Huawei Mate S review: Precision styled

Precision styled

Georgi Vasilev, 18 November, 2015.

Benchmarks

The Huawei Mate S is powered by a home-brewed HiSilicon Kirin 935 chipset. It is equipped with a total of eight Coretex-A53 processors, four clocked at 2.2 GHz and another four at 1.5 GHz. On paper, this looks like quite an adequate setup by current standards and we can only expect the chip to perform up to par with similar offers from the like of Qualcomm and Huawei.

However, Huawei has quite an unfortunate track record of putting out underwhelming offers when it comes to its custom chip solutions. We have already seen the Kirin 935 perform inside the Honor 7, as well as its almost identical cousin - the Kirin 930 (slightly underclocked version) inside the Huawei P8 and they did struggle to compete with the crowd in most cases.

Actually, the standard ARM cores inside the chip perform quite as expected, but, the real problem with the custom Kirin 935 is that it features a far-less powerful GPU than those by the competitors. The Mali-T628 MP4 is hardly a powerhouse and we have already seen it hurt graphics performance in all of the aforementioned handsets. The Huawei Mate S finds itself in exactly the same boat.

Huawei Mate S review

Huawei might have persisted throughout the years with its custom Kirin chipset architecture, but without supplying to other parties, one OEM can hardly offer enough of a basis for performance comparison and implementation evaluation. We've had at least a few Huawei devices come through the office and yet, our database has info on only one other handset with the Kirin 935 chipset - the Honor 7. Naturally, we included it in our benchmark comparisons, but we also threw in a few other Huawei models, to see how Kirin has been developing over time. These include the Huawei Ascend Mate 7, with a Kirin 925 and also the Huawei P8, with its almost identical Kirin 930. We also included the P8lite with its mid-range Snapdragon 615 chip, to see where it fits in.

As far as the other chosen competitors, the Huawei P8 happens to sit in a pretty premium price range. With an asking price of about 600, the phone can currently brush elbows with a lot of other flagship offers, some of them with record-breaking sales, like the Samsung Galaxy S6. And don't get us wrong. We can definitely justify the price, as the Huawei Mate S is a textbook example of a premium device through and through. Still, performance-wise, the Mate S enters into a tough crowd, but, we'll let the benchmarks do the talking.

First up, we have the raw CPU performance test with GeekBench 3, which should be straight-forward enough. The eight-core Cortex-A53 setup of the Mate S definitely holds its own, but is still understandably blown away by current flagships like the Galaxy S6 and Z5 Compact. In fact, that is a natural trend all throughout the list of benchmarks that was all but expected. Another reoccurring and quite positive trend is the gradual performance increase across the Kirin range, so Huawei is definitely improving things throughout the years.

And last, but not least, it is important to note that the Kirin 935 inside the Mate S also consistently outperforms the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615, or at least the one inside the Huawei P8. The latter signature mid-range chip has become really popular lately and has had little trouble powering exquisite android experiences and implementations, courtesy of almost every major OEM. The point being, that even though the Kirin 935 is no benchmark-breaker and fails to challenge most current flagships, it still offers more than enough power to handle most every task you can expect from your handset.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    5215
  • OnePlus 2
    4429
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    3796
  • HTC One M9
    3761
  • LG G4 (final)
    3522
  • Huawei Mate S
    3475
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    3394
  • Huawei P8
    3380
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    3165
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (S615)
    2880
  • Huawei P8lite
    2813
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    2608

AnTuTu is a compound benchmark, which also takes into account RAM and GPU performance. Here we see pretty much the same arrangement. The Mate S has been bumped down a couple of places due to its poor GPU performance, put the above observations about the evolution of Kirin and more importantly, the Snapdragon 615 comparison, still stand true and are only reaffirmed further.

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    69396
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    61481
  • HTC One M9
    51427
  • Huawei P8
    50876
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    49273
  • LG G4 (final)
    48693
  • OnePlus 2
    47207
  • Huawei Mate S
    44393
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    41510
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    37020
  • Huawei P8lite
    35205
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (S615)
    31436

Moving on to Basemark OS II, which is a truly all-round benchmark. The octa-core setup of the Kirin 935 really does offer a lot of number-crunching power, as is clearly evident by the multi-core score. The phone also did surprisingly good in the overall chart, but did exhibit some issues during the single core tests, which seemed to have dragged the score down a bit, along with the poor GPU performance.

From the looks of it, the new Android 5.1.1 EMUI 3.1 has some compatibility issues with Basemark OS II (or perhaps it is the other way around) as the app kept on freezing for a few seconds at a particular point in the test.

