Huawei is launching a flagship Android handset that offers an interesting take on what Google’s mobile platform has to offer, bringing a level of adaptability seldom seen on other devices along with fast 4G speeds. But does the Ascend P2 have what is needed to pitch itself against the incredibly high-spec flagships from the likes of Samsung and HTC?
- 1.5GHz quad-core processor
- 4.7-inch LCD display
- 16GB of internal storage
- 13 megapixel camera
- 1080p video recording
- 8.4mm thick
- 122g weight
- Android Jelly Bean
- 2420mAh battery
Design and Build
The Ascend P2 is a slim device and its 8.4mm frame feels slender, although the glossy finish does make it slippery. It’s not the most comfortable handset we’ve ever tested and its sharp edges can sometimes dig into your hand; we found ourselves wishing it was a little more chunky.
The unusual form factor at first gives the impression that the backplate can be removed but it cannot, with the SIM card slot is housed under a small cover on the right of the device and there’s no room for expandable storage such as a microSD card. This does seem to give the Ascend a sturdy feel though and it certainly feels solidly built.
While not having the dazzling qualities of these two handsets it does do a fair job in showing off what’s on screen, with high-quality video footage looking impressively crisp. The Ascend may not be in line with the new generation of smartphone displays that have emerged this year but it never really leaves you feeling like you’re missing out too much.
Under the Hood
Quad-cores are now standard amongst high-end handsets and Huawei doesn’t disappoint on this front, having included a 1.5GHz chip in the Ascend P2 that is more than capable of handling anything that its OS throws at it. The handset works with impressive speed and takes little time to what you ask it to.
Also included is 16GB of internal storage, which may be a little concerning to some due to the lack of support for a microSD card. 16GB is enough for a fair amount of music but once you start filling the space up with high quality video and large apps (like some games) then you may begin to push it to its limits.
The 2420mAh battery will last a day on one charge if you’re careful and stick to moderate use such as occasional web browsing, calls and texts. However, playing music for long periods of time will reduce this and particularly demanding tasks such as streaming online video and playing games with 3D graphics will cause a noticeable reduction.
Huawei has made moves to combat this, introducing a range of functions that allows you to tailor the way the handset works. For instance, there is a start up manager which allows you to stop certain functions and apps from launching as you switch the handset on and saving you from having lots of things running in the background. These are certainly effective and are a clever bit of thinking from the Chinese manufacturer.
Operating System and User Interface
Featuring skeuomorphic textures and a range of colour schemes on top of Android 4.1.2, the inbuilt themes of the Huawei’s Emotion UI give it a distinctive look, like nothing else we’ve seen on an Android handset. The look and feel of the user interface can be changed between a range of options, each tailoring app icon tiles and UI elements to suit.
Along with this, the transitons between homescreens can be altered, with a choice of animations that see icons and widgets fading into the background or squashing up against each other as you move around the UI. Wallpapers can be set to change on a timed cycle or by a shake of the device.
There are some downsides to this though, the biggest being that there is no app menu present. All apps have to be stored on the homescreens and although there is a potential of nine of these it could leave you wanting more if you fill them up with widgets. These features are entertaining at first but may not have long term appeal.
Camera and Video
In an age where many smartphone manufacturers are rushing to fill their native camera apps with extra features it’s refreshing to see that Huawei has not followed suit. The 13 megapixel sensor on the Ascend P2 has a number of vintage-style effects to augment it and there’s a choice of functions which allow you distort people’s faces, but the native camera app as a whole is quite bare and minimal.
That is apart from one really good addition, that lets you select any object within the frame and the camera will keep it in focus as you move the device around. This could be great for action shots or taking several photos of one thing from different angles. It’s a well thought out and genuinely impressive addition to the camera app.
As for images themselves, they are very high in quality and the camera has an HDR mode to help in awkward lighting situations. Video in 1080p at 30fps is also impressive, and while it can be a little too sensitive to shaking when moving the device around it certainly produces high-end results.
Performance and Verdict
The Huawei Ascend P2 is a distinctive device with a UI that is different to anything seen on other smartphones. While its screen isn’t up to the standards set by HTC and Samsung the device feels no less premium than the Galaxy S4. Nevertheless, the Ascend P2 has some unique features and could be an interesting choice for anyone looking for a powerful Android handset.