Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS

Although Huawei has been making phones in partnership with Porsche Design when the Mate 9 launched, these phones have really only been a more polished design of the identical product that's packaged more lavishly.

But with the latest Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS released alongside the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro, we are seeing a product that takes the best Huawei has to offer and add enough on top to make it a new, separate product.

You get a better and higher-res screen, wireless charging and the world's first in-screen fingerprint sensor on a commercial phone. All that in a polished, reflective, curved glass and metal finish with IP67 water resistance. Oh, and there is plenty of space inside with a 256GB and a 512GB model.

All of that translates to the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS transcending above every other phone in terms of hardware. The caveat? The price. You'll want to prepare yourself for the bill. 

Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS price and availability

  • Priced at AED 5,999
  • Limited availability

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS costs a lot of money.

Pricing for the 256GB model is AED 5,999. The 512GB version isn’t available yet, but the price was announced in euros which, using the same conversion as used for the 256GB version, translates to about AED 7,999.

Available in two colours, red and black, the red version looks set to be exclusive to China, with the Black version currently being sold across the UAE in Porsche Design shops, Huawei shops and a few other retailers.

S9 front meets Porsche Design back

  • An S9-like look
  • Great-looking mirrored finish

There’s no getting around it – the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS screams Samsung Galaxy S9. It all starts with its curved OLED display, extends to the rounded metal frame with machined antenna bands in identical locations and continues to the curved glass back.

It’s only when you look and feel very attentively that you notice, but Porsche Design’s influence adds more curvature at the top and bottom of the Mate RS’s front and back panel of glass. 

It really does feel excellent in the hand, with the added assurance of IP67 water and dust resistance being a welcome one when handling such a pricey gadget.

Rather than shy away from the S9 comparison, Porsche Design’s Design Director, Christian Schwamkrug embraces it, explaining that his team prioritises symmetry and clean lines in its products – stating that the Galaxy S9 is a well-designed product, but that the Mate RS design is better. 

As a result, Porsche Design’s new Huawei Smartphone has a symmetrical back, unlike the Galaxy S9.

This focus on design and clean lines also explains Porsche Design’s decision to ditch the P20’s notch and instead go with a QHD curved screen, symmetrical on both axis.

As for the glass back’s mirrored finish, it does two things well – looks spectacular after every polish and broadcasts fingerprints in between every polish.

The Mate RS also has a USB-C port at the base, all its buttons to the right, a dual SIM slot (with an accented red line) to the left and an IR blaster at the top. 

The in-screen fingerprint scanner is coupled with a traditional rear fingerprint scanner and the triple camera setup sits stacked vertically on top of it.

There’s no doubt about it, as a package, the box is impressive with everything from two USB-C cables, a UK and European power connector through to a leather folio case that fits well and looks good. 

You also get USB-C headphones, a 3.5mm-USB-C adaptor, a proof of authenticity card and the usual SIM eject tool and paperwork.

But just when you start to get sucked in by the luxury hype and that story that the Mate RS is its own handset independent of the competition, the spec sheet serves up one final reminder that at 8.5mm this Porsche Designed phone is the exact same thickness as both the Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. Samsung Huawei Galaxy S9 RS anyone?

Mate, I could look at you all day…

  • Curved AMOLED screen
  • 1440 x 2880 resolution
  • Huawei's best smartphone screen yet

OLED is widely regarded as the apex of today’s smartphone screen tech, so Huawei’s decision to go with a curved AMOLED display on the Porsche Design Mate RS is welcome.

So too is the QHD resolution. Clocking in at 1440 x 2880 pixels, it delivers a pixel density – aka, sharpness – of 538ppi. This further cements the Mate RS smack bang in the middle of the Samsung Galaxy S9 family when it comes to screen size, tech and sharpness.

Its aspect ratio however is slightly different to the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus at 18:9. With the S9s clocking in at 18.5:9, the Mate RS’s screen is slightly squatter.

As for quality, the default screen mode is ‘vivid’ and this capitalises on all things OLED, imbuing on-screen content with all the zing and pizzazz of a Pride parade float.

Unlike Samsung’s adaptive display, Huawei’s doesn’t augment the experience depending on what you’re doing with the screen, so you might find yourself opting for the more subdued ‘normal’ mode if it’s all a bit too 24/7 carnival for you.

