Huawei Ascend Mate
Huawei has unveiled the Ascend Mate, a massive 6.1in Android smartphone designed to take on the might of the Galaxy Note 2 phablet, here at CES. With a quad-core processor, 8-megapixel camera and 720p HD display, it could potentially upset Samsung, who has the smartphone/tablet crossover market all but sewn up. We spent some time trying out the device on Huawei’s stand, to bring you our first impressions.
Even in our large hands, the Ascend Mate is an absolute giant of a device, despite being less than 10mm thick, and will struggle to fit in most people’s pockets. It’s available in black, with silver trim, but we think the white model looks far nicer – it’s sleek and looks fantastic when the 6.1in display springs to life.
The giant screen might only have a 720p resolution (you’ll have to look to the Ascend D2 for a 1080p display – arguably this year’s must-have smartphone feature) but it looked incredibly sharp, with vivid colours and excellent viewing angles thanks to the IPS panel. It’s protected with Corning Gorilla Glass, so it should withstand a brush with your keys, and looked very bright under the harsh show floor lights. Both pictures and video looked fantastic, although we think Sony’s newly announced Xperia Z has the edge when it comes to films.
Its 8-megapixel camera can take Full HD video and has an LED flash for low light shooting. The few sample images we took on the show floor looked good on the phone’s screen, but we’ll have to wait until the handset goes on sale to give it a proper test. There’s also a front-facing 1-megapixel webcam that’s ready for Skype video calls.
The Ascend mate will launch with Huawei’s custom Emotion UI on top of Android 4.1 Jelly bean – it’s taken plenty of design cues from Apple’s iOS operating system, ditching the traditional Android App drawer and hiding the on-screen interface buttons until you swipe upwards from the bottom of the screen bezel. We think this is a great idea, as previous Android smartphones with software buttons permanently sacrificed a portion of the screen to them. It also adds clever touches like a one-handed keyboard and dialer in the bottom corner, to make it easier to type and text single handed.
Powered by a Hi-Silicon 1.5GHz quad-core processor, paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of integrated storage, the Ascend Mate should be seriously fast. It certainly loaded apps quickly and could play games smoothly, but unfortunately we noticed a fair amount of lag within the Emotion UI. Although it looks fantastic, it didn’t feel as slick or responsive as other custom interfaces we’ve seen – whether this is because the handsets were running pre-production firmware isn’t clear, but we experienced lock-ups and a full reboot during our short time with the phone.
Slated to launch some time after March outside of China, there’s still time for Huawei to iron out the kinks in the software to perfect the phone. If it can manage it, you’ll be getting a huge amount of phone for your money – both literally and in terms of savings over the likes of a Galaxy Note 2. We’ll be giving the phone a full review as soon as it arrives in the UK.