I reviewed the Huawei Ascend P6 last August, and now, considerably less than a year later, the Ascend P7 has come along. It isn’t available quite yet, but it should be on Orange from 2 June. The price is yet to be confirmed, but it is expected to be around £370.
It seems Huawei feels it is important to refresh its top of the range handset before a year has passed. Still, we’ve waited nine months for this new Ascend, while Sony’s newly released Xperia Z2 has succeeded the Xperia Z1 that I reviewed just last November. Other top flight smartphone companies seem content to launch just one flagship phone per year – and we’ve recently seen the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 take centre stage.
So, what does the Huawei Ascend P7 offer in terms of improving on the P6? Well, you might struggle to tell the two phones apart by just looking at them. Okay, the Ascend P7 is a bit larger – it has a bigger screen increasing the 4.7in display on the P6 to a more generous 5in, and that does mean a slightly larger overall footprint. Compare 65.5 x 6.18 x 132.65mm (WxDxH) with 68.8 x 6.5 x 139.8mm (WxDxH). There is a mere 4 grams added to the weight though, with the P6 coming in at 120 grams and the new P7 at 124 grams.
Note that 6.5mm of thickness – it is a slight increase on the P6’s thinnest handset in the world credentials, but not enough to bother me. This is still a remarkably thin phone, and it is easily thinner than the Xperia Z1, HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5 all of which are over 8mm.
The characteristic rounded bottom edge is retained from the Ascend P6. I really like this design feature. It looks neat set against the squared off left, right and top edges, and it doesn’t have a negative effect on usability.
Whereas before the rounded off edge didn’t play host to anything, this time it houses the microUSB power connector. That does detract from the sleek lines somewhat, but the positioning is ergonomic. The headset connector has moved to the top edge whereas on the Ascend P6 it was on the left edge and doubled as a slot to house the easily lost tool for opening the microSD card and microSIM slots. This time there’s a much more standard tool in the handset box.
The right edge houses all the remaining buttons, ports and connectors with a small round on/off switch replacing the lozenge shaped button on the P6, volume rocker, and those covered slots for your microSIM and microSD cards. It is worth noting that the bottom edge is plastic but the other three are brushed steel, and the volume and power buttons are beautifully tactile – the former is easy to find when the handset is in your pocket.
For all Huawei’s chatter about the seven layers that make up the back and give it a micro-pattern design, it is still glass and still slippery. I really liked the more tactile brushed metal finish to the back of the Ascend P6, and it is a shame that has not been repeated here. Still, the Ascend P7’s thinness helps it sit neatly in the palm and in general I found it a comfortable handset to hold and to use.
The 5in screen delivers 1,920 x 1,080 pixels putting it on a par with the top flight Samsung, HTC and Sony handsets. It is sharp, bright, clear, and has good viewing angles. The Gorilla Glass 3 is very, very smooth – so smooth, in fact, that I felt it interfered a little with my typing speed.
The quad-core processor is one of Huawei’s own. We don’t do handset benchmarking here at ITProPortal, preferring to reflect on real-world usage rather than lab-style counting and measuring. I can report that while the HiSilicon Kirin 910T did not feel quite as slick under the fingers as the very latest Snapdragon 801, everything ran smoothly enough.
There’s a 2,500 mAh battery in this handset, and I found it fell by about a third of its life every half day that I was using the handset for just general phone activities. Power saving can help, and there are normal, smart and ultra-saving options.
The P7 boasts 2GB of RAM and 16GB of installed memory that is run down to 11.6GB by Android 4.4 and various other extras including Huawei’s Emotion UI skin. As usual the app drawer has been taken away, with all app icons sitting on a home screen. I hated this when Huawei first introduced it, but now I am a big fan. It allows apps to be swiftly accessed, and you’re easily reminded of everything you’ve downloaded, plus you can use folders to keep things organised.
For those who might find one-handed operation a bit tricky, Huawei has implemented what it calls the Suspend button. You can turn this on in the Notifications area, and it puts a small button bottom left of the screen which opens up a menu for home, back, memory clearance, screen lock and access to a number of apps you can float on-screen – the music player, note taker, calculator, SMS and calendar. You can only use one app at a time, but still, it is a very neat system. The notifications area also offers extras like a flashlight toggle and screenshot tool.
Emotion UI goes a lot deeper than this, and I’m quite a fan of what Huawei has done with it. Even the lock screen benefits with a pull-up bottom menu that lets you access the calendar, calculator, flashlight and, for the vain among us, a mirror that uses the front camera and puts a frame around it. No comment!
This is a 4G handset, and NFC is here. The speakers deliver relatively good quality sound. The main camera shoots to 13 megapixels, and the front one is generously specified at 8 megapixels. Among the features here, both cameras have an odd “beauty level” slider designed to remove facial wrinkles and blemishes. I found it uneven and it produced quite weird results. Panorama Selfie does what you’d expect with the front camera letting you squeeze more chums into an image. From lock mode you can double press the volume rocker to launch the camera app and take a photo – a feature Huawei calls Ultra Snapshot. It’s really fast, and it worked every time I tried it.
Huawei has a relatively low profile in the UK, and that deserves to change. You get a lot of handset here for the price, including a high quality design and great feel in the hand, good specifications, and an attitude towards Android skinning which is on the whole positive. Battery life is perhaps a bit suspect, but overall I’m a big fan of the Ascend P7.
Manufacturer and Model
Huawei Ascend P7
1.8GHz quad-core HiSilicon Kirin 910T
16GB (11.6GB available)
5in, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 441ppi
68.8 x 6.5 x 139.8mm (WxDxH)