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Huawei Ascend P2 review - hands on

  • Huawei Ascend P2
  • Huawei Ascend P2
  • Huawei Ascend P2
  • Huawei Ascend P2
  • Huawei Ascend P2

In a packed press conference in Barcelona today Huawei unveiled the successor to the high-end Huawei P1 – the logically-named P2.

Huawei is everywhere in Barcelona, and this conference displayed all the company's confidence and ambition. Miss Amy Lou, the director of branding, peppered her speech with phrases such as "imagine a life without boundaries. Imagine we can care to dream" and that Huawei sees itself as a "visionary challenger" aligned with "progressive optimists".

Huawei Ascend P2

After that the CEO gave out some proper statistics. Huawei is number three for smartphone market share, which is impressive in itself. The aim of the Ascend P2 is to help reposition Huawei from a maker of budget handsets to high-end models, and the 4G P2 has the specification to match.

It's a slim, 8mm-thick smartphone with a 1,280x720-pixel display. While this isn't up there with the latest Full HD handsets such as the Sony Xperia Z and the HTC One, a screen of this resolution puts the P2 in the same company as the Samsung Galaxy S3. Huawei has managed to cram a large 2,420mAh battery into the phone's slim shell, so battery life should be on a par with current high-end smartphones.

Huawei Ascend P2

It's enough pixels to view desktop web pages at full zoom with the text still being just about legible. The screen has a 500-nit brightness level, which is similar to the iPhone 5's 570-odd. It's certainly bright, and we had no problems viewing the screen in the launch venue's outside atrium. One useful feature is that you can operate the screen wearing gloves.

Huawei Ascend P2
Desktop-style web browsing is possible

Huawei also claims this is the "world's fastest smartphone", although the CEO later qualified this with "Qualcomm smartphone". It has a quad-core 1.5GHz processor and 1GB RAM – the processor spec is up to the minute, but we're becoming used to seeing 2GB RAM in smartphones.

Unfortunately, the phone didn't seem particularly quick, as there was some lag when flicking between homescreens. We also had some problems with the default web browser. This seemed particularly sluggish rendering web pages such as Gmail, and this was borne out in the Sunspider benchmark. This ran so slowly that it still hadn't finished by the time the screen powered down after five minutes, and we had to give up due to a queue of irate people behind us.

Once we switched to Chrome things were better, however. We saw 1,759ms in Sunspider, which while not earth-shattering is still reasonable.

Huawei Ascend P2
Waiting for Sunspider to finish. And waiting. And waiting...

The phone is running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but Huawei has heavily customised the interface. We liked the bold, colourful icons, but missed the normal icon for the app tray. Instead, you can flick left and right through home screens to find your apps.

The P2 has a 13-megapixel camera, so Huawei certainly isn't following in HTC's "fewer pixels but bigger pixels" strategy. The camera was quick to focus and take pictures, but we'll need to test it out properly before we come to any definite conclusions. 16GB of onboard storage means all those pixels shouldn't swamp your onboard space.

The Huawei P2 will be available from Q2 this year, for €399 (£345 approx) SIM-free. This is a reasonable price for a phone with a high specification, but we're worried that Huawei's far-reaching software tweaks will slow down the normally smooth experience of Android 4.1. The built-in web browser also seems to have some significant performance problems, but this may well be ironed out before launch. If Huawei can iron out the kinks, the P2 could be a great high-end smartphone for a mid-range price.

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