Also of note, this screen gets bright – just as bright as the Galaxy S9 and Huawei P20 Pro, so will be no problem to see clearly, even in direct sunlight.

As a result, it’s safe to call it Huawei’s best screen to date.

Battery life is good, but not P20 Pro good

  • All day life from its 4,000mAh battery
  • P20 Pro outlasts it despite having the same size juice pack

Despite sporting the same number of mAh, packing the same chipset and running the same version of Android and EMUI, the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS battery doesn’t quite live up to that of the Huawei P20 Pro – the current generation battery champion.

In our 90-minute video playback test, the Pro only lost 9% while the Mate RS lost 17%. This is still perfectly respectable, putting it above the likes of the Huawei Mate 10 and Samsung Galaxy S8 and corroborating the day-long battery we got from the RS with regular use.

That said, you may want to avoid hammering this thing too hard if you know you’ll be away from a charger for a full 24 hours.

This lesser life could be down to software optimisations, but is more likely due to the QHD resolution display on the Mate RS.

It's worth noting that the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS also supports fast charging and – unlike the P20 Pro – wireless charging, which is also fast. In fact, according to Huawei it's 80% faster than the wireless charging offered by the iPhone X.

We Leica it a lot

  • Three rear cameras
  • Excellent low light performance
  • Same setup as P20 Pro

Three cameras on the back, one camera on the front, a combined 92MP resolution across all four – we’ve been here before.

The Porsche Design Mate RS has an identical camera setup to that found on the Huawei P20 Pro, and to quote our review of that, the camera delivers “the best handheld ultra low light photos you can get from a phone.”

The camera also implements some heavy AI to identify what you’re shooting and optimise the picture as it sees fit. Blue sky? Consider your saturation bumped blue sky high. It can discern over 30 breeds of dog, automatically blur out the background when you’re taking a portrait shot and can crop in to reframe your macro photos.

To the seasoned photographer, this aggressive AI is overzealous. It also results in a lot of processing. Luckily, it can be switched off in the settings, under the ‘Master AI’ option, though if you have some patience, you might want to leave it on.

Huawei has tuned the feature to get to know its user over time. Given the fact you can dismiss Master AI’s automated photography modes on a case by case basis, if you grow to appreciate the portrait mode but aren’t a fan of the waterfall mode, it will dial back where appropriate.

That said, what’s impressive about the AI shooting out of the box is that nine shots out of ten looked really good, and with the option to boost the resolution to 40MP when the lighting is on point, you can pick up a huge amount of detail on this phone – more than any other, aside from the P20 Pro.

The main 40MP sensor and a secondary 8MP 3x zoom module also combine to deliver the best combination hybrid optical/digital zoom we’ve ever seen on a smartphone, beating even the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus in poor lighting.

Low light shooting in night mode is where things leapfrog the competition, with the Huawei Mate RS able to extend the shutter speed for up to four seconds, still keeping everything steady for a crisp long exposure shot.

There are plenty of other modes to play with, including native monochrome, capitalising on the 20MP black and white sensor around the back.

Better still is the fact you can shoot in full manual mode across resolutions and save photos as RAW files as well. As a result, whether you’re a novice or an expert, the Mate RS can probably strike your balance.

Video is also exceptional, with Full HD stabilisation, even when zoomed in videos look mind-bogglingly good. This AIS – artificial intelligence stabilisation, is turned off in 4K and 60fps 1080p video for heat management and battery saving reasons – a real shame if you plan on using those modes heavily.

As for the 960fps slow motion video, this is terrible in bad light, great in good light. That said, the Mate RS exposes slow motion clips less than the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, resulting in generally darker videos.

With everything going on around the back, it’s easy to forget the front camera, but Huawei clearly hasn’t. Selfies look good across lighting conditions, beauty mode is paired with an intensity slider, so you can fine-tune your Barbiefication, and it shoots up to Full HD video.

In fact, the main complaints we have when it comes to the cameras of Huawei’s new smartphones focus on the interfaces across the Huawei P20, P20 Pro and Mate RS. 

