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Huawei Mate X2 hands-on review: an expensive foldable with an ingenious design
by João Carrasqueira
It's been over two years since the first foldable phone made its way to the market. I find that it's a little crazy to think that it's been that long, and that's because despite it being two years now, these products still feel like a complete novelty. Despite numerous concepts, Samsung and Huawei have pretty much exclusively been the only companies releasing new models, and even then, they're still ridiculously expensive. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 launched for a whopping $1,999, and even the less impressive Galaxy Z Flip 5G costs $1,200 after a big price cut earlier this year. Even as a reviewer, it's been hard to get my hands on one.
Huawei released the Mate X2 foldable in China a few months ago, and it really doesn't make things look a whole lot better in terms of making the foldable market more approachable. While international availability and pricing is still a mystery, the Chinese model starts at over $2,700.
Now, the company has sent me a unit of the Mate X2 to try out, and I got a full week with it. I had a few minutes with the original Mate X at MWC 2019, and then with the Galaxy Fold later that year, but nothing that allowed me to really appreciate the features of those phones. Still, I choose not to call this a full review because first, I don't like making assessments based on a period as short as one week; and second, I think it's pointless to try and tell you that you should buy this phone. Aside from the fact that it's availability is still extremely limited, justifying that price point was always going to be an impossible task.
I don't think the discussion around foldables as they are right now should focus on whether you should buy them, but rather on what each one brings to the table that we should hope to see in future iterations, what other companies should learn from them, and what still needs to improve. So let's take a look at what Huawei did right with the Mate X2 and what needs to be done to make future foldables better.
CPU Huawei Kirin 9000 - one Cortex-A77 at 3.14GHz, three Cortex-A77 at 2.54GHz, four Cortex-A55 at 2.05GHz GPU 24-core Mali-G78
Display Exterior: 6.45 inches, 1160x2700 (21:9), 456ppi, 90Hz refresh rate, OLED, Glass cover
Interior: 8 inches, 2480x2200 (8:7.1) , 413ppi, 90Hz refresh rate, OLED, Plastic cover
Body Unfolded dimensions: 161.8 x 145.8 x 4.4-8.2mm (6.37 x 5.74 x 0.17-0.32in)
Folded dimensions: 161.8 x 74.6 x 13.6-14.7mm (6.37 x 2.94 x 0.54-0.58in)
Weight: 295g (10.41oz)
Camera 50MP RYYB main, 16MP ultra-wide, 12MP telephoto (3x), 8MP periscope (10x)
Front: 16MP Video 4K - 60fps; Front - 4K - 60fps Aperture f/1.9 + f/2.2 + f/2.4 + f/4.4, Front - F/2.2 Storage 256GB; non-expandable RAM 8 GB Battery 4,500mAh Connectivity Wi-FI 6, Bluetooth 5.2 Color White (as reviewed), Black, Crystal Pink, Crystal Blue
OS Android 11 with EMUI 11 (without Google Play Services) Price ¥17,999 (roughly $2,779) Design
Let's start with the design, which I think is truly where the Huawei Mate X2 shines the most. Unlike the original Mate X, the company has opted for a inner folding screen paired with a flat external display, similar to Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold line. Unlike its competitor, though, the inner display is covered by plastic, but since it's protected when it's closed, I think this is much less of an issue. Plus, while it is very impressive that Samsung created its Ultra Thin Glass that's able to fold, some users have noticed micro-cracks forming along the crease, so some work may still be required on that type of harder material.
Additionally, Huawei is using a new folding mechanism that's somewhat reminiscent of the Motorola razr, where the display curves into a waterdrop shape when it folds. Huawei says this helps the crease be less noticeable since it's spread out over a wider area, and I'd say it works really well in terms of the visual effect, which is helped by the reduced reflectivity of the display cover that Huawei also touts. You need to look at the display from an unusual angle to see the crease, and even when you see it, it's not that distracting. You do feel it when you move your finger over it, though, but the rest of the display feels pretty solid considering the cover is made of plastic.
What I think makes the design truly special and unique is how Huawei tried to cram most of the components into one half of the phone. When you unfold it, it gets thicker and thicker towards the right side, and while that may seem odd, it's actually great for usability. it reminds me of Amazon's Kindle Oasis, which is purposefully designed to be thicker on one side. What that does is that it puts most of the weight of the device directly on your hand, so you don't feel like it's going to tip over on the other side, and that means you can use it with one hand more easily than other foldables without straining your fingers to hold it.
