The phone will launch in the UK and Europe, with no Huawei P8 release date been planned for the US just yet. Prices are still to be confirmed, but we know that the Huawei P8 will have 32GB of internal storage, with a microSD slot allowing for an extra 128GB.
design and build quality
The Huawei P8 moves away from the all-glass design of its predecessor, the Ascend P7, taking things in a more metallic direction. It's not just following the aluminum flagship trend either, as the back and sides of the phone are made of ultra-thin aluminum. This gives the phone a satisfying weightiness despite it being a mere 6.4mm thin - which makes it one of the skinniest flagship smartphones available.
The P8 follows the angular, slate-like design philosophy of its predecessor, which it also shares with the Xperia Z-series. Everyone loves a nice slim side-bezel, and the P8 does a great job in this regard.
The P8 will come in gold, silver and black varieties, with the sides on each being a slightly different tint to the back. On the back of the P8 is a 13MP camera with dual LED flash – offset in the top corner – and a thin plastic antenna strip running across the bottom. The camera sensor is surrounded by a glossy plastic strip which, from what we're told, is just for show, though it could be designed to boost signal also.
The volume rocker, standby button, SIM card slot and microSD slot (which, interestingly, also doubles as a second SIM card slot) are all on the right side of the phone, leaving the left side completely smooth. We particularly like the small textured detail on the standby button, and the fact that there are small 'dips' in the chassis leading down to it. This helps distinguish it from the volume buttons above it, hopefully leading to less instances of mis-pressed buttons.
On the bottom of the phone is a microUSB port and two speaker grills, while the top of the phone houses an audio jack.
The P8 has a very solid design, and is a bit more understated than the HTC One M9 and Galaxy S6, both of which scream 'luxury'. Not everyone wants a phone that will draw 'oohs', 'aahs', and unwanted attention, however, and the P8 - while still very elegant - may be better suited to such buyers.
According to Huawei, one of the big advantages of a Kirin chipset is the fact that it's designed with networking and connectivity in mind. To this end, one of the the Huawei P8 special features which impressed us can calculate network speeds of your nearby mobile data and WiFi networks, and lets you know if you can gain faster internet speeds by switching from one to the other. You can, of course, turn this feature off. Huawei also told us that the Kirin 930 is “built for 5G”.
At 5.2 inches, the Huawei P8 display fits in the upper region of what seems to have become the sweet spot for flagship phone screen sizes.
The P8 has a 1920 x 1080 IPS-LCD screen, which gives it an ever-so-slightly fewer pixels-per-inch (424) than its predecessor (445 PPI). From our hands-on time with the phone, the picture was crisp, colors were vivid, and viewing angles were pretty much flawless. While there is a craving for QHD displays at the moment, we’re quite happy with the Full HD display on the P8, provided the phone comes in at Huawei’s usual just-below-flagship price.
On the Huawei P8 software front, we tested it running Android Lollipop with EMUI 3.1, which will be very familiar to owners of the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 running Emui 3.0. It's a clean, slick interface that naturally contained Material Design touches – such as the navigation buttons, bright colors and sliders to toggle options – even when it ran on KitKat.
Some may be a bit thrown off by the lack of an app drawer, but this is something that isn't too hard to acclimatize to, particularly as you can grab free themes from Huawei's Themes app which let you bring it back.
Huawei is great at keeping its interfaces bloat-free, and continues this trend with the P8, which has a pleasant lack of superfluous apps. Other handy features of EMUI 3.1 include a notification manager, gesture controls, and a customizable navigation bar - all features that were in the Ascend Mate 7.
Running an octa-core 64-bit Kirin 930 chipset with Cortex-Ad53E cores clocked to 2GHz, we expect Huawei P8 performance to mix it up among the most powerful phones on the market, while not quite topping the table. Based on our experience with the Ascend Mate 7, whose quad-core Kirin 925 chipset was more powerful than that of the Galaxy S5 and similar to the HTC One M8, we've become believers in the HiSilicon chipsets that Huawei use to power their phones. The P8 will also include 3GB RAM, as is the norm among today's high-end phones.
Of course, from our short time with the P8, we can't comment on how smoothly everything runs when put under strain, but now that we have the phone in our hands we'll be able to put it through its paces with some high-end games, benchmark tests and some serious multitasking. Stay tuned for the full review to find out more.
It may come as a bit of a disappointment that, for our testing of Huawei P8 audio performance, there were no stereo speakers to speak of. This is by no means a standard feature yet in flagship phones, so we're not too concerned. The P8 features a single speaker grille above the screen, and two larger ones on the bottom of the phone, so sound gets reasonably loud, if not exactly clear enough to make it a great music-listening device.
The 13MP sensor of the Huawei P8 camera is a solid combination of hardware and software that from our experience looks good, if not exactly world-beating. To help with low-light shots, the camera has a f/2.0 aperture, but also a 'Super Night Mode', which uses software processing to improve low-light shots (similarly to the Honor 6+).
The P8 camera also features OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), allowing it to automatically fix shaky or wonky shots with up to 0.6 degrees of freedom. There is also a 360-degree panorama mode, as well as the handy 'Ultra Snapshot' that we saw on the Ascend Mate 7, which lets you double-press the volume rocker with your phone on standby to quickly take a picture without turning the screen on.
The front-facing 8MP camera is also a solid offering. Vain selfie-takers will be happy to hear that Huawei's trademark 'Face Beauty' mode now recognizes the phone owners face, and can automatically 'beautify' it in photos based on settings that you choose.
Powering the Huawei P8 is a 2600mAh battery, which is in line with the recent tendency for flagship phones to come in below 3000mAh. While a year ago we would've said that this was too small to power an octa-core phone, we've seen with the One M9 and Galaxy S6 that this is not the case.
The Huawei P8 battery is another feature that we'll need to spend several days with the phone to test out properly, so we'll give you the full battery report along with our full Huawei P8 review. At first glance however, we're confident that you'll be able to get over a day's moderate use out of it before having to recharge.
The Huawei P8 made a solid first impression on us from our short time with it, while not blowing us away quite like the Ascend Mate 7 did when we first encountered it. It looks set to be a high-end handset that's a little more affordable than those of manufacturers that are more established in western markets.
We like how Huawei is looking to make the P8 carve out its own identity among flagship smartphones. With some interesting networking capabilities, a hybrid SIM/microSD slot, and a super-thin aluminum chassis to differentiate itself from its aluminum rivals, we think that the P8 is one to watch.
While we're not getting over-excited about the 13MP camera, and are yet to put the octa-core Kirin 930 chipset to the test (stay tuned for our full review), we think that the P8 has the potential to be a top choice for those wanting flagship specs at a slightly lower price point. To know for sure, however, you'll have to stay tuned for our full Huawei P8 review .