Huawei has been doing quite well with its Honor line-up, which is only available for sale online. The Ascend line-up looks pale in comparison as the phones are typically more expensive. However, it seems that Huawei is not going to change that. This year, Huawei is making the flagship phone more premium than ever instead of dropping the price to meet the fierce competition. Meet Huawei P8 and the larger P8max, the 2015 flagship phones from Huawei.
The Huawei P8 has a metal unibody design instead of using glasses like its predecessor. With a 6.4mm thick chassis with the edges all slightly rounded, it looks really handsome and elegant. While it is not the thinnest, it is thinner than the iPhone 6 (6.9mm) which is already slim enough for most people. Furthermore, the camera does not protrudes on the back. The power button placed below the volume rocker on the right hand side of the phone has a new, flashy design.
While the older Ascend P7 looks more appealing to women’s eye (especially the pink model), the P8 has a design that is more favourable for men, at least in my opinion. I do prefer the P8’s design over its predecessor and I feel that it looks more premium but I am not sure if everyone would agree. It comes in grey and champagne for the standard version, and black and gold for the premium version (more on that later).
Huawei has opted a 5.2″ 1080p display for the flagship instead of a Quad HD display commonly used by the other flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy S6. The pixel density of 424 pixels per inch found on the screen is actually high enough for me. In fact, with the moderate 2,680 mAh battery on board, Quad HD display seems to be a disaster for battery life. The display has very minimum side bezels around it, making the phone physically smaller and it looks sleeker.
Huawei P8 is powered by Huawei’s home-brew octa-core Kirin 930 CPU which is 64-bit ready and clocked at 2GHz. The performance should be average but we are not sure of how well it would perform as compared to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 or Samsung’s Exynos 7420, which both are the market leaders. The previous Kirin CPU is slower than the competitors, although it is not far behind. We shall see if Huawei manages to turn the table around this time.
In terms of memory, there are 3GB of RAM and 16GB of ROM on board. There is a micro SD card slot on the P8, but it doubles as one of the SIM slots. So if you are going to use two SIM cards, you better opt for the Premium version of P8 with comes with 64GB of storage where the rest of the specifications are the same. While the battery capacity is a little small by today’s standard, Huawei promises at least 1.5 days of normal use or 1 day of heavy use. It is impossible to tell if the claim is true right now but I really do not mind if Huawei could make the battery larger even if the thickness has to be increased.
In terms of connectivity, Huawei P8 supports Dual SIM Dual Standby (at the expanse of microSD expansion as mentioned), 4G connection for both SIMs, NFC, GPS, Bluetooth 4.1 and WiFi b/g/n. Huawei claims that the metallic body and its own antenna design will improve the connection efficiency and reduce dropped calls. This is important for a phone, in case you still remember you can make phone calls on it rather than playing games and snapping pictures all the time.
Speaking of taking pictures, the camera is the major selling point of the P8. For the rear camera, Huawei has chosen a 13MP Sony sensor mated with optical image stabilization (OIS), f/2.0 aperture and a dual-toned LED flash. The megapixel count might sounds a little low as compared to the other flagships and the other features are quite standard, it does not tell the whole truth. Huawei claims that P8’s camera has the world first RGBW sensor and it has a DSLR-standard image processor to improve the picture quality.
Learn more about RGBW sensor
We know that all colours we have are made up of different levels of red, green and blue. Typically the camera sensor we have are RGB sensor where each pixels have a red subpixel, a blue subpixel and a green subpixel. When we take a picture, each subpixel will detect how much light with the particular colour is absorbed. The blue subpixel will only detect how much blue light is captured and it is not sensitive to the green and red light. By summing up the result from all three subpixels, we can determine the colour of the pixel. When all pixels have calculated their colours and the colours are rearrange according to the pixels arrangement on the sensor, we will have an image in return.
