Huawei is one of the Chinese tech giants that existed even before the dawn of brands like Xiaomi and OnePlus. Back then, their main focus was on wireless devices like modems and routers, but they also has a steady stream of smartphones and tablets released every now and then. Despite many of these devices never hitting the mainstream, they were still solid devices for their time.
Now, Huawei is one of the largest smartphone manufacturers in the world. Many of their new devices have been positively received by the mass media and the company is slowly changing into a force to be reckoned with. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Huawei P8, the latest flagship in Huawei’s stylish P-series of smartphones. So how does it fair?
Huawei P8 Review: Specifications
- 5.2-inch JDI IPS display, 1920 x 1080 pixels @ 424ppi
- Kirin 930 4+4 1.5GHz / 2.0GHz big.LITTLE A53e + A53 CPU, 64-bit
- ARM Mali-T628 MP4 GPU
- 3GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, up to 128GB external storage
- 13MP Sony IMX278 RGBW OIS rear camera, 8MP front camera
- 2680mAh battery
- GPS, microUSB 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 ac/a/b/g/n, Bluetooth
- TDD-LTE: B38/B39/B40/B41 (2555MHz~2655MHz)
- FDD-LTE: B1/B3/B4/B7
- UMTS: 850/900/1700/1900/2100MHz (B8/B5/B4/B2/B1
- GSM: 850/900/1800/1900
- Android Lollipop 5.0 Lollipop, ships with Google Play
- 144.9 x 72.1 x 6.4mm, 144g
- Dual-SIM (dual nano SIMs)
- Dual Tone LED flash, high-speed charging
- G-Sensor, Gyroscope sensor, Ambient Light sensor, Proximity sensor, Compass, Accelerometer
Huawei P8 Review: Design
Huawei’s P8 series of devices have always been focused on providing the best design and build quality with a slightly lower price than their competitiors, and the P8 happily follows this trend to a T. The Huawei P8 is one of the most stunning devices I’ve ever used, right up there with the black Huawei Ascend P6, iPhone 5S and HTC One M8 in my opinion.
The front of the device is dominated by a completely black sheet of glass, with a call speaker at the top and a notification LED on the top right. The proximity sensor and ambient light sensors are also here, but much less noticeable. The device looks clean and sleek from the front, which is nice. With the screen turned on, the device reveals it’s very thin side bezels, as well as it’s fairly thick top and bottom bezels.
The sides of the devices are dominated by a metal frame which goes around the device. The volume rocker and power button adorn the right side of the phone, along with the dual sim slots/ microSD slot. The montone look of metal frame is broken up by four plastic strips around the phone. The bottom contains the speaker grills and microUSB slot.
The rear of the device continues with the sleek, understated look. The rear is made completely out of metal, making the phone look premium and solid. The top of the phone is covered in a strip of glass that holds the rear camera, which sits flush in the phone. The Huawei logo in the top centre is very small and barely noticeable. The bottom of the device contains some tiny text showing the P8’s model name, place of manufacturing and FCC ID, along with a very thin black plastic strip.
Overall, the device has a very sleek and understated design that makes it look like something Batman would use. The Mystic Champagne version of the device looks slightly less sleek than the Titanium Grey version, but compensates by shining like a piece of jewellry.
Huawei P8 Review: Build
The Huawei P8 is built like a slim, sophisticated tank. The metal frame going around the smartphone is incredibly solid and rigid. The smoothly chamfered edges on the frame make the phone much more comfortable to hold despite how thin it is. There aren’t any sharp edges, which is a welcome change from the earlier Ascend P6.
The buttons on the P8 are clicky and tactile. The power button is rounded and has a texture on it so you can distinguish between the volume rocker and the power button. The sim card trays are both made of metal, and like the phone, they feel solid and probably won’t bend easily.
Overall, the Huawei P8’s build quality is exactly what we’ve come to expect from a brand like Huawei. Top notch and solid all around, the P8 succeeds its predecessor, the Huawei Mate 7, as the pedigree in design that all Chinese smartphones should strive to achieve, not plasticky builds with less than substantial frames.
Huawei P8 Review: Display
The display on the Huawei P8 is a 5.2-inch full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS unit from JDI, and the quality of the display is clear. Colors are vibrant and accurate, text is crisp, pictures are beautiful and videos are a joy to watch. The fact the the display is 5.2-inches, along with the thin bezels, makes the device easy to manuever, especially during one handed usage.
The display isn’t perfect however. The display’s maximum brightness is not as bright as I’d like, and the screen was sometimes unviewable in bright sunlight. The screen is also quite reflective, which doesn’t help it in the sunlight. The minimum brightness isn’t as dark as I’d like, but it’s definitely more than tolerable.
Huawei P8 Review: Performance
While the Huawei P8’s build quality and design might score top marks, the P8’s performance may leave some people craving for more.
The Huawei P8 runs on Huawei’s own Kirin 930 octa-core processor which Is made up of 4 A53e cores clocked at 1.5GHz and 4 A53 cores clocked at 2.0GHz in a big.LITTLE configuration. The P8 is also supplied with a generous 3GB of RAM and ships with Android Lollipop 5.0.
In day to day usage, the Huawei P8 is very quick and snappy. Everything from scrolling through home screens all the way to snapping pictures, the Huawei P8 feels more than capable of matching devices like the Meizu MX5 and Mi Note. Any casual user that might pick up this phone will find it perfectly fine for running everyday tasks like calling, messaging, browsing and networking. Where the P8 is lacking is in the graphics performance department.
