- Some App crashing issues
- Minor performance lag
Key Features: 5.2-inch, 1080p Full HD display; 13-megapixel OIS-enhanced camera; Android 5.0 Lollipop; 2600mAh battery
What is the Huawei P8?
Released in April 2015, the Huawei P8 is the Chinese firm’s first real shot at making a mark in the flagship market, having dipped its toes with the Ascend range. Although Huawei lacks the big-hitting brand name that comes with a Samsung or an Apple handset, it hopes to tempt users away with the P8’s sleek design, iPhone-like aluminium body, along with some solid specs. For the most part it succeeds, too.
The Huawei P8’s octa-core processor, 3GB RAM and high-quality camera proves it’s serious about going toe-to-toe with the big boys. The fact that it’s considerably cheaper than the likes of the iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S6, or even the HTC One M9, makes it an even better alternative to one of the big-brand rivals, if you’re looking for something a little different.
Metal body; 144.9 x 72.1 x 6.4mm; 144g
The Huawei P8 looks and feels a lot more expensive than its price tag would suggest. It’s beautifully crafted, taking obvious inspiration from the iPhone 6 and Sony Xperia Z3, but with a more angular look and feel.
The Huawei P8 adds some refined touches that distinguish it from the competition, including a smooth glass rectangular section on the back of the phone where the camera sits. The front face of the phone is clean, with no branding, no home button and no unsightly plastic-looking speaker grilles. Take note, Samsung.
The chiselled curved edges of the P8 are similar to the Samsung Galaxy S6, while the softly textured metal back of the phone echoes that of the iPhone 5. Huawei hasn’t just taken design cues from its rivals though, it’s also followed the trend different colours with ridiculous names. As a result, the 16GB version P8 is available in Mystic Champagne/Titanium Grey, and a 64GB P8 is available in Prestige Gold and the less ludicrous Carbon Black. Colours may vary by territory, though.
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.
A double tap of the bottom volume key opens the camera and takes a picture when the phone screen is off. It’s a good feature, but it would be easier if the power button was larger, further away or on the opposite side of the phone.
Yet this small weakness doesn’t detract from what’s otherwise a solid and well-built phone. It’s heavier than the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6, but it’s lighter than the HTC One M9 and looks as good as any of them despite costing nearly half as much.
Huawei P8 – Screen
5.2-inch; 1080 x 1920 pixels (Full HD); 424ppi; IPS LCD; Gorilla Glass 3
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.
Side-by-side with some of the other flagship phones, the P8 manages to hold its own. Next to the Galaxy S6, the P8 appears to deliver slightly punchier colours, but it can’t match it for detail, deep blacks or clean white tones. Held up next to the HTC One M9, the P8 edges its more expensive rival.
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.
13-megapixel main camera; f/2 lens; Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS); 8-Megapixel front-facing camera; dual LED flash; Director mode; Full HD video
Huawei made a big deal about the P8’s camera during its announcement and, looking at its specs, you can understand why.
The P8 has a Sony-developed 13-megapixel RGBW sensor with a dedicated image processor and f/2 lens, which is designed to deliver better low light performance and noise reduction. The company also claims that the P8’s optical image stabilisation (OIS) is significantly better than the iPhone 6 Plus’.
This is because the OIS unit on the P8 can handle up to 1.2 degrees of motion shift, compared to only 0.6 degrees on the iPhone 6 Plus. The OIS does decently in low light, helping to reduce camera shake in still images, but it also works very well during Full HD video recording at 30fps, keeping handheld shots relatively stable.
Here, the P6 has done a great job of enhancing the blue skies, but the S6 captures a wider range of tones.
The S6 has a larger 16-megapixel sensor so it can capture larger images, it’s also sharper than the P8, but the P8 has produced some punchy colours
In use the P8’s camera is great, especially in good light. We found it easy to use and responsive, but the autofocus could be better. The P8 recognises faces quickly and tracks them well. It takes about a second to focus, which isn’t too bad, but if we weren’t focusing on faces it needed help to pick the right subject to focus on.
