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Huawei Mate Xs 2 Review: It's A Foldable Phone, But Different

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The Huawei Mate Xs 2 is thin, great looking, and kind of unique.

Huawei Mate Xs 2
€1,999
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • Different, but functional design
  • Feels like using a regular phone when folded
  • Very thin
  • Excellent display
  • Great speakers
  • Truly fast charging
Cons
  • No IP rating
  • The battery life could be better
  • App selection is still somewhat limited
  • Android 11
  • No wireless charging

Huawei supplied us with a review unit of the Huawei Mate Xs 2, but didn’t have a say in our opinion, nor did they see this review before you. We’ve been using the device for a couple of weeks before forming an opinion.

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 is one of the company’s newest foldable smartphones. It is considerably different than anything else on the market, pretty much. I haven’t had the chance to use the Mate X or Xs, so this was my first experience with an outwards-folding Huawei phone. Having said that, this phone managed to surprise me. I enjoyed reviewing the Huawei Mate Xs 2, that’s for sure, and even though it’s not a perfect phone, it’s very interesting, and a total contrast to the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

The last sentence in the previous paragraph may confuse you. How come it’s a total contrast to the Galaxy Z Fold 4 when they’re both tablet-sized foldables that fold down into large smartphones. Well, that is true but they fold in opposite directions, and feel completely different in the hand. The Mate Xs 2 managed to surprise me in a number of ways, and it may do the same for you. It has its positives and negatives, of course, so let’s see what they are. Read on if you’d like to know more about the Huawei Mate Xs 2.

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 is different, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing

Unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 4, and most other large foldable out there, this one folds outwards. That means that approximately half of its display sits on the back when it’s folded. Many would say that’s not an ideal situation, as you can pick up scratches easily, and everything is exposed. That is true, but this has its benefits. The Huawei Mate Xs 2 is A LOT thinner than the Galaxy Z Fold 4. This phone measures only 5.4mm when unfolded, and 11.1mm when folded.

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Why is that important? Well, when it’s unfolded it’s crazy thin, and when it’s folded it feels like using a regular, large smartphone. It’s as thick as a large phone with a case would be. Also, considering that it folds outwards, holding it in the hand doesn’t feel like you’re holding a foldable phone. The sides are neatly curved, and one part of the phone connects to the strip on the back, so you basically don’t feel the two sides of the phone connecting on the sides, at all.

It’s so thin, it actually feels like you’re using a regular phone

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This is what surprised me the most, to be quite honest. I didn’t really expect using it will feel like using a regular phone when folded. That is how it’s supposed to be when it comes to foldables. In order to unfold the device, you’ll need to press a dedicated, physical button on the back. At that point, the phone disconnects from the back, and you can unfold it. The unfolding and folding motion is not as smooth as it is on foldables that fold the other way. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t feel cheap or anything of the sort, but it does require more force to do, and there’s no that satisfying snap you’d get with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, OPPO Find N, etc. You also have several different angles to which you can unfold the device, but you don’t have a full range of motion when it comes to that.

It feels premium in the hand

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The overall build is really nice, and the phone feels premium in the hand. There is a protruding strip on the right side of the phone’s back. That’s where the cameras and other hardware components are located. This not only gives you a great place to grip the phone, but it’s also where the phone gets docked when folded. I actually really like this solution, to be quite honest. So, the design has its benefits, but also its downsides. Its downsides can be mostly amended by using a case, which brings me to our next topic.

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The included case is nice and surprisingly functional

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 comes with a case. It’s a soft silicone case, and it’s actually really nice considering everything. It’s difficult to make a case for a device like this, because it unfolds from the back. Well, this case latches onto the phone on the right side properly, while the left side remains available to open when needed. It easily detaches from the device, allowing you to unfold it.