They are busy and adopt skeuomorphic elements (fake leather as a backdrop of the UI), a design tool commonly associated with iOS 6.

Camera samples

You got me feelin’ Emotion UI

  • Heavily customisable
  • Supports multiple user profiles

Virtually identical to the Huawei P20 Pro on the inside, the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS runs Android 8.1 with Emotion UI 8.1 over the top.

Having the latest version of Android on here is a great start. This means optimal future-proofing and the latest security updates. Android also has stellar app support and mobile payment options too.

Emotion UI, or EMUI for short, supplements the experience with a host of customisations that can be found everywhere, from the home screens to the settings menus.

The Android applications tray is missing by default, à la iPhone, but can be restored easily. Home screen grid sizes, transitions, colour themes and always-on display information can also be tweaked, leaving you feeling like Charlie in the chocolate factory – weirdly wonderfully mesmerised and simultaneously perplexed by the sensory overload.

For any UI adventurers though, there’s real value to be had from familiarising yourself with EMUI.

Private Space for example supports multiple users, each with their individual, biometrically secured set of apps and files. Using a different fingerprint to log into each user profile, this is a smart way of separating work and play or sharing your phone without fear of sensitive content being stumbled upon.

It even supports two versions of the same app across spaces – WhatsApp for example, with one space logged into a personal account and the other logged into a business account.

Knuckle recognition, scheduled powering on and off, native screen recording, fingerprint scanner gestures, AirDrop style file sharing features – this is only scratching the surface here.

While older versions of EMUI crammed much of this stuff in without nailing the basics – namely stability, speed and style, EMUI 8.1 manages to cut the mustard when it comes to the first two.

The Porsche Design theme helps soften the blow of an interface which can be a little overbearing – especially for those used to the style of stock Android.

Heavy or not therefore, if you want a great out of the box experience, the Porsche Design Mate RS delivers, and if you want to get involved and shake things up, crack open a cold one – you could be here a while.

Look at me, touch me, touch me again

  • Includes an in-screen scanner
  • Also has a faster rear scanner and face recognition

The biggest talking point around the Mate RS, apart from its price, is its inclusion of an in-screen fingerprint scanner. This is the first commercially available product to ship with this new tech that we’re expecting to see plenty of in the coming years.

This is housed in a specific portion of the display, horizontally centred and an inch above the bottom of the screen. A fingerprint image pulses as a prompt to engage, and just like magic, when we do, the phone unlocks most of the time. 

There were quite a few times where the in-screen finger print sensor would not recognize our finger. We noticed this more often on the black standby than the lock screen.

Not content with just one fingerprint scanner though, Huawei has also included a rear fingerprint scanner, pairing both with face recognition.

Practically speaking though, when we came to unlock the phone with our thumb on the in-screen scanner or with our forefinger using the rear scanner, face unlock beat us to the punch.

Using the front 24MP camera, it proved zippy and accurate. Also zippy was the rear scanner, unlocking in a fraction of a second when we got the opportunity to use it. As for the in-screen scanner, you can expect a delay of roughly one second for unlocking. In terms of accuracy and reliability, all three performed very well.

That said – once the novelty of the in-screen scanner wore off, we still found ourselves using it more often than the rear scanner, suggesting that the extra time taken to unlock isn’t damaging to the user experience.

The fact the phone has two fingerprint scanners both confounds and complements the unlocking experience. 

On the one hand, it’s a UX faux pas to have two ways of doing the same thing. On the other, whether this phone is on a surface or in your hand, it can easily be unlocked without punching in a code or awkwardly hovering your face over the screen.

There were times we had to use the rear scanner to verify our identity – when copying our Google account information to another device for example. As a result, if Android doesn’t support in-screen scanners at an OS level, which looks like it may be the case, Huawei’s decision to go with two makes sense. Let’s see if this changes in Android P.

Watch, read, play, listen, repeat

  • Powerful dual speakers
  • No 3.5mm headphone port
  • Not quite the best chipset

Just like the P20 Pro, the Mate RS is a multimedia dream – more so in fact given the extra screen resolution, storage and the lack of a notch.

We’ve gushed about the screen already from a quality point of view, but suffice it to say, this translates to picture-perfect video streaming, pin-sharp ebook reading and stellar gaming.

