Huawei has been working hard to shake off its reputation as a mid- to low-tier player in the smartphone market for quite some time via its design focused P series of devices.
Unveiled in London on Wednesday the Huawei P8 continues this effort and comes with custom hardware that the firm claims will outperform key competing handsets, including the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6.
Huawei made a big deal about the P8's single-piece metal unibody chassis, claiming that it has been stripped of all superfluous design features.
We picked up the white version of the P8 and we have to say we were fairly impressed. The metal unibody makes it seem like Huawei has once again borrowed design elements from Apple, but the P8 feels fairly original in the hand.
The P8 has flatter sides than the iPhone 6 and a textured, as opposed to smooth, finish, giving it a distinct feel that is fairly comfortable to hold. The P8's ergonomic feel is aided by its tiny 6.8mm thickness.
Huawei has also managed to cram a decent selection of inputs into the P8, equipping it with the same dual SIM and microSD set up as its predecessor, the P7.
Huawei has loaded the P8 with a 5.2in FHD, 1080p, 1920x1080, 424ppi screen. This puts it behind handsets such as the Galaxy S6 and LG G3 when it comes to pixel per inch density, but we didn't notice any serious problems during our hands-on.
Brightness levels were good, icons and text were crisp and viewing angles were fairly wide. Colour balance levels were also reasonably good and, thanks to the P8's colour temperature tool, can be adjusted to personal taste.
The P8 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop overlaid with Huawei's Emotion UI. We've never been fans of Emotion, feeling it makes a number of superfluous or outright negative changes to Android.
Key offences include flooding the OS with unremovable bloatware and removing Android's app tray so that all installed apps appear on the home screens, as they do in iOS. Sadly, we found that many of these complaints remained when testing the P8 during our hands-on.
The P8 is powered by an octa-core, 64bit, 2GHz, Hisilicon Kirin 930 processor and 3GB of RAM.
We didn't get a chance to benchmark the P8 during our hands-on, but our initial test yielded positive results and the P8 was smooth to use and opened apps and web pages in milliseconds.
Huawei made a lot of bold claims about the P8's 13MP rear camera during the launch, saying that the firm has improved the camera's low light and high contrast performance by adding Optical Imaging Stabilisation (OIS), "the world's first" four-colour 13MP RGBW mobile imaging sensor and an independent digital SLR-level imaging processor.
Huawei claims that the OIS used has a 1.2 degree shake compensator and will outperform the 0.6 degree compensator used in the iPhone 6 Plus.
The four-colour sensor reportedly offers 32 percent better brightness than most smartphones' three-colour sensors and can reduce noise by up to 78 percent when shooting in low light.
The digital SLR-level imaging processor further reduces low light noise, while high contrast optimisation features improve white and colour balance levels.
Testing the rear camera by snapping a few photos around the Huawei launch event showroom floor we found the results fairly impressive and noticeably better than those taken on most handsets at the P8's sub-£500 price point.
Battery and storage
The P8 is powered by a 2680mAh battery which Huawei claims will last at least a day with "very heavy use".
Huawei has also made it easier to extend the P8's battery life with a custom battery manager. This lets users see and manage which applications are using power at any given time.
Huawei is offering the P8 with 16GB or 64GB of internal storage. A further 128GB can be added via the handset's microSD card slot.
The P8 may not have generated the same media buzz as the phones it aims to dethrone but, from what we've seen so far, the P8 is fairly impressive from a hardware and design perspective.
Our only concerns relate to the Emotion UI software which, from what we've seen, is still making detrimental changes to Android.
The Huawei P8 will launch in the UK at an unspecified point later this year with SIM-free prices starting at €499.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Huawei P8.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
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