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Huawei Mate Xs 2 hands-on review

Huawei's new Mate Xs 2 foldable flexes with a sky-high price and 50MP imaging

Huawei Mate Xs 2 product photo
(Image: © Basil Kronfli)

Early Verdict

Huawei's been pioneering imaging tech for almost a decade but with no Google or 5G in its priciest smartphones, there's a real need for something more standout than a good camera to differentiate. Luckily, that's exactly what the Mate Xs 2 brings to the table: a standout design (and price). It upgrades the durability of the Mate Xs, adds fresh internals, but costs more than pretty much anything else on the market.

Pros

  • +

    Thin, light and premium design

  • +

    Sharper, larger screen than competition

  • +

    Promising camera on first impression

Cons

  • -

    Exposed screen could be prone to damage

  • -

    Incredibly expensive

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    No Google or 5G

Two years after testing out the Huawei Mate Xs (opens in new tab), an innovative foldable with a killer camera, it's time to take a look at the Mate Xs 2 – an evolution of the Xs's design with upgraded imaging and a more robust build.

Launched in Europe for an eye-watering €1,999, Huawei's bold pricing is matched only by its defiance in the face of relentless sanctions against it. The brand can't use Google services on its phone – no Google Chrome, Docs, Play, YouTube app support or WhatsApp backups to name a few limitations. In addition, its latest flagships – the P50 Pro and P50 Pocket aren't 5G enabled. 

This might all sound pretty bleak for the Chinese super-brand, but Huawei's pressing on, pivoting to accessories – it's launched a tonne of hearables, laptops, wearables, and more in recent months. And it's still launching phones too.

The latest Huawei phone to hit the West, the Mate Xs 2 bucks the trend of copying the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold series. Instead, it folds the other way, resulting in a larger screen than the competition. 

The question is: has Huawei improved its Xs series's durability enough to make its latest folding phone the new inspiration for its foldable competitors? 

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Huawei Mate Xs 2 design and screen

We can't help but be impressed by some folding phones – the Mate Xs 2 being amongst the most impressive in its category. Huawei's design and engineering turn an almost 8-inch sliver of a tablet into a smartphone with just a fold.

At its thinnest point when unfolded, it measures just 5.5mm thin. It's also lighter than other foldables at 255g, and with a fiberglass back and new four-layer screen, is more durable than its predecessor. 

Durability is the big worry with Huawei's Mate Xs series. Foldable screens are more vulnerable to damage than traditional screens – given they're not protected by a pane of glass. The Mate Xs and Xs 2's displays are always exposed, making them more prone to damage than foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 (opens in new tab), whose flexible display is protected when the phone is shut. 

While Huawei doesn't claim its new foldable sports IPX8 water resistance like Samsung's Z Fold 3, at the launch, it did show a promo clip with water droplets on the screen, suggesting it's taken steps to weather-proof the phone to some degree.

All the phone's buttons live on the right side: power and volume buttons. On the back is a triple camera and a latch release, used when transforming the Mate Xs 2 from smartphone to tablet, and at the base is a USB-C port. All these elements are part of the thick strip that anchors the slender display. 

The screen itself is a great-looking, sharp OLED panel with 426 pixel-per-inch clarity. That makes it sharper than the Z Fold 3. With extra size compared to Samsung's phone – 6.5 inches when closed, 7.8 inches when open, it should also be more usable day-to-day. 

Huawei Mate Xs 2 camera

Huawei's added a camera to its latest generation of Mate Xs – specifically, a selfie camera. While the first iterations of the phone missed out – requiring you use the rear camera for selfies and half-fold the screen, there's a small punch hold front camera in the display this time around.

Huawei also appears to have ditched a camera for its new foldable, with the triple camera system missing out on the TOF camera introduced on the first Mate Xs. Huawei does bring back its XD Fusion Pro Engine, as found on the P40 Pro and P50 Pro, as well as Huawei XD Optics.

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

The Mate Xs 2's rear cameras include a 50MP main module with an f/1.8 lens. Huawei didn't mention anything about optical image stabilization (OIS) on the main lens, and it isn't listed in the specs on its site, however, is featured in the telephoto camera. This features a roughly three times zoom, 8MP resolution, and an f/2.4 aperture. 

Finally, the phone's 13 MP ultra-wide camera sports an f/2.2 lens. As for the selfie camera, it's a 10.7MP sensor with an f/2.2 aperture. Despite this new selfie camera, Huawei still offers the option to capture selfies on the rear camera for superior quality snaps. 

Huawei Mate Xs 2 specs

Despite its very high price, you shouldn't expect top-tier specs in the Mate Xs 2. We've mentioned the fact Huawei can't enable 5G in its Western phones with Qualcomm chips – so its connectivity is already behind its key competitors. Additionally, its Snapdragon 888 – while a strong performer – is a last-gen flagship chip. 

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

If power isn't your priority, then the phone's spec limitations shouldn't hold you back. There's an ample 512GB storage on board, and while 8GB RAM isn't class-leading, it's good enough for a reliably smooth experience. 

The Mate Xs 2's 4600mAh battery is larger than that of the Galaxy Z Fold 3, though so too is its display size. Still, it suggests battery life should be around on par with Huawei's foldable if the processor demands are matched. 

Huawei Mate Xs 2 product photo

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

Early Verdict

Huawei's new flagship foldable is incredibly expensive, underpowered, and arguably the most niche smartphone of the year. That said, it still excites us. Its implementation of flexible display technology is novel, yet has benefits over Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3, and all the phones styled on Samsung's folding series. 

Huawei's cameras are generally excellent, so while the Mate Xs 2 is unlikely to be the best camera phone of 2022, it's in with a good chance of being the best foldable camera of the year. One thing it definitely will be is a niche, but important phone when it comes to driving forward the foldable category.

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Basil Kronfli is a freelance technology journalist with a number of specialisms. He started his career at Canon Europe, before joining Phone Arena and Recombu as a tech writer and editor. From there he headed up Btekt as a director and then Future as a Senior Producer, sharpening his considerable video production skills. 


His technical expertise has been called on numerous times by mainstream media, with appearances and interviews on outlets like Sky News, and he provides Digital Camera World with insight and reviews on camera phones, video editing software and laptops, on-camera monitors, camera sliders, microphones and much more.