When you fold it, each half of the phone aligns in a way that makes it almost completely flat, so the odd shape isn't really noticeable when you're just using it as a normal phone. Its design also makes it noticeably thinner than Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold2, and it's actually manageable with one hand, even though it's obviously much thicker than your average smartphone. As I said above, I haven't had a ton of time with other foldables to make a direct comparison, but Huawei did some great work here.
The hinge on the Mate X2 feels pretty good, but it's also a fairly new unit, and the real question with these devices is how well they hold up over time. There is some noise from the plastic flexing when you open and close the phone - but that's to be expected, according to Huawei - and otherwise everything feels as solid as can be. The phone slams shut with very strong magnets that are actually a bit challenging to separate when you want to open it, but you can get used to that.
Just to round out some parts of the design, there are stereo speakers on the top and bottom of the phone, specifically in the thinner half, along with a SIM card slot on the top edge. The thicker portion houses everything else: a USB Type-C charging port and microphone at the bottom, another microphone at the top along with an IR blaster, and a volume rocker and power button on the right-hand side of the phone. The power button also doubles as a side-mounted fingerprint reader, so there isn't one under the display here.
The two displays
As mentioned above, the Mate X2 has two displays, one on the outside, and a foldable screen on the inside. Here, too, Huawei has outshone Samsung in a few ways. It starts with the external display, which has a much more reasonable aspect ratio of 21:9 - compared to the tall 25:9 display on the Galaxy Z Fold2 - and with a fairly high resolution, too, at 2700x1160. It's also a 90Hz display, while Samsung used a 60Hz panel for the cover display on its phone.
Once again, this means that using the Huawei Mate X2 as a normal phone is a much better experience than on the Galaxy Z Fold2. It's only slightly taller than a typical smartphone display, and given that it's 6.45 inches diagonally, you still have enough space to type comfortably on a keyboard, or to have five columns of apps on the home screen grid.
Of course, the star of the show is the inner 8-inch folding display, with its nearly square aspect ratio of 8:7.1. It, too, has a 90Hz refresh rate - which in this case is worse than the 120Hz panel used by Samsung in its foldable - and the resolution is 2480x2200, which means it has 413ppi. I've found it to be more than sharp enough, and if we're talking numbers, then it still edges out Samsung's competing device with its 373ppi.
I've found the internal screen to be fantastic for reading and watching videos, of course, thanks to its large size. The aspect ratio of the display means you'll have huge black bars on top and under the video that's playing, but you still get a much larger canvas than a typical phone. As for reading, while I don't normally read e-books, this display is great for reading on the internet, simply based on how large the display is. It's just nice to have this big canvas, and some apps even scale to have multiple panes, like Telegram lets me see my conversation list on the left and the current conversation on the right.
Games are also awesome on this big screen, and titles like PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9 scale really well to the big screen, so you get a huge canvas for them while still having solid controls. However, cloud gaming services don't work as well in terms of the touch controls offered, since they'll always be blocking your view at least a bit. It's up to each service to make it possible to move the game stream to the top portion of the display, though, which would help a lot.
One thing that you might find disappointing is that you can't open the display halfway, so it's always either fully open or fully closed. As such, there's nothing that would take advantage of that ability, like being able to watch a video on one half while scrolling through comments on the other half. On the other hand, Huawei does better in terms of accessories and includes a case in the box that doubles as a kickstand, so you can watch videos on the big screen much more easily. The kickstand can be used in either portrait or landscape orientation, but when the phone is unfolded, it works better in landscape due to the weight distribution.
However, I still find the lack of dedicated features for this big display a bit disappointing. Just like any other Android phone, the Mate X2 lets you use apps in split-screen mode, but using it on the big display is hardly any different from using it on the smaller one. You can split the screen in half, but you can't resize the apps to your liking as far as I've been able to tell. It's always half the screen for each app. I also feel like we could have used the ability to split the screen into even smaller sections, like how Samsung allows for up to three apps to be open at once. You do get floating windows for additional apps, but that's not the same thing. On top of that, you can't create app pairs so that the same two apps are launched at once, you always have to set them up manually, which is a cumbersome process after a while. You can, however, use a feature called App Multiplier, which lets you run multiple instances of the same app at the same time.
