If any phone maker managed to take visitors of this year’s IFA by surprise, it was Huawei, which unveiled the Ascend Mate 7 at the Berlin show. The 6-inch phablet’s reveal wasn’t a secret – information about it had been circling the rumor mill for weeks – but the Ascend Mate 7’s overall quality surpassed all expectations, especially considering its announced price.
To be precise, the phablet includes a 6-inch, 1080p IPS display, offering 368 ppi of pixel density. That’s solid, but more impressive is how thin its bezels are, with the screen taking up 85 percent of the entire front surface of the phone. The phone as a whole is undeniably huge, but if nothing else, it looks to be efficiently pieced together.
Based on our time with it, the Ascend Mate 7’s display offers above average sharpness with vividly saturated colors. The contrast could be better, given that black tones aren’t particularly dark, but viewing angles are also great, so it’s difficult to complain too much here.
The Chinese giant’s phablet comes with an eight-core HiSilicon Kirin 925 chipset, which, per usual, comes from Huawei itself. The chip uses a big.LITTLE architecture, offering four Cortex-A15 cores running at a 1.8 GHz clock for complex processes and four Cortex-A7 cores running at a 1.3 GHz clock for less demanding tasks. During our demo, we found that these guts offered exceptionally fluid performance, fast and smooth enough to rival the premium handsets on the market today.
However, the Ascend Mate 7’s battery performance may be where the device shines brightest. The 4100mAh pack is massive on its own, but Huawei says that the phablet’s internals will be significantly more efficient when it comes to conserving power. Together, Huawei claims, this’ll allow the device to go two or three days without charging, even during intense usage periods.
Another pleasant surprise here is the inclusion of a fingerprint reader, located below the rear camera lens, which responded rapidly and consistently during our testing. Simply touching or swiping the reader unlocks the phone or launches specific functions. For instance, when you slightly touch the fingerprint reader with front-facing camera activated, the phone automatically takes a shot. Just touching the pad will wake the Mate 7 up from sleep without having to press any buttons. There are other examples too. All of this just worked — we never needed to exert any pressure or hold down too long to get the reader to recognize us, and the variety of use cases here make it look like this might be a noticeable step forward for the tech on smartphones.
Going back to that front-facing camera, Huawei clearly wants to be a market leader in selfie taking. The front shooter here is of the 5-megapixel variety, but its software allows for taking panoramic shots (in both vertical and horizontal orientation). The back-facing camera, meanwhile, offers a maximum resolution of 13 megapixels.
The Ascend Mate 7 is the Huawei’s first device with Android OS 4.4 (KitKat) and the latest version of its Emotion UI 3.0 skin. However, the improvements here aren’t all that noticeable over previous iterations of the software, mostly boiling down to more themes to switch through, lots and lots of wallpapers, and the ability to access a large archive of online magazines, which is free only for the users of this phablet. There are some small cosmetic touch-ups too, but this version of Emotion UI still feels like an iOS knockoff. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it may prove popular, but it’s not exactly a huge thrill.
Even with all that said, the Ascend Mate 7’s price might be what turns the most heads amongst Huawei’s customers and competition. A model with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of memory will go for 499 euros, while one with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage will retail for 599 euros. That’s a nice bit of savings considering that the Mate 7 is a whole lot of phone. What’s more, both models support microSD cards for expandable memory, and they both come with an extra SIM card slot for dual-SIM functionality. And when in dual-SIM mode, the device supports LTE data transfer via both lines.
Huawei hasn’t detailed any release details for the US yet, only saying that the phone will challenge the likes of the Galaxy Note 4 in European and Asian markets in Q3 of this year.