Huawei Ascend W1 review
Windows Phone 8, 4.0in 480x800 display
The Ascend W1 is Huawei’s first smartphone to run Windows 8 and its entry-level price puts it in direct competition with the Nokia Lumia 620. Its angular frame isn't that exciting at a first glance, but its soft touch back makes it very comfortable to hold. The rather uninspiring mass of black on our review sample wasn't particularly inspiring, but the Ascend W1 is also available in blue and pink, giving it some personality.
The Ascend W1 has a 4in screen with a 480x800 resolution and we were pleased with its overall image quality. Colours were very bright and rich, and blacks were surprisingly deep for an LCD screen. Compared to AMOLED screens, blacks were a little grey, but the screen's contrast levels were great, showing an excellent level of detail in our high contrast test images. Budget phone, or not, this really is a quality screen.
We certainly noticed the difference while web browsing, as we were able to render the BBC News home page in just seven seconds. It’s a little slower than we’d normally expect from this type of SunSpider score, but it’s still fantastic for a phone this cheap. We had to zoom in to read desktop versions of sites due to the comparatively low resolution, but it coped well with rendering text and images up close, and we experienced hardly any jerky movement or blurry text while swiping around the page.
We liked using the keyboard, too. Numbers and symbols are on a separate screen, but anyone who’s used the onscreen keyboard on a Windows 8 laptop or PC will find it very familiar. The keys take up roughly half the screen, but any smaller and they’d be too fiddly to tap accurately.
One thing missing from the Ascend W1 is a wide range of free apps. This is the main disadvantage it has compared to a Nokia Lumia, which comes with a host of pre-installed apps courtesy of Nokia. However, we are beginning to see more and more key apps make their way onto Windows Phone 8. It’s still not as comprehensive as Android or iOS, but the recent additions of iPlayer and a beta version of Spotify go some way in making it a more attractive operating system. You’ll probably need to take advantage of Ascend W1's microSD card slot if you’re planning on downloading lots of apps, though, as its 4GB of internal storage doesn’t give you a huge amount of spare room.
Where the Ascend W1 really stands out is its battery life. Its large 1,950mAh battery lasted 12 hours and 29 minutes in our video playback test with the screen set to half brightness, giving it almost twice as much battery life as its Nokia rivals. This would be a great score for any phone, but it’s even better considering the budget price.
The phone's 5-megapixel camera was equally stunning. Our outdoor shots had plenty of detail and images looked sharp and well-exposed with very few signs of pixel-blurring. Colours were a little drab, but they were much brighter and vivid than other cameras we’ve seen, even when it wasn’t particularly sunny outside. Our indoor shots were just as good. There was a little more noise present in each photo, but it coped very well in low light, capturing images clearly and with lots of crisp detail.
It’s one of the better cameras we’ve seen at this price, but its video capabilities were a little more disappointing. It had trouble focusing on objects when in low light, with the auto-focus hunting a lot. In our still life scene, our moving train and spinning fans became jerky, and we had some strange light ghosting on the image, most likely caused by the LED lights in the fans reflecting internally off the lens.
The Huawei Ascend W1 is a great Windows phone. It may not have the apps or attractive build quality of the Nokia Lumia 620, but it’s a much faster, longer lasting phone at an even more affordable price. It’s brilliant value and it wins a deserved Budget Buy award.