Huawei Ascend mate review

Huawei Ascend Mate

Setting the pace for the biggest Android phone

If there any fast growing mobile OS Android has proved its self the King. Most Android manufactures have fought the spec war releasing more powerful phones as fast as Usen Bolt and have turned it into a real marketing race and so far Samsung seems to be winning. Well this does not mean all other manufacturers will sit back and relax, we have seen a lot of innovation in the mobile phone space than ever before and this time round Huawei is testing our willingness to call a 6.1 -inch device a smartphone. I wouldn’t call the Ascend Mate a Huawei Flagship phone although it was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2013) in Las Vegas, as Huawei already has upcoming flagship phones like the Ascend D2 and P2.

The most likely competition for this Huawei large screen Phone is Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 and Samsung’s recently announced Galaxy Mega 6.3 and 5.8 midrange phones. But the truth here is that Huawei has managed to beat Samsung at the “5.5 inch and above” screen size race. Truth be told, the
Huawei Ascend mate will stretch your palm to its limit just to hold the beast.
Huawei is keen to point out that it has tried to keep the size to its minimum, mentioning that the screen-to-bezel ratio on the front of the Ascend Mate is the best around, with 73% of the real estate belonging to that 6.1-inch HD LCD display.

The play book this year for Android phones seems to be taking a similar stance with rapidly increasing screen sizes. Seems Huawei is in the lead to break the boundaries between smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately or fortunately I guess the huge screen will make or break this phone.

The large, the bold and the beautiful design

I have held lots of different phones, but Huawei has out done its self this time round and I bet you it will get better with time. The Ascend mate is one gorgeous big slab 6.5mm thin and seems to wow very one that has a first glance at it or holds it. Okay truth be told, there were mixed feelings when you ask someone if they would by it as a personal phone.  It comes in a unibody design with a none removable 4050mAh battery and the curved back will help it fit in your hand, but without any form of grip and due to the sheer size of the thing we reckon this one is a dropper. The Ascend feels a lot better than most phones this size, and I did eventually learn how to shimmy the phone up and down in my hand to reach the various parts of the screen and body. Luckily I haven’t dropped it while doing so.

KEPT GETTING A REASON TO PLAY VIDEOS ON THE HUGE BEAUTIFUL SCREEN

That said it does feel comparatively well built, certainly when you compare it to the cheaper budget devices Huawei has churned out in the past, and we reckon the Ascend Mate is able to take a couple of knocks – don’t go throwing it down the stairs deliberately. The front is a glass LCD screen protected with gorilla glass, that helps it’s reduce on the scratches. The back is a nice soft touch rubberized plastic which is surrounded by an aluminum look alike plastic. All in all, the entire phone as a premium feel and the body is pretty lightweight for its size: the Ascend Mate is only 18g heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, while featuring a significantly larger display.

The front of the device is totally button less, with only a Huawei logo, Speaker grill, and front facing 1 Mega pixel camera, with the proximity and Accelerometer sensors next to it on the top.

The right side has the power button and volume rocker, unfortunately no camera button.

The left side is left clean apart from the microSD memory card slot that is expandable up to 64GB.

The top of the phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack pin and a micro SIM card slot with its
accompanying pinhole.

The back is curved with a flash 8 Megapixel camera with LED flash and a another huge Huawei
logo at the top and a small speaker grill at the bottom

The bottom houses the USB charging port and a Microphone

Once you turn it on, the screen size becomes all worth it, its 6.1 inch capacitive touch 1280×720 pixel displays shines the fact remains that the screen is tack-sharp, colors are good, blacks are impressively deeper than expected, and it looks great from any angle. It out shines any Sony high-end phone I must add. Below the screen are three consistent on screen buttons, viz the back, home and multitasking buttons. In terms of screen quality, the Ascend mate seems to be at par with the Samsung Galaxy note 2 although the galaxy Note is far better with those deep blacks thanks to its AMOLED screen technology. The screen can support up to 8 multi touch inputs simultaneously plus it comes with the capability to be used with gloves a feature Huawei calls “magic touch”.

By itself, the screen makes the Ascend mate a great option for watching movies or playing games, although you will have to be careful with the speaker located at the back as you hold the phone, you may end up muffling and sound will be blocked. The speaker grill is small in physical dimensions
but loud enough that you don’t have to hold the phone up to your ear to hear at
most times.

Camera

A FAIR PIXEL PERFORMANCE BUNDLED IN A “CHAPATTI” PHONE

 I was not surprised when Huawei never flaunted the 8 Megapixel camera of this phone as a key feature and truthfully speaking it shouldn’t. It’s a fair pixels performance bundled in a great phone. What
disappointed me was the front facing camera; I mean who even still uses a 1 Mega pixel camera on a high-end phone in 2013? But not all is bad, especially if you are not a camera fanatic like I am with that much screen estate you can fit a lot of things in one shot without struggling to zoom or adjust. Low light
performance is pretty impressive with the back-light LED allowed to play its
part.

The Emotion UI camera comes with a few tricks up its sleeve, it has several shooting modes like Single, Panorama, Group, HDR, Lowlight, Beauty, Smile,……It has have several effects to help you spice your photo shooting experience with effects like Antique, Lomo cold, Negative and your usual Instagram effects. One feature that got me confused as it refused to work was the face changing/distortion feature, similar to  that on the idevices, maybe it was due to a user problem.

 

The usual array of setting was present like scenes, ISO (100-800), white balance, Image adjustment, plus options to chose the different picture quality and picture sizes.

You can also use the phone to capture video in full high definition 1080p for the rear camera and 720p for the front facing camera. I was not blown away by the quality of the video playback but its passable for
optimum use. The video playback is fluid and the colors are bright, and the contrast quality is very good as well.  The camera is well packed with feature as you can see in the sample images below.

