Huawei Mate S Review

Huawei Mate S Review ImageHuawei Mate S Review Image

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The Mate S is Huawei’s flagship smartphone and boasts an eight-core, 2.2GHz processor paired with 3GB of RAM. Its camera has a resolution of 13 megapixels and can record 1080p video at 30fps, while the lens boasts optical image stabilisation, a fast f/2 maximum aperture and a 29mm-equivalent focal length. There’s also an 8-megapixel, wide-angle front-facing camera with a BSI sensor, and a 5.5-inch AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1080×1920 pixels. There’s a microSD slot that can take up to 128GB cards, and the Mate S is available with 32/64/128 GB of built-in storage.

Ease of Use

First impressions of the Huawei Mate S are excellent. It has a stylish, well-constructed metal design with intricately chamfered edges, and an all-glass front with virtually an edge-to-edge 5.5-inch, 1920×1080 display that’s covered in Gorilla Glass 4. Around the back, there’s only so much camera lens you can fit into a 7.2mm-thick body, so consequently the lens bulges out slightly around 1mm from the rest of the rear panel. In fact, it’s actually the 5.5 inch screen size and resulting 149.8 x 75.3mm length and width that are trickier to pocket, although a 156g weight is impressively light for such a large device.

As with most modern smart-phones, the Huawei Mate S isn’t particularly ergonomic when used as a camera. The bezel is too slim and slippery to grip with much security, and with a front panel covered mostly in touch-sensitive screen, there’s little space to rest your thumb/s without inadvertently activating a screen control. Of course, you can get round these issues by fitting a grippy case, providing you’re happy to hide the Mate S’ svelte lines.

Huawei Mate S
Front of the Huawei Mate S

Apart from their aesthetic drawbacks, phone cases can often restrict battery access, but you needn’t worry about that with the Huawei Mate S, as the unibody design means the battery is not user-accessible. On a more positive note, Huawei have included a Micro SD slot so you can expand the phone’s built-in storage. The Mate S comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB versions, and the Micro SD slot means you can more conveniently use a memory card to transfer photos between the Mate S and your computer. The Mate S also uses a standard Micro USB data connector, and accessing photos is as easy as navigating to the phone’s DCIM-titled photo folder via Windows Explorer or Apple Finder.

One area where the Huawei Mate S slightly lags behind its main rivals is screen quality, as it’s “only” a FullHD panel. Huawei have chosen AMOLED screen technology for its great contrast and colour vibrancy, although in our testing the Mate S’ screen proved harder to view in sunny conditions than a decent traditional LCD monitor on a standard camera. However, the latter is thoroughly trounced by the Mate S when it comes to screen size and resolution.

Huawei Mate S
Rear of the Huawei Mate S

Composing and reviewing images on the Mate S’s 5.5-inch display is an absolute joy when compared to the 3.0 and 3.2-inch screens on most regular cameras, allowing you to show off your shots like no other compact camera can. The Mate S screen’s colour vibrancy is perhaps a little over-the-top, but you can alter the temperature of the screen if you’d prefer a cooler look. The screen also sports a 1920×1080 FHD resolution and with 401 pixels per inch, you’ll struggle to see any individual pixels.

When you want to take a photo, you can either double press the Huawei Mate S’s shutter button, or wake the lock screen and drag the camera icon upward. The volume buttons on the side of the Mate S can also control different aspects of the camera including firing the shutter, zooming in and out, or starting video capture. But the majority of the Mate S’s camera controls use the touchscreen.

In the top left (when viewing in portrait orientation) there’s a small icon which accesses the flash settings, in the middle is the Selfie mode icon for switching to the 8 megapixel front-facing camera, and on the right is the Camera Mode icon, which contains 9 settings including Panorama, Super Night, HDR and the important Pro Camera mode. This is very much like the Program Auto mode on a regular camera. In this mode, the Huawei Mate S lets you alter the metering mode, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, shutter speed, white balance, and the AF mode, with additional self-timer, AF assist and grid line options at the top of the screen.

Huawei Mate S
The Huawei Mate S – Camera Settings

The HDR function helps to even out tricky exposures, for example where a bright background would normally throw the foreground into deep shadow. You can see from the examples on the Image Quality page that this feature produces a photo with noticeably more dynamic range than one taken using one of the standard shooting modes, but at the same time without replicating the often “false” look of many HDR programs.

The Panorama mode lets you capture a panoramic image very easily without the use of a tripod. All you need to decide is whether you would like to start from the left or the bottom. Then press and hold down the shutter release while doing a “sweep” with the camera in hand. After you are done with the sweeping, the camera does all the processing required, and presents you with a finished panoramic image.

The All Focus mode allows you to change the focus point of the shot after you’ve taken it, working best with close-up subjects, while the Best Photo mode takes a continuous burst of up to 10 images and allows you to choose your favourite one after the event.

