Chances are that you’ve heard of Huawei, they make a lot of budget smartphones. What many don't know is that Huawei also make some pretty tasty flagship devices. I spent some time with their latest, the Ascend P7 and came away moderately impressed.
Look and Feel
It’s an eye-catching device. At a mere 6.5mm thick, it is also one of the thinnest I’ve seen. It takes design cues from the iPhone. Hardware buttons are alloy, and its front and back are also coated in toughened glass.
Its most noticeable feature is its front fascia. The bezel is wafer thin and there are no physical keys, lending it a clean uncluttered look.
It may be a feast for the eyes, but there’s still room to improve.
The P7’s 5” 1080p 441ppi screen made everything look crisp. Individual pixels were all but invisible. Outdoors the screen was viewable too.
It runs Android, 4.4.2 with Huawei’s custom Emotion UI. There's no separate apps menu as apps are also laid out across the p7’s virtual screens.
The P7’s 4G performance was a pleasant surprise. It also made for ridiculously fast mobile data. I could tell when the P7 was hooked up to Wi-Fi at home as it was slower.
Unfortunately the P7 sometimes lagged when typing, which was frustrating considering its spec.
Under the Hood
The lags are odd given the P7’s packs a Huawei designed HiSilicon Kirin 910T quad-core 1.8GHz CPU. Benchmarks showed it was comparable to Snapdragon 600 powered devices like the Galaxy S4.
On the photography front, The P7 sports a rear 13MP Sony image sensor. Flipping it around reveals an 8MP front camera.
The rear camera delivered the goods during one of Wellington's three annual sunny days. I got detailed snaps, with accurate colour reproduction. Flash-free indoor shots showed some noise but no obvious noise reduction.
There’s a bunch of different shooting modes, including a “Beauty Mode” which blurs out wrinkles (it could only do so much with my mug), HDR, Panorama, plus several filters and Best Photo. Everything you need with the camera app is within reach. Its one of the most straightforward I’ve used.
The P7’s front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor, which leaves the front cameras of most phones for dead. Huawei also bundled a selfie panorama mode, which fits groups into selfies.
I wondered about its battery given its ultra slim design and its smallish 2500mAh battery. With the screen set to medium brightness and Wi-Fi/mobile data off, I got 7.5 hours before it demanded charger time. With everything set to default and typical use, I got 6 hours. Not bad, but not an 8-hour day.
This appears to be a power management issue as the P7 used little power in standby. A power optimisation app may fix this.
From a design perspective Huawei have raised the bar. Several handset makers could learn a lot from its slim design and use of premium materials.
There were performance issues with some lags and it could also do with better power management given its tiny battery.
At the end of the day, its benefits outweighed its limitations. Gorgeous hardware combines with a great price plus a solid 4G performance.