Review by Sunetra Chakravati,9/10/2015 6:54:01 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Force touch | fingerprint sensor | waterproof | ‘Knuckle Sense 2.0
No app drawer | Emotion UI | Force Touch not available on all models
- By Sunetra Chakravarti
Huawei managed to pip Apple to the post by announcing 'Force touch' technology on its Mate S handset at a stunning event in Berlin. Thought to be the next game changer in mobile technology, the Chinese manufacturer had done what it had hoped to do for a long time... to be one of the key players in the game. But does the Mate S hold up to scruitiny? Read on to find out!
If the HTC One M9 and the iPhone 6 and the Note 4 were blitzed together, what would you get? The Huawei Mate S. Beautifull milled metal back in a shimmery shade of bubby champagne immediately draws oohs and aahs. The last time I was this impressed with the look of a phone was, you guessed it, the HTC One M9.
Surprisingly light for its phablet size, the smooth back is interrupted only by the square crystal camera lens and the rectangular fingerprint scanner directly below it. The edges of the phone are metal, but this time in a shiny finish. The speaker grills are on either side of the microUSB charging dock and on the left side of the phone, there is the power key and volume rocker.
Available in a choice of four metallic colours, Huawei Mate S is water-resistant, although without a IP rating.
The display on the 5.5-inch screen is Full HD AMOLED. The Gorilla Glass 4 slopes off at the edges and curves out, giving the screen the kind of convex shape that you would see in drops of water on a flat surface. In terms of numbers, this translates to7.2mm thickness tapering to just 2.65mm at the edges. All the moves, all the music videos and all the Skype calls were full of detail and clarity.
You can adjust how warm/neutral you want your media to be under ‘display settings’ even though the default ones are more than accurate.
Android skins need to die a quick death, right about now. If the Mate S rocked pure Android, I would have given it a 5-star rating. Emotion UI adds bloat and not much else to the going-ons. It gets rid of the app tray which I find quite baffling. Exactly like how it is on iOS, all your apps are on the home screen as soon as you unlock the phone.
As you would expect, you are able to use more than one app at the same time but this applies to a couple of apps only. A great new tool is 'protected apps' where you can choose which apps can run when the screen is off- great for saving battery and data as well as networked apps which helps you choose which apps can use Mobile Data and which ones you want to restrict to Wifi only. Perfect when you stream on Netflix and your Wifi and 4G hand and take over from one another constantly.
As with the Honor 7, you get another app called 'Knuckle Sense 2.0', as we have discussed in detail in our Honor 7 review, this handy little feature lets you wake up your phone and take you directly to an app by drawing on the screen. So draw 'C' for camera and the camera will come on automatically, etc.
Huawei have gone for their own processor on the Mate S. A HiSilicon Kirin 935 processor with 8 ARM Cortex A53 cores, four at 2.2GHz and four at 1.5GHz power this phablet. It is a Cat 6 LTE phone and the internals are very similar to the P8. The phone will take either one 4G and one 2G SIM-card or one SIM-card and a microSd card which expands memory upto 128GB.
Bluetooth, NFC and fast charge are obviously included.
The fingerprint sensor at the back doubles up as a mini touchpad so you can scroll through websites, take phone calls and also selfies with a tap
Antutu benchmark scores were around the 51k mark and even though the Samsung S6 is known for its 60,000 + scores, performance was lag free and smooth.
For all its shouting from the rooftops about 'Force Touch', I will not be able to tell you how good or bad it is because my 32GB model simply didnt have it! Force Touch is reserved for the super-premium 128GB model of the phone, the release date for which is as yet not known.
Aesthetics have obviously taken precedence when designing the Mate S and consequently the battery is a chiselled down job and packs just 2700mAH. This seems a lot when you conside that the iPhone 6 has just 1810mAH but the issue with the Mate S is that the 5.5" Full HD screen guzzled juice. It does have a power saving mode, but I hardly ever used it and I didnt get more than a day's worth off this phone for the past week and half that I have used it.
At full volume, the sound is tinny but does well at under 70 percent and through headphones it was as clear as could be expected.
Huawei's previous flagship device, the P8 had recieved rave reviews for its camera. During the P8 launch they had showcased some camera features that are bespoke to Huawei like 'light painting' and these features have been transferred en-mass over to the Mate S. Writing with a sparkler in the air, city lights or night shots are best captured through this mode as it creates long exposures to make you very proud of your photograpy skills.
There is a new feature called Document Readjustment which helps you centre any shot you have taken of either a document, a presentation or even the Monalisa and centre it enough for it so seem like you were stood in front of it. Pretty neat!
The 13-MP camera is indeed excellent and takes pictures with a RGBW sensor which helps give it that extra prowess in low-light conditions. A dual-tone LED flash takes care of those clubbing pictures and Optical Image Stabiliser further helps capture the perfect shot. The camera also comes with a pro-mode where you can adjust ISO, metering and shutter speed and the rather spectacular 8-MP front facing camera, like the Honor 7 takes some reference pictures of you and the level of air brushing you like and ensures you always come away dewy skinned and doe-eyed in all pictures- like a manga comic heroine.
Huawei have taken their entire might which comes from being the world's third largest smartphone manufacturer and put it behind the Mate S. And by doing so, they are taking on Samsung and Apple at their own game with one of the best looking phones in the market.
And it isnt just looks where the Mate S locks horns with the best flagships, it packs enough power to make them take notice. Huawei beat Apple on the announcement of Force Touch and managed to better Samsung with their flagship which is water resistant, sports expandable memory and has enough features on its camera to sink a battle ship.
The price tag for the luxury of having 'Force Touch' is eye-watering, but then some manufacturers are already charging that for producing curved edges. I cannot fault the Mate S on anything other than its UI and hopefully Huawei will take a cue from Samsung and trim it down.
Huawei have finally produced a winner.
Price From £625
Size 149.8 x 75.3 x 7.2mm
Display 5.5", AMOLED, ONCELL, FHD
Processor Hisilicon Kirin 935 (64-bit)
Camera 13MP, 8MP
Battery 2,700 mAh
Operating System Android 5.1 Lollipop + EMUI 3.1
Resolution 1920 x 1080p