Huawei Mate S Review

December 17, 2015 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


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 1080x1920 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, 1920x1080 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 1920x1080 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 (640x480) QVGA (320x240pixels) and an MMS friendly option (176x144 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.

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)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400.jpg

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)

ratio_13mp.jpg ratio_10mp_16_9.jpg

10MP (1:1)

8MP (4:3)

ratio_10mp_1_1.jpg ratio_8mp_4_3.jpg

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)

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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.



hdr_off.jpg hdr_on.jpg


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



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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.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Huawei Mate S camera, which were all taken using the 13 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1280 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 9 second movie is 11.9Mb in size.

Product Images

Huawei Mate S

Rear of the Huawei Mate S

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Front of the Huawei Mate S

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Front of the Huawei Mate S / Turned On

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Front of the Huawei Mate S / Camera Mode

Huawei Mate S

Front of the Huawei Mate S / Camera Settings Menu

Huawei Mate S

Front of the Huawei Mate S / Pro Camera Mode

Huawei Mate S

Front of the Huawei Mate S / Settings

Huawei Mate S

Front of the Huawei Mate S

Huawei Mate S

Rear of the Huawei Mate S

Huawei Mate S

Front of the Huawei Mate S

Huawei Mate S

Front of the Huawei Mate S

Huawei Mate S

Rear of the Huawei Mate S

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Front of the Huawei Mate S

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Rear of the Huawei Mate S

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Top of the Huawei Mate S

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Bottom of the Huawei Mate S

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Side of the Huawei Mate S

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Side of the Huawei Mate S


Although relatively unknown in some parts of the world, the Huawei Mate S is an excellent smartphone that brings together a lot of photographer-friendly features into a coherent, well-thought-out package. Although low light performance is less convincing, a common complaint about almost all smartphones, the Mate S produces very good levels of details, accurate colour reproduction and good noise control in the majority of lighting conditions - it's devices like the Mate S that have brought about the end of the entry-level compact camera as we know it.

As with many of its flagship rivals, the Huawei Mate S' unibody design and its resulting lack of battery access trades practicality for style, which won’t appeal to everyone, although commendably Huawei have included a Micro SD card slot for easy expansion of the built-in storage and more convenient transfer of your images. Although it doesn't offer 4K video recording and the screen is "only" FullHD, the 1080p footage and 1920x12980 pixel AMOLED panel are fine for most users, and it benefits from the built-in image stabilisation. We also really liked the Pro Camera mode, which gives photographers easy access to all of the important camera parameters.

Perhaps the biggest challenges that the well-appointed Huawei Mate S faces are the brand recognition and the price. This is very much a flagship product with a flagship price, and although it's undoubtedly a stylish and well-appointed device, better-known manufacturers offer similar devices at a similar price. That said, the Huawei Mate S makes a great companion for the more experienced photographers who demand a little extra from their smartphone.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Huawei Mate S.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus is the largest ever version of the most popular flagship smartphones of all time. Find out what it has to offer photographers by reading our Apple iPhone 6 Plus review, complete with full-size sample photos, test shots, videos and more...

Google Nexus 5

The new Google Nexus 5 is one of the cheapest flagship smartphones on the market, but also one of the most powerful and full-featured too, running the latest KitKat version of Android. But what kind of experience does it offer photographers? Read our Google Nexus 5 review to find out...

HTC One (M8)

The HTC One (M8) is a new flagship smartphone with not one, but two cameras, using the second one as a depth sensor that allows you to change the point of focus after taking a photo and achieve DSLR-like shallow depth-of field effects. Does this make the HTC One (M8) the best smartphone for avid photographers? Read our HTC One (M8) review to find out..


The LG4 is a smartphone that focuses on image quality, with a 16 megapixel sensor and f/1.8 lens onboard, along with Raw format support and even a manual shooting mode. Is this the smartphone that every photographer has been waiting for? Read our LG4 review to find out...

Nokia Lumia 1520

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is a new 20-megapixel smartphone with a massive 6-inch screen, a 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.4 aperture and built-in optical image stabilisation, and 1080p video recording at 30fps with stereo sound. Read our Nokia Lumia 1520 review now...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Is it a camera? Is it a smartphone? No, it's the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1, which is bravely offering both in one device. Can the Panasonic CM1 replace a high-end camera and a premium smartphone? Read our Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 review now to find out...

Samsung Galaxy S6

The Galaxy S6 is Samsung's flagship smartphone, offering photographers a 16 megapixel sensor, a 28mm f/1.9 lens with optical image stabilisation, and UHD movie recording. Can the Samsung Galaxy S6 replace a compact camera? Find out by reading our in-depth Samsung Galaxy S6 review...

Sony Xperia Z3

The Sony Xperia Z3 is a new flagship waterproof smartphone that features a lot of cutting-edge camera technologies. The Xperia Z3 has a 20 megapixel sensor, 25mm fixed lens with fast f/2 aperture, 4K and 1080p video, sweep panoramas, a range of picture effects and Timeshift burst shooting. Read our in-depth Sony Xperia Z3 review now...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Huawei Mate S from around the web. »

But in the Huawei Mate S, we've got the company's best smartphone ever, and a genuine reason to sit up and take notice. Has Huawei finally made a phone that will make loyal buyers look to it as a viable and intelligent alternative?
Read the full review » »

The Mate S is Huawei’s latest attempt to replicate its success in China in Europe and the USA. It’s a sleek, well-built smartphone with a great screen and a fantastic fingerprint scanner, but its needless extra features and mediocre battery life stop it from being a complete success.
Read the full review » »

At IFA 2015 in Berlin, Huawei announced its latest smartphone: the Huawei Mate S. It looks gorgeous, and offers some pretty interesting features. We’ve been using the Huawei Mate S for over a month now, and here are our thoughts, along with its spec, features, pricing and availability.
Read the full review »


  • Luxurious Gold
  • Titanium Grey
  • Mystic Champagne
  • Rose Gold

Weight:About 156g (including the battery)




Hisilicon Kirin 935, Octa core (4*2.2GHz + 4*1.5GHz), 64-bit

Operation System:

Android 5.1 + EMUI 3.1


ROM:32GB/64GB/128GB (This is subject to specific version in different markets)

FDD LTE:B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B7/B8/B17/B20
TDD LTE:B38/B39/B40/B41(100M)
Main card: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
Second card: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
FDD LTE:B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B7/B8/B12/B17/B18/B19/B20/B25/B26/B28



Bluetooth 4.0
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, 2.4G
USB2.0 high speed


Accelerometer, Compass, Gyroscope, ALS, Proximate, HALL


Main camera: 13MP OIS RGBW AF camera with dual -tone flash
Secondary camera: 8MP FF BSI Camera with soft light


Audio file format: mp3、mp4、3gp、wma、ogg、amr、aac、flac、wav、midi、ra


Video codec: H.265(codec only)、H.264、H.263、MPEG-4、RV7-10、Xvid、VP8、WMV9
Video file format: 3gp, mp4, avi, wmv, flv, mkv, mov, rm, rmvb
1080P Video

Emotion UI:

Emotion UI 3.1


Capability: 2700mAh(Typ.)

In the box:

Handset 1
Headset 1
Charger 1
USB cable 1
Quick Start Guide 1
Needle 1
Leather case 1

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