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 2
    1942
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    1769
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    1696
  • HTC One M9
    1526
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    1332
  • Huawei P8
    1056
  • Huawei Mate S
    981
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    830
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (S615)
    786
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    764
  • Huawei P8lite
    600

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    3497
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    3085
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    2574
  • HTC One M9
    2401
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    2334
  • Huawei P8
    2111
  • OnePlus 2
    2047
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    1643
  • Huawei Mate S
    1605
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (S615)
    1572
  • Huawei P8lite
    1443

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    16986
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    15012
  • Huawei P8
    14046
  • Huawei Mate S
    12085
  • Huawei P8lite
    11873
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    10950
  • OnePlus 2
    10799
  • HTC One M9
    10128
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    9994
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (S615)
    9284
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    9198

On to pure graphics test, where the Mate S's least favorable hardware trait becomes painfully obvious. It barely churns out enough frames to be on the chart. GPU performance is probably the biggest weak spot of the Mate S. Just like many other otherwise excellent Huawei handsets before it, it is also plagued by the OEM's persistence in bundling chipsets with underwhelming graphics solutions. The Mali-T628 MP4 has sadly proven a popular choice with Huawei. It is found inside the P8, P8max, Honor 6, Honor 6 Plus, Honor 7 and now, the Mate S. Again, it is important to note that the poor GPU choice doesn't affect the smoothness of the GUI, making it less of a concern for many users. But it does make the Mate S a poor choice for Android gaming buffs. You can expect serious frame drops even under light strains.

We still can't quite justify why HiSilicon chose to bundle the Kirin 935 with a Mali-T628 MP4 and not at very least the better-performing Mali-T628, found inside the Kirin 925.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    59
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    56
  • HTC One M9
    49
  • OnePlus 2
    48
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    40
  • LG G4 (final)
    34
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    16.4
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    15
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (S615)
    15
  • Huawei Mate S
    10
  • Huawei P8lite
    10
  • Huawei P8
    10

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    57
  • HTC One M9
    50
  • OnePlus 2
    46.7
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    38
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    26
  • LG G4 (final)
    25
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    17.4
  • Huawei P8lite
    16
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    15
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (S615)
    15
  • Huawei Mate S
    11
  • Huawei P8
    10.7

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    25
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    24
  • HTC One M9
    23
  • OnePlus 2
    22
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    18
  • LG G4 (final)
    15
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    8
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    5.8
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (S615)
    5.8
  • Huawei Mate S
    5.4
  • Huawei P8
    5.4

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    39
  • HTC One M9
    24
  • OnePlus 2
    22
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    14
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    11
  • LG G4 (final)
    9.4
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    8.5
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    6.1
  • Huawei Mate S
    5.8
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (S615)
    5.8
  • Huawei P8
    5.7

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    18
  • OnePlus 2
    16
  • LG G4 (final)
    9.9
  • Huawei P8
    3.4
  • Huawei Mate S
    3

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    38
  • OnePlus 2
    16
  • LG G4 (final)
    5.6
  • Huawei P8
    4.3
  • Huawei Mate S
    3.4

EMUI is definitely one of the better custom Android-based platforms out there with a lot of bells and whistles, nice aesthetics and powerful customization options. However, there are still a few things to be desired from the latest version of Huawei's OS, especially in terms of optimization.

Back when the first Android Lollipop EMUI was released, we noticed quite a few instances of poor software optimization. Now, despite the move to Android 5.1.1, most of them appear to be still in place. The aforementioned Basemark issues is a prime example and so is the underwhelming performance of the built-in browser.

Luckily, Huawei does preinstall Chrome on its handsets as well. It offers clear-cut performance and stability advantages over the default browser, making it the logical choice for end-users. However, our testing procedure requires us to put the default browser through the hoops and it is kind of an underachiever. Take a look for yourself and definitely steer clear.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4154
  • LG G4 (final)
    4639
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    5181
  • HTC One M9
    5500
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    5567
  • OnePlus 2
    6808
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    7868
  • Huawei P8
    11867
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    12236
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (S615)
    12266
  • Huawei Mate S
    12919
  • Huawei P8lite
    16743

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    2718
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    2232
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    2099
  • OnePlus 2
    2055
  • LG G4 (final)
    1992
  • HTC One M9
    1681
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (S615)
    1655
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    1483
  • Huawei P8lite
    981
  • Huawei Mate S
    817
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    795
  • Huawei P8
    764

The Huawei Mate S benchmark performance is a mixed bag and not surprisingly, suffering from the choice of custom hardware. This, however, is only part of the story. Kirin chipsets have historically been bundled with rather meager GPU's and this one makes no exception.

CPU performance however is superb and everyday tasks are a breeze with no noticeable delay or stuttering in the UI. The 3GB of RAM without a doubt help in this respect too.

Adapting EMUI for the Android Lollipop has taken its toll on GPU performance and stability in certain apps, which will hopefully be fixed with future updates. Still, if you are keen on doing a lot of graphics-intensive 3D gaming, the Huawei Mate S shouldn't be your first choice. For most everything else, however, the device feels quite responsive and a pleasure to use.

Reader comments

  • J.P

hello every body, i need your support, i bought a Hawaii mate S 5 months ago, and until 2 weeks ago everything is going in a good way, suddenly the battery life is 50 % less then before and i have to charge my phone twice per day, and previously ...

  • Sam

Every latest device of Huawei looks extremely gorgeous (P8, mateS) but onsceen bezels makes it look a lot cheaper . 1-2 mm of hardware bezel won't harm the beauty but 3-4 mm of onscreen bezel makes it worse . I don't understand are Huawei deaign engi...

  • Sam

And what about Huawei P8 release date in India . And idea about huawei brick and mortar stores