Huawei Mate S
The Huawei Mate S In-hand

Back to the main preview screen on the camera app and you’ll see a few text-based options at the bottom above the circular shutter release icon – Light painting, Beauty, Photo (the default mode), Video and Time-lapse. The Playback and Effects icons are on either side of the shutter release icon. All in all, it’s a well-thought-out layout that’s more complex yet easier to use on some rival devices, although we wish that it was easier to jump into the Pro Camera Mode. We’d describe the general performance of the Mate S as very snappy, with little waiting around for the camera to take a picture – its certainly just as responsive as the majority of compact cameras that we’ve reviewed.

The Huawei Mate S can shoot High Definition video clips at full 1080p or 720p HD with stereo sound in the MP4 format at 30fps. There’s also a VGA (640×480) QVGA (320x240pixels) and an MMS friendly option (176×144 pixels). Note that you can’t take a still image during video recording.

The Huawei Mate S incorporates a 2700mAh Lithium-ion polymer battery, which just about lasts for a day of “normal”activity. How well this translates into the amount of photographs you can snap per charge of course depends on all the other elements of the phone that are sharing the power pack, but avoid internet browsing and using GPS and you should find the Mate S can easily snap as many shots per charge as a typical compact camera.

Huawei Mate S Review ImageHuawei Mate S Review Image

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Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 13 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4Mb.

On paper, the Huawei Mate S’s 1/2.3-inch camera sensor is on par with the devices inside the majority of compact cameras. The f/2 maximum aperture of the Mate S’ lens does a remarkably good job of producing attractive background bokeh blur when capturing close-up shots.

Snap a more distant scene like a landscape and the Huawei Mate S maintains this high image quality. There’s barely any evidence of detail smoothing in fine foliage and certainly no sign of the painterly appearance that some smartphones can produce when capturing such scenes. Colour reproduction is also very good, and that isn’t just down to the Huawei Mate S’s screen technology. When viewed on a computer, images retain the same impressive vibrancy. Photos of very colourful objects may look slightly oversaturated for some tastes, but could be easily toned down if required.

However, whilst the Huawei Mate S produces great results in good light, the limitations of its small sensor are apparent in dimmer conditions. In Pro Camera mode, the Mate S’ sensitivity scale tops out at only ISO 1600, where there’s plenty of visible grain and detail is becoming blotchy. Dynamic range is also quite poor, though this is easily improved by activating the highly-effective multi-shot HDR feature. You’ll also find that the Mate S’ optical image stabilisation and wide aperture lens reduce the need for shooting at higher sensitivities in low light.

The lens itself doesn’t let the side down, either. It’s 29mm-equivalent focal length is great for capturing wide-angle shots. Centre sharpness is excellent, and detail only softens slightly as you reach the corners of frame. The lens also manages to avoid too much chromatic aberration, with only occasional fringing visible on very high-contrast edges.

Autofocussing is usually reliable, but given the ease at which you can just tap your own focus point, you rarely have to rely on the Huawei Mate S determining its own point of interest. Occasionally you will need to tap several times to force the camera to focus on a very close subject, however.


The Huawei Mate S has five manually-selectable ISO sensitivity settings available at full resolution, ranging between ISO 100 and ISO 1600.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Huawei Mate S’s fixed focal length lens is equivalent to 29mm in 35mm camera terms. Digital zoom is available, but with a corresponding reduction in image sharpness.


File Quality

No image file compression options are available, but the Huawei Mate S can shoot at various resolutions and aspect ratios.

13MP (4:3)

10MP (16:9)


10MP (1:1)

8MP (4:3)


6MP (16:9)



The Huawei Mate S able to focus as close as 5cm from a subject. We found this claim to be accurate, though autofocussing does occasionally struggle to lock on at this kind of range.



The Huawei Mate S uses an LED flash, and as usual for this technology, it gives a much weaker flash burst than a standard xenon camera flash. Shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5 metres reveals the flash is unable to properly light the scene and there’s significant vignetting.

Flash Off

Flash On

Image Stabilisation

The Huawei Mate S features full optical image stabilisation. With such a wide-angle lens, it’s not really required during daytime shooting, but it enables the camera to use slower shutter speeds and lower ISO sensitivities in low light with less risk of blur from camera shake.


Thanks to the optical image stabilisation and a wide f/2 maximum aperture, the Huawei Mate S performs fairly well at night. This image was taken at the camera’s maximum ISO 1600 sensitivity, and though there’s some noise and detail smoothing, the result is still comparable to what a typical compact camera would produce.


Night (100% Crop)


Dynamic range isn’t the most impressive aspect of the Huawei Mate S’s sensor, but its HDR feature does a great job of boosting this. It’s easy to use and the results are seamless and natural-looking.




The Huawei Mate S’s camera app includes eight filter effects, but this being a smartphone, extra effects are only an app away.
















The Huawei Mate S’s automatic sweep panorama mode works well and lets you stop panning at will. The results aren’t always perfect, but ghosting is rare. Unlike most regular camera panorama modes which produce significantly downsized images, the Huawei Mate S has enough processing power to capture at high resolutions, so panoramas are usually around 2800 vertical pixels.