For a RGBW sensor, there is an extra “white” pixel. Technically, it is a little inaccurate to say it is a white subpixel as it is capturing how “white” the image is. We know that white light is made up of all colours. So the “white” subpixel is actually a panchromatic pixel and it means that it is sensitive to all colours of light. So what the “white” pixel is recording is how much of light detected. The benefit of this is that the each pixels will be able to capture more light and thus the sensitivity of the camera sensor will improve. Do take in mind that there is no guarantee that the improvement will be drastic enough to see the difference over here.
The drawback of this is that the fourth “white” subpixel will take up some space and it will reduce the density of total pixels on the same size of sensor. This is probably why the RGBW sensor on Huawei P8 has only 13megapixels only. Nevertheless the resolution is still high enough for most people.
To make the camera experience better, Huawei has introduced a few software tricks. For the first time, you can do light painting on a smartphone and the light painting mode even has a preview of the result, making it less challenging to perform light painting. There is a Director mode where you can control 3 other Android phones while capturing video to create a video with multiple perception. While this sounds cool, I doubt that it would be useful for most people.
There is an 8MP, f/2.4 front facing camera with software beautification. The Ascend P7 has one of the best selfie cameras last year and the P8 will be great for selfie lovers if Huawei manages to improve on that. With the new sensor, OIS and better signal processing, Huawei thinks that the picture captured will be comparable to photos taken by a DSLR. It is too early to tell if they are over-promising.
The Huawei P8 is running EMUI 3.1 on top of the Android 5.0 Lollipop. Some new software tricks are being introduced. You can double tap your knuckle on the screen to take a screenshot or you can draw a circle to capture part of the screen. The P8 will also respond to you if you call out to it in case you misplaced it.
Huawei P8 has a big brother that is lauched along it. The Huawei P8max, like its name suggest, is a bigger version of P8. When Huawei talks about big, it is really big. The P8max has a gargantuan 6.8″ display. That is really, really big and its size is already comparable to smaller tablets. To make it managable, Huawei made the bezels even thinner. The enormous display is still a 1080p screen so the pixel density has been brought down to 324 ppi, which is not really that bad.
Under the huge screen houses a larger battery. The 4,360mAh battery will give you 2.2 days of normal use or 1.4 days of heavy use, according to Huawei. One thing that raise my concern is that Huawei did not mention any fast charging technology being equipped on the P8max. I really wonder how long would it take to charge the phone from zero to 100%.
While most of the specs remained the same, there are other smaller differences too. The front facing camera is only a 5MP shooter. The standard version of P8max has 32GB of storage instead of 16GB. The P8max does not come in black too. The metal chassis is 6.8mm thick, making it 0.4mm thicker than the smaller P8. However, the difference is really negligible and Huawei P8max is the thinnest big phone ever made.
For the smaller Huawei P8, the 16GB “standard” version comes with a price of €499 (around RM1945) while the 64GB “premium” version costs €599 (around RM2335). The much bigger Huawei P8max also has two versions and they are cost more than their smaller brothers. The 32GB “standard” version has a price tag of €549 (around RM2137) and the 64GB “premium” version will cost €649 (around RM2526). The good news is that they will be available soon in Malaysia.
Unlike the smartphones sold under the Honor subbrand, the devices sold under Huawei’s name are not cheap at all. The new P8 and P8max are a little more affordable than the other major players like Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9 while having the same premium look. It is great for Huawei to be ambitious. However, with no significant advantages in terms of features over these big names, I doubt that the users will choose Huawei’s phones as users tend to favour bigger brands even though it means that they have to pay a little more.. I certainly do not think that the P8 and P8 max are inferior by comparison, but Huawei might have to be more aggressive in terms of price or features to win the fierce battle.
First of all, the 6.8″ Huawei P8max is really too big for me and I believe that most people will have the same thought. By having that size, the P8max is destined to be a niche product. For the Huawei P8, it is more appealing for most people. However, I would suggest you to wait for a review before buying it. The performance of Kirin 930 processor, battery life and the camera seems to be great on paper. But I would wait and see if they can live up to what Huawei promises. If it can fulfil its potential, the Huawei P8 will be a solid choice.