Max Parker: I have finally managed to get my hands on the Mate X. Is it as good to use and slickly designed as it looks like in pictures?

First Impressions

Samsung struggled to make a strong case for them with the Galaxy Fold, with that device seemingly sacrificing a decent phone experience to achieve the new design. With the Mate X that doesn’t seem to be an issue and this looks like it’ll be fantastic whether it’s folded down into a phone or unfurled into a tablet

Key Specifications

  • 8-inch screen that folds down into a 6.6-inch phone
  • Kirin 980
  • Balong 5G modem
  • 512GB storage
  • 4500mAh battery
  • EMUI 9
  • New Leica camera system

We’ve finally had the chance to hold and just about fold the Huawei Mate X. Here are our early thoughts on one of the first folding phones around.

The Mate X took MWC 2019 by storm when it was unveiled at Huawei’s conference and after hours of hunting I’ve finally managed to get my hands on an actual working version of it.

The most obvious initial impression is just how complete this thing feels. It folds seamlessly and feels like a product you could actually buy. This is far more than just a tech demo.

Read on for pricing and release details, along with my first impressions after using the Huawei Mate X.

Editors Note: 

Due to the recent retraction of Huawei’s Android license, future Huawei and Honor phones won’t be able to access Google Play Services and as a result many Android apps including YouTube and Gmail. Both Huawei and Google have confirmed Huawei and Honor phones, like the one in this review, will continue to have access for this time being. Until we know more about the situation we’re leaving the scores on all our Huawei reviews, however as the situation changes we’ll revisit this.

Huawei Mate X release date and price

The Mate X will cost a staggering €2299 for the 8GB RAM/512GB storage model when it launches sometime in 2019.

In the UK, EE will begin shipping the phone on its 5G network in Q3 2019. Vodafone will also sell the phone however we haven’t received a date as of yet.

Huawei Mate X

Huawei Mate X – Design and flexible OLED

While it may not be the first foldable to hit the headlines – that prize goes to the Royole FlexPai, followed by Samsung’s Galaxy Fold – the Mate X has a few unique perks that make it one of 2019’s most hotly anticipated releases.

Highlights include super-fast 5G connectivity, an all-new Leica camera array and a flexible OLED that can expands to an 8-inch ‘tablet’. As an added perk it also actually looks like a phone we’d want to use when it’s folded away, unlike the Galaxy Fold.

Huawei Mate X

The most eye-catching feature of the Mate X is, of course, the foldable screen. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Fold with its single outer screen and a separate one on the inside, the Mate X has one 8-inch screen that folds down to give you a 6.6-inch screen on the front and a secondary 6.38-inch screen on the back.

When it’s unfurled it looks almost like the Kindle Oasis, thanks to a curved grip placed on one side. This is where all the camera stuff lives, but it also gives you a comfortable way to hold the device one-handed. It measures a mere 5.4mm thin when unfolded and it looked absolutely stunning up close.

Huawei Mate X

The issue with foldable phones was always going to be how they functioned when folded. Take the truly awful Royole FlexPai for example. This folded down into a wedge that made it practically unusable and a pain to fit into your pocket. This isn’t an issue here, as  the Mate X folds completely flat.

Huawei hasn’t skimped on screen quality here at all. As its OLED, colours pop and viewing angles are fantastic. It is plastic though, and during my time with the device it was quite obvious how many fingerprints and smudges it picked. My other concern was around the fold: would it be obvious when in use?  Actually it’s not and running my across the panel doesn’t reveal any bumps or uneven edges.

The actual process of folding the phone down from a tablet to phone does seem very smooth, or at least that’s the impression I got. Huawei has developed a hinge that look very intricate and this should add the right amount of resistance.

Huawei Mate X – Specs and Performance

Drag your eyes away from the unmatched industrial design and the Mate X continues to push boundaries.

You’ve got a Kirin 980 7nm chipset inside, paired with the Balong 5000 5G modem for theoretical 5G speeds of 4.5 Gbps. In real terms Huawei claimed you’ll be able to download a 1GB movie in three seconds, however this will, of course, vary depending on what kind of 5G network you’re on and where. This figure is a theoretical fastest you can get.

Huawei Mate X

In the phone mode

There’s a 4500 mAh battery inside too, which is split with each half sitting either side of the folding mechanism. That’s a big battery, but there’s also a lot of screen to power, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of endurance this thing has.

Battery life remains a big question mark hanging over these devices and until we actually use them day-to-day it’ll be hard to know if they’ll match, exceed or lack the current endurance of modern phones.

Huawei Mate X

When it comes to charging, Huawei is once again pushing things so far forward it leaves Samsung and Apple in the dust. The Mate X has 55W SuperCharge wired charging, meaning that huge cell can go from 0-85% in 30 minutes. Huawei also said you’ll be able to charge one of its MateBook laptops with the same charger.

Huawei Mate X – Camera

There’s a new triple Leica camera system here too, however no specific details have yet been shared about megapixels it packs or what exactly is ‘new’. Considering Huawei’s recent record of producing some of the best smartphone cameras around expect this to a very good snapper.

Huawei Mate X

Whether the secrecy around the optics is because Huawei hasn’t quite nailed down the final specs or its keeping some announcements under wraps until closer to release remains to be seen.

It might possibly even be that it’s the same camera that sits on the  Huawei P30 Pro. By focussing on a single set of cameras, the Mate X gives you the same quality whether you’re using it for selfies and landscape shots. You can even use the folded behind portion of the display to show the subject what you’re taking a picture of.

We were able to shoot a few pictures during the demo session and the quality looks very impressive, especially for a product that won’t be shipping for months.

Huawei Mate X

Up until the reveal of the Huawei Mate X, I wasn’t sold on the idea of foldable phones. Samsung struggled to make a strong case for them with the Galaxy Fold, with that device seemingly sacrificing a decent phone experience to achieve the new design. With the Mate X that doesn’t seem to be an issue.

This looks like it’ll be fantastic whether it’s folded down into a phone or unfurled into a tablet. There will, of course, be issues – this is very much a first-gen product – but if you’re set on picking up a foldable phone this year, then the Mate X feels like the one to choose.

A ’hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only – it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations.

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