HOW DOES THE SCREEN FEEL?
The Mate X’s OLED display is plastic, not glass as with most smartphones today. That’s going to be an unavoidable feature of all foldable devices going forward, because glass doesn’t like to fold. Nothing about the plastic surface gave me trouble or cause for concern, however. It has comparable friction and identical responsiveness to a regular glass-covered phone, and the only issue is the potential for more scratches owing to the plastic’s softness.
Viewing angles, contrast, color saturation, vibrancy, and uniformity all look as good as you’ll find in most smartphones today. I find the plastic display to be a little less reflective than its glass counterparts, which I like and prefer.
As to the all-important question of whether I can see or feel the spine in the middle of the screen where the fold happens, the answer is “no.” My time with the Mate X hasn’t yet been long enough to make that a categorical statement, but this is definitely the flattest foldable I’ve yet come across.
HOW DOES THE DEVICE FEEL?
Substantial. I was a little surprised by the Mate X’s weight when I first got my hands on it, as it’s heavier than its ultra-slim look would suggest. This is all good: I wouldn’t want a €2,299 gadget to be forgettably light and inconspicuous, and the Mate X feels dense and solid in the hand. It does have a large 4,500mAh battery inside, which probably contributes the bulk of that weight.
In terms of basic ergonomics, the open tablet is super easy to handle with one hand, and its 8:7.1 aspect ratio means it still has landscape and portrait orientations, if only just. I find its shape most useful for tasks like browsing the web and least compatible with watching YouTube or any other sort of widescreen content.
The shape of the Mate X when it’s semi-open is great for perching it up on a surface — you can basically use the thinner rear part of the display as a kickstand. I like that. I also like that, when folded up, the Mate X works the same as you would expect from a reasonably chunky phone. When you flip the phone around in its folded state, it transitions between the rear 6.4-inch screen portion and the main 6.6-inch display with speed and accuracy.
HOW DOES THE HINGE FEEL?
This is the least awesome part of the Mate X for me. The hinge feels almost gritty in its operation. There’s no tactile smoothness to speak of, you just have to kinda shove it open. I suppose Huawei prioritized durability with this design, as the hinge has plenty of resistance and feels like it will withstand a lot of opening and closing — it just won’t feel particularly elegant or smooth while doing it. I imagine that’s part of why Huawei’s been wary about letting too many people touch the device. The hinge won’t break, but it might break your dreamlike trance while using this phone-tablet from the future.
Huawei has put a latch on the grip section of the Mate X, which holds the folded tablet in a closed position. I doubt the latch is strictly necessary, as there’s lot of friction in the hinge already, but it’s an added bit of reassurance. The Mate X closes shut with a nice click as the latch engages, and there’s a button to open it up again right by the latch.
I’m sure someone will ask, “does it feel like €2,299?”, so I should address that point directly. The Mate X is not a linear extension of any existing device or design trend. It’s a whole new form factor, even if it’s based on smartphone and tablet technologies. As such, the Mate X, along with Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, is having to establish its own market right now — as well as recoup not-insubstantial research and development costs. The early-adopter price of today reflects all of these factors, and it wouldn’t be fair to judge this hybrid device by current smartphone standards and relative to smartphone prices.
The one thing I will say about judging the Mate X by our existing, sky-high smartphone standards is that it’s the closest that foldable devices have yet come to matching those expectations. At least in terms of hardware design. We still have a long road ahead before we reach the destination of an ideal foldable phone, but Huawei’s Mate X is speeding us along faster than anyone else.
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