Huawei Mate S review: Precision styled

Georgi Vasilev, 18 November, 2015.

Introduction

The Huawei Mate S is somewhat of a weird fit in Huawei's current device lineup. It is not the eagerly anticipated successor to the Mate7 (that would be the soon to be announced Mate 8), nor is it part of the Honor family, or bothered with an Ascend moniker.

But the model's main struggle is not that it does not fit anywhere, quite the opposite, it seems to carry a little bit of all the aforementioned aspects, spliced in with years of Huawei expertise and even a dash of cutting-edge Force Touch innovation.

And while that may sound like too much of a mess to ever work, it truly does, making the Mate S an excellent all-round device, with little compromises, at least on the surface, that is.

Huawei Mate S review

Overall, the Mate S is definitely an attempt to shake things up and experiment with new ideas, hence the "S" moniker, but it lives up to its flagship legacy with an impressive specs sheet. It rocks the impressive custom HiSilicon Kirin 935 chip, also found inside the Honor 7 and P8max, along with a crisp 5.5-inch AMOLED display, 3GB of RAM and up to 128GB of onboard storage.

The aforementioned Force Touch display technology is also quite impressive and a first on the Android scene, but it has limited availability only on select markets with a 128GB unit. This might come as an unpleasant surprise to a lot of you (us included), but it all depends on how you look at things.

Confining the new feature to a select audience actually allows the Mate S to shine as a complete package and not be defined by Force Touch alone, as is often the case with early technology adopters. And the Mate S definitely has a lot to impress with.

Key features

  • Optional Dual Sim model available
  • 5.5" 1080p AMOLED (401 ppi) capacitive touchscreen
  • Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 935 chipset - quad-core 2.2GHz Cortex-A53 & quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53, Mali-T628 MP4 GPU; 3GB of RAM;
  • 13MP 4128 x 3096 pixels autofocus camera with OIS, dual-tone LED flash, 1080p video recording, some unique camera modes such as Light Painting, Star Track, etc.
  • 8MP front-facing camera, LED flash, 1080p video recording, selfie panorama mode
  • Android OS v5.1.1 Lollipop with Emotion UI 3.1
  • 32GB/64GB/128GB of built-in storage; microSD card slot, doubling as a secondary SIM slot on the Dual SIM model
  • Cat. 6 LTE (300Mbps); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0; GPS/GLONASS/BeiDou (BDS); FM radio; NFC; microUSB port with USB On-The-Go
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • 2,700 mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • No 4K video recording, no 60fps mode either
  • Non-removable battery
  • No quick charging or wireless charging support
  • No Lollipop Material design to be found

The Huawei Mate S is a true flagship, no doubt about it, but before we go too overboard with the praises, we can't fail to mention some of its off-putting aspects, like the price tag, which is comparable to that of most any other flagship contender currently out there. And yes, we do realize that that isn't something to criticize in itself, but combined with the particular Kirin chipset, it could prove to be a deal-breaking combination to some.

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Huawei Mate S official photos

Kirin chips have frequently failed to deliver high-end performance in the past, so that's one thing we'll certainly watch closely. Hopefully, this trend will be broken by the upcoming Kirin 950, which does show great promise, but until then, we need to be mindful of Huawei's performance in this respect, especially if it comes with a flagship-worthy pricetag. And even if the eight ARM cores prove efficient enough to run the phone smoothly, the Mali-T628 MP4 GPU has provided a hugely underwhelming experience in the past.

Let's not rush to judgment though. Follow along to see the Huawei Mate S from every angle before we proceed to benchmarking.