Huawei Ascend Mate 7 Review

on Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Huawei is back with another crack at the oversized smartphone, and it might be the Chinese manufacturer's best device yet

Huawei has been stepping up its game of late, with modern Android devices that are significantly better than its earlier offerings. The world's No. 3 smartphone vendor is more of a household name in Asia than in Western markets; nevertheless it's shown it's serious about making inroads in Europe and North America.
The Ascend Mate series, it's fair to say, hasn't dazzled us yet, and it takes more than a "me too" approach to make a great oversized smartphone. Earlier in 2014 the Ascend P7 arrived and was the best Huawei device to date, with a premium design and high-end specs. Then the Ascend Mate 7 landed at IFA 2014 in Berlin. And as we've discovered in recent weeks, it's actually pretty good. Read on to find out why.

About this review

We're publishing this review after two weeks using a pre-production, European-spec device in the UK on the EE carrier using a mixture of HSPA+ and LTE. While our Mate 7 is running the latest EMUI 3.0, the final software could change between the time of review and general availability. Our review unit has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, a higher-specced version with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage will also be available.

The Ascend Mate 7 is a big phone, make no mistake. Given the colossal 6-inch display it was impossible for it not to be so. However what Huawei has achieved is an overall package only a smidgen larger than a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 — and an iPhone 6 Plus, for what that's worth. Large screen, large battery, slim metal body. It's relatively light, too. Coming in at just 185g this 6-inch all metal phone is a mere 13 grams heavier than the iPhone 6 Plus as well as carrying only a slightly larger frame.
The housing is constructed of aluminum with chamfered edges, with plastic sections along the top and bottom for RF visibility. The back of the phone doesn't feel slippery to hold like the HTC One M8 (or at least, the gunmetal HTC One M8) and there is a slight lip around the edges where the front of the phone meets the metal.
So it's another winner from Huawei on the design front. Besides the metal construction, the Ascend Mate 7 boasts an 83 percent screen-to-body ratio with super skinny side bezels. It's edge-to-edge glass with the bezels, however slim, settled beneath the glass. With only white (on this model) trim above and below the display you do get an illusion of edge-to-edge screen, though that's not quite the case.
But what about the display itself? We're seeing a trend towards Quad HD displays elsewhere, but Huawei's sticking with "just" a Full HD 1080p IPS display at 6-inches with 368ppi. And it's fine. In fact, it's better than fine. The display was one of the high points of the Ascend P7 earlier this year and the same applies to the Mate 7. It's bright, clear, has great color reproduction and importantly you can see it well enough outdoors. And it sits so close to the surface of the phone that it feels like you're actually touching it, not dragging your finger across a piece of glass.

Besides the slim profile and high screen-to-body ratio, one of the other defining features on the hardware front — or on the outside, anyway — is the fingerprint scanner. With no physical home button like you'd find on Samsung or Apple hardware, the Mate 7's scanner resides on the rear of the phone. However, unlike Samsung and Apple, Huawei has opted for a single-touch activation fingerprint scanner. And that makes a little bit of difference when it comes to actually using it.
Apple's Touch ID requires a press of the home button before unlocking, while Samsung requires a swipe down over its home button. By contrast, Huawei has possibly the best implementation of the three — just place your finger on the scanner to unlock. At the event Huawei claimed that its fingerprint scanner is faster than Touch ID, but during our testing that didn't exactly pan out. However we're on a pre-production unit — and in any case, it's absolutely fast enough.
Perhaps more impressive is its positioning. Much like LG has accomplished with the placement of its rear facing buttons, Huawei has nailed the position of its rear facing fingerprint scanner. The Mate 7 is a large phone, but somehow — at least in our testing — whether picking it up right or left handed, the fingerprint scanner is always within easy reach of your index finger.
But, what about the fingerprint data — where and how is that being stored? Well, like Apple's TouchID the Mate 7 doesn't actually store an image of your fingerprint, it records data based on your fingerprint and stores it securely on the CPU. This is an advantage of its homegrown octa-core CPU, the company tells us, and we can't argue with the results.

Our Mate 7 review unit is the 16GB storage and 2GB RAM option. In selected markets there will be a 32GB/3GB version that also comes in a gold finish. Aside from storage and RAM, the two variants are identical. Both have a microSD card slot to expand whatever internal storage you get, as well as the same 13-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front camera combination. The rear camera does protrude slightly from the rear of the phone, with the slightest of lips protruding from the smooth metal back. We'll look at the camera in more detail a little further on.
On the whole, it's a win on the hardware front for the Mate 7. The design and construction isn't just good for a Huawei phone, it's good by any standards. It ticks all the "premium" boxes on the outside and there's enough horsepower inside even the 2GB RAM option to cope with most everyday tasks. The fingerprint scanner — while still something of a novelty — is probably the best implementation on an Android phone so far. We've already seen Huawei step up its game with its hardware over the past 12-18 months and the Ascend Mate 7 continues that trend. It may not be as popular as something like the Galaxy Note 4 when all is said and done, but it's just as well-built.
Want the full specs? Of course you do.
OSAndroid 4.4.2 KitKat
EMUI 3.0
ChipsetHisilicon Kirin 925 octa-core (quad-core 1.8 GHz Cortex-A15 & quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7)
Display Size6-inches
Display Resolution1920 x 1080, 368ppi
Cameras13MP AF BSI F2.0, with Flash
5MP Front
Internal Storage16GB
External StoragemicroSD
RadiosLTE B1/B3/B7/B8/B20 / HSPA+ / GSM
ConnectivityWifi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC
Dimensions157 x 81 x 7.9 mm (6.18 x 3.19 x 0.31 in)


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