One common theme among large foldables is that they are… well, large, but also bulky and heavy. In-folding designs tend to be pretty thick, especially when folded, to accommodate the necessary bending radii for the displays, and also as a result of having to fit one extra screen on the front. That’s most obvious on the Galaxy Z Fold lineup, with the 3 being 16mm at its thickest, but also applies to Huawei’s own Mate X2 (14.7mm). The Mate Xs 2, on the other hand, does things differently.
The wraparound display on the outside of the phone naturally ensures the necessary curvature for the folded state and allows the two halves of the device to fold flat onto each other, no gap, while also eliminating the need for a secondary display. The OG Mate X and the Mate Xs managed to fit into 11mm of thickness when folded, the new Mate Xs 2 is marginally thicker at 11.1mm, but substantially more svelte than the innies.
That’s one pain point dealt with. But while thin, the Mate Xs (the old one) was still a proper burden at 300g. Everyone has their weight threshold somewhere and the Xs was beyond acceptable for most folk (not that we’re implying it was weight that prevented a foldable from selling by the bucketload). So that’s what Huawei fixed next with the Mate Xs 2 – the new model weighs a significantly more manageable 255g – barely heavier than an iPhone 13 Pro Max (240g).
The way they did that was in part by slightly shrinking the display – from 8 inches in diagonal to 7.8, and switching from aluminum to plastic for the back panel. ‘Back’, as in what’s on the opposite side of the display when the Mate Xs 2 is unfolded.
Our review unit is the White colorway but it’s more off-white, or cream, or something along those lines. It has a leather-like texture and feels very nice to the touch. The other two color options, Black and Purple, each come with their distinct textures. In any case, they don’t pick up fingerprints, and even if they did, it’s not like you’d be seeing them when the phone’s folded in half.
Just because it’s plastic doesn’t mean they’ve made it any weaker. Quite the contrary – Huawei says the new model has 2.5x better drop resistance, 2.8x better impact resistance, and 1.4x better crush resistance. That’s in their own lab testing, of course, and it’s a lab we haven’t been in, but the point is they’re working towards improved durability – yet another bane of foldable phones.
Speaking of, the Mate Xs 2 uses what Huawei calls the ‘Double-rotating Falcon Wing Hinge’ which we reckon is at least twice as good as the Falcon Wing Hinge of the predecessor. Semantics aside, the hinge on this Mate feels super solid – so solid, in fact, that if its your first time operating it, you might be afraid to exert all the necessary force to fully extend it.
As before, unfolding the Mate Xs 2 requires that you unlatch it first by pressing the button on the back. That releases the panel and illuminates one intuitively disturbing aspect of the design – when folded, the assembly is under stress. You’d be wise to assume the engineers knew what they were doing and this is a durable solution, and move on.
We’d say there’s no way you could do the whole unlatch and unfold process single-handedly and even if you do pull off some sort of a stunt and manage to, we wouldn’t say that’s practical and it certainly endangers the Mate’s long-term health. Use both hands, please.
So having unlatched it, you can proceed to fully open the display during which process the hinge visibly extends on the back ensuring the right geometry and support for the flexible panel. There’s a point in all this where you may tend to press your thumb against the folding line on the front while lifting the other edge with the rest of your fingers and this pressing on the front feels like it could develop into an issue down the road.
In this fully extended state the Mate Xs 2 looks like a small tablet. But it feels not just like a small tablet, but like a very premium one, thanks to what is now just 5.4mm of thickness. Of course, there’s the thick strip on the right where all the cameras and the battery are, but most of the Mate is very pleasingly thin.
Not only that, but it’s flat too. There’s a faint waviness along the folding line but it’s the most subtle of imperfections and it’s certainly way better than any Galaxy Fold crease we’ve seen (or fondled). It’s not something you’ll be seeing unless you go out looking for it with the panel turned off and angled against a light source. Perhaps you might feel it more easily than see it, if you perform the correct swipes across the waves, but that’s not all too bothersome either.
The display is covered with what is a screen protector, but it’s one of those screen protectors that you do not remove. On the previous model, we complained about how this screen protector has odd cutouts along its perimeter that felt scratchy and collected dirt, and the edges on this one here are almost entirely straight – a most welcome development.
Still, the way this film ends on the right edge of the device means that you may end up feeling it lightly scratch against your fingertip when swiping in. It’s hardly a big deal, but it did come up.
One inescapable fact of living with a Mate Xs 2 is that it’s display is covered by plastic, rather than glass, and that’s a two-fold potential issue. On the one hand, there’s the general feel of swiping and tapping on it, and we’d say Huawei’s got that one right – we wouldn’t say we’re feeling significantly more drag than on a conventional glass-covered display. How that will develop over longer periods of use, we can’t know.
The other aspect is harder to deal with it – the plastic film will inevitably be more prone to scratches than a glass covered display. Huawei can replace it for you if it gets scratched up, but will every authorized service center be able to do it or will it require sending it in to a centralized location. How long will it take, how much is it going to cost – all questions that we don’t have the answers to.
Also, be advised – not only should you not remove this protective layer, you also shouldn’t apply screen protectors of your own as that too could damage the panel. While the entirety of the Mate Xs 2’s exposed display is vulnerable, its back is slightly more so since people tend to leave their phones on their backs most of the time. At least we do, and if you’re one to leave your handset face down, unprotected, on a flat surface – you’re wrong.
Anyway, for this year’s model, Huawei’s come up with a new means of protecting the screen (or rather the entire phone) – both simpler and more advanced than the Mate Xs’ frame-type stick-on bumper. The new case, provided in the retail package, snaps onto the thicker strip on the right side of the Mate and also sticks to it with three adhesive strips for extra security. We didn’t use the adhesive strips and it still felt pretty firmly attached, so even if you do choose to apply them, and later make up your mind and remove the case, you’ll be able to reuse it successfully.