The dual speakers also feature Dolby Atmos tuning and are superb. Operating with a primary/secondary speaker setup the Mate RS is loud, clear, rounded and absolutely gives the best smartphone speakers around a run for their money – winning most of the time.

Headphone fans may grimace at the lack of a 3.5mm headphone port, but the inclusion of an adaptor in the box helps soften the blow.

As for the chipset, the Kirin 970 powering the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS along is the main area this phone drops the ball.

Huawei’s chip isn’t as new or as powerful as the Snapdragon 845. Geekbench scores are respectable, but with a multi-core score of 6,780, on paper numbers pale in comparison to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and its score of over 9,000.

Based on our experience, the Kirin 970 still has enough oomph to make short work of every game around, with slowdown only cropping up when handling 40MP 74MB RAW files in Lightroom or swapping out from one private space to another.

That said, when you’re spending AED 5,999 on a phone, you would be forgiven for expecting the best across the board.

It does at least sport a meaty 6GB of RAM though, along with a micro capsule cooling system. That capsule is a smartphone first and helps to keep the phone cool when you're pushing it to its limits.

It's hard to tell how well this worked, all we can say is that the phone stayed cool, even when putting it through benchmarks, but so did the Huawei P20 Pro and that doesn't have a fancy cooling capsule.

Verdict

Huawei’s Porsche Design Mate RS is a one of a kind – a luxury smartphone that doesn’t just bank on its looks to stand out. Thanks to the world first technology inside, its sleek design is complemented by authentic geek factor.

It’s also helped along by the fact that this is 2018 and the idea of forking out AED 6,000 a phone is much less daunting than it once was. The iPhone X 256GB costs AED 4,965.

With the Porsche Design Mate RS 256GB coming in at around AED 1,000 more, it’s not a total stretch to imagine this phone appealing to a wider audience (with deep pockets) than any luxury phone before it.

Despite its horsepower falling short of 2018’s flagships, its sports car credentials and the fact that it excels in other areas ensure this phone is still loaded with appeal.

And from a tech point of view, geeks will love the fact the Mate RS’s wireless charging is 80% faster than that of the iPhone X. Its battery also lasts longer and its screen is bigger and sharper.

The RS also packs a more flexible camera system than any competing smartphone other than the Huawei P20 Pro, and the world-first in-screen fingerprint scanner is just plain cool.

The thing is, the P20 Pro is the thorn in the side of the Mate RS. They’re almost equally as good on paper, but the P20 Pro is quite considerably cheaper. 

Okay, it has less internal storage (128GB is still more than enough for most) and doesn’t boast the in-screen fingerprint scanner or wireless charging, but considering the money you’ll save for the same experience it does make the Mate RS tricky to justify for anyone happy with the P20's design who doesn’t have money to burn.

Who's this for?

Android fans who have a lot of money and want the shiniest, geekiest smartphone that money can buy. 

It’s also an easy gadget to recommend for Porsche Design fans who want a Porsche-branded smartphone to go with their Porsche-branded watch, and maybe even car.

Should you buy it?

If you have a modest income and consider yourself even remotely frugal, probably not. The bulk of what makes this phone exceptional can be had for less in the Huawei P20 Pro, namely, tons of storage, great battery and a stellar camera.

However, if you want the most cutting edge smartphone currently available then the Huawei Porsche Design Mate RS delivers by the boat-load.

You can get phones that are almost as premium for a fair bit less, such as these handsets:

Huawei P20 Pro

The most obvious alternative to the Mate RS, the P20 Pro is its notch-bearing sibling, available for half the price, packing half the storage, a less classical, more edgy design and a flat, Full HD display.

Read our full Huawei P20 Pro review

iPhone X

The iPhone X is the most premium iPhone around and is the phone that normalised the idea of an AED 4,000 smartphone. It also features a much more refined interface with fewer bells and whistles, and a smaller body – ideal for anyone who considers the Mate RS to be a size and interface overload.

Read our full iPhone X review

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus could be the best Android flagship around and thanks to its stunning design and screen, delivers much of what makes the Mate RS look sensational for a lot less cash.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus review

First reviewed: May 2018

Abbas Jaffar Ali,Basil Kronfli
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