Huawei Mate 8 review: A big phone that’s almost brilliant

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Can a 6in smartphone such as the Huawei Mate 8 ever be practical? That’s the first question that leapt into my mind when I pulled the Chinese smartphone manufacturer’s latest handset from its slim, black box. I didn’t think such large phones were practical when Google released the Nexus 6 a little more than a year ago; and now, after nearly a week of using the Mate 8 as my main handset, I still don’t think I’d want to own a phone this big.

That isn’t to criticise Huawei’s design engineers in any way. They’ve done a stunning job on the design of this phone, keeping the dimensions as small as possible. Given the screen size, I can’t imagine it being any smaller. But therein lies the rub. Whichever way you cut it, six inches is six inches, and until some clever clogs comes up with a shrink ray, it’s going to stay that way.

Huawei Mate 8 review: Design and features

Still, if you’re determined to own a phone with as large a screen as possible, the Mate 8 is one of nicest models I’ve come across. This is mainly due to the incredibly narrow bezels surrounding that enormous screen. To the left and right, there’s a distance of roughly 3mm from the edge of the phone until the screen begins. The phone’s “forehead” and “chin” measure 6mm and 9mm respectively. The front is mostly all screen – the way it should be, in other words.

To my mind, that’s an impressive feat of design engineering and, combined with the 7.9mm slenderness of the phone, makes the Mate 8 feel much smaller than it actually is.

It’s also a very handsome device, combining elements of the Mate S and the Nexus 6P. The body of the phone comes in silver and white or gunmetal-grey and black – and both versions look great. The edges are brushed and have chamfered corners to fool the eye into thinking they’re even thinner than they are, and the detailing, from the twin speaker grilles to the textured power button, is impeccably well done.

Even the subtle Huawei logo on the rear doesn’t detract from the overall look and feel of the device and, as I’ve come to expect from top-end Huawei handsets, it’s also replete with a goodly selection of features. There’s a circular fingerprint reader in the centre on the rear, just like on the Nexus 6P; the screen is topped with premium Gorilla Glass 4; and the SIM card tray has space for a microSD card (to expand on the Mate 8’s 32GB of internal storage) or a second SIM card, depending on your preference.

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