It’s just been so that during the last couple of weeks I’ve had increasingly bigger smartphones to review – the Lenovo K900, the Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8 and now the Huawei Ascend Mate. So, every time I start with a new unit the first thing I do is to slip it into my pocket to see if it fits. The Huawei Ascend Mate, with its 6.1-inch screen peeks out of my pocket and it’s not a phone you can carry in your back pocket while in a crowded area or while riding a bike. The screen itself though looks brilliant - nice and big and shiny – something that snares most consumers these days. The massive screen thankfully doesn’t translate to a bulky phone, however, those used to slimmer (or smaller) smartphones might find the Ascend Mate a bit heavy at almost 200 grams.
Unlike most other phones, the Power and the volume rocker buttons are located on the right hand side, the former above the latter. Most times they are within easy reach considering they are on the right hand side; southpaws might need to move their hands around a bit to lock the screen or tweak the volume.
The body itself looks quite minimalist, but still massive, with its all-white fascia and a matte rear panel. The display is protected by scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass and Huawei has done away with all physical buttons for navigation.
The handset also has a non-removable battery panel and the 4,050mAh lithium pack delivers some pretty impressive life cycles for that big a smartphone.
The 6.1-inch display on the Huawei Mate is an IPS+ screen which means it delivers pretty good viewing angles. Well-saturated colours and a HD-screen (720p, not 1080p) help the multimedia cause. Trumping Samsung in this respect, Huawei has a separate control for you to adjust the colour temperature on the unit. Outdoor visibility is also pretty decent with the brightness levels turned up.
The Ascend Mate runs on the latest Android Jelly Bean enabling complete usage with three virtual buttons on the home screen – Return, Home and Recent Applications. You can drag and drop apps on to one another to bunch them in a folder. However, some pre-installed folders on the phone cannot be deleted. Huawei uses its own Emotion 1.5 user interface which, well, isn’t the best we’ve seen. But at least it gives you the options of about 20 themes to play around with in case you don’t like the default choice. Unlike most other user interface options, there’s isn’t a place where you can go to access all your apps arranged in a list or in a matrix. Whatever you see in all the various folders are all the apps you’ll have. A long press and drag to the recycle bin will uninstall the app for you. At times the screen might look crowded as the device lets you pack in up to 25 icons on each of the home screens.
The notification bar will already be familiar to most smartphone users. It comes with a bunch of settings and shortcuts which can be tweaked for the bar itself without you having to delve deep into the Settings menu. So you have quick access to Wi-Fi, data, Bluetooth, brightness, device profiles and even a quick screenshot snap option.
The Huawei Ascend Mate comes with a 8-megapixel camera, a notch lower (at least in terms of megapixels) than a couple of other high-end handsets in the market. There are several preset modes that you can choose from, there’s a default Smart mode for the less adventurous. The Normal mode lets you access settings such as exposure, saturation and white balance. You’ll find the usual modes packed in such as Beauty, Burst, Group, HDR, Low-light and Panorama and most just abut get the job done. The overall quality of pics that we took in daylight was pleasant enough with good tones and colour reproduction. What it doesn’t handle too well is low-light shooting. There’s a 1-meg camera at the front for video-conferencing.
One of the downsides might be the fact that the Ascend Mate comes with just 8 GB of internal memory of which just a little more than half is accessible by the user. Those who load on a bunch of music, movies or documents on to their phones will definitely have to invest in a micro-SD card alongside the unit.
The Ascend Mate runs on one of Huawei's own system-on-chip which clocks in at about 1.5GHz. It’s a quad-core processor, based on ARM Cortex-A9. We had no problems using several apps at once. On the standard Quadrant benchmarking test, the Huawei Ascend Mate scored a little more than 5,000 points, and a little below what the likes of the new Lenovo K900 scored on the same benchmark with its Intel Atom 2GHz processor.
With the brightness brought down to medium and the Wi-Fi connected for at least 7 hours every day, the battery lasted us almost a full working day and a bit more. Along with the Lenovo K900, this is one of the best battery performances we’ve seen among the recently launched smartphones (especially amongst the big screen handsets).
At the price tag it comes with, the Huawei Ascend mate might appeal to those who’re looking for a super-big-screen upgrade. Unfortunately, that happens to be the same reason why a bunch of consumers will stay away from it.
Love – Good screen, long battery life, good multimedia capabilities
Hate – Limited internal memory, average camera, unwieldy form factor