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CES: Huawei Ascend Mate 2 hands-on review

We're not convinced phablet can challenge the Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Tue Jan 07 2014, 15:00
Huawei Ascend Mate 2 with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and Emotion UI

LAS VEGAS: CHINESE HARDWARE MAKER Huawei outed its second generation Android phablet on Monday, the Huawei Ascend Mate 2. 

It's at times been difficult to get excited about Huawei smartphones, with the firm often struggling to match devices from firms like Samsung or Sony. However, the Chinese firm is looking to change that with the Ascend Mate 2 smartphone, and was keen to boast on Monday that it beats the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in performance and battery life. 

We managed to get some hands-on time with the mammoth device to see how it stacks up against the competition.

Design
With a 6.1in screen, it will come as no surprise that the Ascend Mate 2 smartphone is massive. The phone measures 161x85x9.5mm, and while Huawei claimed that the device had been designed to sit comfortably in one hand, we found it quite awkward to hold. However, the phone is much easier to grasp than last year's model, with Huawei having trimmed some of the unnecessary bulk surrounding the smartphone's display.

Huawei Ascend Mate 2 design

Unfortunately, Huawei hasn't spruced up the handset's design much compared to the original Huawei Ascend Mate. The phone's casing is almost entirely glossy white plastic, aside from the faux-metal edging surrounding the handset, which feels and looks quite cheap.

Display
Not only has Huawei stalled with its design, but the screen resolution has remained the same as last year's model, which means that the Huawei Ascend Mate 2 has a disappointing 6.1in 720x1280 display.

Despite Huawei's claims that the screen is "just as good" as a full HD display, we noticed some blurring and fuzziness, although the display's IPS technology meant that viewing angles were good, even under the bright CES show lights.

We found the touchscreen easier to use than that of the Galaxy Note 3, despite Samsung's device measuring 0.4in smaller. That's thanks to Huawei's one-handed gesture mode, which shrinks the size of the on-screen keyboard to something more manageable and allows for easier one-handed navigation through homescreens.

Performance and software
We, along with most people, are fans of smartphones that run a vanilla version of Google's Android mobile operating system.

Huawei, however, has gone in the completely opposite direction with the Ascend Mate 2, skinning the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean mobile operating system with its custom Emotion user interface. According to Huawei, this makes the Android mobile operating system "easier to use", although during our time with this phone on Monday, as well as our experience with other Huawei handsets, we find it hard to agree.

Huawei Ascend Mate 2 with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and Emotion UI

While we're fans of some of Huawei's software features such as its onboard Selfie Mode, the interface - much like Samsung's Touchwiz - proved overcomplicated due to its vastly customised homescreens and icons.

Huawei has kitted out the Ascend Mate 2 with a quad-core 1.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, which while by no means the speediest processor on the market offered a slick, smooth experience during our brief time with the phone.

According to Huawei, the chip - along with the handset's huge 4,050mAh battery - will make for a two-day battery life, outperforming most other smartphones on the market. We have yet to test this, but will be sure to do so in our full review.

Cameras
The Huawei Ascend Mate 2 features a 13MP camera on its rear and a 5MP wide-angle lens camera on the front.

The Huawei Ascend Mate 2 has a 13MP rear-facing camera

Although we didn't get to test these fully, we were immediately impressed by the 13MP camera, with images appearing natural and vibrant, even under the bright CES lights.

First impressions
Huawei made some big claims about the equally large Ascend Mate 2 smartphone, but we're still not fully convinced.

Due to Huawei's largely unfamiliar user interface, we think potential buyers, particularly those in the UK, will struggle to warm to this handset. We're also not keen on the smartphone's glossy white casing or low-resolution screen, although we didn't have any immediate complaints about performance or the cameras.

Check back with The INQUIRER soon for our full Huawei Ascend Mate 2 review. µ

 

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