The Huawei Mate S is one of the newest phones from the Chinese brand Huawei. While this company may not be quite the household name of Samsung, it is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world, and the manufacturer of the superb Nexus 6P we reviewed recently.

Priced at around £399.99 with a 5.5-inch screen the immediate question is whether this is as good as its slightly larger cousin the 6P and can the custom EMUI software compete with the pure android experience, or even other similarly priced phones from LG and Samsung.

Specification

Operating System Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, EMUI 3.1
Display 5.5-inch AMOLED ONCELL display, 1920 x 1080
Processor Hisilicon Kirin 935, Octa Core: Quad 2.2GHz + Quad 1.5GHz
Storage 32GB/64GB or 128GB (MicroSD upgradable)
RAM 3GB
Rear Camera 13MP with AF, BSI, F2.0, OIS, Dual color-temp LED flashes
Front Camera 8MP, FF, BSI, F2.4, LED soft light
Sensors Accelerometer, Compass, Gyroscope, ALS, Proximate, HALL
GPS Compatible with GPS/ Beidou/ GLONASS/AGPS
Additional NFC, FM
Battery 2700mAh (Typ.) 2620mAh (min.) Lithium Polymer
Dimensions 149.8 x 75.3 x 7.2mm
Weight 156g
Colors Mystic Champagne, Titanium Grey, others vary by region

Design

The Mate S has a full metal body design and 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The rear of the phone is slightly curved which apparently has allowed them to keep the profile of the phone to just 7.2mm. Overall the look and feel of the phone is excellent, and the slightly smaller screen makes it a little more manageable for smaller hands compared to the Nexus 6P (149.8 x 75.3 x 7.2 mm VS 159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm).

Similar to the 6P, the Mate S has its fingerprint reader on the rear of the phone. While there is a microphone at the top, and microUSB at the bottom.

Overall it is a great looking phone. I would say nicer than the 6P and probably just as nice as the Galaxy S6. The packaging of the phone is also fantastic, granted this might not be important but it is the little things that count.

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Display

The Mate S has a 5.5-inch AMOLED display running at 1080p. This is obviously a lower resolution than many of the high end phones recently including the S6 and 6P. Though the quality of the screen is great and I wasn’t too concerned at the lower resolution., in general everything is crisp, detailed and bright, with decent contrast and dark blacks.

Huawei have also included a feature called Force Touch which operates in a similar manor to Apples 3D Touch. It lets the display detect how hard you press down and provides differing responses as a result. I have had some limited use with the iPhone version and my initial impressions are that Force Touch isn’t quite as impressive as 3D Touch. It also has relatively limited features at the moment, but this can change with developers adding features.

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Camera

The Mate S has a 13MP rear camera and 8MP front making pretty much identical as the Nexus 6P. It does have optical image stabilisation which the 6P doesn’t, but the 6P does have a larger sensor size.

The picture quality is generally excellent and the camera app helps with the whole experience as it is packed full of features. Admittedly I am no camera expert so I like to keep things simple myself. One thing I do find important is shutter speed and this is generally pretty quick. The camera does seem to suffer a little in low light conditions and this is where the larger image sensor on the Nexus 6P helps out.

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Software

The software on the Mate S is without a doubt going to be one of the most polarising aspects of it. Huawei use a heavily modified version of Android 5.1 Lollipop called Emotion UI. The immediately obvious difference is the lack of an app try, meaning all your applications live on your home screens – very much like iOS.

If you like the way iOS sets out its app then you will probably be happy with Emotion UI. It does have a slightly childish look to it, which I also find with iOS too.

Performance & Battery

The beefy Kirin 935 octa-core processor and 3GB of RAM mean that everything runs very smoothly. I would say that in runs better than the old Galaxy S6 I used, but not nearly as quick as the 6P I am currently using.

The Kirin 935 SOC is a slightly obscure SOC which is generally used by Huawei only as they own HiSilicon which produce the chip. On paper it is an excellent chip, but not quite as good as the Snapdragon 810 seen in the 6P and Sony S5 nor the Exynos 7420 seen in the Galaxy S6. In day to day use I doubt you will notice a big difference.

I was quite concerned about the 2,700mAh battery as it is significantly smaller than the 3450 mAh of the 6P. Thankfully my concerns were unwarranted, and the phone lasted quite well. This is probably because of the slightly smaller and lower resolution screen not draining the battery as much. It definitely performed better than the Galaxy S6 and I would say it was on par or slightly less than the 6P.

The Mate S is fast charge enabled so you can get a full charge within a couple of hours. It also used an old fashioned MicroUSB cable so this could be a bonus or disadvantage depending on how you look it.

Overall

The Huawei Mate S is a great phone, it looks fantastic, performs well and it is currently priced at £399.99 via Car Phone Warehouse making it £45 cheaper than the Nexus 6P. You can still get the Galaxy S6 for £347.97 via Amazon and then there is also the LG G4 at £315.00.

All 4 phones seem to be priced right in comparison to each other so I personally could recommend one over the other. One big selling point is that the Huawei Mate S has a MicroUSB slot, with the LG G4 being the only other phone with this option.

Overall if you are looking for a 5.5-inch phone and you can afford the £399.99 price tag then you won’t be disappointed with the Huawei Mate S.