Performance

This Pizza thin phone has a plenty of internals to boast about, below that gorgeous glass panel lies  HiSilicon’s  K3V2 + Intel XMM6260 (yes I know it’s a mouthful) processor clocked at 1.5GHz. The K3V2 was announced in February 2012, it is a quad-core processor with 4 ARM Cortex TM A9 cores, a 16-core super GPU and 64-bit memory system made by HiSilicon. There is also 8GB of internal storage with one 1 GB RAM (there are some 2GB models as well). It also features the standard set of wireless radios and sensors including: GSM, UMTS (HSDPA, 42 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.7 Mbps), GPS  wifi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot and Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP, LE, EDR, not forgetting the sensors like the accelerometer, gyro, proximity and compass.

IT WAS PACKING LAST YEAR’S HORSE POWER

This all makes the Ascend mate an impressive device but I cannot say it’s as powerful as the latest
flagships with Qualcomm processors. A full Quadrant benchmarking test gave an average of 5,368 which puts it’s a head of last year’s HTC One X. You will also notice that apps can take like 2 seconds before they open especially if RAM almost filling up. On a lighter note playing Riptide GP, an intensive
water racing game that makes most phones stutter and drop frames, was near-perfect on this chapatti phone. Apps like chrome don’t perform well but I don’t blame Huawei for that.

Unfortunately the version I had was only the 1GB RAM version with No LTE. But on the available GSM and UMTS networks, the Mate sounded crisp clear. Holding the phone up to my ear looked a bit wired due to its massive size but as they say size aint nothing but a figure (okay I forged that one). When I ran a speed test on one of our 42Mbps networks I got average speeds of up to about 8Mbps downlink and 1.6 Mbps Uplink, at peak hours. This is pretty impressive for phone usage.

When it comes to battery life, Huawei claims that they can pull of 48 hours of battery life, I think they
meant when it’s not after heavy use. But trust me 4050mAh is a huge battery
bigger than the galaxy note 2’s 3100 mAh.

Within two 3 hours at 65% screen brightness I was able to put the battery to 87%, assuming the trend remains as it is within 20 hours this battery will be at zero. Well don’t compare yourself to me cause am a pretty heavy user, plus that high definition huge screen sucks out a lot of battery juice.  Plus if you crank down that brightness to below 50% you can hit Huawei’s claims of 48 hours. Huawei has been generous
enough to include a power manager to let us optimize your device’s power consumption. It a pretty practicable tool as it allows you to deactivate apps that run at start up by default. I would only recommend you to use this if you know what you are doing.

On my battery test I was able to get the following results:

Video playback 9 hours 50
minutes

Talk time 21 hours 55
minutes

Web browsing 13 hours 58
mimutes

Emotion UI

A MIXED BAG OF iOS AND STOCK ANDROID

Fact:  stock android is the best Android, another fact companies have to distinguish themselves from
the rest in the market. The beauty about Huawei is that they allow you to switch off the UI you’re your know how to play with the power management settings well. Huawei’s New Emotion UI is currently on version 1.5 sitting on top of Android Jellybean version 4.1.2. Huawei’s Skin seems to be bloated and
overwrought as you are only left with only left with 150 MB to work with especially if you have a 1GB RAM version of the device. The effect of these Android skins is that they always slow down an otherwise speedy operating system, and it is the same case here. Aesthetically the Emotion UI comes Apple
iOS like icon somehow this bothers me as Google took time out to lay out the required design language for some aspects of the android UI. And in this case it seems Huawei choose used some and leave out the other.

When you initially get done with the usual signing in, you will be greeted by what Huawei’s “me widget”,
which is a customizable six  grid widget that allows you to set the time , weather, favorite Album, music, and the two most important contacts. Found myself loving this widget .Below the “me widget” are icons of other commonly used apps like web, contacts, settings, gallery, etc. The phone lockscreen has 3 app shortcuts arranged in a circular manner with the most used shortcuts calls, camera and messages.

It should be noted that there is no app drawer as Huawei has chosen to go the Apple route on this all apps are installed on the desktop screens (you can set up to 8 screens). You are free to arrange your icon in iOS like folders for more organization. By default Huawei pre configures for you folders like tools, Management, Google Apps and Social Folders- I wonder why they left the riptide GP game in the social folder.  Borrowing a leaf from the galaxy series or Asus devices, Huawei has implemented a floating button that allows you to quickly do things like calculations, write quick notes and texts without going
out of an app. Huawei calls this feature “Floating windows” and I hope they will improve on it to support with real multi windows, like on the high end Galaxy phones.

The Emotion UI comes with 20 customizable themes for the home and lock screen. Each theme comes with its own style of the screen lock, screen lock wall paper, Home wallpaper, Application icon style, Font style, ringtone, etc. Since there Is no grid like stock Android, you can long press anywhere on the home screen to access the widgets which you can drag and drop at your will onto any of the home screens.

Other software that comes bundled in the Ascend mate include an FM Radio, Flashlight for those times when you find yourself in a dark environment, a customized music player. There is also a Huawei backup app, that’s lets you back up your data. The is also a full suite of Google apps since it’s an Android certified phone. There is a Huawei air sharing app that lets you synchronize and display your info onto your TV via wifi.

 

The sales pitch

Huawei is pushing for 10 reasons why you should buy this mega sized smartphone and these include: Amazing Battery, Global roaming, Emotion UI, Wifi Display, Smart reading, Floating windows, One-hand UI, Magic touch, Mate Business, Fast and accurate location. I would admit that some of these features are more gimmicky than practical but there is an audience of all.

 

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