Huawei P8 Max Review: Solid Mega Phablet, Great for Multimedia and Gaming (Video)

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  • 04 Jul 2016
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  • Huawei P8 Max is a mega phablet that was launched with the Huawei P8 last year, as well as the P8 Lite. It debuted in Spring 2015 and it comes with a 6.8 inch screen. It’s priced at $449 on Amazon and shares the bulk of specs with the Huawei P8, only bigger. It’s also a Lenovo Phab Plus rival.

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    This model has a big metal body and looks like a bigger P8, which it actually is. It measures 6.8 mm in thickness, weighs 228 grams, which means it’s 0.4 mm thicker than the P8 and about 80 grams heavier than the P8. It’s also slimmer than the Lenovo Phab Plus and weighs 1 gram less. Somehow, this phablet feels light considering its size and it comes with a pretty solid build.

    It’s great for gaming and binge watching TV shows, while its premium metal build makes it very appealing. It’s got slim bezels and aside from using aluminum, it also opts for magnesium within the chassis. Huawei used her a 7 layer setup with a heat conducting structure. There’s an antenna window at the bottom back area and the microUSB port is placed at the top, atypical for a phone/phablet.

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    The design also involves rounded corners and overall it’s elegant and solid, but also huge. Huawei P8 Max is available in gold, gray or champagne. It comes with a 6.8 inch IPS LCD Full HD screen, with LTPS technology and Gorilla Glass 3 protection. On paper we also promised 1500:1 contrast and the screen offers a 326 ppi density.

    In cell touch and CABC technology are available here. The video player on board of the P8 Max has a DTS option, Pop Up Play like functionality and the actual viewing experience brought us pretty big black edges around the image, but also good colors, an OK contrast and nice brightness. The view angles were wide and the pixels are of the RGB Stripes variety.

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    We measured the brightness and achieved 423 LUX units, which is a pretty good achievement. It means we beat the P8’s 346 LUX, exactly like the Huawei Mate 8 and above the LG Nexus 5X and Xperia Z3. The same score is below the Huawei Honor 6 Plus. We also get special settings for the screen, like Color Temperature (warm or cold with a slider), font (size and style), brightness, color mode and eye sight protection. This is a good display, so no problems here.

    Moving on with the hardware, this mega phablet has an octa core HiSilicon Kirin 935 CPU, a 28 nm unit with 64 bit tech and clocked up to 2.2 GHz. There’s also a Mali T628 MP4 GPU in the mix, 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, as well as a microSD card slot. There’s no lag here, we have a fluid UI and good performance. Games like Riptide GP2 run great on this big gadget.

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    Benchmarks aren’t that impressive judged nowadays and this phablet hasn’t aged well. Still, last Spring those results were OK. The thing to remember is that in Quadrant we’re at the level of LG Aka, in AnTuTU 6 we got a similar score to the Huawei Honor 5X and in GeekBench 3 Multi Core we scored below the Lenovo Phab Plus.

    As far as temperatures are concerned, we got up to 33 degrees after running the GFXBench benchmark, plus up to 34 degrees Celsius after playing Riptide GP2 for 15 minutes. There’s no overheating and performance was rather good, but time can only and this model ages fast. We also tested the battery, a 4360 mAh unit (Li-Po), that’s clearly above the Lenovo Phab Plus in capacity (3500 mAh).

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    On paper we are promised 16 hours of video playback or 10 hours of WiFi browsing. In our own HD video playback loop test we achieved 9 hours and 55 minutes, which is just OK for such a bigshot. It’s still below the HTC One M8 and Xperia Z3, but also above the Huawei Mate 8. In PCMark we scored a pretty good 7 hours and 28 minutes, that’s above the HTC 10, but also below the Huawei Honor 4X and Xiaomi Mi 5.

    Charging takes 3 hours and 2 minutes, so it’s quite long. It surely charges faster than the Xperia M5, but slower than the HTC Desire 820. Battery settings include Power Saving and Modes like Performance (slight adjust of CPU and network), Smart (auto adjust network and CPU) and Ultra (only basic features used). There’s also a screen off power save option, protected apps and WiFi on in sleep mode.

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    I’d say that the battery of the Huawei P8 Max is good enough for last year, but it’s beaten by current flagships. On the acoustic front we received a 0.91 cc sound chamber and a 1 watt speaker, with Smart PA amplifiers. There’s no equalizer here and no headphones bundled. The experience was loud, clear and the bass was good, as the device was able to cover a conversation.

    I also noticed that at max volume the sound felt a bit broken, but the guitar was excellently rendered. We used a decibelmeter to measure the performance of the speaker and got up to 88.7 dBA, which is huge, also top 10 material among all devices we tested. It’s almost Galaxy S6 level and above the LG G5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+.

    FM radio is also available, as well as FLAC file playback support. Time to talk about the camera!

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    So, the Huawei P8 Max comes with a main 13 megapixel shooter, with autofocus, optical image stabilization, dual LED flash and RGBW sensor. F/2.0 aperture is offered too. The front camera goes down from the P8’s 8 MP to 5 MP. The camera app doesn’t start up fast and the UI is very minimal. Modes include HDR, Watermark, Super Night, Best Photo, All Focus, Panorama and Audio Note.

