Phablets seem to be here to stay and these kind of devices have been increasing in number and in quality, having way bigger screens than usual. We’ve got the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, the iPhone 6 Plus and this Huawei Ascend Mate 7 as examples.
The Ascend Mate 7 comes in as a successor to last year’s Ascend Mate 2. But why wasn’t there a Mate 3? It was precisely because Huawei wanted to bring the new device in line with the existing G7 and P7 that it, therefore, launched the new smartphone with the name Mate 7. The Ascend Mate 7 has a smaller 6 inch screen, but with a full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution. And it’s not just the screen that’s smaller, but the actual device as well.
With the launch of the Mate 7, it’s obvious the Chinese company has upped the manufacturing quality and device performance considerably, compared to previous Huawei releases. If you look at the Mate 7’s aluminum unibody, it immediately brings to mind the HTC One M8, while a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and new-look UI leave an excellent impression on us and assure us we’re holding a premium device.
To help with that, here are some of the Huawei Ascend Mate 7’s other features: a secondary SIM slot for dual-SIM functionality, a reasonable 16GB of internal storage paired with 2GB RAM (if you choose the standard model) or 32GB of storage paired with 3GB RAM (if you choose the higher-end model, in gold).
Now, though its design and hardware seem premium, its price does not seem so. Its price isn’t what you’d expect, given it’s considerably lower than a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, for instance. Have we convinced you to read out review? Stay tuned and get to know the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 better.
If you’ve been following us and our reviews for a while, you probably already know that one thing we really value in a device is its ability to be used with just one hand. Now, it’s no surprise to us that the ginormous screen size prohibits the Mate 7 from being a phone you operate one-handed. It is a phablet, after all. However, Huawei has done a couple improvements to help. For starters, the power button and volume selectors are placed on the right hand-side of the phone so you can get to them more easily, with either your index finger or thumb, depending on which hand you’re using.
There’s also an option to activate the one-hand UI feature which lets you tilt the Ascend Mate 7 to reposition the soft-touch Android navigation keys to one side. And among all the phone’s one-hand settings we’ve found something very useful, especially for colder weather – Glove mode! It adjusts touchscreen sensitivity so you can use the phone while wearing gloves.
But let’s talk sizing specifics for just a second, because the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 sure deserves the spotlight. It’s got a length of 157mm, width of 81mm, and a thickness of 7.9mm. Big numbers for a big phone, though it’s still smaller than the iPhone 6 Plus at 158mm in length. The difference here is that Apple’s screen size is only 5.5 inches while Huawei has managed to cram in a 6-inch display, as mentioned above. In short, a great Chinese piece of art. Huawei sought to remove as much space as possible above and below the screen – now there’s minimal space, just enough room for the Huawei logo below and the front-facing camera and speaker above. This allows for a 83% screen-to-body ratio, way better than the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with a ratio close to 80%.
Taking a closer look at this smartphone, we can clearly see that Huawei has opted for curved corners rather than an industrial, blocky design. Perhaps this is to offset the phone’s big size somewhat, since curved corners trick us not into realizing how big the Mate 7 actually is. The back of the phone is also slightly curved to allow it to rest comfortably in your palm. The top and bottom of the device are given over to the 3.5mm headphone jack and the microUSB charging port respectively, just like we’re used to seeing in these kinds of phone.
On the left hand side you’ll find the nano SIM and microSD slots. On the right hand side you’ll find the already mentioned power button and volume selectors.
It’s difficult not to like the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 given that the company seems to have gathered everything good design has to offer smartphones. A robust heft and a metal finishing convey trust and confidence to users – you will not feel like the phone will fall apart at the slightest knock.
Obviously, the Ascend Mate 7 will dominate any hand or pocket, but that’s just a size issue – it deserves the space given that 5 star overall appearance and excellent manufacturing quality.
Some devices are able to dominate the smartphone market with their design alone, while others receive more attention due to their hardware. But when we take a closer look at the devices, we see that most of them don’t bring anything innovative or have a differentiating factor comparatively to other models of the kind. It’s not the Mate 7’s case though – it’s got three features we consider key and it’s way more affordable than its direct competitors usually are.
- Fingerprint scanner
The small indented square on the back of the Ascend Mate 7, just below the camera lens, isn’t there just for design purposes. In fact, it’s the device’s fingerprint scanner. Like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the iPhone 6, this can be used to unlock the device, as well as provide authorization for various apps.
