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Huawei Ascend Mate: Testing the Ginormous Behemoth

Loie Favre (translation)
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The Huawei Ascend Mate is a huge 6.1 inch behemoth that probably won’t fit in your pockets. Perhaps this phone is a representation of the smartphone manufacturers delusion of grandeur or maybe it's just the next logical step in smartphone evolution. I tried this huge phablet for a few days and here's what I thought.

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Design and Craftsmanship

When it come down to the actual body, the Chinese manufacturer did everything right. The weight is proportional to its size, the rubberized plastic backing provides for an easy grip and it feels quite comfortable to hold. Even the titanium colored plastic frame with its roughened surface gives it a very elegant look.

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Feels good to hold: the back-side is made of a rubberized plastic and feels nice. © AndroidPIT

The hardware buttons are hardly there: you'll only find the side power and volume buttons. To the left there's the slot for the microSD card found behind a flap. The micro SIM card can be inserted in the top next to the headphone jack. Underneath, there's the micro USB port. The Huawei Ascend Mate is pure minimalism. The craftsmanship is one of this headset's positive sides as its seamless exterior appears to be quite stable.

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Elegant minimalism: in its titanium-colored casing, you'll only find the necessary buttons and ports.© AndroidPIT

Display

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The IPS display can still be viewed even at tilted angles. / © AndroidPIT

The display, like I mentioned in the introduction, is a monster. It is 15.49 inches long, making it bigger than the Galaxy Note 2 by 1.5 inches. The ginormous screen's resolution doesn't quite stand side-by-side with other top devices: at 720 x 1280 p, it's just under the HD mark of 1920x1080p. The Mate allows its users to enjoy videos with 24 ppi, which is more than enough. However, writing and letters are slightly blurry, even to the naked eye. Thanks to the IPS technology, the display's presentation is still up to par when looked at it on an angle. Not only that, it does well in natural sunlight and remains readable.

The huge disadvantage that the Ascend Mate presents is its size, though strangely enough, it also has its advantages: the huge screen is great for watching videos and playing games. When set in landscape mode, its 1.6 inches fit perfectly into my hands, offers a great overview and can be controlled quite easily

Software

The Huawei Ascend Mate boasts Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean which puts it up to speed with other top smartphones of the moment. The Emotion UI 1.5 user interface brings a new face to the game. The classic app drawer is missing and all new apps are simply added to the many home screen pages and organized in various folders. This reminds me a little of the Launcher MIUI and the Apple's iOs. Even the app symbols are reminiscent of the iPhone design.

Huawei ascend mate lockscreen homescreen
The home screen with MeWidget (left) and the lock screen with ring menu. © AndroidPIT

The so-called ''Me Widget'' can be found in the home screen. This is a huge window where many smaller widgets are shown simultaneously, like gallery, music player, many favorite contacts, the weather and clock. If you don't like the design of the standard interface, there's a ton of customization options, significantly more than any other manufacturer. Huawei doesn't just offer various background and color schemes, there's also a whack load of lock screen and symbol options. Twenty of these various themes are pre-installed, each design can be chosen individually.

Huawei Ascend Mate themes
The numerous themes lets you customize the look of the user interface. © AndroidPIT

There are also a few pre-installed software extras like the data manager and a program to secure data privacy. By using the floating switch, you'll be able to start your apps and small mini applications. Through this ring menu, you can set up various customizable profiles like ''Quiet Mode'' or ''Meeting''. The many different settings like energy saver are really useful for extending battery life.

Huawei Ascend Mate settings
 The floating switch gives you direct access to certain apps, while the ring menu lets you switch your current profile to match real-life events (meetings, quiet time...) © AndroidPIT

Processor and Performance

The Ascend Mate comes with a quad-core processor ticking at 1.5 GHz. The K3V2 chip was made by Huawei and does a stand-up job. Trying out Real Racing 3 on this monster phone worked smoothly and wasn't glitchy at all. Scrolling and swipe gestures in the menu and throughout the home screen was speedy too. Taking pictures was also quick and after taking a shot, the camera was immediately ready to be used again. Web browsing on the other hand is where things took a turn for the worst: connecting with the pre-installed browser and Chrome resulted in dropouts and failed to react. Websites loaded slowly and touchscreen response didn't react in a matter of second and if it did, with some significant glitching.

