CES 2012: Huawei Ascend P1 and P1S Hands-On: Slicing Through the Competition

by Reads (13,946)

It looks like the Droid RAZR has some competition.

Huawei unveiled its Ascend P1 and P1S at CES 2012 in Las Vegas today, heralding the P1S as the “world’s slimmest smartphone.” Measuring a mere 6.68mm thick, the P1S weighs only 130 grams. The only difference between the P1 and P1S are their sizes, as the P1 is slightly thicker (though still quite slim) at 7.69mm, but is a slightly lighter 110 grams.

Otherwise, the specs of the Ascend P1 and P1S are identical, which include a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED 960 x 540 display with Corning Gorilla Glass, a dual-core 1.5 GHz Cortex A9 processor, and an SGX 540 graphics processor. Other features include an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera with 1080p HD video capabilities, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera with 720p HD video capture, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of storage (expandable via a microSD card slot), and Dolby 5.1 surround sound.

For you business types, both phones will come pre-loaded with editing software for PowerPoint and PDF documents, and they will be available in black, white, pink, and “more colors to come.” And, of course, they will run the latest and greatest version of Google’s OS, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. I had the opportunity to get some hands-on time with the Ascend P1 and P1S at the product launch, and these things were undeniably slick. While the P1 is supposed to be slightly thicker than the P1S, it’s very difficult to even notice; we are, after all, talking about a difference of 1.01 millimeters here (see photo, P1S is on the left, P1 on the right).

The P1 may not be able to boast that it’s officially the thinnest smartphone on the planet like the P1S can, but if it’s cheaper than the P1S by a remotely significant amount, there would be no shame in picking up the P1 instead. You would still be getting an incredibly slim phone, and one that actually weighs slightly less than its sister model.

Ascend P1S and P1 ComparisonAs Sleek As It Gets

I imagine it will take some users a bit of time to get used to the builds of the P1 and P1S, however. Given how slim they are, it’s kind of difficult to grip them since the super slim edges of the phone don’t give you a whole lot to hold onto. The design of the Ascend is generally pretty simplistic; it’s a basic rectangular shape with perpendicular edges and a slight bulge at the bottom of the phone (think like the Droid X, though not quite as prominent), which probably to accommodate the battery, which is not removable.

The ergonomics and button placement are comfortable, with the volume rocker located on the left side, and the on/off/standby switch located on the right, along with the microSD card slot. The three (not four) capacitive buttons now associated with the ICS UI are of course at the bottom of the screen, and a notification light for missed calls or unread messages is found up top directly next to the main speaker/earphone. The back of the phone is host to the 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash, as well as a speaker. And on the top edge of the phone, you’ll find the headphone jack, SIM card slot, and, probably my favorite part about the Ascend, an MHL-HDMI port.

Huawei Ascend P1SThis MHL, or mobile high-definition link, port allows users to connect both micro HDMI cables and micro USB cables via a single outlet. As such, the Ascent can be charged by either an HDMI or USB connection, which seems like a very useful feature to me. While the port is a clever and efficient idea, it also simplifies the design of the phone by having it feature one less port…not to mention the fact that it was probably a contributing factor to the Ascend’s slim build.

And the display on the Ascend is absolutely stunning. Granted, we’ve seen Super AMOLED screens before on devices like the Droid Charge, but the Ascend has a slightly higher resolution and looks incredibly vibrant and sharp. Admittedly, as much as I am in love with the display — which is also very roomy at 4.3-inches, another plus — it is extremely prone to smudges and smears. I constantly had to wipe down the screen between photographs as I navigated through the menus. And I have to wonder, after experiencing the dreadful battery life on the Droid Charge, how badly is this Super AMOLED display going to sap the Ascend’s 1670 mAh (1800 mAh, in the case of the P1S) battery? Only time will tell.

The 8-megapixel camera was pretty impressive as well, even if its white balance was a bit off, as it tended to gravitate towards cooler tones. Colors in the photos were very crisp and bright, but I’m sure that was helped along by the fact that I was viewing the photos on a killer display. And as for the OS, if you’re even remotely familiar with ICS, there wasn’t much to it that you don’t already know. It didn’t feature any kind of skin or overlay, so it was the same user-friendly, feature-packed version of Android that everyone wants to get their hands on.

Huawei Ascend P1SLight On The Details

Huawei said at the product launch that they have yet to decide on a price point for the P1 and P1S models, and their description of the release timing was only slightly more specific. The company said that they will have the Ascends ready by the end of March, but whether they will ship to North America at that time (or any other region) remains undecided. So while it’s possible, I wouldn’t get your hopes up just yet, because when I asked a rep if the Ascend would be coming to America at that time, he summarized his response with a noncommittal, “It could.”

He did offer an explanation, though. The regions where the Ascend P1 and P1S will be released include Europe, Asian-Pacific, Australia, Middle East, China, and North America. The Huawei rep said the release dates for the different regions depend on the demands of their consumers. The market demand will also affect which carriers will offer the Ascend, apparently, which is why that is yet another undecided element behind the phone. If the company feels that the members of a particular region are looking for certain features to be added to the phone — or if there is a particularly strong demand for it to be available on certain networks — they will delay the launch in that region until they feel that the device is completely ready to accommodate those interests.

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