12 Jan 2016
If the Dell Latitude 13 7370 is a business-focused reworking of the firm's XPS 13 laptop, the Latitude 12 7275 has the same relationship with the XPS 12. Announced at CES 2016, this member of the new Dell Latitude 12 7000 series is a productivity tablet designed with an eye for small form factors and high-end materials usually associated with consumer devices.
We got our hands on an early production unit to find out whether the Latitude 12 7275's blend of mainstream design and enterprise features make it a viable competitor to the Surface Pro 4, iPad Pro and Samsung's newly unveiled Galaxy TabPro S.
Dell's device certainly looks good for a Windows tablet. It measures 291x193x8.1mm and sports some extremely thin side bezels, a design touch borrowed from the XPS range, as is its use of a magnesium unibody chassis. This gives it a solid and sturdy feel without adding much bulk, resulting in a comfortably low weight of 730g.
Two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 can be found on the left edge, but unfortunately there's no full-size USB port. This is a big omission for something that is broadly intended as a laptop replacement, and could easily prove an annoyance for anyone who frequently makes use of USB-based storage, peripherals or data connections in the course of their work. At least it also includes micro SD, SIM and Noble Lock slots.
We do like how the Latitude 12 7275 clamps onto its keyboard dock with a single magnetic connector; it's a smart compromise between latch-free ease of use and ensuring that the tablet doesn't just slide off. There will be two dock options when the Latitude 12 7275 launches in early February: the thinner and cheaper Slim Keyboard, and the Premier Keyboard which includes a much longer-extending kickstand.
We used the Premier Keyboard, which provided a slightly more solid-feeling, laptop-like typing experience than most other keyboard covers we've tried. This comes at the cost of extra heft, but for that you'll get a decent-sized trackpad and well-spaced backlit keys. There's also a fabric loop on the side for holding a Dell Active Pen stylus, although like both keyboards these are sold separately.
The basic model will feature a 12.5in FHD touchscreen, but we tested the cream-of-the-crop 3840x2160 UHD edition with Gorilla Glass NBT which has a resolution and construction setup shared with the XPS 12.
This makes it preposterously sharp, with an incredibly dense 352ppi. The Surface Pro 4 managed 267ppi, for comparison. Colours are vibrant and well balanced as well and, unlike the Latitude 13 7370, the display can be set to be brilliantly bright. As tough as it is, the Gorilla Glass 4 is very reflective and prone to picking up fingerprints, although these are hardly terrible trade-offs for a screen so well suited to professional design work.
Operating system and software
Dell will sell the Latitude 12 7275 with Windows 7 Professional or Windows 10 Pro pre-installed to accommodate businesses still reliant on older Windows systems. Given the choice, however, it's hard to deny that Windows 10 Pro is much better suited in terms of features; the Continuum interface allows it to optimise for touch controls and, when the tablet is in the keyboard dock, a more desktop-like scheme. The improved ‘snapping' controls in Windows 10 also make it much faster to slip multiple windows into a multitasking-friendly layout.
As for business-specific features, both operating systems support Encryption File System, which allows protection of individual files, although only Windows 10 Pro offers full drive encryption through BitLocker - another win for the newer version.
Regardless of which OS is chosen, Dell will load the Latitude 12 7275 with some bonus security and management software - par for the course with Latitude machines - although perhaps especially important here to ensure that business buyers aren't scared away by the consumer design influences. These include Protected Workspace, Dell's collection of anti-malware safeguards, as well as Dell Client Command Suite, an admin-oriented tool for tweaking BIOS and system settings.
We didn't spot much bloatware when inspecting the tablet's storage, so we're happy to see Dell sticking largely to potentially useful utilities rather than useless apps with the out-of-the-box software.
A 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M7-6Y75 powered the particular model we used, but Dell said that a choice of Core M3, M5 and M7 Skylake chips will be available. We also found it was equipped with 8GB of RAM, half of the maximum 16GB option.
