Huawei's P8max smartphone should really be a tablet. With a 6.8-inch display, it feels monstrous in comparison to the regular P8, which is no mean feat. I've used a smattering of 7-inch tablets over the years (the Nexus 7 is still a personal favorite) and this feels like it should be in the same product category. The screen, despite being 1080p, is sharp enough and well-suited for reading ebooks, browsing the web and streaming Netflix.
But this device is also a phone, and a dual-SIM one at that. You're supposed to make calls with it, but even at a press event with swarms of like-minded journalists, I felt embarrassed holding it up to my ear. There's a reason that Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's Consumer Business Group, demoed it on stage alongside the company's unusual TalkBand B2 wearable. It's just too large and unwieldy to be used like a regular smartphone.
Despite its size, the P8max is fairly attractive. Huawei has, in essence, taken the aluminium unibody from its new P8 flagship and stretched it out to accommodate the larger display. The speckled finish on the rear exudes quality, but everything else about the device feels unimaginative. It's like someone threw a few Samsung and Xiaomi devices into Photoshop, mixed them together and etched the Huawei logo on the back. Attractive, yes, but it's hardly going to turn heads on the subway (aside from its gargantuan size, of course.)
It's a fraction thinner than popular phablets such as Samsung's Galaxy Note 4, which is impressive given the size of the display. Huawei's latest offering is also pretty light, weighing in at just 228 grams. It makes a big difference when you're trying to use the device one-handed, although I found myself naturally switching to two paws.
Although I'm a huge advocate for stock Android, I was pleasantly surprised by Huawei's custom "Emotion UI" skin. The lack of an app drawer takes some getting used to, but the overall aesthetic is relatively flat and clean. App iconography is consistent and the menus weren't too garish. I wish Huawei would dial its software back even further and reintroduce Lollipop's Material Design elements, but I doubt that'll happen anytime soon.
Swiping across the different home screens and launching Huawei's frankly absurd range of pre-installed apps, I rarely saw a drop in performance. Of course, it's difficult to rate the P8max's internals -- a 2GHz octa-core Kirin 930 processor and 3GB of RAM -- at a controlled launch event, but I saw nothing to suggest it might struggle in everyday use. Of course, I'll reserve judgment until I can put it through a proper stress-test.
Smartphones are getting larger, but I feel like we've already reached the upper-limit. Most flagships are sticking within the 5-inch to 5.5-inch range, and outliers such as the Nexus 6 are seen as niche propositions. A smartphone with a 6.8-inch display? It's hard to imagine someone seriously wanting to buy this. The P8max could be an excellent tablet replacement, but as a smartphone, it just seems too impractical. It's a crazy idea, and for that Huawei deserves some credit, but it's hard to picture this being a success in the West.
Nick Summers contributed to this report.