Telecommunications giant Huawei is making another push to grab some of the smartphone market share outside of China with the Ascend P7, but how does the flagship 4G smartphone compare to the leading smartphones on the market today?
Huawei describes the phone as lighter and thinner than the competition, and they may well be right with the P7 just 6.5mm thick (139.8 x 68.8 x 6.5 mm) and weighing in at 124g. That makes it slimmer than the iPhone 5S, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2, and lighter than its Android competitors as well.
However, beyond just its size there is little in design to differentiate the P7 from the vast array of premium smartphones on the market. The metallic banded edge is a nice touch and reminiscent of the iPhone, but other than that the phone is mostly a big screen.
And a lovely big 5″ display it is too, offering a 1080P at 441PPI, which puts it up there with the HTC One M8 and Galaxy S5 – an impressive feat.
Photography is where the P7 really shines, with both the 13MP back camera and 8MP front “selfie” camera strong contenders. The camera app is well designed and easy to use, offering all the now-expected features such a 10-shot bursts and sound activation, and the photographs produced are fantastic. The images are also hardly processed, which can mean large files of up to 7MB per image, but no JPEG artefacts that blight compressed images.
Most premium smartphones offer good quality rear cameras, but the front cameras tend to be pretty terrible, and that is something Huawei have addressed with 8MP “selfie” camera with the P7. Control of the shutter with the volume button means that capturing a good quality selfie has never been easier.
As the photos can be so large in size it is good to see that the P7 comes with an SD-card slot, which can expand the 16GB on board storage by up to 64GB. SD slots should be standard on all smartphones now, but they are not, and the extra storage is certainly welcome with the P7.
Rather than opting for a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor like the majority of its rivals, Huawei opted instead for the 1.8GHz quad-core Hisilicon Kirin. This sounds fine on paper, but it does lag a little behind its premium Android competition in this department.
The main problem with the Hisilicon CPU, however, appears to be that burns through the battery faster than the Snapdragon CPUs. The Hisilicon CPU along with the huge 5″ display means that reviewers are just managing to squeeze out a full day of use from the phone.
Huawei could have increased the size of the battery to deal with the lower efficiency CPU, but to keep everything so thin and light the Li-Po battery included is just 2500 mAh, a little less the the Galaxy S5 and much smaller than the 3,200 mAh Xperia Z2.
There is a trend amongst most Android manufacturers to move towards lighter skins on Google’s mobile OS, but not Huawei. The Chinese company has instead taken design cues from both iOS and Windows Phone, which makes it feel a little mismatched.
The Simple Home screen with huge icons for easy access to your phone, messaging, contacts, music, and more is very much a nod to Windows Phone and can be a good way of accessing the most used parts of the phone. However, it is paired with Huawei’s decision to drop Android’s app drawer, and instead present users with an iOS-like system where all app icons are listed in pages – and any UI struggles to compete on design directly with Apple.
Overall the Ascend P7 is a marked improvement over the P6, and makes a good effort to compete with the flagship phones available from the likes of Apple, Sony, and Samsung. The slim and light design and excellent front and back cameras means that it was made for those that love taking pictures, but it is let down a little by a slower and less efficient CPU and a slightly confused interface.