The Ascend Mate 7 will support up to five different fingerprints and upon first setting up, you’ll be asked to press your finger at various different angles until you feel a slight vibration. This works really well, and after a while you will find yourself automatically going to the fingerprint scanner over the power button in order to unlock your Mate 7. It also works pretty quickly given the phone takes less than a second to detect your fingerprint and wake up, which is invaluable given how often we check our phones these days. The fingerprint reader also works well, given that no more than one swipe is necessary for your fingerprints to be recognized, unlike what happened when we had the opportunity to try out the Samsung Galaxy S5.
Another nice touch is the ability to set one of your five fingerprints to automatically open visitor mode. This lets you open the phone in a protected mode and hand it to someone else to take a picture, for instance, without that someone being able to access let’s say, your collection of intimate selfies – this will be protected by your fingerprints.
It’s also important to note that the scanner offers a 360-degree capture. As such, when imprinting your digits, it doesn’t really matter what position you choose, the phone will simply detect your fingerprint.
- Emotion UI
Huawei’s Emotion UI is now in its third iteration and the custom-made skin continues to divide opinion. You’ve got plenty of choice when it comes to themes and the elements of those themes (wallpapers, icons, widgets). It already comes with a theme app pre-installed, allowing us to search for more themes, which are sorted by categories.
It’s all deeply customizable and you can go as far as deciding which transitions you want between homescreens, how many apps you want to appear on the grid and where you want to add widgets. Like most other smartphones, you can also group apps into named folders.
Given the amount of screen real estate you’ve got to play with, there are hours that can be spent simply getting the appearance of the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 the way you like it. There are other elements to the Emotion UI that affect the usability, but we’ll talk about that in the next section.
- Dual SIM
The dual-SIM option, which lets you load two SIM cards on the same phone, isn’t something you find on a lot of consumer-focused Android smartphones, but it has its uses – chief of which is the ability to use one handset as both your work and personal phone. In an increasingly BYOD world, this might be appealing for many of you.
In case you’re using two SIM cards on your Ascend Mate 7, you should know that both slots are 4G compliant.
Interface and Performance
We know that, on the outside, the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 is a biggie, has a pretty attractive design and causes a good impression. But when it comes to its innards, does a phone of this size have what it takes to keep up with its attractive looks?
The Phablet is decked out with an octa-core Kirin 925 processor (made up of 4 x 1.8GHz A15 cores and 4 x 1.3GHz A7) which harness the big.LITTLE architecture. This ensures the Mate 7 has plenty of power behind the scenes, but only uses it when it’s really required. This processor was developed by Huawei’s own subsidiary, HiSicon, and goes up against the better known chips from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon stable.
But how does it work in black and white? Well, we ran a few tests and the results speak for themselves. Comparatively to the Sony Xperia Z3 and the LG G3, our Huawei Ascend Mate 7 wins by a very large margin on the multi-core score. When we ran the processor through the GeekBench 3 benchmark program, for example, it recorded a score of 3235, while the LG G3 and the Sony Xperia Z3 reached 2532 and 2775, respectively.
For those interested in more in-depth test results, we have an article about Huawei Ascend Mate 7 Benchmarks, where you can check all the results of all the tests we ran and know more about in what conditions these were run in.
However, it’s not all benchmark tests – the actual device use is also important. We were pleasantly surprised with the Mate 7’s excellent performance during everyday tasks. There wasn’t any lag during navigation, the apps worked perfectly and above all, every task was performed without any problems whatsoever. This is thanks to the 2GB of RAM providing backup to the excellent processor, creating bigger room for the Android operating system to work without any issues, in tandem with the several open apps. Although it’s possible to get a 3GB RAM model, which implies buying a golden cellphone, we don’t think it’s necessary because the standard 2GB is more than adequate for day-to-day usage.
Now, concerning mobile communication performance, the Mate 7’s processor supports 4G coverage and the device’s signal reception is pretty good. For example, in some places our Sony Xperia Z3 would have some reception issues, whereas our Huawei Ascend Mate 7 would always have reception, sometimes with all bars present. This means that it’s likely you’ll take full advantage of the 4G (where there’s coverage for that) and enjoy a more pleasant Internet browsing experience. For example, if only the mobile network operators had the best broadband speed all the time, our Huawei Ascend Mate 7 would provide us Internet speed up to 300 Mbps.
But sometimes, when you’ve got so many things running, it’s impossible not to feel as though your phone is getting a little slow. Just like any other Android device, his Huawei is no exception. That’s why it’s important that manufacturers provide users with some apps to help them manage their devices. Fortunately, Huawei does give you a handy Phone Manager app to diagnose any problems. Fire it up and you’re given various ways of optimizing your phone, from the process manager memory scan to the storage cleaner and the power saving battery mode.
