Battery Life and Conclusion
With the display brightness set to a measured 180 lux (about 50% on the brightness slider) I ran PCMark's Work battery life test. The results were very good, with the Mate 8 lasting just under 10 hours (9 hr 53 min).
We are in transition with our mobile battery testing, so I don't have comparison data to add here at the moment. Subjectively, I found the Mate 8 to offer significantly better battery life than my old Nexus 6, and slightly better than the Nexus 5X that was my daily driver when I had the Mate 8 in for review.
The Mate 8 is an unassuming phablet design with a gorgeous screen, and excellent performance in everyday tasks. I didn't really talk about the UI over Android 6.0, and that's becuase I found it unobtrusive. I was never bothered by it, and other than a few differences (such as apps residing only on the home screens, like in iOS), it functions mostly like stock Android.
There is the usual assortment of branded helper apps that want permissions, but this can be managed in a granular way with Android 6.0. Overall the UI felt very responsive, and I took advantage of the option to install my preferred launcher (Google) and other apps to make the phone fit my usage patterns.
In the end, I can't really fault any aspect of the Mate 8 other than the camera, which was disappointing. That is not insignificant, and while it was perfectly servicable there are other options in this price range that will produce better results. But there was one thing that made me want to work with this handset, regardless of any perceived deficiencies: the display. It's really, really good – a nice balance between the best of IPS (color, viewing angles) and OLED (saturation, black levels) – and I'd never heard of IPS-NEO before this review. I wish it was used in more phones!
The market for an unlocked $499 smartphone is very crowded, and there is stiff competition from not just other handset makers, but HUAWEI itself with the Nexus 6P at the same $499 (or probably less, very soon). I would personally choose the 6P as I have been a Nexus user since the introduction of the Nexus 4, but this Mate 8 is geared more toward the phablet (i.e. Galaxy Note) crowd. In the phablet space the Mate 8 makes a very good impression, and offers solid performance from its relatively unknown SoC (which just happens to be powered by the most current ARM cores).
- Fantastic display quality
- Snappy UI performance
- Excellent build quality
- All-day battery life
- Excellent sound quality
- Below average camera at this price
The Mate 8 certainly deserves a look – and once you see the display for yourself you just might be sold.