Huawei's new P8 is the company's best phone to date, but don't confuse it with a bleeding-edge mobile like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. It doesn't have the S6 Edge's curved glass screen and it's not quite as powerful, but it does carry a far more affordable price tag without forcing you to compromise on performance.
Replacing the Android Lollipop phone squashes a 5.2-inch full HD display into an attractive one-piece metal body and includes an 8-megapixel front-facing camera and a 13-megapixel camera on the back., and sitting at the top of Huawei's range of smartphones, this
The starting price for the P8 is €499, which equates to $530 or £360. The P8 Max starts at €549, which is roughly $585 or £395. That makes both devices significantly cheaper than the £760 starting price of the 64GB S6 Edge.
The P8 and P8 Max are due to go on sale in the UK and other countries in Europe and Asia later this month, but so far there are no plans to bring them to the US. Huawei did say that a "variant" that "borrows heavily from the P8" will launch in the US in the next month, but further details of that phone, including its name, are not yet known. At the London launch event last week, Huawei also announced a larger version of the handset called the P8 Max. Almost the same as the P8, it delivers a more spacious screen and battery.
Design and storage
The P8's all-metal body wraps around the edges of the phone to meet the screen. This one-piece unibody design helps make the P8 feel quite solid and secure to hold. It certainly feels nicer than the previous P6, which has a body made from multiple parts, resulting in it feeling cheaper and less premium to hold.
It has a fairly attractive design -- the metal edges are a little reminiscent of Sony's Xperia Z3, although Sony's phone has a more attractive and more premium-looking glass back panel. Next to the curving sides of the S6 Edge, it's nowhere near as beautiful, but it does cost half as much, which is a fair trade-off. The edges of the metal have been milled down, which helps it be a touch more attractive too. Both the P6 and P7 before it had rounded bottoms, which I was never keen on -- thankfully, that's a design trait the P8 lacks. The phone will come in three colours: black, silver and gold.
With a 5.2-inch display, the phone is quite large, but a narrow bezel around the screen helps keep the body from ballooning out too much. It's comfortable to hold and unlock with one hand, but I definitely needed two thumbs to type properly.
The P8 maintains the slim design of its predecessors, although at 6.4mm thick, it's not quite as narrow as the 6.18mm P6. The solid metal design does make it feel less fragile than the P6 though and less like it could snap in half the first time you sit on it. The P8 Max looks just like its brother, but goes bigger with a 6.8-inch screen.
The headphone jack sits on the top of the phone, while the Micro-USB port is on the bottom, between two sets of drilled speaker holes. The speakers are reasonably loud for a phone -- you won't struggle to hear your podcast in the kitchen while cooking, but you'll want to use an awesome set of headphones like the Klipsch X11is if you want to feel properly immersed in a movie. The back isn't removable, so the micro-SIM slots (yes, two of them) sit on the right edge of the phone.
One of the SIM slots also doubles up as the microSD card slot -- although oddly, you can't use a second SIM and a microSD card at the same time. The standard model comes with 16GB of storage, but a 64GB model will also be available. It supports microSD cards up to 128GB in size, so if you want to keep loads of videos and pictures stored locally, load them on a capacious card.
The display has a full HD (1,920x1,080-pixel) resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 424 pixels per inch, which is a way below the's whopping 577ppi. The fact remains, however, that super-high-resolution panels on phones aren't really necessary -- it's very difficult to discern the extra pixels when you go above full HD, and only really result in draining the battery faster.
A full HD panel like the P8's is more than sufficient to display text and icons with excellent clarity. It's vivid too, with bold colours -- although not quite bold enough to look unnatural -- and it's reasonably bright. Indoors under office lights, it's very easy to read although it did struggle slightly under the unusually sunny London sky.
It's a great screen for multimedia, as well, displaying photos and videos with enough vibrancy to help you feel more immersed. If movies on the move are important, the P8's screen makes it a worthy option.
Software and processor
The P8 arrives with the latestsoftware on board, over which Huawei has applied its usual Emotion UI interface. Emotion UI changes everything from the colour scheme and fonts to the app icons. It even goes so far as to get rid of the app tray, meaning all your installed apps are scattered across multiple home screens. I'm not a fan of this, as it's easy for the interface to become cluttered once you've downloaded your favourite apps and slapped a bunch of widgets down, too. The iPhone also doesn't employ an app tray, so clearly it's not a problem for everyone.
Although it has the latest version of Huawei's skin, there are no new interface tweaks or software additions to speak of. If you've spent any time with Huawei's recent, then there will be absolutely no surprises here. It has had some network optimisation tweaks behind the scenes, which Huawei reckons helps the phone connect to a network faster when it boots up, although this isn't something I could particularly notice in my time with the phone.
You'll find the same array of customisation options as on other Huawei phones -- including a range of preset themes, and a Simple Mode, for those who just want the absolute basics put right at the front.
It's powered by a 64-bit Kirin 930 octa-core processor, clocked at 1.5GHz with 3GB of RAM. That's a hearty engine, even by top-end phone standards, so it wasn't a surprise that the P8 is a very capable piece of kit. Swiping around the Android interface was smooth and free of the annoying lag that hints at a struggling processor.
It achieved 13,579 on the Quadrant benchmark test, which is a significant step down from the 36,000 achieved by the Galaxy S6 and below too the 23,700 achieved by last year's Galaxy S5. The P8 easily handled playing demanding games like Implosion: Never Lose Hope, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, while photo editing in Snapseed was a breeze.