The app will tell you exactly how much memory other apps are using and let you close down anything that’s hogging your precious RAM. You can also set a notification to alert you when the memory or CPU usage is adversely affecting the phone.
Another interesting feature of the Ascend Mate 7 is the more business oriented mode. In case you’re in a meeting and you don’t want to be disturbed except by your most important contacts (your family, for example, in case of emergency) you can enable (or schedule) the ‘do not disturb’ mode. When this mode is on (you can set a time from which it can turn on) it means you’ll only receive calls and messages from designated contacts.
Now, concerning Huawei’s Emotion UI 3.0, for those who’ve gone from other brands (like Apple, for example) to this one, you will notice that something we find very organizationally important has been removed – the app drawer. Yep, that simple button you’d tap on and to see all your applications. To just about any iPhone or another Huawei user, this isn’t a big deal, given the brand has always had this lack of app drawer, even with the new Emotion UI 3.0. These apps are displayed much like Apple’s apps are, which means that every time we install an app, it pops up on one of the many homescreens you’re given. You can, of course, group apps into folders to make things easier to find, but we felt the need to install a launcher over the Emotion UI to put things more to our liking.
Unfortunately, you can’t help but feel disappointed at the same time for having to install a launcher over Huawei’s interface. They kind of did a good job with the icons. The overall appearance is also pretty attractive. You just… miss the app drawer.
Huawei is keen to market its themes to the Mate 7, and there are plenty already included on the phone. A gateway app takes you to a huge selection of appearances you can choose from. Know that Huawei keeps it regularly updated with new offerings, so stay tuned.
Huawei’s Emotion UI 3.0 didn’t appear to impact performance during our time with the device, unlike what happens with some brands, which is a key reason for disliking skins over stock Android.
Speaking of Android, we have to mention that the Mate 7 does not come with Lollipop, as it leads us to believe. With Emotion UI 3.0, Huawei threw some Android Lollipop-style navigation keys on there, which strikes us as a little sneaky on Huawei’s part. In fact, Mate 7 is only running Android 4.4.2. When should we expected an update, Huawei?
Battery life is extremely important to users. It’s something that hasn’t really changed all that much these past few years and, truth be told, though battery lives are indeed improving and smartphones and tablets are getting more powerful, the actual power usage has also been increasing. The only thing that has actually improved a great deal is software optimization for lower power consumption and greater energy efficiency for the device’s components.
And it’s this that makes the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 a winner. It’s loaded with a non-removable 4,100mAh battery, capable of lasting two days without any problems. And what we mean by that is not having a single issue even after having mobile data and wireless on, making and receiving a good number of calls, sending and getting text messages, doing some data synchronization and playing a couple games (more work than games, but there’s always time for that). Despite the screen’s big size (probably what drains power the most on smartphones, nowadays) our Ascend Mate 7 is ready for the more demanding entrepreneur.
This was helped, in part, by the wide variety of options Huawei gives you to limit the battery consumption through the power saving options. Besides that, the actual phone will let you know when certain apps are drawing too much power from your battery, so you can switch these off, which is extremely useful, especially when you think you already switched an app off but it’s actually running in the background. For example, while using the Mate 7, we got several warnings to switch the Facebook app off since it was draining the battery much quicker. If you add up all the little apps that usually run in the background, you can easily get a number of extra important minutes of battery life.
For those of you who’ll really hammer it, with intense gaming and movie-watching, you can forget what we just said before. The 6-inch HD screen and high-level performance are extremely juice-sucking and the Ascend Mate 7’s battery won’t ever last the day.
This is a new category we’ve added to our reviews, since we feel smartphones have been improving so much we often forget their main purpose is to communicate.
So, you’re with a group of friends, you pick up your silver-colored phone to answer a call and someone goes like “Are you holding a small baking tray against your face?”. Well, despite its size, talking on the Ascend Mate 7 isn’t that bad. It uses a dual antenna that guarantees a strong signal – even in places where other smartphones had phone reception issues. During our time with the handset, we never experienced a dropped call while we had even a slice of signal. It not only depends on the device but also on the mobile network’s call quality.
When it comes to sound, we can say this Huawei is very good. In-call volume is suitably impressive and works not only for handset calls but when you’re using speakerphone as well.
The contacts app is basic but functional, something people look for these days, while the dial pad given is so large that a bear could operate it.
Big screens make life much easier when texting. Or do they? Texting might be quite frustrating depending on how many hands you’re using. If you try doing it one-handed with just your thumb, it’ll take a while given the size of the display. Two hands work like a charm – texting becomes satisfying, quick and effective.
For those who usually use one hand to send text messages this problem can be alleviated slightly with Huawei’s one-handed mode, aforementioned in this review.