The more efficient Core M series provides less theoretical power than the Core i5 and i7 processors in the Surface Pro 4, but it's still more than capable of most tasks. We didn't experience slowdown or significant delays when running multiple applications, but we'll need to take a more in-depth look at the Latitude 12 7275 to determine its benchmarking prowess and ability to deal with tough CAD work.
The sole problem we encountered was a Continuum mishap when the OS failed to recognise that we'd returned the slate to its dock, thus staying in the touch-focused Tablet mode. Admittedly, it's hard to say whether this is a hardware or software issue, but hopefully it will be fixed in the final production builds.
A peek at the 256GB SSD revealed that 200GB of free space was usable, from an actual maximum of 226GB.
That's a decent - not great, not bad, but decent - capacity, and it's worth mentioning that the Latitude 12 7275 achieves parity with other high-end Windows tablets by offering a 512GB SDD option as well. Both drives absolutely smash the 128GB maximum of the iPad Pro, too.
Even against stiff competition, the Latitude 12 7275 looks like it could be a respectable addition to the business tablet market. The lack of a USB-A port is disappointing, but is arguably outweighed by the sleek form factor, ultra-high-res display and promising security focus.
LAS VEGAS: CES 2016 has been all about Windows 10 2-in-1 devices and Samsung used the show as a chance to reveal its first Windows-powered convertible device.
Much like devices we've seen from Acer and Lenovo this week, Samsung's Galaxy TabPro S apes Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 in terms of style and functionality, offering a keyboard that doubles as a kickstand and an optional Bluetooth pen for on-screen scribbling.
It might seem impossible for companies to differentiate in the ever-growing Windows convertible space, but Samsung hopes that the TabPro S' 6.3mm frame - the thinnest Windows 10 2-in-1 available - will impress the market.
The Galaxy TabPro S is available in black and white and gives the iPad Pro a run for its money when it comes to design. It feels more premium than the Android-powered Galaxy Tab S before it, as Samsung has ditched the perforated plastic for a sturdy magnesium alloy frame. The tablet feels like an impressively robust piece of kit, despite its thinness.
Being thin comes at a price, however, in terms of port options. The Galaxy TabPro S has an audio out port and only one USB Type-C slot. If you want to hook up all your peripherals you'll have to cough up for Samsung's port hub, which comes with HDMI, USB Type-A and Type-C ports. You win some, you lose some.
The add-on keyboard is included in the box at no extra cost, unlike with Microsoft's offering, and transforms the Galaxy TabPro S from high-end tablet to Surface Pro competitor. The soft-touch keys felt a little disappointing and cheap-feeling at first, but after a few minutes tapping away we found it offered better travel than the costly alternative offered with the Surface Pro 4.
The keyboard is present for more than just typing. Like most, it attaches magnetically to the bottom of the tablet, but Samsung's offering also covers the rear of the 12in display, creating a makeshift kickstand that can be used at two angles.
The 12in 2560x1440 Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy TabPro S is one of the best we've seen on a Windows device. Just like the screens on Samsung's smartphone line-up, the display on the Windows 10 convertible offers insane levels of brightness, vibrant colours and deep blacks, and didn't suffer any reflection problems even under the harsh lights of the CES showroom floor.
The screen, again like that on the Surface Pro 4, comes with an optional Bluetooth stylus, or Active Pen, which Samsung claims offers similar functionality to Microsoft's Surface Pen. It was responsive enough during our brief hands-on, and suffered no lag whatsoever.
Performance and software
The Galaxy TabPro S will ship with one of Intel's 6th generation dual-core Core M chips clocked at 2.2GHz with 4GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of SSD storage. We noticed no discernable lag while using the device, and switching between Windows and opening apps was fluid, but we'll reserve judgement until we put the convertible fully through its paces.
The Galaxy TabPro ships with Windows 10, and the software has never looked better thanks to the tablet's Super AMOLED panel. Buyers will have a choice of Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Home, and it doesn't appear that Samsung has loaded too many of its own apps.
The Galaxy TabPro S shows a lot of promise. The premium design, excellent (and free) keyboard and gorgeous Super AMOLED display means it will stand out in the crowded Windows tablet market when it arrives in February.
