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Huawei Mate S: Can Huawei play the premium game?

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Huawei is certainly a brand to watch out for as they are rising to the occasion with some compelling smart phones these days. On the Huawei P8, they had elevated their build quality perceptions with a premium unibody metal design, but it isn’t as refined as its mainstream rivals. Perception isn’t built overnight but more consumers are beginning to accept the new wave of alternatives coming from China.

To show the world what they are capable of, Huawei had recently announced the Mate S, a premium device that eyes for the likes of the Galaxy Note 5 and the iPhone 6S Plus. Can they deliver? Read on to find out.

Build Quality

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At first glance, it looks like a bigger honor 7 with a full metal back that comes with a subtle curve. Upon picking it up, you’ll notice the finer details and the silky smooth surfaces that are nice to touch. Their previous P8 flagship was solid in the hands but the Mate S adds more refinement to the mix. At 7.2mm thin, it is slightly thicker than an iPhone 6s at the thickest point, but the sloping back gives a thinner feeling device at your fingertips. Looking towards the bottom, it shares the similar design as the Huawei P8 and the honor 7, with twin speaker/mic grills on each side of the micro USB port. On the left, you’ll find a dual-SIM tray slot, which is a hybrid one that accepts microSD.

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The volume buttons and power button are neatly placed on the right for easy reach but we felt that the power button could be larger for the perfect feel. The 5.5″ Full HD screen dominates the front with minimal clutter as it uses on-screen buttons for navigation. During its global launch, the Mate S was Huawei’s first smart phone to feature a “Force Touch” display that’s pressure sensitive but it isn’t present in our current unit. That apparently it reserved for its higher-spec model that comes with 128GB of storage.

Hardware Specs

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Underneath, the Huawei Mate S shares a lot of similarities with the honor 7. It runs on a high-end Kirin 935 Octa-Core 64-bit processor (2.2GHz x4, 1.5GHz x4) that’s mated to 3GB of RAM. On-board the mate S comes with 64GB of storage for Malaysia and it is expandable up to 128GB using microSD. With EMUI 3.1 that runs on top of Android 5.1.1, it runs rather smoothly without any hesitation so far.

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For taking pictures, it gets a 13MP camera with a 4-colour RGBW sensor that’s assisted by dual-LED flash and Optical Image Stabilisation. Similar to the P8, it gets a variety of modes including Light Painting features. The Mate S gets a new Professional Mode that offers full manual settings for extra tweaks on ISO, Manual Focus, Exposure and AWB.

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For taking selfies, the front gets a 8MP camera that even comes with a soft flash light for brighter looking selfies. Despite being a 2015 flagship, the main camera doesn’t support 4K videos, shooting a maximum of up to Full HD 1080p.

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The single down facing speaker is quite loud but the biggest feature for audio has got to be its recording capabilities. The Mate S has 3 mics in total which can be used simultaneously to record a meeting conversation with individual attendee tagging, similar to the Galaxy Note 4. In the battery department, it packs a 2,700mAh capacity unit which is slightly more than the P8 by a slight margin.

Other neat features

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Unlocking the Mate S is rather quick with its rear mounted fingerprint scanner. It unlocks instantly with a touch and it does more than just securing the device. Similar to the honor 7, you can swipe downwards to view notification. On top of that, it performs double duty as a touch pad scroller in the image gallery as well as a remote trigger when taking pictures using both main and selfie cameras.

Despite not having a pressure sensitive display, the Mate S still gets a decent amount of gesture features. Apart from the usual tap to wake, it has an improve Knuckle Sense technology that lets you screen capture or crop using your knuckles. Huawei has improved it further with a quick app launch feature where you can draw a “c” using your knuckle to launch the camera or “e” to open a browser.

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Pricing

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At RM2,698, the Huawei Mate S is also the most expensive smart phone and it goes neck to neck with the Galaxy Note5 that’s priced at RM2,699. For a quick comparison, the Mate S has the upper hand with double the storage at 64GB along with the option to add more with a microSD slot. However the Note5 offers more in specs including a faster processor, more RAM, faster camera and also a productive S Pen. If performance and productivity is what you’re looking for, it is tough to recommend the Mate S over the Galaxy Note5. The decision is even tougher considering the similar spec’ed albeit the smaller screen honor 7 can be have for just RM1,399. However if you’re looking for a stylish and premium alternative that isn’t a Samsung or an Apple, the Mate S could be something worth checking out.

Huawei Mate S Videos

Huawei Mate S Image Gallery

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Alexander Wong