Huawei Mate 50 Pro review: Fine doesn’t cut it

Ever since Google was forced to stop selling products and services to Chinese firms, Huawei has fallen from being one of the biggest smartphone brands in the world to a smartphone brand to avoid if you have any hope of accessing Google products.

The latest handset from Huawei, the Mate 50 Pro arrived on our review desk this week and while it’s a premium smartphone with a price tag of R24 999 (RRP), we’re incredibly hesitant to talk the handset up. The camera is good, performance is fantastic, but we have a gripe that we need to talk about in earnest.

Gbox, a way around bans

That gripe is called Gbox. This app allows you to run apps that require Google Mobile Services (GMS) on Huawei smartphones. The app claims that it allows you to run different accounts for one application ,but it also has the benefit of bridging that Huawei-Google gap.

This sounds like a great solution until you stop to think about it. This application has access to an inordinate number of permissions including your contacts, camera, and just about everything else. This makes sense as in order to run the apps you want, Gbox needs to be able to operate as multiple apps. As Gbox is an app, it only has one set of permissions and so it needs access to pretty much everything.

This whole affair made us rather uncomfortable as Gbox is always running in the background and short of analysing every piece of network traffic that leaves the handset, we can’t be certain that our data is in safe hands.

Furthermore, Gbox’s “App Store” is incredibly disappointing with very few apps available for download. In fact the selection is so limited that we had to download APKs for GeekBench and 3D Mark to run those benchmarks. We couldn’t search for apps and searching for apps in the Huawei AppGallery led us to APKs more often than not.

We’re not off to a good start.

Premium, in 2022

The Huawei Mate 50 Pro was launched in September 2022 but we’re only getting our hands on it now when, unfortunately, more modern smartphones are hitting the market. Among these is the latest Samsung flagship S series which are hitting new highs in benchmarks.

The chipset present here is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 4G which features an octa-core CPU running at a peak of 3.19GHz. This is paired with 8GB of memory and an Adreno 730 GPU.

Performance wise we noted a multi-core score of 4 174 and single-core score of 1 033 in GeekBench. As for gaming, while we over-achieved in 3D Wild Life, Wild Life Extreme only managed to eke out an average of 12-22fps.

Using the phone feels sluggish. We concede that this could come down to us running a litany of apps via Gbox. However, apps that are direct from Huawei’s AppGallery, such as TikTok, Showmax and even ESP run well enough, but again, if you want Google apps, you’re going to be using Gbox.

There were also moments where we found ourselves waiting a bit longer than we would’ve liked when opening apps, even those direct from the AppGallery. This will be relative depending on what phone you’re coming from but it’s something we noticed on a number of occasions.

It’s also not especially good when a premium tier handset doesn’t have 5G connectivity. Yes, 5G isn’t ubiquitous in terms of coverage in South Africa but when budget phones have the functionality, its absence in a premium smartphone from Huawei is glaringly obvious. Even the now two year old Huawei Mate 40 Pro 5G had the connectivity standard.

Why doesn’t this handset have 5G? Well it’s not really Huawei’s fault as embargoes make it hard for the firm to get it’s hands on 5G tech.

So while it may not be Huawei’s choice to exclude 5G, it’s absence is notable.

The Huawei Mate 50 Pro’s display reminds us a lot of Samsung’s older design.

Also rather strange is the choice of battery. Rather than a 5 000mAh affair that we reckon is the gold standard these days, Huawei opted for a 4 700mAh Li-Po battery. Thankfully, the performance is incredible. We were able to get two days of life from the handset using it for our daily activities, watching videos and binging TikTok during loadshedding.

Charging the handset is also incredibly fast with a full charge using the included 66W charger and cable taking little over an hour.

When it comes to battery life, Huawei’s prowess in this area remains untouched.

Camera King

The rear camera array is, well it’s something. When placed flat on the desk sans included plastic cover, the handset sits at a dramatic angle. Mind you, while eating dinner in the dark and scrolling TikTok, this angle proved to be rather convenient.

The array features three snappers including a 50MP, 64MP and 13MP while up front you’ll find a single 13MP snapper on duty.

Huawei’s notable feature with this array is the ability to zoom in 100x on a subject. This system is actually not half bad. There is a large amount of stabilisation happening and the viewfinder which shows you what you’re zooming in on is incredibly helpful. Would we use it beyond showing off to our friends? No. It’s very gimmicky and not very practical.

Photos that are taken at a more reasonable zoom level are rather good. Getting close up to a subject automatically switches to a Macro shooting mode and the mode switches back to what it was previously when you back away.

It’s a rather smart camera and snaps look great as per the gallery below.

Images also look great thanks to the OLED display. With a 2 616 x 1 212 resolution, the 4K video you capture will look stunning.

Bloated at first glance

While the Huawei features a number of app icons when you power up the Mate 50 Pro, thankfully very few of these apps are installed.

It is, however, alarming to see this amount of apps just cluttered around our home screen. We suspect Huawei is trying to show off how many apps you have access to without GMS, but it comes off looking messy and cheap. More so, it forces the user to go through every single folder and app to delete what they want or make sure they don’t have apps installed that could potentially threaten their privacy.

The EMUI 13 layout is unabashedly Apple in its design and the Chinese manufacturer trend of using gestures rather than soft buttons for navigation is a chore to get used to.


We don’t want to be dramatic, the Huawei Mate 50 Pro is fine, it does a good enough job, but at this price point, “fine” and “good enough” just simply don’t cut the mustard.

While we understand the reason 5G is absent here, we can’t simply ignore its omission and wave it off. The chipset’s performance is fine, but again, newer phones in the same price point are going to out run the Mate 50 Pro.

The battery, charging, display and camera are impressive, but there are many other manufacturers who can match that performance without the downsides Huawei brings with it.

All of this means that Huawei’s latest flagship is not worth the R24 999 price tag.

It’s a shame that the US upended Huawei the way it did, but until this handset, it felt as if the firm was trying its best to make do with the cards it had been dealt. The Mate 50 Pro, however, is lacking in too many areas to warrant a recommendation.

We simply can’t recommend this handset and would instead point readers to our review of the latest Samsung Galaxy S23.



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