The closest thing to a unique feature that you get for this dual-screen dynamic is that if you have an app open on one display, it will transition over to the other one when you fold or unfold the phone. I feel like that's the bare minimum you'd expect from this form factor, though. Even then, how well the transition goes depends on how each app scales its UI, and some apps may have to be restarted to offer the best experience on each display.
You could argue that having a big screen that fits in a normal(ish)-sized phone is a big benefit by itself, and it certainly is, but Samsung has proven that more can be done with it, and I wish Huawei had learned from that.
Cameras (and the one that's missing)
One of the criticisms that's been directed at Samsung's foldables has been the fact that they're mostly using camera setups that lag behind its traditional flagships, making it seem as though they're an afterthought. The Galaxy Z Fold2, for example, has overall lesser cameras compared to the Galaxy S20 that preceded it, and even more so compared to phones like the S20 Ultra or Note20 Ultra.
Huawei has taken a different approach, with a camera setup that doesn't seem to be lacking in any way, at least on paper. There are four sensors on the back of this phone, including the 50MP RYYB flagship sensor we've seen on other Huawei flagships. This sensor is a big deal for night time performance, and on that front, it delivers well. You also get a 16MP ultra-wide camera, a 12MP 3x zoom camera, and an 8MP periscope camera with 10x optical zoom. That combination of zoom levels is impressive and something I praised heavily in my review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and it truly makes this feel like a flagship phone in terms of cameras.
For the most part, the Huawei Mate X2 delivers in its camera performance, though I must reiterate my relatively short period for this review. The main sensor is naturally the star of the show, and low-light performance is so good it nearly makes night mode redundant. I did find some inconsistencies between the color balance across the different cameras, which I think were more noticeable than some other phones, even during the day. Even the main camera sometimes tends to oversaturate, and other times makes colors a bit too cool.
Gallery: Huawei Mate X2 camera samples
Like other phones, you'll see most of the differences between cameras at night, and that's where you'll really need night mode to help even things out. I find Huawei's night mode to be a bit more painful than other phones, since it often asked me to hold still for up to seven seconds while it took a photo, which meant I got blurry photos more often.
One issue that I found is that the camera sometimes has issues with autofocus, specifically the 3x zoom camera can look very messy in some scenarios. I also had some problems nailing the right shot when zooming in to 100x, and got overall lesser quality than from the Galaxy S21 Ultra at that zoom level.
One benefit of foldables is that the main camera can also be your selfie camera when you unfold the phone, and the main camera on the Mate X2 makes for a stellar selfie camera compared to the one on the cover display, but that's not to say that the selfie camera is bad. You can see a comparison of the two cameras above. One thing that Samsung does and Huawei doesn't is let both displays be used at the same time. For example, if you're taking a picture of someone else with the phone unfolded, the Galaxy Z Fold2 lets the other person see themselves on the smaller screen. You can't do that here, though.
Here's a fun fact: you have to manually tap the option to switch cameras if you want to take a selfie with the main camera, and you have to tap it again to switch back. If you swipe up to go to the home screen while using the small screen to take a selfie, you can only go back to the big screen by closing and re-opening the phone, or opening the Camera app and switching the screens again. Again, I feel like some software work could be done to make this process a bit more natural.
As for the selfie camera on the inside of the phone, there isn't one, which is one of the faux pas this phone makes in my opinion. Having no camera cutout on the inner display may please some people, but it means that you can't take video calls on this phone while using the big screen. The phone just asks you to close it and look at the cover screen instead. That's a big deal because a lot of people are taking a lot of calls right now. And when you're already charging this much for a phone, it's an odd omission.
I also have to mention that I'm just not the biggest fan of Huawei's camera software. What you see in the viewfinder is sometimes radically different from the final shot, night mode takes a bit too long to process (though you get the benefits of that, too), and I would prefer if the zoom controls were closer to my thumb. Also, HDR is a whole separate mode instead of simply having a toggle for it while taking photos, which makes it more inconvenient than some other phones.
