A metal high-end smartphone for less than 500 euros. That could, or should, be the Huawei P8. The new flagship is equipped with a metal unibody and has a 2.0 GHz octacore processor designed by the Chinese manufacturer itself.
Furthermore, there is a 5.2 inch large IPS-NEO monitor with Full HD resolution and 13 megapixel camera built in. Not really spectacular specifications, but the sum total can make a fine camera. This should make the Huawei P8 an affordable alternative for the more expensive flagships of the competition such as the Samsung Galaxy S6, HTC One M9 and Sony Xperia Z3+. However, he must be careful not to be overtaken by the Moto X Play or LG G4s.
What's with the device?
When sticking out, it immediately becomes apparent that Huawei is using the P8 firmly. The unit is delivered in a black plastic box where it is slid in from above on its side. The rest of the contents of the box is hidden behind a black plastic cover. When this is removed, two cardboard boxes on either side of the unit become visible. The icons on the boxes show that the thinnest is for the necessary documentation and the other is for the charger, headset and USB cable. In addition, there is also a connector for the SIM card.
In line with the current trend, P8 is largely made of metal. The sides and backside are almost completely made of this material and give the P8 a good looking and feeling appearance. The P8 resembles a mix of an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy A and a Sony Xperia Z device, but still clearly has its own look and feel.
Our test model was carried out in 'Champagne Gold'. This is combined with a white front and white plastic accents on the back. Apart from a small grid above the screen and two black eyes on either side for the selfie camera and sensors, the front is completely empty. In the upper right corner there is still a minuscule notification light. Above and below the screen there is a lot of space, but the edges on the side have remained very thin. The back has a nice matte sheen with a small Huawei logo and in the upper left corner the camera with flash. The P8 is with its thickness of 6.4 mm very slim and therefore it is all the more beautiful that the camera does not protrude at the back.
The sides are slightly rounded and have a shiny grind on the front and back. On the right side most of the action is going on. Here are the volume buttons, power button and the slots for SIM and microSD card. The top is the place for the headset jack. At the bottom there are two grids on either side of the USB port. Only behind the left one is a loudspeaker.
The P8 has a battery of 2,680 mAh and that seems on the tight side, but in practice it's not that bad. With a screen on time of about four hours, the P8 managed quite easily to last 1.5 days on one battery charge. We mainly use a number of news and social media apps and synchronization for two email accounts.
Huawei supplies one of the most comprehensive energy saving menus on its appliances from all manufacturers. To start with, you can carry out battery monitoring here. This scans the device for possible 'problems' and saving options. The problems detected are generally not very shocking and the proposed optimisation has a relatively large impact on the normal operation of the device resulting in limited power savings. Furthermore, it is possible to set the power plan. This regulates the CPU and network usage to match performance and power consumption. We chose the smart setting.
The power saving settings can be adjusted even more. For example, the 'power-intensive prompt' can be switched off here. If you don't do this, the device will give a notification every once in a while if an energy-intensive app is detected. This energy consumption is normally not that bad and Android also takes care of shutting down apps if necessary.
In addition to the contact list, the phone application is also merged with the message application. The tab for the number dialler shows the log with a numeric keypad underneath with which the desired contact can be found via smart dial. Pocket mode and virtual HD call, among other things, can be enabled in the settings. Huawei used to score badly on call quality, but this time we had nothing to complain about reception and call quality.
The P8 has Link+ and a part of it is Signal+. This should, among other things, improve call quality by better reception of signals. We haven't really been able to test it because it is on by default and you can't change any settings. It is therefore rather confusing that after using the device you get a message about this which makes you think that something still needs to be activated.
The P8's screen measures 5.2 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels. The pixel density is therefore 424 PPI. It is not a spectacular screen but colors, white balance, details, contrast and viewing angle all look fine. In addition to brightness and sleep mode, the color temperature for the image can also be set. Unlocking the screen often required multiple attempts and this seems to come down to how quickly you drag your thumb across the screen.
The P8 features a technique called Huawei Touchplus. Turning it on activates touch areas above and below the screen. You can then make the on-screen navigation buttons disappear to operate the device from the space below the screen.
Certain actions can also be assigned to the top left and right corners. You will need a special Touchplus screen protector to activate this function. However, this does not appear anywhere in the menu and can therefore seem rather confusing.
You have manufacturers putting their own shell over Android to customize the interface and you have Huawei. From the beginning, the Android interface is completely rebuilt by the Chinese manufacturer. Huawei calls this EMUI and means among other things that there is no application menu but that all apps are on a home screen. In order to have enough space for this, you can enable a maximum of nine start screens. Moreover, the number of beautiful and/or useful widgets is rather limited. In addition, all icons have the same shape and size. To maintain this, icons from other developers are also pressed into this fit. This does not always yield the best results. For the home screens, grid size, screen rotation, alignment and notification badges for app icons can be set.
The notification window hidden behind the status bar has also been taken care of. Notifications are nicely arranged on a kind of timeline and can still be swiped out of view. If there are no notifications, when dragging down the status bar, the tab with shortcut keys for settings immediately appears. It is not immediately clear but it can be scrolled through to make more shortcuts visible.