The default keyboard is competent enough not to leave us annoyed when typing. That is to say, it can pick up our speedy texts, and it also includes a swipe-to-text feature if you prefer gliding over the keys. Obviously, if you’re a lover of SwiftKey, or any other third-party keyboard, then you should expect to go get it through the Google Play store.
Point-and-shoot cameras are increasingly being replaced by smartphone cameras. Nowadays, people easily take out their phones to take a picture and share it on social media. That’s why smartphone users are increasingly looking for phones with good cameras. The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 stands up well as a camera despite not having high specs. The Chinese company has added a 13MP rear-facing lens capable of snapping at a 4128 x 3096 resolution. The front-facing 5MP camera will take reasonable selfies as well as providing 720p video calling via Skype, Google Hangouts or any other video calling client.
The usual array of effects and settings are included – the ISO range stretches from 100-800 with Huawei boasting better low-light performance with the added LED flash. The HDR mode and auto focus work well and all the pictures we took with the Ascend Mate 7 were a positive surprise.
Also included are the options to geo-tag pictures and face detection. Something else that Huawei has included in previous phones, is the Beauty level slider to improve selfies by smoothing out the skin and enlarging the eyes. FYI, it doesn’t work with me, I still look ugly.
You can also take a panorama mode for sweeping vistas or, if you’re taking shots of fast-moving items. This essentially takes several pictures very quickly and allows you to select the best.
Overall, the camera does its job well, but it is inferior to the Sony Xperia Z3.
Not mentioning how media works on a device with such a screen should be a crime. Huawei Ascend Mate 7’s screen size and quality means that whether you’re playing a game or watching a movie, the phone shines when it comes to the visuals. The Full HD display is clear and detailed whether you’re watching YouTube videos or your own files saved onto the 32GB native storage.
Colors and image transitions look great and are actually surprising however, this screen doesn’t compete with the Super AMOLED screen offered up by the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. The Mate 7 doesn’t boast a pixel density as high as Samsung’s latest phablet does, offering only 368 compared to its competitor’s 515. When it comes to video, it’s not really a problem, because it’s impossible to notice any pixel problem. It is noticeable, however, when browsing image and font-heavy websites.
There aren’t only visuals to consider – sound is equally important. The Mate 7’s sound quality is well handled given it has on board Dolby DTS. It is however hampered by the speaker placement. The Ascend Mate 7 tucks the speaker grill around the back, in a place easily covered by your hand when you’re holding the phone in landscape mode.
If you’re looking for a handset for gaming, then we’re happy to say that Huawei’s new phablet is a great choice. It comes with a small selection of Gameloft games pre-installed, letting you play for a certain amount of time before inviting you to download the titles.
The octa-core processor kicks into gear along with the 2GB RAM to keep games running fluidly on the 1080p screen and 3D games like Asphalt 8 are really well represented.
Also, the Huawei’s 6-inch screen solves the problem many users have with smaller-sized handsets, where there’s lack of space for on-screen controls.
Any smartphone manufacturer is now likely to be toting a phone with a larger screen. After all, that is what users want and what sells so it’s not a surprise to see so many huge screen handsets popping up in the smartphone market lately.
Huawei has created a phone with that in mind. You’ll be reluctant about trying the Mate 7 at first but it’s the kind of phone that will change your impression of it after you spend a bit of time with it. The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 is undoubtedly a Chinese approximation of what the best tech companies are producing. And yes, there are other Chinese companies gaining ground among Portuguese users but their devices do not have the quality the Mate 7 has to offer.
Now, the fingerprint scanner on this device can be considered excellent. Unlike others, this one really does work well and it’s very well positioned (on the back of the handset), making it so easy to use. In fact, it’s easier to use the actual fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone then to use the power button.
The phone’s aluminum casing is one of the features that really pleases us. The phone has a slightly curved back, making the phone rest comfortably in your palm, which is really neat because you can get the most out of the 1080p screen. Also, the ability to dual-load two different SIMs into the Ascend Mate 7 is really appealing to users who like the idea of using just one device to manage both SIMs instead of carrying two phones all the time.
If there’s one thing you can’t forgive Huawei for is their insistence on using Emotion UI 3.0. The kind of user who does like this type of interface buys an iPhone, not an Android device. It would be interesting if the Chinese company conducted a market study to properly assess how many users can actually stand the default interface, rather than just installing a launcher over it.
Ultimately, this smartphone’s low price (comparatively to a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for example) makes it a great alternative for those looking to purchase a Phablet. The battery hold up alright and it’s got good performance and construction quality. Huawei has clearly been winning new users given all these great features – they really make a convincing case for getting your hands on a Mate 7.