The case sort of consists of two parts, the thinner one that attaches to the right side and a wider, flap-like portion. When it’s folded, the flap portion snaps onto the hinge’s exposed elements on the top and the bottom and stays there – not quite as firmly as the case’s opposite end, but with just the right amount of snap. That way it doesn’t flap about but is also easy enough to unsnap for when you want to go into tablet mode.
So the way it works is you unsnap the flap and unlatch the screen from the button on the back, the flap moves out of the way for you to extend the screen, and that’s it. Sure, the flap now has nothing to attach to but you’ll either be holding it with your hand (sort of naturally) or you’ll simply not care about it a whole lot.
It sounds like a clunky arrangement, and everyone’s initial response is dismissal. However, once you give it a shot and use it for a bit, it starts making all the sense. It helps that it’s also a perfectly reasonable case for when the phone is closed. The back and all four corners are covered, plus it sticks out from the front too, so you can now leave the Mate face down – but, again, you’d be wrong.
We’re yet to see an under-display fingerprint reader on a foldable – some say the vivo X Fold has one, but we haven’t seen it. The Mate Xs 2 opts for a side-mounted capacitive unit in the power button, and it’s predictably on the right side of the device. It’s equally fast and reliable with a right thumb and a left index finger, with the case on or the Mate bare, in folded or unfolded state alike.
Right above the fingerprint scanner is the volume rocker which clicks positively, no complaints.On the bottom of the Mate you’ll find the charging port and it’s in the only logical spot – off to one side, in the thicker bar portion of the device. A pinhole in the front section reveals where the mic is, while the loudspeaker and the card slot are in the foldaway half. The card trays will take either two nano SIMs or a nano SIM and a NM card – Huawei’s proprietary NanoMemory storage solution.
Up top, in the front section, is where the second speaker is, as well as an extra mic. Also here is an IR emitter – the leftmost of the six adjacent dots.
That second speaker also has an opening towards the front where it serves an extra purpose as an earpiece. Also notable is the punch hole in the top right corner – the Mate Xs 2 has a selfie camera, unlike the previous model.
We’ve been rambling on how the Mate Xs 2 is so light and compact and that’s indeed true, but in a certain context. It’s obviously bigger than the clamshell style foldables – the Galaxy Z Flips or P50 Pockets of this world. It’s also huge if you’re to compare it to a Zenfone 9 or a Galaxy S22. But coming from a Xiaomi 11 Ultra, this reviewer wasn’t at all bothered with the Mate’s size or weight and using it in ‘smartphone’ mode required next to no adjustment.
Conversely, in tablet mode it almost feels weightless thanks to the adjusted expectations. In vertical orientation, which is a very moot concept in the first place with the squarish 10.1:9 ratio, we found ourselves holding the phone with the bar to the right, while in landscape the bar tended to end up on top.
That’s mostly because of a natural inclination to keep the selfie camera somewhere along the top edge, rather than the bottom – the Mate will happily oblige and rotate in whatever direction you feel like using it. The bar-on-top orientation has the added benefit that you can just about prop the tablet with your index finger and shift some weight off your pinkie.
The nature of the Mate Xs 2’s design means that it only packs a single screen: a large, square-ish 7.8in panel that folds in half to a 6.5in outer screen the rest of the time – one that’s proportioned much like most Android phones, rather than being uncomfortably narrow as in some rivals.
This packs the usual tech – an OLED panel, 120Hz refresh rate, HDR support – and generally looks pretty great. It’s bright and punchy, and display quality never feels overly compromised by the foldable elements. Like most big foldables, when open the screen’s aspect ratio is close to a square. That makes this well-suited to multi-tasking and productivity, with apps open on either side of the screen, but not so great for watching anything.
Try to run Netflix or Disney+ and you’ll quickly realise that the big display doesn’t give you much extra viewing area, with letterboxing essentially giving you the same size image as any other phone. As for audio, the phone has stereo speakers. They’re not bad, but not great, and quite tinny – phone speakers, basically.
Wireless audio is handled by Bluetooth 5.2, but this I’ve found surprisingly troublesome. The signal is blocked so easily that even keeping the phone in my trouser pocket results in an unreliable connection, forcing me to walk about holding the phone in my hand or keeping it in a jacket pocket. That’s … not good.
Huawei has kitted the Mate Xs 2 with a 4600mAh battery (expect the 12+512GB model in China, which packs a larger cell for some reason).
That’s a fairly typical battery size for a flagship phone, which is perhaps a worry given the larger display. In my experience it’s been enough to carry the phone to the end of the day, even with a mix of folded and unfolded use, but it won’t make it too much longer than that, so you’ll want to cWhen you do need to, the 66W wired charging is pretty nippy, giving you most of your battery back in just half an hour. Interestingly, Huawei recommends you unfold the phone to charge – presumably for the sake of cooling – though it will happily top itself up even when closed.
The downside is there’s no wireless charging support here. That’s no real surprise given how slim the phone is – I’m not sure how on earth they’d fit a charging coil in if they wanted to – but obviously will be a disappointment for some given the price and the fact that Samsung’s foldables do support wireless tech. harge daily.
The Mate Xs 2 is powered by the Snapdragon 888, the flagship chipset launched in December 2020. It’s a great chip, but ageing a little now, and definitely behind more recent ones.
Still, performance is impressive day-to-day, and most of the difference between this and the latest 8+ Gen 1 will only be apparent to power users and committed gamers, who might hesitate to use this as a big-screen gaming device.