The Huawei Ascend P6 is the much touted thinnest smartphone in the world – and at 6.18mm, that’s certainly thin. It is also relatively inexpensive considering that it has a quad-core processor. Clove has it for £339 SIM free, and it is widely available on contract for as little as £17 a month. It seems like a bargain on the face of it.
The Ascend P6 is certainly an important handset for Huawei, which is trying to claw its way up the smartphone ladder and make itself a name to be reckoned with. The Ascend P2 was a neat little quad-core handset I reviewed just a couple of weeks ago, while the Ascend Mate fits fairly well into the phablet market. The company is doing well with its usual budget handsets too, with the Ascend Y300 that I looked at late in June providing good value for money.
So there are high hopes for the Ascend P6 to steal some limelight of its own.
The Huawei Ascend P6 is available in three colours – white, pink and black. I was sent the black version for review.
That 6.18mm of width is not the only visually appealing thing about the Ascend P6. Overall it is a fairly tidy size for the hand. Measuring 132.6 x 65.5 x 6.18mm, the handset is a lot more comfortable to hold than the 163.5 x 85.7 x 9.9mm Ascend Mate and it is in fact close in proportions to the 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm of the Samsung Galaxy S4 (though its screen is a shade smaller than the Galaxy’s 5in offering, and has fewer than its 1,920 x 1,080 pixels too).
Three sides are silver metal with the bottom edge of this smartphone being a curve of plastic that rolls from front to back.
The backplate is a really nice brushed metal that is extremely solid and has minimal brand marking. A tiny set of grilles allow speaker sound out and considering how small this area is the volume and sound quality are both really, really good. It’s a super design that makes for a phone that’s good to look at and good to hold.
You can’t get the backplate off to reach the battery, and as a consequence both microSIM and microUSB sit in caddies on the right edge of the chassis along with the power and volume buttons. You get into the caddies using the usual pinhole system, and to help you out Huawei provides a little pin tool (see the image below). This lives in the headset slot on the bottom left edge of the chassis.
Now, it isn’t a bad idea at all to store this little tool on the phone, but of course as soon as you want to insert headphones it has to come out. And where do you put it then? I imagine it will get lost in a pocket the first time the majority of owners use headphones. I love the stowage idea, but would have liked a bespoke rather than a shared slot.
I’m not happy with the positioning of the headset slot either – it is very awkward for a pocket and most handset makers now fully understand that headset slots need to be on the top or bottom edge.
LTE and NFC support are missing from the spec sheet (both are found in the Ascend P2), and a lot of the specifications are similar to those found on the Ascend Mate. The screen, for example, offers the same 1,280 x 720 pixels. Here the pixels are slotted into a display that measures 4.7in rather than the vast 6.1in of the Ascend Mate.
I have to say I really like the screen. The LCD is clear and sharp, and it is pretty flat to the phone’s surface. Text reads really well. It is easy on the eye, and I was quite happy reading eBooks via the Kindle app. I’m coming to the conclusion that somewhere around 4.5in to 5in is the ideal size for a phone screen as it’s a great compromise between portability and “viewability.”
The back camera shares the Ascend Mate’s 8-megapixel capability, but Huawei has done a lot better with the front camera which is a generous 5-megapixels (compared to 1-megapixel on the Mate). They shoot 1080p and 720p video respectively. The range of camera features on offer isn’t vast, but there are some nice filters that include warm and cold colour enhancements which can make a big difference to quick snapshots.
The 1.5GHz quad-core Huawei processor is the same one found in the Ascend Mate. It doesn’t feel as slick as other quad-core offerings, but it did not let me down by stuttering. The 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage is again the same as the Ascend Mate. Right out of the box my review sample had 4GB of free storage, the rest already being occupied by Android 4.2.2 and various other odds and ends including the very oddly named Emotion UI that Huawei overlays on top of Android.
There are plenty of other tweaks. I’m not a fan of the giant Me widget that Huawei plops on the home page which brings together weather, contacts, music playback controls and gallery photos. It’s easily deleted and replaced with other stuff you want, though, so it is not really a pain.
To counter the nasty Me widget I love the profiles switcher which uses a simple dial wheel and is really clear about what each profile offers, and the permissions manager which brings together all app permissions in one easily accessible and very manageable location.
If you are a fan of changing the look of your handset then the themes gallery which has plenty of, well, themes to play with. Many of these are online rather than on device, but they are easy to download and have a seriously noticeable effect.
Huawei has put a percentage indicator next to the battery icon and inevitably that had me looking at power drainage more than usual. I’d hoped for better from the 2000mAh battery and I still hope a software update can go some way to helping eke out more life. As things stand you are likely to need to administer a mid-day power boost if you are a heavy-ish user, and I’d recommend keeping the screen below full brightness as much as possible too.
The Huawei Ascend P6 is let down by its battery life and that’s a real shame because other than that it is a neatly designed, well sized, capable phone that has the microSD card support the P2 doesn’t – while leaving out the LTE and NFC that not everybody needs. If you liked the Ascend Mate but think it is a bit big, consider this handset but be wary of the battery life.
Manufacturer and Model
Huawei Ascend P6
GSM 850/900/1800/1900; HSPA 850/900/1700/1900/2100
4.7in, 1,280 x 720
132.65 x 65.5 x 6.18mm