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Huawei Ascend Mate7 Review: It’s Not the Best Phablet, But It’s Damn Close

Huawei Ascend Mate7 19

We review the Huawei Ascend Mate7!

Today we’ll be reviewing Huawei’s latest flagship and phablet, the Ascend Mate7. We were less than impressed with the company’s previous flagship, the Ascend P7, so we kept our expectations in check when we started reviewing this device. We’re happy to report that we were pleasantly surprised with what Huawei had on tap, as the Chinese company has taken to heart the lessons that it learned with its previous devices with the Mate7. While it’s not the best phablet to land in our testing labs, it’s pretty damn close, as you’ll find out later on.

Huawei Ascend Mate7 specs

  • Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 925 processor (1.8GHz quad-core Cortex-A15, 1.3GHz quad-core Cortex-A7)
  • Mali-T628 GPU
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 6-inch, full HD IPS display with Gorilla Glass 3, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 32GB of storage, expandable via microSD
  • 13-megapixel rear camera with AF, LED flash
  • 5-megapixel front camera
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, USB OTG, NFC
  • Android 4.4 KitKat with Emotion UI 3.0
  • 4100mAh battery
  • 157 x 81 x 7.9 mm

Huawei Ascend Mate7 01

The prettiest phone that Huawei’s ever built

Huawei is no stranger to making pretty phones, and while the P7 was definitely a looker, it still had too many design cues from Apple to be truly unique. That has changed with the Mate7. The device uses a beautiful unibody aluminum design that’s quite different from the glass and plastic one on the P7. While it’s a bit reminiscent of HTC’s own offerings, the Mate7 is definitely quite larger than anything HTC has ever put out before. You’ll immediately see the build quality of the smartphone once you pick it up. It’s definitely one of the nicer built phones that’s on sale on the market today.

Huawei Ascend Mate7 02

 

Going around the body of the Mate7, you’ll see the dual SIM slots on the left side of the phone, while the volume rocker and the power button sit on the right. There’s a 3.5mm jack on the top, while the USB port lies on the bottom of the device. The device uses a micro SIM and nano SIM for the SIM slots, and both slots are capable of using LTE. It’s definitely a convenient feature especially for people who travel a lot or want to use the LTE of both telcos here in the PH. Don’t have
two LTE SIMs? No problem – the nano SIM tray can also be used as a microSD card tray so you can expand the already roomy 32GB storage on the device. The Mate7 also has Cat6 LTE, more commonly known as LTE-A. While that feature is useless here as of the moment, it comes pretty handy if you travel to a country that has LTE-A.

Huawei Ascend Mate7 03

Going to the back you’ll see the 13-megapixel rear camera with Huawei’s fingerprint scanner right below it. We’re not exaggerating when we say that fingerprint scanner on the Mate7 is the best implementation of biometric security we’ve seen. Unlike the other implementations of Samsung and Apple, you don’t need to swipe or press your finger over the scanner – you just need to place your finger over it and it’ll read it quickly, and unlock your phone for you.

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There’s no sweet spot on your finger where the scanner works either, as the Mate7 reads your entire fingerprint, not just the center like how other phones¬†do it. The scanner’s so good, unlocking the Mate7 with our finger is now second nature. We said during our hands-on that the Mate7’s fingerprint scanner is the evolution of LG’s signature rear key, and we mean it.

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A fingerprint sensor that’s effective and convenient to use

While the Mate7 has a display that’s unusually large (even larger than the Note 4) it’s not that much bigger than Samsung’s offering. In fact, the Mate7 is slightly smaller than Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus, which if you’ve forgotten, only has a 5.5-inch display. Again Huawei has taken a page out of LG’s playbook and greatly reduced the bezels of the Mate7 to make it smaller than it actually is. It’s not exactly a smartphone that you’ll be able to use one handed, but it’s not awkward at all to use.

Huawei Ascend Mate7 09

The quality of the 6-inch full HD IPS display is quite good, and while it pales in comparison with Samsung’s Super AMOLED panel, it’s still pretty good, with excellent contrast, color reproduction and viewing angles.

Huawei Ascend Mate7 05

Emotion UI comes of age

Like the P7, the Mate7 uses Huawei’s custom Emotion UI layered on top of Android 4.4 KitKat. Huawei’s implementation is reminiscent of Xiaomi’s offering, in that it takes away the app drawer and puts all your apps where you can find it quickly. The look of the UI is now better, with flatter icons and less childish look, and the company has even managed to sneakily implement Android Lollipop navigation keys.

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Huawei’s custom chip finally delivers the goods

As pretty as Huawei’s Ascend P7 was, it was terribly underpowered which made us wary of the new HiSilicon Kirin 925 octa-core processor that powers the Mate7. The good news is that Huawei’s newest chip performs admirably for what it is, and gives you equivalent performance to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 processor. In both benchmarks and actual use, the hardware powering the Mate7 is up to the task. Navigation through the device was snappy, and games like EA’s Real Racing 3 had no problem running on the Mate7. We’re sure that the 3GB of RAM that’s inside the limited edition gold version that’s being sold in the PH helped quite a bit.

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Decent camera, but could be better

The camera on the Mate7 does an adequate job of taking snaps, but it suffers in low light conditions. There’s plenty of detail and accurate color reproduction, though it suffers a bit in low light. There’s also a refocus mode, where you’re able to add bokeh to different parts of the photo after you’ve taken it. There’s also a feature that’s similar to HTC’s Zoe mode that allows you take several photos and choose which one you like the best.

More mAh than you can shake a stick at

Compared to other phablets, the 4100mAh battery on the Mate7 is rather large, and does a good job of keeping the Mate7 powered throughout the day. With moderate use (mobile data, LTE on) the Mate7 managed to pass the 1 day mark rather easily, and still had enough power to make it to day 2. For people who don’t particularly like taking multiple trips to the charger, tweaks to how the smartphone uses power is available (it even tells you how much mAh each app that’s running is consuming).

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Verdict: a really good alternative¬†to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4

When we wrote about the Huawei Ascend Mate7 in our first hands-on of the device, people were quick to criticize the smartphone’s rather high Php 27,890 SRP. Considering what you’re getting, the Ascend Mate7 is a good deal, and its price make it a good alternative to the Galaxy Note 4. Its fingerprint scanner is one of the best currently, and really makes getting in and out of the smartphone quick, and easy. Huawei’s custom hardware and software play their part in making the user experience of the Mate7 fast and fluid. Huawei’s done good with the Ascend Mate7, and we recommend it to people looking for a different phablet experience.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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