Huawei Ascend P2 review

Pros

  • Smart design
  • Impressive screen
  • Fast processor
  • Category 4 LTE support

Cons

  • No app drawer
  • Lacks microSD port
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Huawei is on something of a roll at the moment. Its Ascend Mate, a huge smartphone or small tablet (okay – it's a phablet) rather impressed me, and the Ascend P6, the slimmest handset in the world, has recently been released. While I wait for that to come in for review I have the Huawei Ascend P2 to evaluate. Its arrival time means it could easily be squeezed out by those other two devices, and that would be a real shame.

A key selling point is that the Ascend P2 is compatible with Category 4 LTE. That’s pretty exciting stuff for tech-heads, as it means support for a theoretical 150Mbps on mobile broadband. That’s not likely to be possible any time soon, though. Getting back down to Earth with a bang, you’ll be able to use it with the double speeds that EE has just started to roll out which will give you up to about 30Mbps if you’re in one of the early rollout cities. It is odd that EE has not taken the Huawei P2 on as I write, but there’s time for that to happen, and meanwhile you can get it Sim-free for £400.

The Huawei Ascend P2 is a real looker. It is tall and thin (though not as thin as the upcoming P6), minimalist on the front, and it has a nicely soft-touch back plate. The screen is dominant on the front of the chassis, with the under-screen touch sensitive shortcuts lighting up only briefly when you use the touchscreen, come out of lock mode, or tap the area beneath the screen that they sit in. Their backlights are dim rather than ultra-bright – though perfectly good enough for using even in the dark.

At just 122 grams in weight and 8.4mm thick the Ascend P2 feels really comfy in the hands. I struggled to reach right across the 4.7in screen and I suspect many others will do too – but that screen is superb nonetheless. Its 1,280 x 720 pixels deliver enough detail, with 315ppi ensuring that even the smallest text is not jagged or blurry, and viewing angles are fine. The TFT LCD delivers enough vibrancy for me too.

You can fiddle with the colour temperature using a sliding bar. The results don’t deliver a huge variation, and it is a pity you can’t preview the effect of moving the slider on a real screen – just on a standard image – but at least you do have some control.

With a quad-core 1.5GHz processor and 1GB of RAM inside there’s more than enough firepower to keep the Ascend P2 working like lightning under the fingers. However, there is a major issue with the Huawei Ascend P2 – namely the amount of storage. There’s 16GB of it, but just 11GB of that is accessible to you and there’s no support for a microSD card. I can’t get my head around why Huawei would not want to support microSD cards. This lack of support makes me think twice about this handset because I like to sideload movies and music – and I know I am not alone in that respect.

The absence of microSD support is a clue to the fact that you can’t remove the backplate to get at the 2420mAh battery. That’s quite a size, but don’t be fooled into thinking you will get extra-long life out of it. The size is needed to support that large screen and hungry processor. I found that on 3G the Ascend P2 could make its way beyond a day of life, but on 4G the battery depleted more quickly.

Your microSIM goes into a covered slot on the right edge of the chassis. There’s a camera button on this edge too, along with the on/off switch. Mains power and headset connector slots are on the top edge, with the volume rocker on the left.

There are two cameras on the Ascend P2. The front facing 1.3-megapixel one is of course designed for video calling and self-portraits, while the main camera is a pretty good 13-megapixel affair with a flash. You’ve got a range of filters on board that include some fun options like emboss and sketch. There are also some distortions which you might apply to faces and these provide a bit of fun. It’s nice to see some imagination applied to a handset’s camera features, even if they are on the childish side.

The Ascend P2 runs Android 4.1 and Huawei has thrown Near Field Communications and DLNA into the mix to augment Bluetooth 4.0 and of course Wi-Fi and GPS.

There are lots of themes on board so you can customise the look and feel of the handset. There are also plenty of widgets, one of which is a rather bizarre mega-widget. It’s actually a mix of weather, gallery, time, music control and contacts shortcuts. You can change the size of some of these elements, and remove one or more to add in more contacts shortcuts. Given that you can have all these as freestanding widgets it’s a bizarre idea and frankly a bit of a mess.

Huawei has also retained the decision seen in other recent handsets (such as the Ascend Mate) to dispense with an app drawer. Instead, each installed app’s shortcut goes onto a main screen, and you can move them around and put them into folders if you like. You can have up to nine home screens so there’s plenty of space for apps. When I first encountered this concept I found it irritating, but actually I’m getting to rather like it now.

Verdict

I’m quite a fan of the Huawei Ascend P2. I’m not sure it really needs a quad-core processor, and I’d really like microSD card support. But I am getting used to the lack of an app drawer and it no longer bothers me. The physical design is good, and the screen is pleasing. All of which makes me hanker to get my hands on the forthcoming P6, and I am afraid that, rather than any issues the P2 may have, could be this handset’s biggest problem.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Huawei Ascend P2

Network

GSM 850/900/1800/1900; HSPA 900/2100; LTE Cat 4

Processor

1.5GHz quad-core

Storage

16GB

Memory

1GB

Memory expansion

None

Display

4.7in, 1,280 x 720

Main camera

13-megapixel

Front camera

1.3-megapixel

Wi-Fi

Yes

GPS

Yes

FM radio

Yes

Battery

2420mAh

Size

136.2 x 66.7 x 8.4mm

Weight

122g

OS

Android 4.1