Hands on: Huawei Ascend Mate Review

[CES 2013] Huawei made a splash at CES 2013 by launching two powerful smartphones with state of the art features, the Ascend D2 and the huge 6.1-inch Ascend Mate.
We published about the devices when they were announced on stage on Monday and today, we took the time to upload a few videos showcasing the Huawei new phones.

Following the unsuspected success of the 5.5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 2, big phones (a.k.a phablets) are on the rise this year, and, at 6.1-inch, the Huawei Ascend mate is now the largest smartphone on the planet.

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Beside its gigantic 6.1-inch display, what sets the Ascend Mate apart is its high capacity 4050 mAh battery, which promises to deliver extensive battery life, or to simply compensate for the huge screen size. To date, the Huawei Ascend Mate features the highest capacity battery found in a smartphone: the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 only gets 3,100 mAh while the famous Motorola RAZR Maxx HD gets 3,300 mAh.

I have purchased a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for my personal use, so I was very curious to get my hands on this Huawei Mate. I have briefly played with the Mate after the Huawei press conference, here is the complete hands-on with my first impressions..

Editor’s note: What’s a “hands-on review”? Unlike reviews that are done in our office/lab, the hands-on reviews are usually our first contact with a device. We try providing as much information about the look and feel along with critical details available at that time. A complete review may follow when the device is actually on the market.

Left: Huawei Ascend Mate – right: Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Technical highlights

Huawei Ascend MateSamsung Galaxy Note 2
Display Size6.1″5.5″
Display resolution1280×7201280×720
Display typeLCD touchscreen with
Corning Gorilla glass
Super AMOLED
Display PPI267
Main chip1.5 GHz quad-core Hi-Silicon K3V2
+ Intel XMM6260
Exynos 4412 quad-core
RAM2GB2GB
Internal storage (GB)16, 32, 64
microSD slotYesYes
Battery capacity4050mAh3100 mAh
Back Camera8 Megapixel8 Megapixel
Front Camera1 Megapixel1.9 Megapixel
NetworkTBD (regional)LTE
Dimensions (inch)6.5 x 3.4 x 0.4 -163.5 mm x 85.7 mm x 9.9 mm5.95 x 3.17 x 0.37 – 9.4mm
Weight (oz)6.98 oz – 198g6.35 – 180g

Product Design (Very Good)

The first thing that struck me when holding the Huawei Mate was obviously its huge size, which made it slightly difficult to hold in one hand (my palm is 3” wide). Unlike a 7” tablet, the Ascend Mate has definitely more of a “phone” feel, but I just found it to be a little too wide for my hand.

The Ascend Mate offers a similar build quality as the Galaxy Note 2 with its white glossy plastic backside (or black depending on the model – see the complete gallery). Similarly to its smaller sibling, the Ascend D2, it features a nice and sturdy silver-colored metal frame that runs around its large chassis, which provide a solid build quality.

Top Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (with cover) – Bottom Huawei Ascend Mate

The body is pretty lightweight for its size: the Ascend Mate is only 18g heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, while featuring a significantly larger display.

User Interface and perceived performance

Under the hood, the Huawei Ascend Mate sports a 1.5 GHz quad-core Hi-Silicon K3V2 (+ Intel XMM6260) that runs with Android JellyBean 4.1, which enable a snappy and fluid user interface. I am not a big fan of Huawei’s Emotion UI (user interface), that looks less clean than the Android stock UI. One interesting feature worth to mention is the 100 themes that the Chinese manufacturer will offer online to customize the Emotion UI skin.

Other interface custom features include multitasking, labeled “Floating Window” by Huawei,it allows users to watch a video in a floating windows displayed on top of another application screen. Like any super wide smartphone, the device offers the one-hand UI option, which is neccesary when you want to operate the phone with one hand.

Display

The 6-inch HD LCD display (1280×720) is not as crisp as the 443 ppi display featured in the Huawei Ascend D2 smartphone, nonetheless, it offers a great image quality with deep contrast. When I compared it with my Samsung Galaxy Note 2, I did not notice any significant differences. As usual in any mobile device, the screen has always a slight color dominance, but nothing really worth mentioning.

According to Huawei, the Ascend Mate delivers the highest screen-to-frame ratio on the market, allowing to keep the body more compact despite the huge display. (0.73 vs. 0.69 for the Galaxy Note 2 and 0.66 for the Galaxy S3)

Additionally, the display can be operated even if the user wears rubber gloves, a capability that Huawei calls “Magic Touch”. Obviously i could not chekc that, so I have no idea how well it works. It might be useful if it could work with all types of gloves during winter, we will try that when we will get the review unit.

Camera


I briefly tried the camera on site, the shutter was fast and the camera application is what you can expect in an Android smartphone. I could not email the images I shot from the phone, so I am not able to compare the image quality with my Galaxy Note 2 yet. However, you can see that I shot the same image with both smartphones (picture above), and from their respective display the image qualtiy looked comaprable

Video Playback

The video playback is fluid and the colors are bright, and the contrast quality is very good as well. The ambient noise was somewhat distracting, however I could notice that the sound volume is a little weak for a phone of that size. I prefer to wait until I get the review unit to make a final judgement on the audio quality, since the level of noise on site was loud.
The Huawei Mate features Dolby Sound system which certainly enhances the audio quality.

Battery

One of the key features of this new phablet, besides its huge screen, is its impressive battery capacity, at 4050 mAh it is the highest available on a smartphone. When it comes to power, in addition to the hardware performance, Huawei also optimized the power consumption on the software side.

According to the manufacturer, with Huawei’s patented proprietary technology Quick Power Control and Automated Discontinuous Reception (see slides from the press conference below), both the Mate and the D2 can save up to 30% power.

During the press conference, the manufacturer stated that the estimated battery life for continuous video playback should be 10 hours 8 minutes and 22h 13 minutes of talk time. Huawei claims that its more than what the samsung Galaxy Note 2 can deliver (see the sldie below).

Conclusion

I am personally a big fan of phablets so I was really excited to discover the Huawei Ascend Mate when it was unveiled at CES 2013.

The product design quality is similar to my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 except for the lack of stylus, additionally, the display offers a comparable image quality. I am a little concerned with the fact that the device is slightly too wide for my hand, there is a tipping point where the user experience might stop to be agreeable with this type of form factor.

The Huawei Ascend Mate best differentiator is its impressive 4050 mAh battery capacity, with a powerful processor and such large display to run, the hardware certainly needs it to provide a long battery life. I can wait to test it at the office!

Read more about Android, ascend mate, CES, CES 2013, Huawei, mobile, phablet and Smartphones.

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Key SpecsAscend Mate
StatusReleased
Display Diagonal6.1"
Processor/Soc NameHuawei K3V2, 4-core, 1.5 GHz
Max. Total Storage Capacity72 GB
Megapixels8 MP
Battery Capacity (mAh)4050 mAh
Complete product dataHuawei Ascend Mate Full specs and details


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