    Settings can be tweaked too, including resolution (13 MP in 4:3, 10 MP in 16:9), GPS, perfect selfie, audio control, timer, touch to capture. The camera offers fast focus, fast picture taking and fluid zoom. Smile Shot, Object tracking and the usual other options like ISO, white balance, exposure and saturation are available, too.

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    Contrast and brightness can also be modified. On the right side of the UI we can find the effects, time lapse option, Beauty, Light Painting and Video capture up to Full HD. The gallery of shots taken during the day involved a sunny day of June and featured great colors and exposure and where other cameras would burn the, this one doesn’t.

    Closeups are perfect and we get great details in landscape shots for example. I zoomed into the clock on that monument and registered some detail loss. The church we took photos of had a very nice texture and the selfie was so-so, not very impressive. There’s no blurred shot among those we’ve taken with the device, but sometimes the sky was burnt in some instances.

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    I liked the focus play here, courtesy of the All Focus feature, that generated some pretty nice closeups. Panorama is great and wide, with an impressive resolution of 21.632 x 2944 pixels. Buildings we shot look crisp and even in the shadows we generated some pretty nice shots, with those painted walls for example.

    When it comes to writing and posters, everything looks mint as well. There’s a good dynamic range and the HDR also works fine, decreasing the light burn in some shots. Overall, the photo capture quality was on par with the one of the Huawei P8, which is not bad at all, considering this phone was launched in the Spring of 2015.

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    The same quality is on par with the latest Huawei Honor models, which is not bad at all. Selfies are clearly less impressive than the ones of the P8, that’s for sure. Low light pictures featured big halos, but they were pretty clear and Light Painting was also very nice, with its cool effects. The flash was great in low light conditions and brought on natural colors.

    We also had some great closeups at night and a pretty reasonable brightness. There wasn’t any big fuzz around the lights, like it happens with some phone models out there. I’d even put this one on par with the Galaxy A5 (2016) and everything was very clear and there was no yellow-ish hue. Super Night mode turns night into day, so that’s another welcome bonus.

    Video capture was done in MP4 format, in Full HD resolution, at 30 FPS and with a bitrate of 19 Mbps. Sadly, the videos were burnt, the sky was almost white and there was some focus loss. Clarity was good and the microphone faced the wind fine. Optical image stabilization worked nicely, as we filmed and walked around.

    There’s a serious detail loss when zooming in and sometimes everything feels too white. We also found some image deformation when panning, sadly. Typical for Huawei, while the pics are good, videos are underwhelming. Low light filming involved a dark and fuzzy image, lack of clarity and with the flash on there were big halos and a yellow vibe. Grain was also present and details weren’t great.

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    Overall, it’s all underwhelming. The web browser on this mega phablet is slow and associated benchmarks are not very impressive. The virtual keyboard has huge keys even for this format, so that could be a bummer for some people. As far as connectivity goes, this model supports 4G LTE with download speed of up to 300 Mbps, HSDPA+, GPS and Glonass, as well as WiFi a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0.

    It’s a dual SIM device with functions like Link+/WiFi+ used to connect to already known routers. The Phone/Dialer section involves options like Speed Dial, Harassment filter, virtual HD call and a Pocket Mode. Calls are loud and clear, but the device is not exactly comfy to hold and use for a long time. We also did a Speedtest, achieving 47 Mbps in download and 24 Mbps in download, which was reasonable.

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    Huawei P8 Max runs Android 5.1.1 with EMUI 3.1 on top and I find it annoying that this model hasn’t been updated to Marshmallow even after more than a year after its release. The UI is flat and abstract, with dull colors and the lockscreen has media controls and 4 shortcuts towards apps/functions. One swipe down on the homescreen reveals a Search bar and the Recently used apps.

    Multitasking is done with 9 thumbnails shown on the screen at the same time, standing for each of the apps running on the device. The dropdown area still features notifications as a timeline and Quick Settings. Speaking of settings, one can tweak home screen style and access features like Do Not Disturb, Voice Wakeup, Motion control and navigation bar.

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    One hand UI is also here and the option to split the screen in two via dual windows. There’s also Suspend Button, Gloves Mode and the famous knuckle screenshots. As far as the preinstalled apps go, I counted 46 of them, so we’re dealing with bloatware here. The apps include Themes, with a lot of customization options, Phone Manager (optimization), WPS Office and Notepad.

    And now it’s time for the verdict!

    Here are the Pros:

    • good screen
    • great acoustics
    • solid build
    • OK performance
    • good pictures even in low light
    • OK-ish battery

    And the Cons:

    • massive, not for everyone
    • long charging
    • poor video capture
    • stuck at Lollipop
    • bloatware
    • selfie is unimpressive

    In the end this remains a solid phablet, ideal for multimedia consumption and packing a good camera. It’s also a nice gaming device and feels like one of the 6+ inchers that may actually get you hooked on this niche. Now that the price has decreased, a Marshmallow update could make the phablet more appealing. Till that comes, media binge buffs may love this. The updated price of this phablet is here.

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