LAS VEGAS: Acer is not a name you usually associate with high-end, hybrid devices, but the firm is looking to change that with the Aspire Switch 12 S, a convertible Windows 10 device that, at €1,200, is aimed at the same market as Microsoft's Surface Pro 4.
The company has kitted out the device with top-end features, including an optional 4K screen, an Intel Core M processor and an Intel 3D RealSense camera.
Acer has upped its game when it comes to design with the Aspire Switch 12 S. We typically associate the firm with cheap, plastic laptops, but its latest effort is constructed from aluminium, making it look stylish and feel solid. It's lightweight enough, and just 7.85mm thick.
The big talking point here, though, according to Acer at least, is the new Snap Hinge Gold magnetic connector that enables the Aspire Switch 12 S to transform between notebook, tablet, display and tent modes, similar to Lenovo's Yoga line-up.
This connector communicates with the tablet portion of the device at speeds of up to 6Gbps, but we were more impressed by how easily, and satisfyingly, the tablet and keyboard components attach and pull apart.
This keyboard add-on feels premium, too. The backlit keys, unlike those on Acer tablets of old, are satisfying to touch, and arguably make for speedier typing than those offered with the Surface Pro 4. We weren't quite so satisfied with the built-in trackpad, though, which suffered some lag during our time with the device.
The keyboard comes with USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 3 ports, alongside microHDMI and microSD ports.
The Acer Aspire Switch 12 S is offered with an eye-popping 3840x2160 4K resolution 12.5in screen or a less impressive 1920x1080 Full HD. We got our hands on the higher-spec screen which, despite its overly reflective Gorilla Glass coating, is just as impressive in real life as on paper.
We tested the display indoors and out, and the screen coped well in both situations and proved a huge improvement on the Full HD screen on the Aspire Switch 12 before it, offering vibrant colours, sharp edges and great brightness levels. The display also offers support for Acer’s Active Stylus tech.
Performance and software
The Aspire Switch 12 S comes with an Intel Core M, or Skylake, processor. We've yet to put the device fully through its paces, but it was smooth and responsive overall during our brief hands-on.
The Aspire Switch 12 S runs Windows 10. Acer has added none of its own apps to the Windows-powered Jade Primo smartphone, but unfortunately hasn't taken a similar approach with its latest convertible. There aren't loads of custom apps, but services such as Acer Store and Acer Care Centre are unlikely to get a second look.
You can check out our Windows 10 review for our full thoughts on the operating system.
The Aspire Switch 12 S comes with an Intel RealSense camera on its rear, another tactic from Acer to ensure the device stands out in the crowded Windows 10 convertible market.
Unfortunately, we didn't have two hours to wait for a RealSense app to download and install onto the device, but Acer told us that the camera can scan objects and capture images that can be used to create 3D models, for example.
We didn't have high hopes for the Aspire Switch 12 S given Acer's previous efforts in the hybrid space. We shouldn't have been so negative, however, as the convertible is a decent bit of kit and could rival the the Surface Pro 4 and Dell XPS 13.
It will certainly be interesting to see how it performs in a full review when we get the chance to test it out later in the year.
LAS VEGAS: Lenovo unveiled its third-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook this week, featuring Intel's 5th-generation Core processor to bring the best possible performance for the form factor.
We got a chance to play with the device while running between the booths at CES 2015.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon looks all but identical to its 2014 predecessor, with the same black finish and red detailing.
The updated features are subtle, but very welcome. The laptop features an even thinner and lighter chassis, weighing just under 1.3kg and measuring 17.7mm thick, almost a full millimetre thinner than last year's model which measured 18.5mm.
The laptop felt especially light and thin in our hands and we can see it being ideal for travel or business trips.
Another new feature is PCIe SSD storage in a similar vein to the MacBook Air, which can take advantage of faster onboard SSD drive storage. The laptop will ship with up to 512GB drives.
The Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2015) is available in touchscreen and non-touchscreen versions. The demo unit we tried boasted a 14in, 10-point multi-touch display, with WQHD in-plane switching.
