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HUAWEI P8 Review

Does the latest addition to the flagship P-series from HUAWEI take things to the next level? We find out, in this in-depth HUAWEI P8 review!

Published onApril 27, 2015

With its elegant design, fantastic camera, and smooth performance, HUAWEI checks all the right boxes with the P8, a device that can go toe to toe with the current crop of flagship smartphones.

HUAWEI has been on a solid run lately, with various fantastic smartphone offerings that cover the price spectrum. With their latest flagship, HUAWEI decided to drop the Ascend moniker, while retaining what defines the company’s P-series of smartphones: style, beauty, and great performance. Does HUAWEI succeed in taking things to the next level? We find out, in this in-depth review of the HUAWEI P8!

HUAWEI has been known to deliver in the design department with some very well crafted devices, and the P8 is certainly no exception. In fact, it is one of the most well-designed handsets from the company yet, and is quite the looker with its unibody steel construction. Like any other smartphone that features the use of metal, the P8 feels extremely solid.

The design is very angular and flat with chamfered edges, but the corners and sides have been slightly rounded to allow for a more comfortable feel in the hand. The metal body has been treated with what HUAWEI calls “diamond shaped blasting,” that enhances the texture of the metal, and provides the phone with some extra grip in the process. Keeping with one of the trends of the P-series, this device is extremely thin with a thickness of just 6.4 mm, resulting in an appearance that is sleek and stylish. The slim profile and fairly thin bezels on the sides of the display also allow for some ease with one-handed use, even though the bezels aren’t as thin as the press renders may suggest.

Taking a look around the device, the left side is completely bare, with the power button, volume rocker, microSD card slot, and SIM card slot all placed on the right. The power button and volume keys are easy to press and very tactile, but the latter did exhibit a slight amount of wiggle, though it isn’t particularly noticeable in everyday use. Up top is the headphone jack, and at the bottom is the microUSB port, flanked by what looks like a dual speaker setup. Unfortunately, the two speaker grills are just a design element present just for parity’s sake, with only the left grill actually housing a speaker, and the right housing a microphone. A multi-colored notification LED is located up front, next to the front-facing camera, earpiece, and usual array of sensors.

The HUAWEI P8 features a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 424 ppi. The display size is great for those looking for a “normal-sized” phone, at least in the Android world, and a 1080p resolution is more than enough, especially given how much more battery friendly the panel will be.

The screen is bright, vivid, and saturated with some great contrast, along with good viewing angles and outdoor visibility. You do have the option to change the color temperature of the display in the Settings menu to a little warmer or colder to better suit your tastes, but the default out of the box settings were good enough, as is, in my opinion. Overall, the P8 comes with a gorgeous display that will provide a great experience regardless of what you’re doing on the screen, and the thin bezels allows for it to really stand out.

Like previous HUAWEI smartphones, the P8 utilizes the company’s in-house chipset, with the standard version of the device featuring the 2 GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 930 processor, with the premium version packing the Kirin 935, both backed by the Mali-T628 MP4 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. This particular review unit is of the Kirin 930 variety, but functionally, these processors are mostly identical, save for the 200 MHz bump in speed that you get with the Kirin 935.

Huawei’s chipsets have impressed in the past, and the fantastic performance you might expect continues this time around as well. The P8 is very fast and responsive in day to day usage with smooth UI animations, apps opening and closing quickly, along with multi-tasking being a breeze. Gaming is handled very well too, with the device not showing any signs of slowdown whatsoever. This kind of performance isn’t surprising, and the P8 can certainly hold its own against the other powerhouses released this year.

The usual set of sensors and connectivity options are available, including support for 4G LTE across a wide variety of bands, which allowed for access to high-speed internet on the T-Mobile network. The device also supports LTE Cat 6 connectivity for even faster data speeds, if you live in an area where you can take advantage of it. 16 GB of on-board storage is available with the base model of the P8, with 64 GB at your disposal with the premium iteration. Both versions also come with expandable storage up to 128 GB via microSD card.

The bottom mounted single speaker surprisingly makes for a great audio experience. The speaker gets very loud, and more importantly, maintains a crisp and clean sound without any signs of distortion at high volumes. It may not match up to the standard of those devices featuring front-facing speakers, but is certainly far better than any device out there with a rear speaker setup. Its placement does make it quite easy to muffle the sound with the palm of your hand though, while playing a game or watching a video with the device in the landscape orientation.

What we’ve seen with a lot of devices is the compromise in battery capacity in favor of a slim design, and that trend continues with the P8, with its 2,680 mAh battery. Battery life proves to be just about average, with basic use that includes texting and browsing social media resulting in 14 to 16 hours of use, with up to 4 hours of screen-on time. Light users can definitely comfortably get a full day of use out of this device, but you can expect the numbers to drop fairly quickly if a lot of gaming and watching videos is done. On the bright side, the P8 does come with fast charging capabilities, a feature that is becoming more and more prevalent in smartphones to compensate for average battery life that we’re otherwise seeing.