The P8 has some fancy camera modes that help people to capture creative and enhanced images without needing any technical know-how. Light painting is probably the most complex of the Huawei’s photo modes and helps people to capture photos with a range of different effects, such as Car light trails, star tracks and smooth flowing water.
We experimented with some of the light painting modes, a tripod or stable surface is definitely required to produce anything half decent
The mode works by using slow shutter speeds to allow the camera to capture light for longer periods of time, but saves people from having to learn about shutter speeds. If you can hold the phone steadily enough – Huawei recommends using a tripod – the results are decent and it can be fun experimenting with light. It’s an accessible way to introduce people to some advanced photographic technique.
The camera’s 8-megapixel front-facing camera is ideal for selfies and comes complete with some built-in ‘beauty’ tools, to help scrub up our otherwise ugly mugs. The list of beauty enhancements (which some may find offensive) include teeth and skin whitening, face slimming and eye bag removal. If used sparingly, the results are half decent, but we prefer the natural look produced by the camera without the beauty mode. It’s a gimmick, really, albeit one you can ignore.
Huawei has done some great work on its camera processing to produce images that enhance colours and convey sharpness. The result is that the P8’s images look great on the phone’s screen and social media.
Both cameras produce images with good contrast, but the S6 has better dynamic range performance
Comparison shots from the P8 and the Galaxy S6 show just how well Huawei has done. In a number of different lighting conditions, the P8’s images are immediately more attractive. Of course, on closer inspection the S6 is in a different league for colour accuracy and detail, but for the majority of smartphone users, the P8’s camera is more than capable enough.
Software and Performance
HiSilicon Kirin 930 octa-core chipset; Mali T628 GPU; 3GB RAM
The P8 may look a little iPhone inspired on the outside, but inside it will be freakishly familiar if you’ve used an iOS device in recent years.
Even though the P8 runs Android Lollipop 5.0, it has the company’s own Emotion UI over the top of it and there’s no attempt to hide its Apple-likeness. Everything from the shape and styling of the phone’s icons to the home screen pull down gesture that activates the Spotlight Search function have been replicated.
What makes the Apple-aping so obvious is the fact that the Huawei phone has the Android system search feature included in it anyway, so the copied spotlight function is redundant and included probably just because Apple phones do it.
iOS users will find the Huawei Emotion UI very familiar
But don’t let these observations put you off as Huawei has used its admiration for one of the best operating systems around and created an Android user experience that is mostly responsive, clean and clutter free. For example, swiping down give you access to notifications on one tab and the quick settings menu on another. It’s a good solution for separating the two areas and makes them easy to navigate.
That said, Huawei ought to have left in some Lollipop features, such as the Rolodex style active app shortcut. Instead, pressing the option button brings up a stagnant tile based active app browser, which allows you to select or close open apps by pressing them or swiping up. It works, but it isn’t as attractive as the stock Android 5.0 method of dealing with open apps.
In an attempt to create some points of difference, Huawei has given the P8 some unique features. We mentioned some of them in the camera section, but another add-on is ‘Voice Wake’ that allows you set a voice trigger to wake and to find your phone. By default our phone’s trigger phrase was “Ok Emy”, but you can type a custom phrase that’s a little more personal.
We had mixed results with the feature and didn’t find it much easier than just picking up the phone and pressing the power button. It ignored us most of the time and occasionally interrupted conversations to ask us to repeat what it overheard as if we’d commanded it do something.
The other “feature” lets you use your knuckles to carry out additional gesture commands, such as screen capturing. The phone knows the difference between fingertips and knuckles and will screen grab instantly if you knock on the phone twice for example. It’s good for screen grabs as it’s easier than the traditional volume key + power key combination.
The system is powered by a Huawei developed 64-bit HiSilicon Kirin 930 chipset, made up of two ARM Cortex-A53 quad-cores in a big.LITTLE configuration. One set is clocked to 2.0GHz to handle intense tasks, while the other 1.5GHz quad-core takes care of standard phone functionality and operations, such as calls, email, web browsing and listening to music.
This setup is very power efficient, proven by our experience with the P8. For the most part we found the phone to be responsive and capable when it comes to tackling intense tasks. We did experience some minor application freezing and lag on occasion, but managing open applications sensibly should negate this issue.