Simply put, the Huawei P8 is not a device that was created with gaming in mind. The phone ships with the aging Mali-T628 MP4 GPU, and it definitely shows it’s age during gaming. Casual games like Temple Run 2, Angry Birds 2 and Minion Rush run perfectly. Even slightly graphical games like Dead Trigger 2 run at a steady frame rate. Once you reach high performance games like N.O.V.A 3, A Bard’s Tale and Shadowrun however, the gameplay starts to lag and stutter.
If you’re the type of person who heavily games on his phone, this phone is definitely not for you. Casual or business users however should feel right at home with the speed of the device.
Huawei P8 Review: Battery
The Huawei P8’s battery life is pretty good, considering the phone’s full HD display and 2600mAh. I was skeptical when I first heard about the rather small 2600mAh battery, but I’ve been able to get through my day without too much difficulty.
I’m a pretty average user. I used the phone for taking a bunch of pictures, used Gmail for 2 hours, surfed the web for around 1-2 hours and played about 20 – 25 minutes of Angry Birds 2. At the end of the day, I still had around 32% left.
Huawei’s claimed time of 1.5 days of average use may be a slight overstatement, but the P8’s battery life should be more than decent enough for average user. If there’s one problem with the battery life of the phone, it’s that the standby time isn’t very good (lost 8% of battery in one night). Aside from that, the phone’s battery is decent enough.
Huawei P8 Review: Audio
The P8’s audio performance is pretty impressive. The device has two speaker holes on the bottom, though only one is a real speaker (this really needs to stop happening). The single speaker on the bottom sounds crisp and has just enough bass to be considered good. It gets fairly loud as well, easily filling a whole room with sound.
With headphones, it’s a similar story. I tested the P8 with my regular suite of audio products, and the results are as follows:
Bundled Huawei earphones – They don’t sound bad, but they’re definitely not perfect. For casual listening, it’s more than good enough.
Mi Earphones 2.1 – Music is much, much more enjoyable with these on than the stock earphones. The bass is nice and punchy, the clarity is good and for an extra bass kick, you can turn on the DTS Dolby Surround Sound feature.
Superlux HD-381F – It’s a similar case to the Mi Earphones, except these sound flatter, and have less bass. The soundstaging is slightly better with these though.
The in-call speaker is good, calls were clear and loud. Even is a noisy environment like a shopping mall, calls can still be heard with relative ease. Overall, the P8 is pretty good for music listening and call quality is well above average.
Huawei P8 Review: Camera
The Huawei P8 comes with a promising 13MP Sony IMX278 RGBW rear camera with OIS and a dual tone LED flash. So how does the camera perform?
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There is no sense of compromise with the Huawei P8’s camera, and it performed very well throughout my tests. I’ve found that this camera can happily sit amongst the top tiers of the industry, even if it doesn’t dethrone them at the top of the league.
The optical image stabilisation at work is very impressive, and the camera shoots pictures fairly quickly most of the time. Low light performance is also quite impressive, thanks to that f/1.8 aperture. In most cases, the auto mode is more than enough to get a good picture, but the P8 also has a variety of other shooting options for you to play with.
The image quality on hand is also fairly impressive. The color saturation is generally very nice and the white balance is reliable. The dynamic range is good, and definitely much better than plenty of other 13MP cameras on Chinese phones. This is definitely a camera that feels like it belongs in a top-end phone.
Huawei P8 Review: EmUI
This bit of the review is probably what most people are wary about. The Huawei P8 runs on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, but you’d never be able to tell from looking at it thanks to the heavily modified EmUI or Emotion UI running on top of it.
In terms of design and functionality, Emotion UI is very hit and miss with many people. On one hand, the UI looks fairly well done, is incredibly smooth and is easily customisable to fit your own tastes. On the other hand, the UI disregards many of the Material Design changes in favor of a semi-flat look, and all of your favourite features from Lollipop are probably not available here.
Aside from that, Emotion UI also lacks some very useful features that should be on every phone by now. For example, the P8 does not have a double tap to wake option, nor can you view your notifications from your lockscreen. On the bright side, Emotion UI has come a long way from it’s early days and is now pretty much bug free and works very well.
Emotion UI gets a worse rap than it deserves a lot of the time, though. With a bit of customisation, it can look and feel great. The Themes app provides a few visual makeovers on the eye than the default one, although with no way to search for Huawei’s own ‘official’ ones, you do have to sift through a load of home-brew cartoony stuff to find them.
You can make the Huawei P8 look great. It just takes a bit of effort. At its best it can look better than the HTC One M9 or LG G4, though, to my eyes at least.
Huawei P8 Review: Conclusion
The Huawei P8, in my eyes, is a prime example of a phone with incredible potential but also has some flaws that keep it from becoming a top performer. The phone’s processor while fast enough to provide snappy daily usage, is simply not adequate for a flagship device, with it’s fairly weak GPU performance.
The P8’s build quality and design are marvelous. Huawei is well known for their incredibly well built devices, and the P8 happily continues this trend with plenty of gusto. The P8 is a device that you’d happily pull out in front of your iPhone totting friends, just to see the looks on their faces while you tell them how to pronounce Huawei.
The software on the P8 will definitely keep some Android users at bay, but those who choose to embrace it will find themselves using one of the fastest and smoothest custom UIs outside of stock Android. The battery life, while not incredible, is still perfectly adequate for daily usage and should last you the entire day before needing another recharge.
All in all, the Huawei P8 is a lovely phone, and while it may not appeal to all of us power Android users, it will definitely fit perfectly for the average iPhone purchasing consumer who has no idea what RAM or processors are or the common phone geek looking to get a device that fits well in the hand and sits comfortably in the pocket.