Performance and software
While I made the point earlier that there's no point debating whether you should buy this phone, I think it's still worth talking about the basics of a phone review. The Mate X2 is powered by the Kirin 9000, which is a 5nm chipset introduced last fall, but still based on older Cortex-A77 cores from Arm, opting out of both Cortex-A78 and Cortex-X1 cores that were introduced last year. It also has 8GB of RAM, which seems oddly low for a phone this premium, and up to 512GB of internal storage.
Despite that, the Huawei Mate X2 pulled slightly ahead of the Galaxy S21 Ultra and even the OnePlus 9 (though it loses to the 9 Pro) in the AnTuTu benchmark, so it looks like Huawei didn't miss out too much by using older cores. This benchmark measures various performance aspects in one test.
Usually, I'd include GeekBench results as well, but the app refuses to run on the Mate X2, so we'll have to move on to GFXBench, which tests the GPU of the phone. The results here are in line with other flagships, too, so performance isn't something you'll be missing.
Battery life on the Mate X2 is solid, often lasting me a day and a half with at least a couple hours of YouTube on the big inner display, some web browsing, and some texting. Considering the display size and the 4,500mAh battery, those are impressive numbers, but it doesn't take long to realize how that's achieved. Huawei phones are notorious for delayed notifications, and that certainly applies here. It's happened almost every day that notifications are either delayed or just not sent at all, and I've gone hours not knowing I had received messages in some of my apps. It's incredibly frustrating, and it's a long-standing issue with the brand, so if you're already a Huawei fan, it's probably not going to be worse than usual.
Also, this phone is only available in China for now, but even if it releases worldwide, it will be plagued by the same problem as every other Huawei phone nowadays, which is the lack of Google services. No matter how much you hate Google, too many apps just don't work without those services. Like I said, GeekBench 5 wouldn't run even after sharing the APK file from another phone. Pokémon GO doesn't work either, and I also lost the ability to use Microsoft Authenticator because of this.
Despite being over two years old, the foldable market still feels like it's in an embryonic state, which makes it exciting to keep an eye on but also somewhat frustrating when it comes to actually using these devices. I love a lot of what Huawei did here, especially the design. Having most of the weight of the phone directly on the user's hand is ingenious and it almost makes you question why no one else has done it yet. It's also one of the thinner foldables right now, and the cover display has one of the most natural aspect ratios we've seen on any foldable so far, so using it as a normal phone is actually a viable option.
I also appreciate that Huawei wasn't afraid of using a flagship camera setup on the back of the phone, which you can't say for Samsung's foldables. The results aren't always the best, but at least it isn't evident that Huawei was trying to cut corners in this area. And a lot about the phone is in line with flagship material - high-resolution displays, 90Hz refresh rate, and a solidly built design.
But some decisions are a bit frustrating, such as the lack of a camera on the inner portion of the phone, making video calls far less convenient. I also feel like there's plenty of room for improvement in terms of multitasking on the big screen, and some software limitations make it feel like the dual-screen dynamic could have been more thought through. Of course, that's to say nothing of Huawei's overly aggressive battery management and lack of Google services.
In the end, I don't think it would be possible to recommend any phone that costs over $2,700, no matter how much Huawei did right; I just wish I had been more blown away by it than I was. Regardless, there's a lot that other manufacturers can learn from this phone. I hope the wedge-shaped design becomes more of a trend with future foldables, and I hope more of them also have a cover display more similar to this one. I hope we'll eventually see flagship cameras on foldables like Huawei tried to do here. At the same time, I think Huawei could stand to learn from what Samsung has done, too, particularly on the software side of things.
Microsoft Weekly: Edge Beta for Linux, a new Segoe font, and games galore
by Florin Bodnarescu
A number of things happened in the last seven days, including the arrival of Edge Beta on Linux, the unveiling of a new Segoe font variant, and even a refresh of the Azure logo. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of May 2 - 8.
Edge Beta for Linux
We should begin with a little info regarding Edge, as not much has happened with the browser this week.
For starters, build 92.0.878.0 made its way to the Dev Channel. While this would normally be pretty exciting, Microsoft says the build doesn’t change much, given that it came out just a few days after the previous build. The changes are so minor that the company didn’t even bother publishing its usual post about it.
Moving on to the stable version, namely version 90, folks may be experiencing problems with YouTube playback, namely crashing. This bug has been acknowledged by a Microsoft engineer, who suggested users disable hardware acceleration as a workaround. The same engineer confirmed that the company is working on a fix, but that the issue may be more significant than initially thought.