As well as being nicely responsive to touch, the new Thinkpad X1 Carbon's screen is pleasant to look at. Using the Thinkpad X1 Carbon in the brightly lit showroom floor, the ultrabook's display proved suitably bright and remained legible even when hit with stray light.
We were also impressed with its viewing angles, as text remained crisp even when viewing the screen from the side.
Colours were suitably vibrant and, while not as crisp as the Retina displays seen on Apple Macbooks, the Thinkpad X1 Carbon's screen was far better than those seen on most competing Windows 8 ultrabooks.
The laptop will be available with FHD display options.
Performance and software
Lenovo didn't go for an Intel Core M design and instead opted for the chipmaker's latest 5th-gen Core processor. The model we tested was running a Core i7 chip, and felt super fast in our initial tests.
It seemed to handle Windows 8.1 very well. There was no lag when swiping between pages, and programs popped up almost as soon as we selected them. It handled everything we threw it at with ease.
Beyond its performance-boosting powers, the real benefit of Intel's new Broadwell chip architecture is its ability to boost ultrabooks' battery lives.
Lenovo lists the Thinkpad X1 Carbon as being able to last for 10 hours of regular use from one charge, one hour more than last year's Broadwell model.
Intel's Core update packs in 35 percent more transistors than in Intel's previous 4th-generation Haswell CPU, while also shrinking die size by 37 percent, allowing for super powerful machines with form factors like the XPS 13, so expect many more like it to pop up from other OEMs later this year.
In terms of other features, there's wireless connectivity in the form of 802.11ac Wi-Fi and a selection of USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI output.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon starts at $1,249 and will be available in the US from January. UK release dates are yet to be announced.
09 Jan 2015
LAS VEGAS: Dell unveiled its brand new XPS laptop line-up at CES this week, the XPS 13, which crams a 13.3in screen into an 11in chassis.
Showing off the laptop for the first time on Tuesday, Dell claimed that the XPS 13 is the "smallest 13in notebook in the world, fitting a 13.3in screen into the size of a typical 11in notebook".
We got some hands-on time after the event to see just how good the XPS 13 is in reality.
There's no question that the Dell XPS 13's design and high quality aluminium finish juxtaposed against a matt charcoal casing looks the part and reflects its premium price.
However, it measures 15mm at its thickest point so it's definitely not the slimmest 13in laptop on the market. But it's impressively compact considering its high-end specifications.
The XPS 13 is also lightweight for its power at just 1.18kg. The smaller frame with bigger screen makes it feel slightly heavier than you'd expect for an 11in laptop but, considering this is actually a 13.3in device, we were very pleased with its size and weight.
Dell has made good use of high quality materials and the XPS 13 impressed us with its tiny bezel, design and build.
It feels well made and has a high quality finish, and as a result feels like it would be a pleasure to use. And the super-thin bezel has left us screaming: "Why on Earth didn't they do this before?!"
The touchscreen display is one of its finest features. It's an UltraSharp Quad HD+ infinity display with 5.7 million pixels in just a 5.2mm bezel. It's vibrant and clear, and colour reproduction is great. Colours appear very rich, just like on its older brother the XPS 15.
Brightness levels are brilliant, and we can imagine working on the XPS 13 outside, although not in direct sunlight as with most mobile devices.
The XPS 13's keyboard has good travel, allowing you to type rapidly with ease.
Unlike some other laptops we've tested recently, the XPS 13's keyboard didn't fail to register keystrokes. But the well-spaced layout of the keyboard means that the XPS 13 doesn't have a numerical keypad.
Performance and software
Running Windows 8.1, the XPS 13 is powered by Intel's 5th-gen Broadwell Core processors and takes advantage of solid state drive options for storage.
In our tests, it handled Windows 8.1 very well. There was no lag when swiping between pages, and programs popped up almost as soon as we selected them. It handled everything we threw it at with ease, probably owing to the new Broadwell processor.
