Mate, it’s big: Huawei’s 6.1 inch $429 phablet reviewed

For the build, Huawei has gone with plastic as the main material, giving this a rubbery finish on the rear which helps to make it easy to grip.

The edges aren’t harsh and the back of the handset has a slight curve that flows into the palm nicely, but due to the insane width of the Mate, you’re more likely to grip it tightly between digits, rather than let it rest comfortably.

We’re thankful that Huawei decided to stick the power button on the right edge of the handset, and that makes it easy to switch on, something you can generally do with the closest finger.

Once the screen switches on, you’ll find a bright 6.1 inch 720p display shining back at you, with on-screen electronic soft buttons for you to use at the very bottom of the handset.

While the display resolution doesn’t really hold a candle to what we’re seeing from Sony, Samsung, and HTC lately, 240 pixels per inch isn’t terrible, and is only roughly 80 off where Apple’s “Retina” screens works from.

In fact, the pixel per inch count is 20 higher than what you get on Sony’s PS Vita (220ppi), and the screen is even bigger here on the Ascend Mate.

Overall, it’s not a bad screen, providing a decent amount of brightness and contrast, and while its ppi isn’t outstanding, it’s perfectly useful for browsing websites, watching videos, and reading documents.

Huawei’s modifications to Android are some of the more unusual ones we’ve seen, moving away from Google’s typical application menu system and integrating it completely with the several homescreens.

Without an applications menu, you just go from left to right and right to left – from screen to screen – finding the app you want, or running whatever widget you wish. It makes us think of what would happen if Android and iOS came together in a strange marriage of ideas.

Apps are now loaded on your homescreens only, similar to the iPhone.

In a way, this makes using the Ascend Mate closer to that of Apple’s iPhone, and for many a first time user, this will be a welcome experience, as will the special widget that brings together a clock, weather, a few contact shortcuts, and music widget.

Getting the Ascend Mate to perform without slowdowns is a different matter altogether.

Despite featuring a similar processor to Huawei’s Ascend D1 Quad – an excellent budget handset from earlier in the year – the Mate just slogs through applications, often loading parts of programs slowly, even when virtually no other apps are running concurrently.

Synthetic benchmarks show a similar though slightly lower performance than Huawei’s previous quad-core handset, but with only 1GB RAM, the 6.1 inch handset struggles, running things very slowly, and often with crashes.

Email, for instance, could sometimes take twenty to thirty seconds to load up. At one point, YouTube just gave up after five seconds and stopped responding, crashing and waiting to restart. Twitter often gave us black screens and refused to go on, forcing us to exit to the homescreen and kill the app from memory by force.

We've never seen Twitter take so long to load. It didn't always happen, but when it did this time, the Mate was so slow, we were able to take a screenshot of it working.