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In regular use, though, it protects the device from all sides. Parts of the top and bottom are exposed, but the sides are raised. The entire left and right sides are protected, though, which is the most important thing. You can risk it, and use the phone without a case, but that’s not exactly the best idea. That screen does have a coating on it that should provide some extra protection for scratches, but you’ll still be placing a display on the table constantly, and who knows what other types of surfaces.

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There’s not much to complain in the display department

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 features a truly large display, which folds into a smaller one. This foldable comes with one display, not two of them. You’re getting a large 7.8-inch 2480 x 2200 Foldable OLED panel here. This is a 120Hz display, and it can project up to 1 billion colors. When folded, it becomes a 6.5-inch display with a resolution of 2480 x 1176. The question is, is this display any good?

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Well, yes, in terms of image quality, it’s really, really good. The colors are vibrant, and the viewing angles are good. Touch response is also excellent, and thanks to that 120Hz refresh rate, scrolling is really fluid. I did notice that the display is not as bright as it is on some regular flagship smartphones, outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, it’s bright enough, it just doesn’t get into that crazy levels as some regular phones do.

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The screen protection did annoy me a bit, at times

When the phone is folded, you’ll also feel the screen protector on the side, when you’re swiping from the right. That is not as pronounced when it’s unfolded. I found this to be a bit annoying, but it has to be that way. Don’t try to peel off that layer off of the device. It’s not a regular screen protector at all, and it’s not meant to be removed. Once I got used to it, however, it didn’t bother me one bit. Also, if you end up using on-screen buttons, this won’t be an issue at all.

There’s not much to complain about when it comes to this display. I had to nitpick a little bit, but chances are you won’t have any complaints.

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 offers really smooth performance

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 doesn’t exactly come with the latest and greatest from Qualcomm. It includes the Snapdragon 888 SoC, which is Qualcomm’s flagship for last year. It also doesn’t come with 5G, all that because of the US ban. Does that affect the performance, though? Well, no, not really. The phone was able to basically fly through everything I threw at it, including some games I found in the AppGallery.

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Regular, everyday tasks are not a problem either. I did notice some stutters in day-to-day performance, but that is to be expected. It’s a part of pretty much every phone, and it’s not as frequent. For all intents and purposes, the phone performed great. It did get warm when I was gaming, noticeably warm, but during general usage, that was a non-issue, it remained cool for the most part.

Google services do not come pre-installed

Android 11 does come pre-installed on the device, though, not Android 12. EMUI 12 is installed on top of it. Do note that the phone doesn’t include Google services due to the US ban, it comes with Huawei services without the Google Play Store.

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The battery life could be better

The global variant of the device comes with a 4,600mAh battery. The top-of-the-line model in China does include a 4,880mAh unit, though. During our usage, the battery life wasn’t all that great, to be quite honest. The phone does include a truly large display, which remains large when folded. With its resolution and high refresh rate thrown into the mix, the results weren’t all that great.

During more intense days, I had to charge the phone before bedtime. During lighter usage days, I was able to avoid it. In terms of screen-on-time, I was getting between 4 and 5 hours, and that’s not great in my book. It was usually closer to four. Truth be said, I did use the phone unfolded whenever I could, as it’s just so thin in that form, and such a joy to use. So you may be able to get better battery life if you focus more on the folded form. Do note that the standby time is quite good, though.

The phone charges extremely fast with the included charger

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The good news is, however, that the phone comes with fast charging, truly fast charging. With the included 66W charger, you can reach an 85-percent charge in only 30 minutes. A full charge took a bit over 40 minutes, somewhere between 40 and 45 minutes. Needless to say, that’s really fast. So, even if you do end up draining the battery too much, you’ll only need a quick top-up. Do note that wireless charging is not included, though.

The cameras are good, but not great

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 has three cameras on the back, and one on its display. A 50-megapixel main camera is backed by an 8-megapixel telephoto camera, and a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera. A 10.7-megapixel camera sits on the front. Having said that, are the cameras any good? Well, they’re good, but they’re not the best we’ve seen out of Huawei, at least in terms of the final results, not even close.

