Tech Tools review: Huawei P8

Chinese phone-maker hits new heights with flagship smartphone

 

Huawei has been plugging away at the smartphone market, trying to persuade Android users – and maybe even the odd iPhone fan – that its phones are worth considering. And it’s come a long way in a very short time, from the mid-range Ascend G8 that it recently launched to last year’s flagship Ascend P6. Huawei is hoping that a combination of decent hardware and more budget-friendly prices will help entice phone fans.

It’s keeping up a good run with the P8. The newest flagship smartphone is pitching itself as a more premium option: sleek, slimline and made from better materials. Even the name has been slimmed down: the “ascend” moniker is absent. The P8 uses aluminium and glass instead of plastic, so it seems that Huawei is singing off the same hymn sheet as Samsung when it comes to design. It seems that everything about the P8 is “plus”: Signal+ technology for connecting calls; Wifi+ for better wireless performance; Roaming+ for quicker network pickup while out of the country. These things are all important. It comes with Android Lollipop preinstalled, and buying it sim-free won’t cost more than your mortgage payment. So is the P8 the next smartphone for you? In short: maybe.

The good

You can’t fault Huawei when it comes to reception on the P8. The company’s expertise is in network equipment after all. Huawei has doubled up on the antenna so you shouldn’t get dropped calls or calls failing to connect as often as with other handsets. We won’t say never, because never say never and all that. But it’s certainly not an ever-present threat.

The camera also stands up there with the better ones in smartphones. It’s got a dual tone flash for low light, but you may not need it. The P8 has an 8megapixel camera in the front and a 13megapixel rear-facing camera, so whether you are taking photos or video calling you’ll get decent quality. The rear camera also has optical image stabilising and that 13Mp sensor has an extra colour; instead of RGB it’s RGBW. It’s got a wide angle f2.0 lens which means it will let in lots of light. You can then review those potentially prize-winning images on the 5.2 inch display. The P8 doesn’t break the 500 pixel per inch mark but you won’t miss it. At 424 ppi, the images are pin sharp and vibrant. We couldn’t find fault with it. One last thing we loved: the P8 will allow you to set a voice command so you can ask your phone where it is, activating an audio signal that will lead you to the phone hidden down the sofa. It’s the equivalent of those keyrings that activated when you whistled except it won’t go off every time something on the TV hits the correct note.

The not so good

If you’re accustomed to Android and all the quirky little things that phone makers do to it to try to make their handsets stand out from the crowd maybe the Emotion user interface won’t bother you too much. But there are some things that the P8 is hampered with that just can’t go unmentioned. For example, you might currently have your favourite apps as shortcuts on your home screens, shuffling the rest into the app menu.

With the Emotion UI, however, there is no app menu. Every app installed is on those home screens. It makes life cluttered, to say the least.

That’s before you take into account the different widgets that Huawei has installed by default.

The rest

There’s always one thing with Huawei phones that sounds interesting but you’re not sure you’ll ever use. Last time around it was the groufie – the group selfie to prove you actually do have friends – and this time it may very well be the light-painting function. This allows you to take some admittedly cool shots but it probably won’t be a “must have” feature for most phone shoppers. Huawei has also introduced a new control: a knuckle tap. So you can activate the camera with a tap if you feel the need. Huawei has also kept the memory card slot; on the dual sim version that slot will also double as a second sim card port. That also means you can expand the memory with a micro SD card up to 128GB in size; invaluable if you’ve gone for the smaller 16GB version and still useful even for the 64GB version.

Verdict

HHHH Huawei has thought of everything you could want in a smartphone – and even some stuff you never thought you’d need. And it won’t break the bank. huawei.com