I’ll be honest from the get-go: I haven’t spent nearly enough time with the HUAWEI Mate X2. And no, I’m not referring to the fact that I would have preferred to have it forever, but, for the purpose of this HUAWEI Mate X2 review, having it for a little bit more than the one week I spent with it would have allowed me to experience it in a deeper fashion. That being said, if I am ever offered the opportunity to take it for a longer spin, I’ll look forward to elaborating on the below.
That being said, I used HUAWEI’s latest and greatest foldable for five days as my primary phone, and I think I have a pretty good grasp at what the product is, and who it is aimed towards. No, it’s not for everyone, even if everyone would afford to purchase it at this prohibitive price point.
Before we get into our HUAWEI Mate X2 review, it’s important to remember that the company made a huge design shift from the previous two models, the Mate X, and the Mate Xs, as I anticipated in my February editorial. You see, the predecessors had an out folding design, which had the advantage of utilizing only a single screen. The main disadvantage: the display was, at all times, exposed to the elements.
With the Mate X2, HUAWEI did what Samsung did all along. Added a secondary display to act as the main screen when the now in-folding Mate X2 is closed up. With that in mind, this is our HUAWEI Mate X2 review.
There’s just something about the way HUAWEI designs its smartphones that I’ve always found intriguing. The Editor’s Choice Design award the Mate 40 Pro won is a testimony to that.
If it weren’t for the thickness and the tapering (more in that later), you’d be tricked into believing you’re holding a Mate 40 Pro from the front, and a P40 Pro+ from the back.
The ingenuity of the company’s engineers and designers lies in how they built the phone, at the concept level. The two halves, while almost identical in real estate, are varying in thickness, employing a wedge shape. That not only helps with the center of gravity of the device, making it easier to use while unfolded but plays an important role in the entire folding mechanism.
The second aspect to the actual “fold” is the revolutionary Teardrop hinge, replacing the old Falcon Wing hinge from previous models. This new approach, in order to avoid creasing up the display, bends the screen into a teardrop shape. And with the usage of zirconium-based liquid metal inside the hinge, HUAWEI claims this particular component is twice as strong as before on the Mate Xs.
The downside to this hinge is that, except for the two anchor points in the folded and unfolded states, anything in between is spring-loaded. This means that the device if left alone, will more often than not default to one of the two states: folded or unfolded. Because of this, you can’t easily prop it up by itself to use it half unfolded (like a laptop), but you can emulate this state with the use of a case that helps the device prop up.
Another aspect to consider is that it’s no easy task to unfold the device using one hand, because of the magnets that hold it in place in its folded state. Luckily, this isn’t such a big deal, because, opposed to its main competitor, the Z Fold 2, the Mate X2 has a larger outer display that doesn’t require you to resort to the inner display for day-to-day operations.
Because of nifty tricks like these, and what it translates to (a really flat, relatively crease-free unfolded display) we believe the Mate X2 deserves our recommendation for the best foldable smartphone design.
When it comes to horsepower, HUAWEI didn’t hold back and threw in everything they’ve got, including the kitchen sink. And, it makes sense, if you come to think of it. If you’re shelling out close to $2,800 (in Chinese Yuans, as the phone is only available in China), you better make sure it’s future proof.
At the heart of the Mate X2 lies the 5G Kirin 9000 chip, with eight cores and its Mali-G78 MP24 GPU. There’s only one memory option, at 8GB, but there are two storage variants to choose from: 256GB and 512GB, expandable via the company’s own NM memory cards.
The outer (cover) display is a 6.45-inch OLED panel with a 90Hz refresh rate and 1160 x 2700 resolution. Flip it open and you reveal an uninterrupted 8-inch panel with 2200 x 2480 resolution. Yes, by uninterrupted we mean that there are no punch holes or notches, which adds to the entertainment and media consumption but dials it back on the user experience side for those who would want to video-call while unfolded.
And, since we’re talking cameras, the cover display houses the front camera, a 16MP unit, together with sensors and other hardware in the oval punch hole.
The back features a quad-camera Leica system that is made up of the following:
- 50 MP Ultra Vision Camera (Wide Angle, f/1.9 aperture, OIS);
- 16 MP Cine Camera (Ultra-Wide Angle, f/2.2 aperture);
- 12 MP Telephoto Camera (3x Optical Zoom, f/2.4 aperture, OIS);
- 8 MP SuperZoom Camera (10x Optical Zoom, f/4.4 aperture, OIS), support AF.
