phones.

August 26, 2016 | 02:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

With the S7 regular now available for around $370us just got 1 and that's my limit now.

August 26, 2016 | 11:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It's not a custom ARMv8A ISA running micro-arch, it's just 4 reference A72s, and 4 A53s Big/Little and not so much. Maybe we will be seeing the A73 CPU micro-arch and the Mail/Bifrost GPU IP at some time in the future, but this SKU is too costly relative to the performance it provides. Until the New Mali/Bifrost based GPUs are available the graphics will not be too exciting!

So at Hot Chips conference day one 8/22/2016, 9:45 AM

“GPUs & HPCs Bifrost, the new GPU architecture and its initial implementation, Mali-G71 Jem Davies ARM”

Who covered this and when will the Mali-G71 graphics/IP be in any new products. The Zen coverage was good, but now it's about phones so who covered this presentation on the new Bifrost GPU architecture!

August 28, 2016 | 04:53 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Why do smartphones need 8 cores? What advantage does having 8 cores on a smartphone provide over 4 cores?

August 30, 2016 | 02:32 AM - Posted by ol1bit

Maybe it's an American thing, but I'm much happier putting my money towards Samsung (many made in Korea) than HUAWEI (China).

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