And since we’re taking a tour through the various Insider channels, it’s worth pointing out that over six months after the Dev channel availability of Edge for Linux, there is now a Beta variant for the open-source OS.
Lastly, Microsoft is now testing everse image search in the Bing sidebar. This does pretty much exactly what it sounds like it would, namely allows you to right-click on an image and search for it on Bing in the sidebar which appears on the right of the Edge browser. As per Reddit user Leopeva64-2 who stumbled upon this, the capability is available in Edge Dev, though we have not seen this on any of our test devices.
A new font
For Insiders in the Dev channel, Microsoft pushed out yet another preview build, 21376, which included the usual array of fixes and, rather interestingly a new Segoe font variant.
While Segoe UI itself has been used as a default system font going all the way back to Windows Vista, a number of variants have been revealed since, including Segoe Script, Segoe Pro, and what Microsoft used for its Modern design icons, Segoe MDL2 Assets.
The new font is called Segoe UI Variable and as the name implies, it’s meant to vary slightly depending on the use case. Segoe UI itself for example was originally designed to be optimal at 9pt sizes, while Segoe UI Variable tweaks the letter weight and tracking depending on the size.
For smaller text, the letters are more tightly tracked, have more weight and are more open, while at display size, text isn’t quite as tightly tracked and has amplified letter terminals. For those not familiar, tracking refers to the overall horizontal spacing between font characters. This is not to be confused with kerning, which refers to the proportional spacing between two individual letters, whereas tracking refers to, say, an entire word.
On the subject of change, we should touch on the fact that Microsoft is set to fully remove Flash from Windows 10 in July. While support for Flash was dropped by Adobe on December 31, 2020, and Microsoft released a manual update to remove it back in October of the same year, it was, as the name implies, not necessarily mandatory. Starting in July, the Redmond giant is set to push out the update to Windows 10 v1809 and above, automagically removing the media plugin.
To that end, the firm is also removing any update blocks for versions 2004 and 20H2 (May 2020 Update, October 2020 Update), allowing folks to freely upgrade to these supported variants. We’re on the verge of a new feature update anyway, so it’s not much of a surprise that Microsoft wants folks on the latest Windows 10 version, if possible.
Last but not least, to the dismay of perhaps three people, Windows 10X is allegedly delayed indefinitely, as Microsoft focuses on Windows 10 proper.
Since its original unveil at the end of 2019 with the dual-screen Surface Neo and Duo, the former device was delayed out of its Holiday 2020 release window, and Windows 10X was repurposed for single-screen devices - in stark contrast to its initial 'dual-screen devices first' approach. For now, it seems that the Redmond firm is putting 10X on the backburner, focusing its resources on the expected Sun Valley UI refresh coming to Windows 10 later this year.
In a rather surprising announcement, Microsoft decided to take the wraps off a sizeable selection of titles now supporting FPS Boost. More than quadrupling the number of supported games from 23 to 97, the latest additions include Dying Light, a number of LEGO games, ReCore, and more, with supported framerates from 60 to 120FPS.
There are good news on the Game Pass front as well, with FIFA 21, Red Dead Online, Psychonauts, Outlast 2 and many others either already available or joining the subscription very soon. Additionally, folks in the U.S. also get four months of Spotify Premium with Game Pass Ultimate, though this is available for new users only.
On the revenue share front, Microsoft dropped its cut from 30% to 12% on PC, and was planning to do the same on console, but it will no longer do so. An interesting tidbit about the company’s strategy relates to exactly why it lowered its split. As per the court documents filed in January, this is done “in exchange for the grant of streaming rights to Microsoft.”, in other words, xCloud. It’s not exactly clear whether the proposal was far enough along to even be discussed with console publishers, but for the time being, the revenue split on Xbox remains 30/70.
If you don’t think that’s such a great deal, maybe some of the Deals with Gold will pique your interest, like the discounts for Borderlands 3, Control, PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition, and others.
However, if you have no desire to buy more games and already own the latest iteration of Flight Simulator or the spin-off title Minecraft Dungeons, it’s worth checking for updates, as both first-party games have received a number of enhancements and fixes.
