A big deal: Huawei’s Ascend Mate 7 reviewed

Grab it from the box and you’ll feel a phone that really feels like quality. It’s quite a surprise turn for Huawei, a company that predominantly uses plastic, but has dabbled with bits and bobs of aluminium in the past.

But the Ascend Mate 7 is all metal, or mostly anyway when you don’t include the screen, with a body comprising of around 95% metal. The use of that material gives the Ascend Mate 7 a true premium feel that other plastic competitors just don’t totally have, and it’s a real surprise to see that from Huawei, but we like it all the same.

The design is relatively simple, though, so not too much to get accustomed to: a screen with metal borders at the top and bottom, and some very small bezel framing the display altogether. Overall, it’s a clean look, and one we suspect most people will have no problems with.

Weight clocks in at 185 grams, so it’s not particularly light, though does manage to get in lighter than the HTC One Max from last year which competes with a similar screen size.

And yes, we know we need to talk about screen size, so let’s do that now.

We’ve already said that the Ascend Mate 7 is a phablet, but what does that mean exactly, or rather, what does a tablet-sized phone mean for the screen?

In the case of this phone, Huawei has equipped a 6 inch Full HD display, providing a little more in space than the other smartphones we see, as it’s 0.3 inches larger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (5.7 inches) and 0.1 inches more than the HTC One Max (5.5 inches), though Huawei has provided only a Full HD display, a resolution that is smaller than what is inside the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge products.

That said, it is larger, and while there’s no stylus for jotting ideas or notes down, it’s a big screen nonetheless, and that’s exactly what some people are after.

Matched with a Full HD resolution, Huawei’s Mate 7 screen isn’t going to blow your eyelids off with amazing pupil-busting clarity, but you’re also not going to notice any pixels either, with a pleasing level of detail found in the icons used within.

Huawei’s take on Android is an interesting one, and if you’ve come from Apple’s iOS in the past, you’ll appreciate what the company is doing, ditching the extra app menu and letting widgets and apps exist side by side in a rather iOS-inspired fashion.

As usual, Huawei has provided a clock and weather widget with music and photo albums, but for the most part, it’s an easy interface to get accustomed to, though experienced Android users may find the removal of a menu system a little strange.

Huawei has also made some changes to standard Android bits and bobs, such as the on-screen soft buttons which now resemble what Google will be rolling out in Android Lollipop when devices beyond the Nexus 6 get it, a photo gallery browser that can not only show images but also show the camera on top of the images, several lock screen unlock systems one of which can work with the built-in fingerprint scanner (more on that shortly), and a timeline for the notification dropdown.

As far as customisation options go, there are quite a few: grid sizes, transitions, if the home screens feed into each other in an infinite loop or stop at the end of the cycle. Lockscreen styles are also here thanks to the regular bits of security — password, PIN, and pattern — as well as the fingerprint scanner, but there are also themes, several of which are ready for you to go, but with others that can be found later on. These can let you change the font, and icons, and the list goes on.

Overall, it’s relatively clean and easy to use, though Huawei’s lighter colour scheme can conflict with other Android notifications, an issue we’ve seen pop up on the Huawei overlay in the past.

That’s something we expect a bug fix or two can deal with, but it’s still a solid effort all round and adds to a phone that shows that Huawei is thinking about the phone in more than just a “me-too” kind of way.

The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 in its complimentary case.

Over to the camera side, and while the modules here won’t win best in class, the 13 megapixel rear-shooter and 5 megapixel front-facing camera will make most happy, competing quite well with other phablets in the world.

Daylight will yield the best results, hardly a surprise, but you should find something to work with at night, too, and while the camera interface is easy to comprehend — very easy — even switching to landscape mode won’t change the orientation of the on-screen controls, sticking in portrait only.

Benchmarks for the phone aren’t top of the pops, but we found the performance was pretty solid across the board, with a hint of lag as you jumped from app to app, but not enough to put a sour face on others.