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The phone had issues with white balance from time to time

Most images ended up looking really nice, and well-balanced. I did notice that the white balance did tend to get messed up in daylight shots from time to time, and that the phone tends to overexpose things in low light at times, when lights are a part of the scene. The colors do end up looking really nice, and what’s interesting, the ultrawide camera can sometimes deliver a more saturated image than the main one. It’s usually the other way around.

The images do look realistic, most of the time

The images do look true to life, the phone doesn’t have a tendency to crank up the saturation. It does offer 3x optical zoom, which works fine. The front-facing camera is good enough, but nothing to write home about. Truth be said, this is exactly what I expected. Leica is no longer a part of the picture, though I don’t know how much that affected things. I also noticed some warping on the sides of images, from time to time. Foldable smartphones don’t usually match regular flagship phones from companies, and the same can be said here. I preferred the Huawei P50 Pro camera results in comparison.

The speakers are excellent… and adaptive

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The Huawei Mate Xs 2 comes with a stereo speaker setup, and the phone actually balances sound depending on whether the phone is folded or not. It will change channels when you change the orientation, that’s a nice touch by Huawei. In terms of general sound quality, these speakers are really good. They’re more than loud enough, and quite clear. The low-end is excellent, while the vocals are also quite clear. The highs are also really good, and the mids are passable. Overall, the sound is nice.

There’s no audio jack here

For those of you who were hoping for an audio jack, well, unfortunately it’s not a part of the package. You’ll have to rely on the Type-C port at the bottom, if you’d like to use wired headphones. Otherwise, you have the option of utilizing Bluetooth 5.2 (A2DP, LE). I’ve used a Bluetooth connection for the purposes of this review, and it worked flawlessly. I used it to connect my smartwatch and earbuds.

Android 11 comes pre-installed, with EMUI 12

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 ships with Android 11, and EMUI 12 on top of it. That goes for the global model. In China, HarmonyOS is included on the Chinese model. Having said that, the phone does come without Google services. Due to the US ban, Huawei is prevented from using Google services/apps. The phone does come with HMS, Huawei’s very own services, and an app store (AppGallery).

AppGallery made huge progress over the years

AppGallery expanded a lot since its inception. There are tons of apps included there, and it keeps on growing. Don’t expect you’ll be able to find everything you would in the Play Store, though. Luckily, Huawei will suggest apps from app repositories as well, making it easier for you to install them. It’s not as streamlined as having them in the AppGallery, though, of course. Do note that almost all apps you sideload will work fine, at least the ones we’ve tried, except for Google’s.

EMUI 12 is quite fluid

The software is fluid, and it actually seems like a hybrid between Android and iOS. You do not get an app drawer in the EMUI 12 launcher. I’ve tried to find the option to switch to it, but I haven’t been able to. Either I’m blind, or it’s not there. If you do find it, let me know. Also, when you swipe from the top-right side, you’ll get quick toggles, while swiping down from the top-left side will show you your notifications. There’s no double-tap to lock feature, there’s some customizability, but not a lot, and so on. EMUI 12 is also quite colorful. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it works very well.

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 is different, in a good way, but not for everyone

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So, what’s the bottom line? Is this phone worth the asking price? Well, the answer to that is… depending on what’s your budget, and what you’re looking for in a phone. If you really want a foldable that feels like using a smartphone when folded, and that folds outwards at the same time, this is the phone for you. Not a single other, globally-available device, can mimic this. The Xiaomi MIX Fold 2 rivals this device in terms of thinness, and folds the other way, but it’s limited to China at the moment.

If, on the other hand, you can’t live without Google apps and services, and you value excellent battery life, perhaps you should look elsewhere. The Huawei Mate Xs 2 sure is a great device, but it’s not for everyone. That appears to be the case for almost all foldables, though. It’s up to you. The phone surely has its positive sides, but also some negative ones.