Intel's Core update packs in 35 percent more transistors than in Intel's previous 4th-generation Haswell CPU, while also shrinking die size by 37 percent, allowing for super powerful machines with form factors like the XPS 13, so expect many more like it to pop up from other PC makers later this year.
In terms of battery life, Dell has said the XPS 13 will last for a huge 15 hours on a single charge. We're definitely looking forward to trying this out in a full review.
The Dell XPS 13 will be available from 20 January starting at £1,099 in the UK. The Developer Edition will be available from late January starting at £1,199, so it certainly doesn't come cheap.
LAS VEGAS: Unlike previous shows, at this year's CES Korean tech giant Samsung's chose to unveil a number of unashamedly business focused devices. Chief of these are its new Galaxy Tab Pro range of Android tablets.
The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in model is the smallest of the new tablets in Samsung's enterprise-friendly arsenal. However, despite featuring a smaller screen and chassis, the tablet still boasts a number of top-end internal components and productivity features.
Design and build
Despite being smaller than its 12.2in sibling, the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in features the same visual design. Up close the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in looks like a blown-up version of Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 smartphone. It features the same metallic lining along its sides and faux leather finish back.
This is no bad thing, as like other Samsung devices the design ensures the 219x129x7.2mm Galaxy Tab Pro is fairly comfortable in hand. This fact is helped by its light weight with the WiFi-only version we tested weighing 331g and the LTE version a slightly chunkier 336g.
The Tab Pro 8.4in also felt reasonably built with its fake leather finish back and metal sides leaving us feeling fairly reassured it could survive the odd accidental bump.
Samsung's loaded the Tab Pro with an 8.4in 2560x1600, 359ppi, super clear LCD capacitive touchscreen. Using the Tab Pro on the CES 2014 showroom floor we were impressed how good it was. Text displayed on the tablet remained legible and usable even in the brightly lit conditions. It also proved to have decent viewing angles and great brightness and colour balance levels.
Operating system and software
Like the Tab Pro 12.2in, the Tab Pro 8.4in runs using Google's latest Android 4.4 KitKat operating system overlaid with Samsung's new Magazine UX skin. The skin is very different to Samsung's consumer-focused Touchwiz and alters Android's user interface to the point it is all but unrecognisable.
This meant that when we first picked up the tablet it took us a good few minutes to get our bearings. However, after that we soon began to notice a number of cool productivity and security features. The best of these was the inclusion of Samsung's Knox security service. Knox is a security service designed to protect the device at a hardware level. Samsung claims the service is capable of warding off all manner of attacks, including Trojanised apps.
The Tab Pro 8.4in also features the same Multi Window support seen on the Tab Pro 12.2in. The Multi Window supports lets users split the Tab Pro's screen into up to four different windows. This means users can run, view and use up to four applications at any one time. While we found the feature was very useful on the Tab Pro 12.2in, we found the Tab Pro 8.4in's smaller size reduced its allure. With four windows open we found text became so small and was slightly awkward to read.
Unlike the Tab Pro 12.2in, the Tab Pro 8.4in doesn't offer an octa-core option. Instead both the 4G and WiFi-only models are powered by a quad-core 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and feature 2GB of RAM.
We didn't get the chance to benchmark the Tab Pro 8.4in or see how it performed running demanding applications, like 3D games. However, testing it using the applications pre-installed on it we found it was very fast. Apps like Google Drive, Facebook, YouTube and Chrome opened close to instantaneously. During our hands on we didn't notice any performance issues, even when running multiple applications at once.
Battery and storage
The Tab Pro 8.4in comes with a Li-Ion 4800 mAh battery. Sadly we didn't get a chance to battery burn the Tab Pro 8.4in to see how long its battery lasts, but a spokesman told us it would be "above average" - we'll make sure to check this claim come our full review.
Samsung's confirmed the Tab Pro 8.4in will be available in 16GB and 32GB options. Both models will feature a microSD card slot that will let users upgrade its storage to a maximum of 64GB.
