“Whow .. Thats a big phone !” “There is no way you can make phone calls with that !” “How do you fit that in your pocket”. If I got a penny for every time I have heard that remark in the past, it would have been enough to buy me my next phablet and still have spare change for parking. Yes … my name is Knightwise and I’m a Phablet Fan. Discontent with small screens and cramped mobile interfaces I switched to the “larger kind” of smartphone a couple of years ago with the Galaxy Note 2… and afterwards the Note 3. The thing is I don’t see my “Phablet” as my phone. I see it as my personal communicator, that also allows me to do voice calls. It is the one single digital device I probably spend most of my time on during the day.. So when Huawei asked me to review their “Ascend mate 7” (what’s in a name) it was not going to be easily impressed.
The thing is : Phablets are rapidly becoming the “high end” niche market of the smartphone industry. Where the ‘average Joe’ pays about 300 dollar for the “average Joe” smartphone with “Average Joe” specs .. the phablet market is usually reserved for the geek with higher system requirements (and a larger amount of cash to spend on his mobile device). Result ? Phones like the Galaxy note 4, the new Nexus 6 and the iPhone 6 plus boast high resolutions , big screens, good specs and … high prices. So what is there do to when you want a ping-pong table sized smartphone, but you are on a midget-phone budget ?
Enter the Huawei Ascent Mate 7 : A bigger phone for a smaller budget. With its 6 inch Hd Display (1920*1080) it has a smaller resolution that the Note 4 Samsung Phablet Flagship (or Aircraft carrier) and its Quad Core Cortex A15 1.8 ghz processor with 3Gb or ram are also not as heavy as the competition … but neither is its price. For 300 euro’s LESS then the 749 price point of the Note 4 .. you get a LOT of phone for what you pay for.
For one : Huawei’s spin on KitKat is a LOT cleaner then Samsung’s over cluttered ‘Touchwiz’ interface. Not having to lift an extra layer of graphic bloatware, makes the ascend preform remarkably well , despite its lighter processor. The phone is quite responsive when pinching swiping and zooming but lags a little bit when opening large apps like Linkedin. Huawei’s version of Android takes some getting used to (there is no app drawer) but comes with some nice little tweaks and handy features like Fingerprint unlocking and “Single handed operation”. Samsung might have these features too, but in touchwizz they are buried beneath a thick layer of clutter.
What we really liked about the Mate 7 was its fingerprint sensor. Located on the BACK of the phone, its in a very natural position for when you want to use it to unlock the phone. As you hold the phone in your hand your index finger is automatically placed on the sensor and the phone unlocks. Additionally the sensor can be used to trigger the camera. The fact that its not a button but a touch sensitive surface makes that you don’t “nudge” the phone (and blur your pictures) as you are taking a snapshot. We liked this feature .. a lot ! Speaking of the camera , the 13 megapixel front facing camera is quite good (but is a little lacking in low light conditions).
The screen on the Mate 7 is not the brightest of the bunch. Its colors are bright and vivid but do not match the “over saturated blown up colors” of the competitors amoled screens. Personally I like this because the latter do make a picture from a funeral look like a page from a holiday catalog. The (replaceable) battery life is good, we managed to get about 1.5 days out of the battery with fairly heavy use which pleasantly surprised us. The overall signal reception on the phone is good (Wifi and 4G) although it did drop a call on us twice as we got into the car.
The look and feel of the Mate is good. Its a full metal jacket (We don’t know which metal, but it sure ain’t plastic) and the phone is well balanced. The bezel on the side of the screen is almost non existent giving the phone a premium look and feel.
So is it worth it ? Yes ! If you want a maxi-sized phone with more then average specs on a medium sized budget, the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 is surely something you should take a serious look at. The only competitor we see on the horizon is the immensely popular (but also immensely scarce) Oneplus One. With the price of the Nexus 6 going into the same premium price range as Samsungs Galaxy Notes and the iPhone Six , the Huawei ascend mate 7 will get the geek-on-a-budget (or the geek who shops sensibly) a great bang for their buck.