The rest consists of the usual suspects, with notable mentions going out to Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6, a side-mounted fingerprint scanner (inside the power button), and a 4,500mAh battery with 55W fast-charging via HUAWEI SuperCharge.
When it comes to the software, the story is unchanged. Android 10 AOSP-based EMUI 11, with no Google Services, but a continuously expanding HUAWEI ecosystem via HMS.
The software experience is pretty identical with the Mate 40 Pro, so check out the Experience segment of that review to get a general view of what to expect.
However, there are some foldable specific features that make the experience pretty smooth, even if these features are not in your face. Handing off between the two displays, as a result of folding or unfolding the device, is seamless.
The operating system itself is packed with some China-specific software out of the box, which makes sense, knowing it’s the only market this phone is available in.
App scaling works well, at least on the apps that we had access to and managed to use. It also helps that there’s a dedicated segment inside Settings especially for this. And, with an 8-inch display, it makes a lot of sense to use apps side-by-side, which (for the supported apps) the Mate X2 does a great job at.
There’s one caveat though: you can’t change the sizes of the apps that are being displayed side-by-side, but this might be my design, rather than a bug, in order to keep the aspect ratio and app scaling problems out of the equation.
When it comes to the experience, it is one you have to witness first hand in order to really appreciate. From the snappiness of the folding mechanism to sliding your finger across the barely visible crease, all the way to holding it easily with one hand due to the offset center of gravity. HUAWEI really nailed the Mate X2 in most of its aspects, which shouldn’t come as a surprise for a 3rd generation foldable smartphone.
Basic phone operation
Basic phone functionality just works. Nothing to report here. Calls and reception are good, data speeds are in line with every other device (only tested on 4G as 5G is not yet available on my carrier in my region).
A special shout-out is due for the speaker system, which is really loud, crisp, clear, and packs enough oomph to silence an entire room awed in surprise.
Battery life is good for at least two days of regular use. Disclaimer: we didn’t count the amount of time we spent on the 8-inch screen compared to the Cover display. While it will influence your battery life, you won’t spend most of your time with the phone unfolded. But, it’s safe to say that with regular use, you’ll get through two days. If you ever need to charge it, you’ll be assured to know that 30 minutes will give you close to 80 percent of battery juice.
When it comes to cameras, HUAWEI has been a benchmark for quite some time. Testifying to all of this is my colleague Adam Lein’s recent take on the Mate 40 Pro, and he’s a professional photographer.
That’s also the case with the Mate X2. Since we’re talking about a hyper-flagship, the company made sure to add all of the best features, sensors, and optics.
There’s no breakthrough here, just delivering the same solid performance we’ve gotten used to from the HUAWEI and Leica partnership. Whether you’re shooting wide-angle, regular, telephoto, day or night, portrait or classic, you can rest assured that you’re going to end up with great quality shots. If we were impressed by the camera on the Mate 40 Pro, the Mate X2 is almost entirely replicating the setup from the Mate 40 Pro+, so, you know, it takes it up a notch (or two).
When it comes to the front camera, since this is an in-folding design, you no longer have to turn the phone around, like with the previous two models, in order to take a selfie with the main cameras. Since it has a dedicated selfie shooter, you’re taking your selfies with the phone folded, like with any regular phone.
What we would like to see is the ability to have both displays on at the same time. This could be useful in showing a preview to your subject on the outer display, before snapping the picture while unfolded. You can, of course, use the main cameras to take a selfie, and it looks kind of awkward, as seen below.
HUAWEI Mate X2 review conclusion
Over the past couple of years, I’ve started breaking down flagships even more. Yes, the flagship category still defines a certain type of smartphone characteristics, but there are more levels to flagships. The way I see things is this: the Mate 40 Pro is a flagship. The Mate 40 Pro+ is a super-flagship. …and then the devices like the Mate X2 are, in my book, hyper-flagships. Yes, I guess you got my car analogy.
Whether you think spending north of 2,300 Euros ($2,800) is insane or not doesn’t really matter. The Mate X2 is a niche product, and, it not being for the masses, can wear the price tag with pride.
But even if you had the money you wouldn’t be able to buy it outside of China. For whatever reason, HUAWEI made this decision and they seem to be really determined to keep things this way.
Nonetheless, as I alluded to in the headline, if I had to choose a single device to use for the next quinquennial, the Mate X2 would be the one I would go for.
+ superb design;
+ awesome displays;
+ excellent cameras;
+ great battery life;
+ amazing speakers;
+ solid performer.
– no wireless charging;
– prohibitive price/limited availability;
– lack of Google Services (if that’s still a thing that bothers you).
HUAWEI Mate X2 review gallery