Huawei Mate 8 Review: Examining ARM's Cortex-A72 And HiSilicon's Kirin 950

Huawei Mate 8 Introduction And Specs

Huawei may not be a household name here in the US, nor does the brand name roll off the tongue easily for many Americans, but you might be surprised to learn that the Chinese networking and telecommunications manufacturer is the 3rd largest smartphone supplier in the world, behind Apple and Samsung. Much of that global market share comes from China, but the company has been making significant inroads here in the US with devices like Google's Nexus 6P, which is a Huawei private labeled device. 

Further, like Samsung and Apple, Huawei has access to significant manufacturing capabilities, including their own semiconductor design house called HiSilicon, which is a wholly owned subsidiary. In fact, what's unique about the product we'll be looking at today is that Huawei and HiSilicon are the first manufactures to build an SoC based on ARM Cortex-A72 technology, which is ARM's highest performance 64-bit processor core. HiSilicon's Kirin 950 is an octal-core chip with four ARM A72 cores at 2.3GHz and four ARM A53 cores at 1.8GHz (dubbed the i5 co-processor for sensor processing, etc.) along with an ARM Mali T880 graphics core. 

And so, as you'd expect, in addition to how the new Huawei Mate 8 handles and performs as a whole, we were very interested in how the new Kirin 950 system on a chip performs -- and that's exactly what we'll show you on the pages ahead.

Huawei Mate 8 and Box

Before we dig into the particulars, here's a quick video walk-around of the Mate 8, in live hands-on action...

Huawei Mate 8 (NXT-L29)
Specifications & Features
Size Height: 157.1mm; Width: 80.6mm; Depth: 7.9mm; Weight: 185g (approx.)
Colors Moonlight Silver; Space Gray; Champagne Gold; Mocha Brown
Display 6" FHD Screen
1080p (1920 x 1080), 368ppi
16.7M colors, color saturation(NTSC) 95%, High contrast ratio: 1500:1
CPU HUAWEI Kirin 950 (64-bit,16nm FinFET+), Octa-core (4 x 2.3 GHz A72+ 4 x 1.8 GHz A53) + i5 co-processor 
Operating System Android Marshmallow 6.0 With Emotion UI: EMUI 4.0 Interface
Memory 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM or 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM 
Network 4G TDD LTE:Band38/39/40
4G FDD LTE:Band1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/12/17/18/19/20/26
3G UMTS: 800(B6,Japan)/800(B19,Japan) /850/900/AWS/1900/2100MHz (Band6/19/5/8/4/2/1)
Dual SIM Dual SIM Supported
Connectivity Wi-Fi 2.4G/5G, a/b/g/n/ac with Wi-Fi Direct support
BT4.2, support BLE
MicroUSB (High Speed USB)
Sensors Fingerprint Sensor, G-Sensor, Gyroscope sensor, Compass, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity sensor, Hall sensor, Barometer 
NFC NFC supported
Camera Main camera
16MP, F2.0, OIS (optical image stabilization), BSI CMOS
Dual-tone flash, PDAF+CAF auto focus
Digital zoom, up to 4x
Timelapse recording
Photos: max 4608 x 3456 pixels
Video recording: 1080p, 60 fps
Supports    720P 120FPS Slo-Mo recording
Front camera
8MP, F2.4
Photos: max 3264 x 2448 pixels
Video recording: 1080p, 30 fps
Battery 4000mAh (typical value)
In the box Handset; Headset; Charger; USB cable; Quick Start Guide; Safety Information
Pricing Currently as low as $629 on Amazon

The Mate 8 comes in two base flavors, one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage and another with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and a variety of colors including moonlight silver, seen here, space gray, champagne gold, and mocha brown. Unfortunately for now, the device isn’t sold in the US on any major carriers. However, it does have all LTE and UMTS carrier bands supported, and it is unlocked, so any SIM should work in the device. 

Other notable standouts for the Mate 8 are Huawei’s EMUI 4.0 interface skinned over Android 6 Marshmallow and the Mate 8’s massive 4000 milliamp hour battery. The former has its pluses and minuses. Regardless, the device is still one of the few smartphones currently, other than pure Nexus devices, with an Android 6 setup, something that even Samsung has just gotten around to for their Galaxy S6 lineup. 

Huawei Mate 8 Back

Another significant area of concern might be the Mate 8's 6-inch 1080p display, which on the surface might appear to be relatively low-res compared to the 2K to even 4K screens that are showing up in high-end handsets these days. However, as you'll note, this display is capable of reproducing 95% of the NTSC color gamut, which is much wider than the sRGB color space. In short, don't let its resolution fool you, the Mate 8 sports a really nice display, along with virtually off of the latest technologies like 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2, though USB-C didn't make it to the party. Regardless, let's get a closer at the rest of the package look...

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