- Great 120 Hz display
- Surprisingly handy
- Good overall package
- No 5G, only Snapdragon 888
- 8 GB RAM
- No Google services
Folding displays are theoretically still the solution for large displays in small smartphones. Huawei’s latest approach is the Mate Xs 2, which is good but costly.
Nothing has changed in the basic design of the new Huawei Mate Xs 2. When folded, the smartphone still looks almost like a conventional model in bar form. Only a closer look reveals that the smartphone has more to offer. As with the predecessor, the back can be folded forwards using a button. Only then does it become clear that the supposed back has been a display surface all along. The advantage of this folding direction is in contrast to Samsung, which folds its folding display inwards: a second outer display for use when folded is superfluous, as the smaller front is already a screen. Disadvantage: The expensive folding display is constantly exposed and is not protected when folded.
The broader body on the right-hand side has also remained. It is not even 2 centimetres wide and, with a depth of 11.1 millimetres, also defines the maximum thickness of the smartphone. Huawei has built large parts of the technology into this strip, which is not even noticeable when folded up because it almost forms a unit together with the closed display. This includes the camera with its three lenses and dual flash, and the button for folding out the panel mentioned at the beginning is also located here. The same applies to the power button with the fingerprint sensor and the volume rocker, although both are located on the side of the device. Only when unfolded do you notice the “grip bead”, which is twice as thick as the display itself. Right-handed people might like this as a grip, but everyone else will probably prefer the equally thick design of the Samsung foldable.
Even though the design has remained the same as its predecessor, Huawei has made visible and tangible advancements. The new model has become slightly smaller, and its length and width have shrunk. While this is only a few millimetres, there is a comparatively significant leap in weight. The new model has lost a whopping 45 grams, and at 255 grams, it is no longer much heavier than other large smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Nevertheless, the Xs 2 does not seem any more fragile than the older model – excellent. Even the few millimetres of shrinkage have done the foldable phone good. Together with the symmetrical curves when folded, the device now lies even better in hand and, with the reduced weight, is once again reminiscent of a completely typical smartphone with a rigid display.
New is the more even and even narrower edges around the display. In addition, you can now see a front camera that peers at the user through a punch-hole notch in the top right corner. The hinge, which is supposed to ensure a permanently smooth and stable folding process, has been further improved and made even more durable, according to the manufacturer. On top of that, the visible fold in the unfolded state has been further improved – more on this in the next subsection.
It has already been hinted at: the Huawei Mate Xs 2 is smaller, and this refers not only to the external dimensions but also to the display size(s). The panel shrinks from a maximum of 8 inches on the predecessor to 7.8 inches on the new model; when folded, it is 6.5 inches instead of 6.6 inches. On the other hand, the resolution remains essentially the same: 2480 x 2200 pixels when folded out again, and with 2480 x 1176 pixels, the folded screen is nominally even a few pixels higher in resolution. With 425 and 422 PPI, the panel is always pleasant, sharp, and rich in contrast, thanks to OLED technology. The most significant innovation is now adaptive 120 Hz playback; the predecessor was only capable of 60 Hz. The difference is visible; the predecessor does not appear as fluid as the new model in a direct comparison.
Otherwise, there are only positive things to report. Colours can be displayed naturally or very intensively. The white balance is delicate and can be adjusted by the user. The viewing angle dependency is exemplary, as usual for OLEDs, and the brightness of the new model has been further increased. We measured 465 cd/m² in manual mode and a maximum of 675 candelas in automatic mode in sunlight. This is nowhere near the best model with a fixed panel level, but it is pretty decent for everyday use. The always-on display offers numerous customisation options. Overall, the screen is convincing, both folded and unfolded. In full format, the crease is less or less visible, as advertised by Huawei. The crease always seems to need a little time to smooth itself out: at first, you can still see slight unevenness, but after a short time, it is no longer visible, even against the light or forced into reflections – great!
Not only the new front camera with 10.7 megapixels and f/2.2 is new, Huawei has also changed other lenses – or adopted them from the Huawei P50 Pro (review). The main camera now offers 50 instead of 40 megapixels. The aperture remains the same at f/1.8 and, once again, laser autofocus. Unfortunately, no optical image stabiliser (OIS) is used – a pity, and we would have liked to see the latter in the new model. The wide-angle lens now even lacks 3 megapixels; shots are taken with 13 instead of 16 megapixels and still f/2.2. The telephoto lens seems to be borrowed from the predecessor, and it again offers 8 megapixels, f/2.4 and an OIS. Huawei has omitted the ToF sensor as the fourth lens.