Benchmark tests put the P8’s processing performance not far off the HTC One M9, which uses the top spec Snapdragon 810 chipset. That would be impressive in and of itself, but considering the Huawei flagship is around £220 cheaper, it’s a very big deal.
Speaker and Call Quality
The speaker and microphone of the P8 are at the base of the phone, either side of the the micro USB port. The speaker’s position means it can be covered by a hand when viewing videos in landscape orientation, but the speaker is big enough to avoid being totally obscured.
The mono speaker is loud, but it doesn’t sound great. You’ll quickly become a figure of hate if you dare to play audio at even 50% volume in a public space – crank it up to 100% and you’ll have projectiles and abusive words raining down on you within seconds. The quality of the audio is noticeably top heavy and can distort quite easily, but there’s still respectable level of bass to be heard.
The provided headphones are tough plastic and they don’t fit well unless you have large lug holes. The earphones are loud though, and give a good frequency response across the board, but they leak sound badly so will annoy people around you. Head to our best headphone round-up for better alternatives.
Overall, we’d say the audio from the P8 sits somewhere between the HTC One M9’s class-leading BoomSound stereo speakers and the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 – another decent result considering the price.
During our time with the P8 we didn’t have any issues with mobile signal or call quality. We received good signal strength anywhere we could reasonably expect to receive service. The phone is 4G compatible, and uses a special antenna design with what it calls ‘seamless switching technology’ to keep call signal strength consistently good. In our experience, it works.
The Huawei P8 has a 2,680mAh capacity battery – it’s slightly more than the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, but significantly less than its larger twin the P8 Max and its enormous 4,360mAh battery.
The graph gives some indication of the phone’s charging and draining times on an average day’s use. The phone conserves power when idle and drains steadily with drastic declines
Used moderately, the P8 battery will last a day and a half. The battery level barely moves when idle, but declines steadily at a rate of about 7% for every hour of video or playing games it . Listening to songs doesn’t seem to impact the battery any more than having the phone active but on standby, which is great for music lovers.
A morning commute with social media checking, some video watching and then a morning of going through emails leaves the battery at about 85-90% by midday. Huawei’s Emotion UI offers some comprehensive power management tools, the most useful of which monitors the phone’s usage and indicates which apps are causing a particular strain on the battery.
The phone also offers a range of solutions to help optimise battery performance, with suggestions for which apps and settings to optimise. This fine-tuning is a good alternative to standard power saving options that just throttle the phone’s performance across the board. Those are also available of course and can be set to kick when the battery reaches a certain level.
Other than the fact that it takes a lengthy 3.5 hours to charge from critical to 100% – the S6 charges in half the time – we were mostly happy with the P8’s battery performance. It still needs to be charged once every 24 hours if used moderately, but you’ll rarely be caught off guard by critical battery status alerts.
Should I buy the Huawei P8?
Don’t rule it out. Sure, it lacks big name prestige, but it’s much cheaper than phones it matches and sometimes surpasses, and what you lose in recognition you gain in owning a phone few people will know. They’ll certainly notice it when they see it – it looks great.
Moreover, the P8 has all of the features a flagship phone should have, including a great screen, fast processor and a good 13-megapixel main camera. A larger 3,000mAh battery would make it a no brainer, but its battery life is still a match for more storied rivals.
All this comes at a price similar to last year’s flagships such as the LG G3 and HTC M8, super mid-range phones like the Samsung Galaxy A5 and Sony M4 Aqua and compact versions of flagships. Yet, on specs and performance alone, it rivals some of this year’s biggest flagship phones, including the Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9. It’s a powerful argument in the P8’s favour and certainly puts it among the best smartphones and best android phones of 2015.
This could be the best value phone you’ll see this year. If it gets the attention it deserves then you’ll hear the Huawei name a lot more in future.
Scores In Detail
- Battery Life : 8/10
- Calls & Sound : 9/10
- Camera : 9/10
- Design : 8/10
- Performance : 8/10
- Screen Quality : 9/10
- Software : 8/10
- Value : 9/10