Aug 5, 2014
If one has never bothered learning how to pronounce “Huawei” before, be warned: its Ascend Mate2 smartphone might have you looking it up.
The review unit we received is stark white (black is an option); with regards to in-hand size, it is on the phablet side of the spectrum at 6.3 x 3.3 x 0.37 inches. Huawei makes use of the bezel, too; thankfully it doesn’t overpower the device. The white is broken by silver-colored trim and insignia, most of which frames the device. The tough plastic material that makes up the frame is reasonably resistant to everyday dings, and the Gorilla Glass screen did not succumb to simple scratch attempts. Also in the box is paperwork, USB cable and AC charger.
The front camera is nestled to the right and the rear camera sits in familiar territory centralized towards the top, with the flash/camera directly below, and speaker grills lower down towards the bottom. The left side is bereft of controls, while the right houses the volume rocker and the power button. The standard audio jack sits at the top to the right, while the micro-USB charging port is on the bottom. The 3900 mAh battery isn’t user replaceable, and the SD card receptacle — which allows for extra space up to 32GB — resides underneath the back cover. Under the hood, it incorporates the quad-core Qualcomm MSM8928 Quadcore 1.6GHz chip.
It feels heavier than some devices of the same size, but not uncomfortably so, weighing in at a tad over 7 ounces. It feels fairly comfortable in hand, and simple touches like the aforementioned positioning of the power button increase usability in one-handed situations.
The actual screen size sans bezel is 6.1, so the screen begs to be used for content and such. While the 1280x720p screen is pretty vivid, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that it could be so much more. Hi-res games look good enough, but when compared to high end competitors, The Ascend Mate 2’s humble roots show.
The rear camera? Well, it was a pleasant surprise. It works great in lighted situations, and even with dim lights, it works admirably. The bundled image software is easy enough to manipulate as well. The built-in speaker is surprisingly nice on its own, and when connected to speakers via wires or bluetooth, this 13MP unit does quite well. It does video at 30 fps/1080p; the front camera a 5MP piece.
Per software, after the stock Android 4.3 and access to the main Google suite, there isn’t a whole lot of extras… thankfully. Notably, the device has a few different ways to set up the home screen visually, which is a nice touch. Other sundries, like music player and gallery, are clean and easy to handle. I did like the profiles and themes, as they give a user a way further customize usage and appearance. All in all, the bloatware is kept under control, and Huawei’s Emotion UI doesn’t fall into the common trap of Android UIs trying to do too much.
With regards to call quality; links are relatively seamless, and inbound and outbound audio is clean. It’s equipped to handle 4G data, but we did not test that portion. One area this device did show its stuff is the battery life. I thought it does well, both in action and while at rest. As an added bonus, the battery supports reverse charging, which is definitely useful in a pinch.
Purists might gripe about the lack of specifics like wireless charging and NFC, but frankly, at this price point, it’s tough to complain. All in all, it is an admirable package, and at the very least, lets folks know that the semblance of luxury can be had in a tidy, well-designed package.