The HUAWEI P8 features a 13 MP rear camera with OIS, and managed to pack it in a chassis that is 6.4 mm thick without creating a bulge, something that you can’t say about some of the more recent flagships out there. HUAWEI also claims that this the world’s first four color RGBW sensor, which is supposed to provide for better brightness in high contrast scenes and increase low light performance. The shutter speed is reasonably quick, and you can also launch directly into the camera and take a photo in roughly a second, by simply double tapping the volume down key when the phone is asleep.

The camera application is no different from some of HUAWEI’s previous handsets, with there being a large circle shutter button, and the various shooting modes can be quickly toggled by swiping on the display in either direction. Apart from the more standard modes like HDR and Panorama are a few others like Super Night, for better night time shots, best photo, watermark, and all-focus, for adjusting the focus of an image after the fact. There is also a series of live filters available if you want to get a little fancy with your picture taking. Many of these features have been available for a while, but one new addition to the camera experience is called light painting, that lets you capture light trails created by things like moving cars, stars in the sky, or a simple LED bulb. The effect can be really cool, but does require very steady hands, or a tripod mount, to get the shot to look the way you might want it.

Image quality with this camera has been pretty impressive. Photos are sharp with plenty of detail even when zoomed in, and colors are very vibrant and saturated, with a pleasant amount of contrast to make the images pop. However, it does struggle a bit when shooting a subject against a brightly lit background like the sky or an artificial light source, which causes a lot of the detail in the foreground to be lost, but HDR usually does a great job of properly balancing out the shot.

Indoor shots are pretty good too, and still exhibit the same level of color and contrast as those taken outdoors, although it doesn’t seem to handle white balance quite as well. With optical image stabilization on board, low light photos are quite good, but saturation does get lost fairly quickly, and there is an increase in noise levels as expected, even if the post-processing seems to do a good job of cleaning most of it. The built-in Super Night mode is also capable of taking brighter photos in low light, but depending on the lighting situation, exposure times can get extremely long.

The 8 MP front-facing camera is also solid, and should make selfie lovers happy. The standard beautification mode is available, but HUAWEI takes things to the next level with a mode called Perfect Selfie. This mode allows you to dial in a number of beauty presets that automatically get applied each and every time you take selfie, making for a consistent look across all your self portraits, thus creating the perfect selfie.

On the software side of things, the HUAWEI P8 is running Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box, but you’d be hard pressed to realize this without going into the Settings menu, with the Emotion UI not adopting much of the material design aesthetics of Lollipop. For the most part, the latest iteration of the user interface is practically the same as previous versions, and will be familiar territory for anyone who has used it before.

The icons are colorful squares with rounded corners, and an application drawer is still not available, requiring you to depend on folders to keep things organized. Many of the staple features of the Emotion UI return here, including motion gestures to answer phone calls by simply raising the phone to your ear, shaking the phone to re-arrange the icons on the homescreens, and a one-handed mode to shrink the screen to a more manageable size. The theme engine is also available, that lets you easily change the look and feel of the UI to something that better suits your tastes. Options are somewhat limited though, but is something that will likely improve over time.

There are a few new additions to the feature set as well. The first is called Speech Awareness, which is similar to the Moto Voice, but with its usage limited for now to locating your device or placing a call, and works quite well. The default phrase is “Okay Emy,” but can be changed to anything you like. The second is is quite an unique feature that HUAWEI is calling Knuckle Sense. The display is capable of sensing when you use your knuckles, allowing you to crop out specific areas of the screen to easily share or take a screenshot by double tapping. The feature does work but unfortunately, there is no way to disable it. On numerous occasions, it seemed to have trouble differentiating between my fingers and knuckle, resulting in it randomly turning on. This happened most often when wading through Youtube comments, but worse, while gaming, which was certainly frustrating to say the least.

Display5.2-inch IPS LCD
1920 x 1080 resolution, 424 ppi
2 GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 930/935
Mali-T628 MP4 GPU
3 GB
16/64 GB
13 MP rear camera with dual OIS
8 MP front camera
HSPA, LTE Cat6 150/50 Mbps
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 4.1, GPRS
Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
2,680 mAh
Android 5.0 Lollipop
144.9 x 72.1 x 6.4 mm
144 grams
Titanium Grey, Mystic Champagne (16 GB model)
Carbon Black, Prestige Gold (64 GB model)

The standard 16 GB version of the HUAWEI P8 is expected to cost €499, approximately $530, and will come in titanium grey and mystic champagne color options. The more premium 64 GB version will bump the price up to €599, or $650, with carbon black and prestige gold as the color options. The device will be launching in 35 countries later this month, with the UK one of the first. Although nothing has been confirmed yet, we’re expecting to see an official launch in the US in the coming months.

So there you have it – an in-depth look at the HUAWEI P8! For the most part, HUAWEI has really hit it out of the park with its latest offering, despite some very minor software bugs. The design is elegant and well crafted, the camera performance exceeds expectations, and packs the right specifications under the hood to go toe to toe with the best of the Android world, all at quite a reasonable price. HUAWEI may have ditched the Ascend branding this year, but the P8 is certainly a capable smartphone that can hold its own against the competition.

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