Overall our opening impressions of Samsung's Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in are positive. While its smaller screen means it's not as pleasant to use certain services, like Multi Window support compared to a larger screen device, there is still plenty to like about the tablet.
Featuring a powerful quad-core processor, productivity focused version of Android, bright and crisp screen, and Samsung Knox security services, the Tab Pro 8.4in has the potential to be one of 2014's best business tablets. However, its ability to deliver on its promise depends very heavily on its price - a key bit of information Samsung's remaining cagey about.
Check back with V3 later this year for a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
08 Jan 2014
LAS VEGAS: For the past few years Korean tech heavyweight Samsung has been trying to shed its reputation as a purely consumer-focused company, releasing a steady stream of enterprise-friendly applications and services.
This CES, the company has taken this to new heights by unveiling its new Galaxy Tab Pro range of tablets. The Tab Pro 12.2 is the biggest – both physically and strategically – of this new range of enterprise-focused Android tablets.
Design and build
Our initial reaction was shock when we picked up the Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2. Measuring in at 296x204x7.95mm, it's huge compared with other Android tablets. The tablet is also significantly heavier, with the WiFI-only model weighing a hefty 750g and the 3G/LTE model a slightly heavier 753g.
But after a couple of minutes we soon became used to the increased size and weight, and found that it wasn't too unwieldy to hold thanks to its ergonomic design. The Tab Pro looks like a blown-up Galaxy Note smartphone, with the same metallic sides and faux-leather back. The Note-like design meant that, unlike some other Samsung Galaxy devices, the Tab Pro felt sturdily built and didn't feel overly plastic.
Samsung has loaded the Tab Pro with a gigantic 12.2in WQXGA, 2560x1600 Super Clear LCD display. This makes the Tab Pro one of the biggest Android tablets currently available.
Overall, during our hands-on we enjoyed the extra screen real estate. As well as making it easier to read text displayed on the screen, it also made it quicker and easier to edit documents and spreadsheets on the Tab Pro.
We were also fairly impressed with the Tab Pro's screen quality, with it proving pleasantly bright and vibrant.
Our one qualm with using the Tab Pro's screen is that, unlike its Note Pro sibling, it doesn't come bundled with an S Pen stylus. This meant that even with the extra screen space certain applications, such as S Note, were awkward to use.
Operating system and software
The Tab Pro 12.2 comes with the latest Android 4.4 Kit Kat pre-installed. But be warned that the operating system has been heavily customised and Samsung has overlayed it with its brand new Magazine UX interface.
Magazine UX alters KitKat so much that it's close to unrecognisable. After a while with the device, though, we soon found our bearings and began to take advantage of some the new user interface's productivity and business-focused features.
One of the best we noticed was the Tab Pro 12.2's multi-window support. The feature splits the Tab Pro's screen into up to four different windows so users can use more than one app at a time. We fired up the Tab Pro's web browser, while keeping email, Twitter and a Google Drive document open, and we can definitely see the appeal of the feature for business users who like to multitask on the move.
The Note Pro 12.2 demo unit we tried also had Samsung's Knox security service pre-installed. Knox is a security feature from Samsung, similar to BlackBerry Balance. The feature is designed to secure the device at a hardware level and protect users from threats such as Trojanised apps.
The feature also has sandboxing powers that let users create separate work and home areas on the phone. Businesses can have app management and data-wipe powers on the work side, while they can't touch non-work data stored on the user's personal side.
Processor and performance
The LTE version of the Tab Pro is powered by a Snapdragon 800 2.3GHz quad-core processor, while the WiFi-only version uses an Exynos 5 Octa chipset. Both versions of the Tab Pro feature 3GB of RAM.
We only got to try the LTE Qualcomm-powered Tab Pro. While we were slightly sad not to try the octa-core model we found the demo unit was still a very fast device. It opened applications almost instantly and in general dealt with any task we threw at it, hassle free.
We didn't have time to properly benchmark the Tab Pro, or see how it dealt with more difficult tasks such as 3D gaming, but we will be sure to do so in our full review.