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In the AnTuTu Benchmark Test the Ascend Mate didn't do too badly, landing behind the Galaxy Note 2 und in front of the Nexus 7. © AndroidPIT

Camera

The camera is hands-down one of the Ascend Mate's weakest spots. With its 8 MP, its resolution does suffice, however we know that this isn't everything. When using the headset in daylight the lens took acceptable pictures but took a turn for the worst once in darker areas.

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Shotty results and weak colors: the camera offers results that are just so-so. © AndroidPIT

The various setting options for picture optimization allowed me to somewhat improve the photo quality. I have the impression that Huawei is trying to compete with its rivals, like Samsung for example, though these have done a far better job. The HDR function for example produced extreme effects and the resulting pictures incorporated bothersome artifacts, overdone sharp edges and unclean color gradients.

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Left is the normal picture and on the right we used HDR: The Acend Mate didn't do a good job either way. / © AndroidPIT

With panorama, the Mate takes 3 pictures one after the other and automatically sticks them side-by-side. Unfortunately this didn't work out as seamlessly as other manufacturers and there were some perspective fractures between these three shots.

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The panorma mode didn't supply us with a seamless picture like rival smartphone do. / © AndroidPIT

Battery

The Mate has a capacity of 4.050 mAh and with that overshadows its Android rivals. The Nexus 7 has 4.235 mAh, ranking just under the Huawei Phablet. The Galaxy Note has significantly less with 3.100 mAh. The built-in battery also pulled through like a champ during my test. After 28 hours, the battery life went from 88% to 36%. During this time, I used the phablet with maximum brightness, took photos and screenshots, made some small phone calls, downloaded and played with apps and games (Real Racing 3 and Temple Run 2), synchronized emails, surfed the internet while on the go and on the way to work in the morning read the latest news on Twitter.

Though it would be necessary to perform an endurance test over a longer period of time to really make a statement about the battery life, I can already say that the Ascend Mate's mileage exceeds any other test device in the smartphone category.

Technical specifications

With a quad-core processor and a strong battery, the Ascend Mate has much to offer and is optimal for intense usage. That being said, in performance terms the Ascend Mate was definitely lacking and this is probably due to badly adapted software. The display is bright and shines even in direct sunlight. The Emotion UI user interface makes an overall good impression. Despite the disappointing camera, Huawei has put together a good total package.

The most important technical specs

Display 6.1 inch, 1280x720 pixel (241 ppi)
Processor 1.5 GHz (quad-core)
Memory 2 GB RAM
Operating System Android 4.1.2 with Emotion UI 1.5
Memory 8 GB + microSD card
Back-facing camera 8 MP
Front-facing camera 1 MP
Dimensions 6.4 x 3.37 x 0.38
Weight 6.98 oz
Battery 4.085 mAh, built-in
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Das Ascend Mate completely fills up my pocket and leaves no room for anything else.© AndroidPIT

Bottom Line

The Ascend Mate leaves us in a double-edged impression. From starting out quite skeptical about the phablet, I started liking it more and more since the huge display is great for web browsing and playing games. Using controls with the Ascend Mate is definitely easier than with other devices and this phablet would quickly become your multimedia best friend. The craftsmanship and choice of material gives it an impressive look and feel and even its huge size fits nicely in the hand.

This phablet's advantage is also its disadvantage: 6.1 inches is too big to be a smartphone and this is actually what it aims to be. Most tablets are never less than 7 inches. It completely filled up my pant pocket and it couldn't fit in the one in my jacket either. How would someone carry this giant thing around (if you're not a girl thus don't have a purse)? One hand operating with this device was also a little cumbersome even with my big hands. In the end, the Ascend Mate is a rare breed: too big to be a smartphone, too small to classify as a tablet.

PRO CON
Great craftmanship Bad camera
Long batter life No internal memory
Big display Cumbersome
Good performance and controls  
Many customization and profile options  

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Comments

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  • CJ Brown Jun 7, 2013 Link

    The Huawei Ascend Mate is a bold move from Huawei, but in order to catch on globally there needs to be some improvements (& then it actually needs to be available for Consumers outside of Asia) ...

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