The latest monthly Office Insider build on the Mac has added the ‘Share to Teams’ capability in Outlook, and more. Microsoft has announced its automation tool for security testing AI systems, dubbed Counterfit. Live transcriptions will soon be added for unscheduled and channel meetings in Teams. Microsoft has announced Reading Progress for Teams for education. Whiteboard now has improved Teams integration, support for rich content like images and stickers, and more. The Redmond giant has detailed more education features coming through August. Excel on the web now supports Power BI-connected PivotTables. Microsoft has delivered oxygen, ventilators, and more to support India’s COVID-19 response. New customization options are now available for Reply-all Storm Protection in Microsoft 365. Microsoft customers in the EU will be able to store all their data in the region by 2022. The Redmond firm has warned of a widespread gift card scam targeting organizations. Logging off
We end the week with a refreshed Azure logo, an interesting Defender bug, and some Surface firmware updates.
Starting with Azure, Microsoft has decided that the logo for its cloud service needed a bit of a Fluent Design facelift, and as such unveiled a brand-new icon. Ditching the angular shape of the old logo, this one is much more reminiscent of say, the Visual Studio icon, though in some cases, it may remind folks of the Adobe or Autodesk logos.
On the flip side, what wasn’t needed was a rather weird Microsoft Defender bug, which ended up creating “thousands” of files in users' boot drives. Some folks saw small files less than 2KB in size, while other users reported multiple GBs of storage being eaten up. A fix is already rolling out, and if you’re on Microsoft Defender engine version 1.1.18100.5, you’ll be bumped up to 1.1.18100.6 following this update.
Finally, for owners of the Surface Pro 4, Studio, Laptop 1,2, and 4, Microsoft has released a slew of firmware updates meant to bring stability and security enhancements.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
If you’d like to get a daily digest of news from Neowin, we now have a Newsletter you can sign up to either via the ‘Get our newsletter’ widget in the sidebar, or this link.
By Abhay V
Microsoft removes all update blocks for Windows 10 versions 2004 and 20H2
by Abhay Venkatesh
Microsoft releases major Windows 10 updates in a staggered fashion, meaning not all devices get the update immediately. For the past couple of years, the firm has let users decide if they want to install a feature update till the time that the version that they are on reaches the end-of-support. The company does enforce update blocks – essentially blocking those PCs from being served the updates – due to known issues. The firm then gradually removes these “safeguard holds” as and when the issues are fixes.
Since the release of Windows 10 version 2004 (May 2020 Update) one year ago, there have been various holds on certain devices. Considering that the October 2020 Update (version 20H2) contains the same bits as that of version 2004, those blocks also applied to this version of the OS. Though most of these update holds have been removed over the last year and versions 2004 and 20H2 now account for 80% of total Windows 10 machines, at least two upgrade blocks relating to Conexant audio drivers were still in place, at least for some users.
Now, Microsoft has officially noted in the known issues page for both versions (spotted by Ghacks) that the issues have been resolved as of yesterday, May 7, 2021. This means that any devices that have been prevented from upgrading to the May 2020 Update or the October 2020 Update from older versions will now be served the bits automatically. An estimated 11% of users are still running the November 2019 update (version 1909).
Of course, users have had other ways to update to the latest versions such as by using the Media Creation Tool or performing a fresh install using the available ISOs. Additionally, the company also added a Group Policy to Windows 10 allowing IT admins to circumvent these blocks or disable them and force devices to update, in case they deem it necessary.
The official update from the Redmond firm about the lifting of these long-standing safeguard holds comes just a few days from the official end-of-support date for Windows 10 version 1909. Starting May 11, all Home, Pro, and Pro Education SKUs will reach the end-of-support, meaning those on version 1909 must move to any of the newer versions. This also signals the first time that all supported Window 10 versions will receive the same servicing updates, since the upcoming Windows 10 May 2021 Update (21H1) is yet another enablement package, just like version 20H2.
Have any of your devices been blocked from receiving versions 2004 or 20H2, or has your organization held off on updating the devices to a newer version? Let us know in the comments below!
Huawei Band 6 review: a stylish fitness band with a big display
by João Carrasqueira
A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to review the Honor Band 6, the first smart band from Honor since it officially split from Huawei a few months ago. Soon after that, Huawei reached out to me about the Huawei Band 6, and to my surprise, the smart bands are still almost identical, though I suppose that's to be expected considering how little time has passed since the split.
