The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 is a semi-affordable big screen smartphone that offers top-end performance, above average battery life and decent camera quality. However, detrimental software additions make it slightly unintuitive to use.
Great design, powerful processor, above average battery
Emotion UI makes needless changes that hamper performance and make the phone less user friendly
€ 500 (expected)
Processor: eight-core HiSilicon Kirin 925
Display: 6in, 1080x1920 pixels, 368ppi IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen
Memory: 2GB or 3GB
Storage: 16GB or 32GB, microSD slot for expansion
Camera: 13MP rear, 5MP front
Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi, 3G, 4G
Operating system: Android 4.4 Kitkat with Emotion UI
Chinese firm Huawei has always had some pretty aspirational goals, regularly pronouncing that it eventually wants to dethrone Samsung and Apple as kings of the smartphone market, for example.
While some scoffed at these claims a few years ago, it's undeniable that Huawei has had some success in this endeavour, and is currently listed by some market researchers as the third largest smartphone maker in the world.
However, in the past we've found that Huawei's success in the handset market is due largely to the firm's ability to undercut its competitors on price, as opposed to design qulaity or hardware innovation.
As a result, we expected Huawei's latest phablet, the Ascend Mate 7, to be yet another budget handset that repackages rather than redefines the smartphone market. To our surprise, hwever, we found there is plenty to like about it.
At the time of writing, the device was not yet on sale in the UK, and so an official price in pounds had not been specified.
Design and build
Visually the Ascend Mate 7 has a very understated design. It features a slightly curved metal back plate and flat metal sides and flat Gorilla Glass-coated front that make it look somewhat like a cross between an iPhone 6 and HTC One M8. In fact, the only immediately notable design feature on the Ascend Mate 7 is the custom fingerprint sensor on the back.
While the Ascend Mate 7 may not have the most ostentatious or unique looks, we have to say we're big fans of the design. This is due largely to the wealth of novel but subtle design features that make it very comfortable to use compared with most other phablets.
For example, Huawei has chosen to place the physical power and volume buttons slightly lower down the right hand side than most other handset makers. While small, this change ensures that you don't need outsized hands to reach the controls, even when using the device one handed.
The fingerprint scanner is equally well located, placed exactly where our index finger fell when gripping the phone one handed and making it quick and easy to access the phone securely.
The fingerprint scanner offers the same functionality as that seen on Apple's iPhone 5S, 6 and 6 Plus handsets and Samsung's Galaxy S5, and lets users set the Ascend Mate 7 to unlock only when its user proves their identity.
The Ascend Mate 7's comfortable feel is aided by the thin 157x81x7.9mm dimensions and slightly curved rear, which ensures that the device sits neatly in the palm of your hand.
The use of metal also ensures that the Ascend is reasonably tough. While the metal finish did prove slightly prone to picking up scratches, it is fairly dent resistant and survived an encounter with our office floor free of chips and marks.
The only slight problem we had with the design was the weight. While 185g isn't back breaking, especially by phablet standards, it does make the Ascend Mate 7 feel noticeably heavier than an average smartphone, though to be fair to Huawei this is a problem with all phablets.
Next: Display, operating system and software.