Huawei wants to be a major player in the US mobile market, almost as bad as it wants to earn a reputation as a maker of quality devices. This is obvious from its work with Google on the excellent Nexus 6P (which received a gold-colored variant at CES), and from the high-end Huawei Watch from earlier this year.
It’s fortunate for Huawei then that it announced the only flagship-level Android smartphone at CES 2016, along with the only high-end Android tablet. It’s even more fortunate that both seem quite appealing, at least based on our quick hands-on time with them on the show floor.
Huawei Mate 8
The Huawei Mate 8 phablet is a classy device. Its all-metal build looks and feels premium, almost like the Nexus 6P without the camera bump. The 6-inch IPS display is the real draw however. It extends nearly edge to edge, and it pops with excellent color and brightness. Despite having a 1920 x 1080 resolution and 367 pixel-per-inch count (the Samsung Galaxy Note5 tops 500 ppi), it certainly passes the eye test. Besides that, flagship smartphone displays are usually either great or really great, with minimal difference between the two.
The Mate 8 weighs about .4 pounds, making it a bit heavier than other phablets. But again, the difference here is slight. Besides, that weight goes to good use in the form of a 4000mAh battery, which is one of the largest we’ve seen on smartphone in some time.
That battery might be the Mate 8’s biggest selling point. Huawei claims it can last two days with normal use. Of course, we’ll have to test it out to be sure, but given its size, we’d be surprised if it didn’t considering its lower display resolution. On top of that, the Mate 8 supports quick charging, which we’ve found can pump in hours of juice with just minutes of charging.
Inside, it has an octa-core Kirin 950 SoC with four 2.3GHz Cortex-A72 cores and four 1.8GHz Cortex-A53 cores along with a Mali T880 GPU. It comes in two flavors: a 32GB model with 3GB of RAM, and a 64GB unit with 4GB of RAM.
The discrepancy here can be explained by its Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) OS. Since it has a microSD card slot (along with dual SIM), users can mount a microSD card as internal storage. So the increased RAM is a means of getting buyers to go with the more expensive unit.
In our brief time with the Mate 8, it ran smoothly and stayed cool. While that’s not surprising, the Mate 8 does have a tweaked version of Android Huawei dubs the Emotion UI, which is one of the heaviest we’ve seen since the earlier days of Samsung TouchWiz. It’s far from stock Android like the Nexus 6P, and those custom UIs have been known to muck things up on other devices. But there is some interesting stuff here, including knuckle-based tricks that turns finger knuckle swipes and taps into a variety of screenshots.
Other specs include a standard microUSB charging input (no USB Type-C here, unfortunately), back-mounted fingerprint reader that doubles as a front-camera selfie snapper, 16-megapixel rear shooter with OIS, and 8-megapixel front camera, both with Sony sensors. And being a dual-SIM device, it supports many global LTE bands.
Huawei claims the Mate 8 will ship in Q1 and it’s definitely coming to the US. Only European pricing was revealed, €600 for the 32GB/3GB RAM unit, and €700 for the 64GB/4GB unit. We actually have a Huawei Mate 8 in house, and will bring you a full review as soon as we can take it through the paces.
The Huawei MediaPad M2 is a 10.1-inch tablet, also with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, and two features that set it apart from the Android tablet pack. It has a stylus, and it has four Harman Kardon speakers running along its landscape edges.
Looking at the stylus, Huawei claims it has 2000 points of pressure, though reps couldn’t confirm the pen tech. It’s powered by a AAAA battery, leading us to believe it might be N-trig, given the fact that N-trig pens played nice with Android Honeycomb about five years ago on HTC and Lenovo tablets.
The Harmon Kardon speakers interest us the most, however. Tablet speakers are universally awful, so if the M2 can pump out reasonable sound, Huawei will have a winner. It’s impossible to judge them on a show floor as loud and busy as CES 2016 however, so we’ll reserve judgement.
Other specs include Android 5.1 with Huawei’s custom skin, which includes some pen features reminiscent of Samsung’s Note-specific software, a quad-core Kirin 930 processor running at 2.0GHz, fingerprint sensor on the lower landscape edge that looks just like a home button, and microUSB.
This is another device that is also coming to the US, but we don’t know exactly when. We do know the price. The MediaPad M2 will cost $349 for the 16GB unit with 2GB of RAM (stylus not included), and $469 for the 32GB unit with 3GB of RAM and the stylus.
Elegant and Jewel
Huawei also took the wraps off two new Huawei Watches, the Elegant and the Jewel. These are smaller than the Huawei Watch, with slimmer bands and a rose gold color. Obviously, Huawei is targeting the females with these two.
The Jewel is adorned with Swarovski zirconium and both have new watch faces, but otherwise these Android Wear smartwatches are identical to the Huawei Watch. A recent Android Wear update brings a new feature to all three, however. They can now receive voice calls, broadcasting through a tiny speaker located just under where the watch band connects. The original Huawei Watch already had the speaker (who knew?), and that means they can also pump out music.
Both are set to launch in Q1 at $499 for the Elegant, and $599 for the Jewel.