Available in four different colors and three versions, the Mate S is Huawei’s answer to the other flagship devices being announced here at IFA 2015 (and the rumored iPhone 6S for later this month), but how good is its latest smartphone and what makes it stand out from the crowd? Let’s take a closer look.
Up front, the Mate S features a 5.5-inch Full HD display with a screen color saturation of 105 percent of the RGB gamut and a contrast ratio of 1800000:1. We’ve seen Huawei border on the ridiculous with contrast ratios before (the Huawei P8 offered 15000:1), but the Mate S contrast ratio does reach a particular extreme.
The display is protected by 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4, which should make it difficult to scratch or damage and and the display itself is raised slightly above the edge of the bezel thanks to the 2.5D design. Above the display, we have an 8MP front facing camera and Huawei has also included the soft light found on the Honor 7.
The Mate S features a similar design to past Huawei devices but comes with an updated build including a curved rear, which Huawei claim measures just 2.65mm at the very edges. Despite the slim profile at the edges – which rises to 7.2mm in the middle of the handset – the Mate S is surprisingly easy to hold in the hand thanks to the curved rear.
The Mate S is also protected by a new nano coating technology that Huawei claim will prevent damage from rain or sweat but the handset doesn’t come with an IP rating and isn’t said to be waterproof. That being said, the slide during Huawei’s press conference does suggest this has been designed with splashes of rain or sweat over a long period of time in mind.
Like many other Huawei devices, the Mate S features a brushed metal finish that provides a surprising amount of grip while the slim volume and power keys on the right provide tactile feedback. On the left, the Mate S has the SIM card and microSD card trays built into one tray and like other dual SIM devices, the microSD card slot can be used as a secondary SIM card tray. Unlike some other dual SIM devices, the Mate S supports LTE on both SIM cards.
To the back and Huawei has included a 13MP rear camera that includes a 4-color RGBW imaging sensor and has Optical Image Stabilization. The camera housing is scratch proof thanks to sapphire protection while Huawei claim it also comes with a DSLR-level image signal processor.
In the camera software, Huawei has included the modes found on its past devices but also added a new Pro mode that offers a wide gamut of options and allows you to change various settings including ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Like other Huawei flagship devices, the Mate S also comes with a dual LED true-tone flash next to the camera. A rather cool feature is the Auto Rectangular Alignment, which promises to let you capture a rectangle (e.g. a slide) at an angle and then the Mate S will remove the angles and make the image flat.
Beneath the camera is the fingerprint sensor and Huawei say the Mate S comes with Fingerprint Sense 2.0 technology, which claims to be 100% faster at recognizing your fingerprint and 100% more sensitive meaning you can use it even with a wet finger.
Like the Mate 7 from last year, the fingerprint sensor can be used to unlock your phone with a single tap, even when the display is switched off, while it also comes with a range of gestures including the ability to take a selfie or answer a call with a single tap, access your notifications by swiping down on the sensor and clear all notifications with a double click and slide through pictures in the gallery by swiping the sensor.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t come with all the gestures found on the Honor 7 meaning you can’t use it to access recent apps, easily go back a step or return to the homescreen and this is definitely a surprise. Nonetheless, the fingerprint sensor is still very quick to respond and definitely one of the best on the market.
The Mate S also comes with Huawei’s Knuckle Sense 2.0 technology and one of the biggest improvements is that you can now free-draw a shape to make a screenshot. Since the Huawei P8 earlier this year and then the Honor 7, Huawei has slowly improved its Knuckle Sense feature and while it’s still not perfect, it has been improved further on the Mate S.
Knuckle Sense can now be used to select any part of the screen in any shape by simply drawing the shape, which is a welcome change to the previous generation, which allowed you to free-draw a shape but would convert this to a rectangle. Knuckle Sense can also now be used to screen record the handset and while Huawei say this is useful if you want to easily crop a video, this could have plenty of different uses.
Another addition to Knuckle Sense is the ability to launch applications simply by drawing a letter with your knuckle, with Huawei including the likes of Camera (activated by drawing a C), Browser (E) and Music (M) out of the box. You can also set custom commands for your own apps and the feature provides a quick and easy way to access your favourite applications.
Under the hood, the Mate S comes with a HiSilicon Kirin 935 SoC with four Cortex-A53 processors clocked at 2.2GHz and four more clocked at 1.5GHz. There’s 3GB RAM and a choice of storage options, with the Standard model offering 32GB storage, the Premium model offering 64GB and the Force Touch model offering 128GB storage. All versions run on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop and come with Huawei’s EMUI v3.1 on top.
Yes, there’s a Force Touch model and while Huawei made a big deal about demonstrating this feature during its launch, the Force Touch is only limited to the most premium of the three variants. If you do wait and get the Force Touch model, you’ll be getting the world’s first 3D pressure recognition display, which brings a range of features.
These include the ability to zoom into images by pressing harder on the screen, launch apps by applying forced pressure to the magic corners and turn off the on-screen keyboard and used force touch to replicate the features. Huawei is yet to reveal when this model will be available and despite reports to the contrary, Force Touch is only available on the most premium Mate S model.
Other notable hardware specs beneath the hood include a 2,700 mAh non-removable battery – which Huawei claim will last over a full days’ usage – along with quick charging that lets you charge for ten minutes to make up to two hours of phone calls but Huawei didn’t reveal how long it takes to charge to full. There’s also an array of sensors and 3 microphones that come with a smart directional algorithm.
The Mate S also offers directional listening with an auto mode automatically picking up the noise you want while cutting any background noise and a manual mode letting you specify exactly which direction the microphone should record from. An example of where this may be useful would be in a meeting with multiple people in a somewhat noisy environment as Huawei say the directional microphones can cut out all background noise while also making the audio recording crystal clear.
The Mate S is set to launch in thirty countries in the coming weeks, with pre-orders launching on September 15th and as mentioned, there are three versions to choose from. The Standard version comes with 32GB storage, will be available in Titanium Grey or Mystique Champagne (which is actually silver) colors and has a recommended retail price of €649 before taxes and subsidies.
The Premium version comes with 64GB storage, will be available in Prestige Gold or Coral Pink colors and has a recommended retail price of €699 before taxes and subsidies. Huawei hasn’t revealed the colors or pricing for the Force Touch 128GB model but we’ll let you know when we have more info on this.
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