Review: Huawei Ascend P2

The first of a new breed of smartphones, the Ascend P2 can achieve mobile broadband speeds much faster than your iPhone… provided you have the backbone to back it up.

Features

The first Category 4 LTE handset to reach GadgetGuy’s offices, Huawei’s Ascend P2 sits in the “performance” range of Huawei’s handsets, aiming to bring Category 3 LTE – what most of us know as 4G in Australia – as well as the few places where Category 4 currently exists.

Cat 4 means network performance as high as a theoretical 150Mbps download and 50Mbps upload, almost eight times higher than the theoretical maximum for ADSL2+ connections, which few people get at home.

In Australia, the support is there for Telstra in Brisbane, Adelaide, and a bit of Perth, while Vodafone apparently supports Category 4 LTE in all of its major cities across Australia.

Huawei’s Ascend P2 is currently a Telstra exclusive, but the phone is compatible with Vodafone’s network.

Simple design: a dark softened 8.4mm thin handset

Enough of the Cat4 info, and back to the phone. For this handset, it’s typical Huawei fare, with the same home-grown technology used across Huawei’s other devices.

That includes the processor, which like the ultra-slim Ascend P6, includes a quad-core 1.5GHz processor built by Huawei (K3V2), Android Jelly Bean (4.1 in this handset), Bluetooth, GPS, 802.11 b/g/n, and a 4.7 inch screen supporting the HD resolution of 1280×720, protected by Gorilla Glass.

Not everything is the same, though, with a 13 megapixel camera on the back, a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera, Near-Field Communication, and of course, support for the Category 4 LTE which can offer higher upload and download speeds with a compatible Cat4 4G network.

While some models overseas feature 16GB storage, the Australian model looks to be receiving 32GB, as our review unit had that much storage. You’ll want a decent amount of storage, mind you, as there is no microSD slot here.

Memory is also different, with only 1GB of RAM here, below the 2GB sweet spot that we’ve found on Android handsets in the past.

Google’s Android is also the operating system of choice, though a slightly out of date edition has been used in this handset, with Android 4.1.2, also known as “Jelly Bean.”

Soft buttons are included on the frame of this handset, with back, home, and menu located under the screen, while the physical buttons include a volume rocker on the left, a power button on the top right, and a camera shutter on the bottom right.

No microSD means less ports are available, and as such, you’ll only find the microSIM slot on the very right, while the microUSB charge and data transfer port sit up top next to the 3.5mm headset jack.

A 2420mAh battery sits inside the Ascend P2, but it’s not replaceable.

Performance

The last time we checked out a Huawei handset, it was all about the design. This time, it’s more about the mobile broadband on offer, as the Huawei Ascend P2 is the company’s – and Australia’s – first handset capable of jumping on Category 4 networks. The current Category 3 networks are also supported, so in essence, this is the first future-proofed Android smartphone, at least as far as Australian 4G goes for the next year or two.

Huawei’s P2 makes this happen in a simple design, with black plastic dominating the back, and a large 4.7 inch screen on the front, supporting the 1280×720 HD resolution.

Sure, it’s not as fancy as the Full HD resolutions we’re seeing on handsets by Samsung and HTC, but the pixel density is still strong enough to get close to Apple’s iPhone 5 Retina screen, with roughly 312 pixels per inch (ppi).

In the flesh, the screen is relatively bright and quite nice to look at, but still very glossy. We’re reminded of the screen in the P6, and suspect there isn’t much separating them, but overall, it’s not a bad looker, and has decent viewing angles.

Aesthetically, the P2 won’t win any awards for design, with a simple look, edges that slope into soft curves, fitting in the palm of the hand nicely.

The buttons on the right side are easy to grip with the fingers, making it easy to switch the phone on, though the high position of the volume button may not make it as simple to change levels quickly.

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