Huawei Mate Review: Large, But Not In Charge


The Huawei Mate is officially the largest phone/phablet/whatever to grace our test labs so far, so how does the Godzilla of smartphones compare to the competition?

What Is It?

Enormous.

What else do you need to know about it other than that?

Well, it's a 6.1-inch monster phone with a bright IPS+ display, powered by Huawei’s own 1.5GHz, quad-core chipset, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage (expandable to 64GB) with an 8-megapixel camera, all powered by a huge 4050mAh battery.

What's Good?

This thing is huge. In a world that has moved on from the megapixel race into the panel-size race, Huawei is a solid contender. Compare the Huawei Mate to the Galaxy Note range and it provides an interesting middle ground (if you can call it that) between the tablet-sized Galaxy Note 8 and the phablet-sized Galaxy Note II. Not sure how many of you are out there that want that sort of thing, but choice is always nice to have.

On top of the wonderful size, Huawei have finally thrown a 4G antenna at one of its handsets, meaning you'll get Category 3 speeds direct to your giant device.

The most astonishing thing about the Mate, however, isn't the size: it's the battery. The 4050 mAh monster acts like a power plant running a small city. We got an incredible two weeks of standby time with the Mate -- more than we've had on any phone previously in our labs -- and an astounding four days of battery life on heavy use. And we mean heavy use: using it as a personal hotspot for four hours, streaming music, screen brightness on full, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi always running. The Mate is a behemoth in more ways than one.

Using the Mate is actually a pretty interesting experience too, and one we'd recommend to first time Android users. Huawei built its own Android skin for the Mate which it's calling Emotion UI. Emotion UI gives you a handy favourites widget front and centre which actually lets you configure favourite contacts, favourite apps, music and photos. It's like a little social command centre. More interestingly, however, is the fact that Huawei has removed the app drawer from Android on Emotion UI. That means that if you've never used Android before, you'll never be confused about where your apps are going again.

What's Bad?

For all the good that Huawei has done with the new widgets and abolishing the app drawer, it's all for nought when you consider just how bad the rest of the software is to use. It's slow to respond to commands, taps on menu items take forever to respond, animations are slow and worst of all, it crashes pretty frequently.

On top of that, the specs on the device -- while impressive on paper -- perform less than admirably when under benchmark tests. We got a score of around 1400 on Geekbench 2, which makes it less powerful than a Galaxy S III and a whole lot less fun to use as a result.

Furthermore, the design is cheap and plasticy for your $400+, and the audio quality (despite the Dolby Audio "enhancement") is also troublingly tinny and flat.

And as if that wasn't enough, the sheer size of the device works against it when you're trying to get around. It's an unwieldy device which maintains a precarious relationship with your pants. There are only one pair of jeans (made by Reserve if you want to get into which jeans have deep pockets) I own that could accommodate this handset, and the only way my wife could carry it around is in her handbag. The device protrudes like you read about, and depending on the construction of your pants (never thought I'd say that in a review), the phone can actually be nudged out of your pocket as you walk. Not exactly what you want.

Should You Buy It?

Honestly, you should only buy the Mate if you're bloody-minded about screen size, because really, that's all it's good for: a massive panel. The software is too slow to recommend, the specs pale in comparison to the competition and the actual experience of living with the thing is less than pleasant.

If you're caught in a screen size war with friends who keep buying phablets, you can successfully one-up them with the Huawei Mate, otherwise, I say avoid.