The overall photo quality is very good but does not match the high-end competition. Unfortunately, this was already the case with the P50 Pro and is particularly sad because Huawei was a leader in smartphone cameras for several years with its (most recently) Leica cameras. This cooperation is no longer in place, and regardless of this, shots in direct comparison always lack the last bit of sharpness and brilliance. In night shots, the degree of sharpness decreases faster than in other models and image noise becomes increasingly visible. Overall, image dynamics and colour reproduction are decent. With its 3x magnification, the zoom takes good pictures, provided the light is right. This is hardly different from the competition. Photos with the selfie cam are okay – not overly sharp, but sufficient, as long as the lighting conditions are not too extreme.
Videos can be recorded smoothly at 4K/60 and offer smooth panning and pleasantly viewable shots with the general movement of the subject and camera user, thanks to good stabilisation. There are also differences to the market leader Samsung, but overall the video function is quite acceptable. We pity that Huawei did not make more of the “two-sided” display when closed. An additional live viewfinder can indeed be activated on the “other side” so that the person being recorded can see himself. However, if you want to use this to take selfies of yourself with the main camera, any setting options that the smartphone actually offers are missing. All in all, the camera equipment of the Mate Xs 2 is excellent, as long as you don’t expect absolute top pictures. These times of market dominance in cameras are finally over for Huawei.
Regarding features, prospective buyers of the Huawei Mate Xs 2 will have to swallow a few bucks again. The foldable smartphone does not come with the most robust chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, but with the predecessor Snapdragon 888. It is also limited to 4G, i.e. LTE, and there is not an overwhelming amount of RAM either: 8 GB – the end. And before the question comes: Yes, the Mate Xs 2 also comes without Google services. That sounds like a cheat pack, especially given the phone’s high price. Some of it is not relevant in everyday life.
Let’s take the point about the “old” chipset. Of course, the newer chipset is even more powerful, but it still suffers from heat problems and is ultimately not more energy efficient. At least in these points, reaching for the SD888 does nothing, especially since it also has more than enough power. In PCMark’s Work 3.0, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 achieved 8900 points, and in 3Dmark Wildlife, 5900 points. Of course, smartphones with the new chip – such as the Sony Xperia 1 IV – have easily 5000 points more in PCMark and Wildlife is blown up, so Wildlife Extreme has to be used. But the Mate Xs 2 is anything but slow. In everyday use, you don’t notice anything from the “old chips”, it doesn’t jerk anywhere, and you don’t find any pause seconds. The new 120 Hz display now looks even more impressive, and those who don’t know about the “old” hardware won’t even think about it. This also applies to games, which look terrific on the giant panel. The smartphone gets warm but not hot.
5G is not included – Huawei cannot be held responsible for this, as it is due to the US ban on the manufacturer, but it is a pity. How important that is to one, buyers must decide for themselves. And what about RAM? Of course, customers could expect more than 8 GB RAM, but that is not necessary for everyday use anyway. To compensate, the version of the smartphone officially sold in Germany has a whopping 512 GB of internal memory – expandable, even if only with a comparatively expensive NM (nano memory) instead of a micro SD card. The rest of the hardware is exemplary, as a look at our table shows. What it doesn’t say: The fingerprint does its job quickly and well, and the speakers are in a class of their own. They even manage a little bass!
The display has shrunk slightly, the battery has grown minimally to 4600 mAh, and the chipset is modern – this should ensure good runtimes. However, the Mate Xs 2 is now also capable of 120 Hz playback, and this is noticeable. In automatic mode at the frequency, a fixed brightness of 200 candelas and a measurement of 80 to 20 per cent battery, the smartphone lasts around 7.5 hours when opened up in PCMark’s battery test and about 10.5 hours when folded. These are not bad values, but there are more enduring models.
A regular rhythm of a full charge every two days should also be possible with the unusual folding smartphone, especially since the “small” display with its 6.5 inches is probably mainly used when folded. Like Samsung, Huawei omits something from its top foldable: here, however, it is not the power supply unit, which has been boosted to 66 watts and is included in the delivery box, but wireless charging. We already wrote about this in our review of the predecessor: “This is part of the package for a device of this price,” and we stand by this statement. The smartphone charges completely in around 45 minutes via cable – not record-breaking, but fast enough.
Let’s keep it short: We like the Huawei Mate Xs 2 best among the large folding smartphones. This is primarily due to the design and the outwardly folded display, a “small” and large panel in one. Thanks to 120 Hz and excellent display quality, this is impressive, and the folding crease is hardly visible on the new model. On paper, however, the device is not optimally positioned in terms of RAM and chipset, and prospective buyers could rightly complain about that. Fortunately, this doesn’t matter in everyday use, which also applies to the lack of 5G. The camera is good, even if not top-notch, and the smartphone has no flaws overall – except for the pricing.
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