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Review: Huawei P8 and P8 Max mix all-metal body with octa-core chip at affordable price



Huawei has a new flagship smartphone to boast about and it's called the P8. Replacing the P7, this Android Lollipop phone squashes a 5.2-inch full HD display into a one-piece metal body and includes an 8-megapixel front-facing camera and a 13-megapixel camera on the back. The company 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.

Those specs aren't going to trouble the likes of the Galaxy S6 Edge, with its whoppingly high screen resolution and slick curving sides, but the P8 is set to cost a whole lot less.

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 later this month, but so far there are no plans to bring them to the US or Australia. 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.
Design and display

Huawei has opted for a full metal body that wraps around the edges of the phone to meet the screen. This one-piece unibody design helps to make it feel quite solid and secure to hold. It's not a bad-looking phone by any means -- the metal, angled edges are a little reminiscent of Sony's Xperia Z3, although Sony's phone has a more attractive glass back panel in my opinion. The phone will come in three colours: black, silver and gold.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
The headphone jack sits on the top of the phone, while the micro-USB port is found on the bottom, between two sets of drilled speaker holes. The back isn't removable, so the micro-SIM slots (yes, two of them) are found in the edges 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.

With a 5.2-inch display shoved inside the metal frame, the phone isn't exactly tiny, 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 you'll still need two thumbs to type properly. Like the previous P6 and P7, the P8 is very slim, although the metal design does make it feel less fragile than the glass used on its predecessors. The P8 Max looks just like its brother, but goes bigger with a 6.8-inch screen.
Andrew Hoyle/CNET
The display has a full HD (1,920x1,080-pixel) resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 424 pixels per inch. That's below the Galaxy S6's whopping 577ppi, but the P8 does come with a lower price. A full HD panel is more than sufficient to display text and icons with satisfying clarity, and I also found it to be extremely bright and vivid in my hands, although under the unusually sunny London sky, I did struggle to read it. I'll wait for the full review before giving my final verdict on the display, but so far I found little to complain about.

Software and processor

The P8 arrives with the latest Android Lollipop software 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 personally not a fan of this, although 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 major features to speak of in the software. If you've spent any time with Huawei's recent Ascend Mate 7 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.

You'll find the same array of customisation options as on other Huawei phones -- including a range of preset themes to choose from -- as well as 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, which on paper at least should be more than powerful enough to tackle any of the everyday activities you throw at it. In my hands-on time, swiping around the Android interface was smooth and free of annoying lag. How it stacks up against the supercharged Galaxy S6 and how well it copes with demanding gaming remain to be seen in the full review.
Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Camera and battery

The phone has two cameras: a 13-megapixel one on the back and a generous 8-megapixel stuck to the front for selfies -- both are made by Sony. Huawei boasts that the rear camera makes use of various sensors to analyse the light in order to take brighter shots in low-light conditions, with minimal image noise. Many phones boast about low-light prowess, but few seem to deliver, so I'll leave my verdict on the camera skills for when I've had a chance to put it through its paces.

The camera has a range of software additions, including slow shutter modes to capture light trails, silky smooth waves on a beach or even star trails in the night sky. Anything involving a slow shutter will almost certainly require you to stabilise the phone with a tripod, so probably aren't going to be anything you'd use everyday, but they're certainly interesting-sounding additions and I'm looking forward to giving them a test.

Providing the power is a 2,600mAh battery, which is a decent size. Indeed, Huawei claims you'll easily get a day of use from it, if not more. Again, that's something I'll have to put to the test, but as long as it can manage a full day of work and still have enough juice left to play music when I'm on my way home from the pub at night, I'll be happy. If you need more juice, the 4,360mAh battery on the Max P8 promises 15 hours of video playback time.

Outlook

With no significant upgrades in the display or software, the P8 is very much an evolution of its predecessors, rather than a complete overhaul. Still, its metal body feels good to hold and the promised upgrades to the camera do sound interesting. The real killer will of course be the price -- if Huawei significantly undercuts its rivals, as it's promised, then the P8 could be a solid buy.
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About Abula Gist

'Tunde Ojedokun is an Editor working for Lappyphone, he loves technology. You can't see him without a gadget. .

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