Huawei Mate S review
|Review: November 2015|
In a nutshell: The Huawei Mate S is an ultra-slim, attractive phone with an aluminium body and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. It packs a fast 8-core processor with plenty of memory, an excellent camera and a large AMOLED screen. Battery life isn't so impressive however, and the much-hyped pressure-sensitive touch is noticeable by its absence.
Another ultraslim and stylish design
Chinese manufacturer Huawei has been steadily raising its game throughout 2015, releasing several new handsets that challenge established players Samsung and HTC, and the Mate S is the most accomplished of these new releases.
It's similar to the Huawei P8, with an ultraslim aluminium body, and a premium look and feel. The Mate S is larger than the P8, with a vast 5.5 inch screen, but it has a subtle curved shape, making it feel thinner and lighter, even though it's actually ever-so-slightly thicker and heavier according to the spec-sheet. That's a neat trick to pull off. The phone has a resemblance to the HTC One M9, although it lacks the HTC's BoomSound speakers, and is a beautiful phone to look at and to handle.
On the back of the phone is a small square region that acts as a fingerprint sensor. As well as using the sensor to unlock the phone, you can swipe it with your finger to control the user interface in place of a home button - handy.
The phone comes in a choice of four colours - Mystic Champagne, Titanium Grey, Luxurious Gold or Rose Gold.
Unlike the P8, the Mate S uses an AMOLED display that's bright, has superb contrast and viewing angles and plenty of colour saturation. It has the same 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution as the P8, making it finely detailed and sharp, although it misses out on the Quad HD resolution of phones like the Galaxy S6.
You may have read about the pressure-sensitive screen on the Mate S that mimics Apple's 3D Touch. However you may not have read the small-print that reads, "Only available on special versions." The version we tested didn't have that feature, and we don't know if the special versions will even be available in the UK.
Huawei has shunned the usual Qualcomm processor in favour of its Hisilicon Kirin 935. This is the next level up from the fast Kirin 930 processor used in the P8. It's a 64-bit 8-core processor with 4 cores running at 2.2GHz and 4 cores at 1.5GHz. With a large 3GB of RAM, this makes the Mate S a very fast device, capable of challenging the latest Snapdragon-equipped phones.
Storage is generous, with 32GB of flash memory and a microSD card slot too.
Android 5 plus EMUI
The Mate S runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, with the latest 3.1 version of Huawei's Emotion UI user interface on top. We'd prefer it if Huawei eased off with their Android customisation and left the OS to Google, but it's not a major issue. Emotion certainly doesn't cause the phone to lag in any way. There are some useful apps included.
Camera performance is a key differentiator amongst smartphones, and here Huawei puts up a good fight. The rear-facing camera uses a 13 megapixel RGBW sensor, and is equipped with optical image stabilisation, HDR, and a dual temperature flash. The camera also features a "Professional Mode" that gives you control over settings such as shutter speed, like in a DSLR. In normal use, the camera controls are simple and easy to use. Focussing is fast and accurate, and photos are lively with plenty of shadow detail when using HDR.
The camera can film in Full HD 1080p video, but not 4K.
The front camera has 8 megapixels and is fixed focus. That makes it a less impressive performer, but for selfies and video chat, it works very well. It too, comes with various tools for making yourself even more beautiful than you already are.
We'd rate the Mate S as an excellent camera phone.
The Mate S is equipped with 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB, NFC, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It also comes with GPS, GLONASS, an Accelerometer, Compass, Gyroscope, ALS, Proximate, and HALL sensors.
The 2700mAh battery isn't especially big. It should be enough for a day of normal use, but overnight charging is likely to be a necessity for most users
Huawei has released a number of good phones this year, both in the affordable smartphone sector, and now also in the flagship arena, where it competes with high-end models from Samsung, HTC and LG. The Mate S is undeniably a very attractive handset, with its looks being one of its best features. It's well-equipped with a fast processor, plentiful memory, good cameras, and all the connectivity options we'd expect.
The headline gimmick of 3D Touch is merely a distraction however, and we think that the battery life could be stronger. Considering that this is a flagship phone, we miss the ability of the camera to record 4K video. But this is a well-priced handset that offers an alternative to the more well-known brands.
Huawei Mate S features include:
- Operating system: Android 5.1 (Lollipop) with Huawei Emotion UI 3.1
- 13 megapixel camera with optical image stabilisation, autofocus and dual temperature flash, 1080p video
- 8 megapixel front camera, fixed focus
- Display: 5.5 inches, AMOLED with 1920 x 1080 pixels
- GPS/AGPS/Glonass positioning
- Music player
- Messaging: SMS, MMS, Email, Google Talk (Instant Messaging)
- Processor: Hisilicon Kirin 935, 8-core, 64bit, 2.2GHz
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Compass, Gyroscope, ALS, Proximate, HALL
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi (2.4GHz b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.10, micro USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack, NFC
- Memory: 32GB, microSD memory card slot, 3GB RAM
- 4G LTE, 3G, GSM
- Size: 150 x 75 x 7.2 mm
- Weight: 156g
- Battery: 2700 mAh
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