The settings menu has been expanded with a smart assistance section. Compared to standard Android, the on-screen control buttons are closer together. This takes some getting used to in the beginning and sometimes causes you to press just wrong. The order of the buttons can be changed and it is possible to add a button for the notification panel.
Huawei uses themes, so you can easily change the look and feel of the interface dramatically. We found the standard theme rather gloomy and unclear, but that was quickly solved with another set of icons.
Because of the far-reaching changes, it is actually not visible that the P8 runs on Android, let alone on which version. Especially because there are no design elements of Android Lollipop anywhere. Although Huawei's apps look neat and work properly, we find it a bit of a pity.
Moreover, it seems that Huawei is going so far in monitoring and controlling how you use your device that its own hardware chokes in and slows down the interface a bit. Unfortunately there are also some sloppiness and ambiguities in the translations into Dutch. This is especially the case in explanations of setting options. It is not a nuisance, but it does somewhat detract from the appearance.
The contacts list shows groups at the top like your favorite contacts. Furthermore, the phonebook works like we are used to from Android. It is basically automatically filled with the contacts from accounts you set up on your device. Then it's handy to only show contacts with phone numbers and to merge duplicate contacts. There are also a number of other display and sorting options.
The messaging app is not spectacular in terms of functionality but does sort your messages with a nice timeline interface. This is not the case in the email application, but this app is also neat and tidy. Refreshing is easy by dragging the top of the message list downwards. When adding an account you can only choose between Exchange and others. In many cases this doesn't make the setup any easier. Even with our Outlook account the P8 needed multiple attempts to do it automatically. The Gmail app can also be used with other accounts and that makes the setup a lot easier.
For entering text, the P8 is equipped with the Swype keyboard. This has been a favourite of ours for quite some time now, although we have exchanged it for the standard Android 5.0 keyboard. That does not alter the fact that Swype still works very well. Entering text by dragging and dropping from letter to letter is very easy and the appearance and behavior of the keyboard can be easily adjusted. It is possible to enable two input languages at the same time, but also switching between languages is easy by holding down the space bar.
The P8 has no problems connecting via WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G and NFC. Besides Signal+, the P8 also has WiFi+. This evaluates your WiFi connection to cleverly switch between WiFi and mobile networks. It also enables WiFi when you approach a known location. As far as we are concerned, this is a pleasant function that also works reasonably well. However, sometimes the device switched from WiFi to mobile data for reasons that are unclear.
For surfing the internet, the P8 has another browser besides the obvious Chrome. This is nicely arranged with clear control buttons but works purely as a stand-alone mobile browser. It is therefore not possible to synchronize with your desktop as Chrome does.
The P8's 13 megapixel camera doesn't seem very special, but the sensor can detect four different colors instead of the usual three. Because it can perceive white as well, colors should stand out better. In order to use the full 13 megapixel, the aspect ratio must first be adjusted from 16:9 to 4:3.
On the camera screen, buttons are visible to adjust the flash, change the camera and a menu button to choose from shooting modes for panorama, supernight, HDR, focus, best picture, watermark or audio annotation. For all of them it is not possible to turn them on permanently. From this menu you can also access the other settings, which do not rotate automatically when you keep the camera horizontal.
The detail view and focus are clear strengths of this camera. Despite the special sensor, the color reproduction in artificial light is not always successful. It can appear gray or pale. Pictures taken indoors can be quite dark and have a lot of contrast. This can be overcome via the HDR mode, but this works a bit cumbersome.
In addition to the regular photo and video mode, images can also be recorded with light painting, beautiful making and time lapse. The first is meant to capture traces of light, running water or stars with a long shutter speed. Beautiful shooting is the normal camera but retouches faces automatically. The latter is a crooked translation of time-lapse. For the first and last, the camera has to be held very still and a tripod is actually required.
The standard programs present on the P8 have already been arranged somewhat by Huawei. Icons for gallery, music, videos, phone management, notepad, themes, calendar, clock, files, director mode, Google, voice search, WPS Office, phone management and health are just on a home screen.
Weather, calculator, recorder, FM radio, mirror, magnifying glass, backup, updater, downloads, SIM tool kit, flashlight, screen lock, magic tag are in the tools folder. Chrome, Gmail, Google+, Play music/films/books/kiosk/games, Google Drive, YouTube, Photos, Hangouts are obviously in the Google folder.
Apart from director mode, there aren't really any striking applications here, but at the same time Huawei doesn't push you very hard either. With director mode, you can make a video directly during filming by switching between the video footage of you and up to three other devices. Images from non-Huawei devices can also be used.
With the P8 Huawei delivers a very neat appliance. The first of the Chinese manufacturer where we have no complaints about the hardware. In fact, the hardware is well taken care of across the board. There is a good balance found between the specifications of the monitor, consumption of the processor and the capacity of the battery. The camera sensor is not sensationally large but has a good detail display. All this is also packaged in a nice and well cared for jacket with neat dimensions. A good mix of style and functionality.
Unfortunately, this does not apply to the interface. It may be a charge to dismiss the software as a whole, but we really have the feeling that Huawei is making things unnecessarily difficult for itself with the EMUI interface. We can't deny that the construction of the interface can be an advantage for some, but with all the bells and whistles that Huawei builds in, they go a bit crazy. The hardware sometimes seems to have trouble with it and the many setting and selection options are more confusing than user-friendly.