Last year, Huawei launched the Ascend P7 smartphone, which impressed us with its slimline good looks and top-quality camera, but it was undermined by its sluggish performance and an over-fussy UI.
But,this year, the company is aiming to improve on that with its latest flagship device, the Huawei P8. Huawei lacks the recognition of a Samsung, Apple or even HTC, but it hopes to tempt potential suitors with the P8's iPhone-like aluminum body and sleek design, along with some promising specs.
It largely succeeds, too. The P8's octa-core processor, 3GB RAM and high quality camera show it means business, making it a very good option for anyone who isn't wooed by big names and likes to carry something a little bit different. The features of the Ascend P8 has been provided by Akansha Srivasta, so lets see what Huawei's P8 has for us.
Huawei P8 Has a Great Design And Appearance:
While spending some time with the P8 I found it to be well balanced in terms of weight, manageable in one hand and indeed it looks and feels premium too. The slightly curved edges of the handset provide a little extra grip in the palm, although the completely flat rear and super slim profile means it's not the most comfortable handset to hold.
Huawei made a point of saying how solid the aluminium unibody looks on the P8, and while there is no obvious signs for concern in terms of bend-ability. I look forward to seeing others applying more pressure to see if it goes the same way as the iPhone 6 Plus.
The Huawei P8 measures just 6.4 mm thick but despite this incredible thinness, Huawei have managed to make the 13MP camera sit completely flush with the thin body. The result is a handset that has a unique symmetry and won't damage your camera if you place it on a table.
The power button and volume keys on the right hand side of the P8 are the only physical keys on the P8, and they're our only real gripe with this phone's design. The power button is miniscule and is so close to the volume keys that it's easy to to hit the wrong button.
There are a couple of areas where the Huawei P8 trumps the Galaxy S6, too. Although there's no removable battery, the P8 has a microSD slot for storage expansion. It's water- and dust-resistant - so it should survive an encounter with a hot cup of tea, or a soaking in a rain shower.
Huawei P8 Flaunts A Crisp And Rich Display:
The 5.2-inch screen on the Huawei P8 is a touch larger than the one on the Galaxy S6, but the thin bezel means it doesn't take up too much more space.
And, while it isn't Quad HD like the S6, it's one of the finest Full HD screens we've seen in a phone. It's big, it's bright and it's useable in all lighting conditions.
Huawei's Emotion UI includes some options for adjusting the P8 screen's colour temperature and we used it to counter the phone's apparent natural bias towards warmer tones.
The display options in settings offer a sliding scale between warm and cold, and we found that nudging the slider one position to the right gave us a more natural colour balance.
That isn't to say that this phone is particularly bad when it comes to colour reproduction, though. Overall, it does a good job of rendering colours vibrantly, but if you pay attention to Red and Magenta tones, it's clear there is some oversaturation taking place.
The P8's screen looks good at acute viewing angles and adapts to changing light conditions well, too. This is one particular area where the P8 really impresses, though it's by no means the only area - it's a great screen all round.
Outstanding camera with creative photography options available:
A smartphone is about more than looks, and Huawei has done plenty to boost the phone's credentials in other areas as well.
In particular, the 13-megapixel camera sees a couple of innovations. First on the list is the "world's first" four-colour imaging sensor: instead of merely three sub-pixels, the sensor has an extra white pixel.
Secondly, the camera has its own image processor, which is supposed to deliver improved scene recognition and more balanced exposures. The above innovations are accompanied by optical image stabilisation (OIS) and a dual-LED flash, plus an 8-megapixel camera on the front.
Huawei claims this RGBW arrangement is able to capture more accurate colours than a traditional RGB sensor. Second is that the camera has its own image processor, which is supposed to deliver improved scene recognition and more balanced exposures.
The above innovations are accompanied by optical image stabilisation (OIS) and a dual-LED flash, plus an 8-megapixel camera on the front.
Importantly, the quality is fantastic, particularly in low light, where the OIS and a wide-angle f/2.0 lens mean you can take handheld shots at shutter speeds as low as 1/4sec.
In good light we were impressed to find that the camera dealt well with even tricky scenes, retaining detail in bright skies without losing detail in shadowy areas. Video looks just as good - crisp and rock-steady in all but the most extreme situations.
P8's blazing fast performance will surprize you:
Core components comprise a Hisilicon Kirin 930/935 octa-core processor with twin quad-core CPUs running at frequencies of 2GHz and 1.5GHz respectively. There's 3GB of RAM, a Mali T624 GPU, and either 16GB or 64GB of storage, depending on the model you choose.
It feels nippy - much more so than last year's P7 - but benchmarks reveal that despite the impressive-sounding statistics, the P8 isn't in the same league as top-end phones such as the HTC One M9 and Samsung Galaxy S6, with the GPU particularly letting the side down.
Runs smoothly on Emotion UI 3.1 based on Android Lollipop 5.0.2:
Elsewhere, as with most Huawei devices, the P8 is packed with novelty features. There's a crazy feature called "Knuckle sense" that allows you to capture a screenshot with a tap of your knuckle.
In fact, we could do entirely without Huawei's rather heavy-handed Emotion UI, which in our view doesn't improve a jot on the underlying Android 5.02.
Huawei has added some more useful features, including improvements to call quality via wind-noise reduction, automatic microphone sensitivity and earpiece volume control.
Alongside the hardware improvements, the Ascend P8 also comes with clever software features including a light paint feature (to take incredible pictures at night), a Director Mode to make professional movies from your phone and a Time Lapse feature to stitch together multiple pictures captured at different intervals.
Moving around the interface I found the P8 to be fluid and smooth, although I didn't experience the zip I got on the Galaxy S6 Edge. The software is probably not quite final build, so this could change, but some apps took an extra millisecond or two to load for me.
Huawei P8 has a strong and sturdy battery backup:
The battery looks competitive at a capacity of 2,680mAh, but it, too, lags behind. With moderate use, hardly any gaming and only a modicum of web browsing and photography, we found it would make it through a day.
Competitors such as the Sony Xperia Z3 and Samsung Galaxy S6 would comfortably last into the second day under such use. This was very much reflected in our battery tests, with video playback depleting capacity at a high rate. More details will be shared in our complete review.
Standard connectivity options available:
The Huawei P8 brings Huawei's network knowledge as well by offering a new feature that allows it to stay connected whilst travelling to high speed and LTE Cat 6 allows you to download at 300Mbps on the move.
Still, Huawei has added some more useful features, including improvements to call quality via wind-noise reduction, automatic microphone sensitivity and earpiece volume control. We had no complaints about call quality, whether indoors or outdoors, although during speakerphone calls, the speaker had an unpleasant scratchy quality when we turned up the volume.
The Huawei P8 finds itself in an awkward position. On one hand it isn't a match for the very best smartphones we've seen. The S6 is secure on its throne at the very top, and the HTC One M9, Sony Xperia Z3, Nexus 6 and iPhone 6 are all better phones, with superior battery life and graphics performance in particular.
The P8 is certainly an interesting proposition, especially if you value great camera quality above all else, but we recommend you investigate options such as Samsung Galaxy S5, Galaxy S6, HTC One M9 or even the iPhone 6 Plus, if you have such a price range in mind.