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  • Bryan Tan

Huawei Mate Xs 2 Review: Style Over Substance?

‘Immersive’ and ‘impressive’, are some of the terms Huawei used to describe the newest addition to their foldable Mate Xs lineup. While such descriptives certainly are important factors to consider for a smartphone, they most likely won’t be the definitive factor for the purchase, especially when the phone costs as much as a laptop, many will consider other things, like how the phone will fit into their everyday lives or how familiar they already are in the Huawei ecosystem.

So unless you check some real specific boxes, you probably won’t be needing this much style, this is our review of the Huawei Mate Xs 2. Since design is the key highlight of the phone, let’s start there, it folds and it flips open.

Jokes aside, with a combination of titanium alloy and high-strength steel, Huawei isn’t joking around when it comes to the build quality, it has a very premium and sophisticated look that favours especially to executives and professionals.

Most foldable like the Galaxy Fold or Find N closes inward and features an additional screen on the other side for normal one-handed uses, but the Mate Xs 2 has one large screen that curves around the unit when closed. It’s probably the most efficient design as far as foldable phones go, retaining the thickness of a normal smartphone yet being able to enjoy the benefits of having a larger screen.

The drawback is that since the screen wraps around the phone itself, you might want to bring around a microfibre cloth as fingerprints stick out like a sore thumb. If you are one whose not very careful with your phone, the screen will be the most vulnerable to accidental damages, not to mention finding a case is also not going to be an easy feat as most cases, like the one Huawei includes, only suffice as protection while it's folded and whipping out the larger screen will take some additional effort and annoyance for some but hey, it's still one heck of an eye-catcher.

The foldable screen houses an OLED panel capable of up to 120Hz refresh rate, the display stands at a good 2480 pixels tall and 1176 pixels folded or 2200 pixels opened. Text looks sharp, colours look extremely vibrant and when unfolded the seams are almost unnoticeable so it won't hinder your viewing experiences.

Most users will probably benefit from the larger screen through the use of multiple apps with picture-in-picture, although, when you will be required to use that function on your phone will vary depending on your use case.

Gaming, on the other hand, will be slightly more hit or miss, if the games you play support the unfolded screen's resolution and you feel that it helps further immerse you into your gameplay then this phone won't disappoint.

Content consumption might be the category that least benefits from the larger screen since the amount of size increase is superficial at best with letter and pillar boxing present.

But at least the speakers are pretty good, it's equipped with a pair of stereo top and bottom-firing speakers, well, technically left and right as well depending on how you hold it. The separation is pretty good with distinct highs, mids and lows without any of them being too overbearing, and to top it off it gets pretty loud as well. Right by the volume buttons is also the combined power button and fingerprint scanner. The phone also supports face unlock as well.

Now that we've got the main highlight out of the way, let's start looking inside and see what makes this phone tick, the 'substance' to the ‘style’ per se. The Mate Xs 2 is powered by a Snapdragon 888 SOC with an octa-core CPU, an Adreno 660 GPU and 8GB of RAM. For a S$2000 plus phone with cutting-edge design, its older-gen SOC certainly pushes it a step back, benchmark numbers weren't impressive by any stretch and the phone generally struggles with higher intensity gameplay and runs quite warm to the touch.

Powered by the same SOC is Huawei's own EMUI 12, the overall responsiveness of the UI does feel sluggish in certain areas. And on top of that, the App Gallery is also lacking in app selections, with the most prominent absence being Google's range of apps.

To keep this video concise, we'll spare you the details of why Google Play Services isn't on Huawei products, but if you’re interested do check out this link.

Back to App Gallery, many of the Apps that we frequently use like Spotify, Reddit, Facebook and even WhatApps are officially unavailable within App Gallery so your only option is to sideload the APK to get those apps.

Fortunately, Huawei also tries to streamline this aspect by integrating their Petal search engine within the App Gallery so that at least you can download and install all your apps within one place, but the extra steps may still be daunting for some unfamiliar with the process.

The phone also sports a triple camera setup with a 50MP f/1.8, a 13MP f/2.2 ultrawide and an 8MP f/2.4 telephoto. The end of Huawei's partnership with Leica doesn't deter the camera performance, with photos coming off the camera all ready to be posted and requiring minimal touch-ups, it certainly isn't the truest to life with its extra vibrancy and contrast but it's definitely quite appealing.

It also comes with a 10.7MP f/2.2 front camera which is sufficient, but the good thing about having a screen that curves around the phone is that you can use your rear cameras for better-looking selfies!

The camera also shoots video up to 4K 60 fps, as far as phone cameras go the video footage is alright. There is also a 960 fps slow-motion that you can have a little fun with.

Battery life is no slouch either, with a beefy 4,600 mAh battery, on regular usage it will last the day with no issues, and with the included 66W charger you can get your phone juiced up in a jiffy.

Lastly, to conclude this review, we have two little nitpicks we would like to address that don't fit into the other parts of the review. If you’ve made it this far, thanks?

Firstly, the only thing holding the Mate Xs 2 together is a little latch which pops the screen open, although Huawei is pretty confident in the build quality of this phone, it does make us feel a tad bit uneasy should the latch fail and the phone won't be able to hold itself close.

Second is the app recommendations, on the first setup you'll find a good number of apps icons arranged in folders but don't be alarmed, those aren't bloatware and Huawei hasn't installed anything extra for you, those are just app recommendations from the Gallery and still requires you to install them. However, EMUI doesn't allow you to remove folders like how Android or iOS do so you are going to spend a good chunk of time removing all the icons.

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 retails at S$2,598 and RM7,999 at selected telcos, retail and online stores (Lazada and Shopee).

The phone also comes in black along with the white version that we have and by our standards, the design is definitely an A+, however, its internal hardware and software experiences leave much to be desired, but considering most use cases won't require cutting-edge computing, it's up to whether or not you are comfortable paying a good 2 grand in Singapore dollars or almost 8000 ringgit for an incredibly slick conversation starter!

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