Regardless, I was interested in testing the Huawei Band 6 because there are some key differences that might make this a more compelling device, with the most notable one on the spec sheet being the additional sports modes available on the Huawei model, along with a higher price tag. Are the differences enough to justify the price hike? Let's find out.
Body 43x25.4x10.99mm, 29g with strap (18g without strap) Strap Silicone strap, swappable Display 1.47-inch AMOLED, 368x194, 282ppi Sensors Accelerometer Optical heart rate sensor (with sleep monitoring and stress monitoring) SpO2 sensor (with continuous monitoring) Battery life Up to 14 days with typical usage, 10 days with heavy usage Water resistance 5ATM OS LiteOS Colors Black frame: Graphite Black, Forest Green
Golden frame: Amber Sunrise (as reviewed), Sakura Pink
Price €59.99-€69.99 (varies by market) Design
Like I said, the Huawei Band 6 is incredibly similar to the product from its former sister company in terms of design, and that goes right down to the packaging, which uses an almost identical template. I actually kind of prefer the more colorful look of the Honor Band 6's package, but that's probably a useless point to make.
The smart bands themselves are also incredibly similar, with the same display size, the same lone button on the right-hand side, and the same strap mechanism. There are some key differences, though, and I prefer the Huawei version because of it. For starters, it's ever so slightly thinner, but the body is also slightly rounder, which I think looks more elegant. Huawei also offers more color variants of its band, with either golden or black variants of the metal frame along with four different strap colors (versus three for the Honor Band 6). Huawei also let me choose which color I'd get, and I love this orange Amber Sunrise model.
The differences continue at the edges. The left-hand side of the frame is completely clean this time around, no Huawei branding in sight.
Meanwhile, the right side has the same single button, but without any accent colors. I usually like accented power buttons, but I'm not a big fan of the red Honor typically uses, so I'm happy about this difference, too.
The back is pretty much identical, housing the body sensors and the charging pins. You can also see that it uses the same strap mechanism.
Over on the front, the 1.46-inch AMOLED display is also nearly identical to that of the Honor Band 6. It's the same size and resolution, though putting them side-by-side, the Huawei model seems to produce slightly warmer colors.
A couple of things you'll be missing here are the support for automatic brightness and always-on displays. I don't mind the latter point at all, personally, but I know some people like it. Automatic brightness can be useful, though I find the medium brightness level to mostly work well enough both indoors and outdoors.
Overall, I was already a big fan of the compact design and big display of the Honor Band 6, and it feels more refined on this watch, so it definitely gets a thumbs-up from me.
Fitness and health tracking
For general health tracking, the Huawei Band 6 covers all the basics, with 24/7 heart rate and stress monitoring, sleep tracking, and female cycle tracking (if it applies to you). One big advantage that this smart band offers versus the Honor equivalent is all-day SpO2 monitoring, and it's actually the first time I see any wearable offer this. Usually, you have to measure your SpO2 levels manually every time, but Huawei made it work throughout the day, which makes this feature much more useful. However, it still requires you to be relatively still for the measurement, so there will be some prolonged periods without measurements if you're constantly on the move.
One thing to note if you're using a non-Huawei or Honor smartphone is that the Huawei Health app on the Google Play Store hasn't been updated in months. You'll need to find the latest APK files elsewhere on the internet for this feature to light up - but phones with access to the Huawei AppGallery can just update the app through there.
There are more advantages to the Huawei Band 6, though, as it can track up to 96 exercise modes, which is a huge step up from the 10 modes supported by the Honor version. In fact, this number is the same as what's supported on the Honor Watch ES, which was much more expensive when it launched and is also significantly bigger. That model also offered guided workout routines, though, which you don't get here.
The Huawei Band 6 still doesn't have a GPS, but one thing I learned during my review period is that if you have a Huawei phone, these watches can in fact pull your location from your phone automatically. It just doesn't work with other phone brands, and in that case, the "outdoor cycle" workout mode is hidden from the watch UI, and you have to start it from the Huawei Health app on your phone. What's annoying is that this doesn't happen for other outdoor workouts, like running and walking. You can start those from the watch, but it won't register any movement, so the workout isn't saved.