Battery and storage
Samsung has loaded the Tab Pro 12.2 with a sizeable 9,500mAh battery. We didn't get a chance to battery burn the unit, but a spokesman told us the device should last "longer than most tablets" off one charge. Storage-wise the Tab Pro comes in 32GB and 64GB versions.
Overall, our first impressions of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 were positive. Despite being significantly larger and heavier than most tablets and featuring a radically altered version of Android 4.4 KitKat, the new Galaxy Tab bristles with enterprise appeal. Featuring a host of productivity and security applications, powerful chipset and LTE connectivity options, the Tab Pro has the potential to be the best Android business tablet this year. But with Samsung remaining cagey on one key detail – the Tab Pro's price – we're going to have to reserve full judgement until this is announced.
Check back with V3 soon for a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 tablet.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
08 Jan 2014
LAS VEGAS: Huawei demoed its second-generation Android phablet on Monday, the Huawei Ascend Mate 2, at the CES show.
In the past it has been hard to get excited about Huawei smartphones: the firm has struggled to match devices from other brands such as Samsung or Sony. But the Chinese company is looking to change that with the Ascend Mate 2 smartphone, and was keen to boast on Monday that it beats the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in performance and battery life.
We managed to get some hands-on time with the mammoth device to see how it stacks up against the competition.
With a 6.1in screen, it will be no surprise that the Ascend Mate 2 smartphone is massive. It measures 161x85x9.5mm, and while Huawei claimed that the device had been designed to sit comfortably in one hand, we found it quite awkward to hold. However, the phone is much easier to grasp than last year's model, with Huawei having trimmed some of the unnecessary bulk surrounding the smartphone's display.
Unfortunately, Huawei hasn't spruced up the handset's design much compared with the original Huawei Ascend Mate. Its casing is almost entirely glossy white plastic, aside from the faux-metal edging surrounding the handset, which feels and looks quite cheap.
Not only has Huawei stalled with its design, but the screen resolution has remained the same as last year's model, which means that the Huawei Ascend Mate 2 has a disappointing 6.1in 720x1280 display.
Despite Huawei's claims that the screen is "just as good" as a full HD display, we noticed some blurring and fuzziness, although the display's IPS technology meant that viewing angles were good, even under the bright CES show lights.
We found the touchscreen easier to use than that of the Galaxy Note 3, despite Samsung's device measuring 0.4in smaller. That's thanks to Huawei's one-handed gesture mode, which shrinks the size of the on-screen keyboard to something more manageable and allows for easier one-handed navigation through homescreens.
Performance and software
We, along with most people, are fans of smartphones that run a vanilla version of Google's Android mobile operating system.
Huawei, however, has gone in the completely opposite direction with the Ascend Mate 2, skinning the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean mobile operating system with its custom Emotion user interface. According to Huawei, this makes the Android mobile operating system "easier to use", although during our time with this phone on Monday, as well as our experience with other Huawei handsets, we find it hard to agree.
While we're fans of some of Huawei's software features such as its onboard Selfie Mode, the interface – much like Samsung's Touchwiz – proved overcomplicated due to its vastly customised homescreens and icons.
Huawei has kitted out the Ascend Mate 2 with a quad-core 1.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor. By no means is this the speediest processor on the market, but it offered a slick, smooth experience during our brief time with the phone.
Huawei says because of the the chip, and the handset's huge 4,050mAh battery, the handset has a two-day battery life, outperforming most other smartphones on the market. We have yet to test this, but will do so in our full review.
The Huawei Ascend Mate 2 features a 13MP camera on its rear and a 5MP wide-angle lens on the front.
Although we didn't have time to test these fully, we were immediately impressed by the 13MP camera, with images appearing natural and vibrant, even under the bright CES lights.
Huawei made some big claims about the equally large Ascend Mate 2 smartphone, but we're still not fully convinced. Due to Huawei's largely unfamiliar user interface, we think potential buyers, particularly those in the UK, will struggle to warm to this handset. We're also not keen on the smartphone's glossy white casing or low-resolution screen, although we didn't have any immediate complaints about performance or the cameras.