In terms of health tracking, I found that the Huawei Band 6 is a bit more responsive to changes in my heart rate compared to the Honor sibling. I wasn't sure of this when I first reviewed it, but that model has a tendency to get stuck on the same value for longer, and sometimes it showed me very irregular values, like over 130bpm while I'm sitting at my desk. The Huawei version updates more quickly, both throughout the day and during workouts, and thus paints a more realistic picture.
You can also sync your health data with Google Fit, which I like to do, but only some types of exercise are registered there. When I register a Ring Fit Adventure session as cross fit, it doesn't sync to Google's service, for instance.
Software and battery life
The Huawei Band 6 runs the same OS as most other Huawei and Honor smartwatches, including the Honor Band 6. That's a big jump from previous generations of the smart bands, though, which had simpler and less animated interfaces to fit the smaller screen. There's a myriad of watch faces available for the Band 6 so you can have it suit your preference.
Swiping left or right from the watch face will show you widgets like your activity rings, heart rate monitoring, and so on, and you can customize those through the band's settings. You also get the usual slew of "apps" by pressing the side button, which are:
Workout Workout records Heart rate SpO2 Activity records Sleep Stress Breathing exercises Music Weather Notifications Stopwatch Timer Alarm Flashlight Remote shutter (requires a Huawei/Honor phone) Find phone Settings The software is very simple and somewhat limited in what it can do, but that helps it achieve incredible battery life. Something like Wear OS has many more smart features, support for apps from the Play Store, and so on, but you can pretty much only use a Wear OS watch for one day before charging again. The Huawei Band 6 promises up to 14 days on a charge for average users, and 10 days of intensive use, which is about what I got. That's with some firmware updates in there, almost daily exercise tracking, and continuous heart rate, stress, sleep, and SpO2 monitoring. It's great to not have to worry about charging nearly as often.
I've said a few times already that I still prefer having the smart features of Wear OS at the expense of battery life, but I'm starting to change my tune a bit. Wear OS has become incredibly frustrating for me because it requires me to reset my watch every time I need to use a different phone for a review, and whenever I reset it, it's a gamble what kind of experience I'll get. It may work flawlessly or it may have some weird bug that can only be fixed by resetting again. I appreciate how easy it is to pair the Huawei Band 6 (and other Huawei/Honor wearables) with a different phone without losing anything.
At first glance, the Huawei Band 6 doesn't seem to stand out that much from the device I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, but once you dive into it, there are a few advantages that make this easily a better device. The design overall is better and you get more color options to boot, it offers far more exercise modes if you need more advanced tracking, and it adds all-day SpO2 monitoring, which is completely new for a Huawei/Honor wearable. On top of that, heart rate monitoring just seems slightly more accurate here.
At €59.99 in most European markets, the official price of the Huawei Band 6 is €10 above that of its Honor equivalent, but I'd say the advantages it has easily justify the price increase if you're in the market for a somewhat affordable wearable. Feature-wise, there's no disadvantage for the Huawei version, and even if you're only looking for the basics right now, a small step up in price can help you future-proof yourself if you want to get more serious about fitness later.
You can buy the Huawei Band 6 from Huawei's website, though prices vary by country. In most European countries, it costs around €59, while others go up to €69.99. In the UK, it can be had for £59.99. You can also check out our review of the Honor Band 6 if you'd like to compare them,
Microsoft Azure icon gets a Fluent Design makeover
by Anmol Mehrotra
In a blog post, Microsoft unveiled a new icon for its Azure cloud service. The icon is based on Microsoft’s Fluent Design System that debuted back in 2017.
Microsoft has noted that the new icon will be available across all the Azure services as well as on the website in the coming weeks. The company also highlighted that the new icon represents “unity of Azure within the larger Microsoft family of product icons” and is carefully crafted to look familiar to “what customers know and love” while representing the future of the service.
Microsoft Azure is not the first service to get a Fluent Design makeover. Back in 2018, Microsoft started rolling out Fluent Design elements for Office apps and in 2019, the company unveiled new icons for its services including Windows. Since then, the company has been hard at work to update all of its services with the new Fluent Design System.
As usual, the new icon for Azure services will roll out in the coming weeks and Microsoft will allow users to chip in and share their thoughts. If you are interested in sharing suggestions or criticism with Microsoft, then you can do so using the feedback form.