So, here it is. I’m well aware that this phone has been on the market for very long time now (since May 2014), but I still feel the need to write a review for it in case some people are still considering it as an option. After all, it’s a really amazing pocket rocket smartphone for a very affordable price. And I’ll also tell you how it is to actually live with this phone after having it for few weeks now. I have the white version. Lets begin with the review shall we…
Huawei decided for a similar construction and design as it was used on Apple’s iPhone 4 or some Sony’s Xperia Z models. A two sided glass sandwich with metal sides. Some may say Huawei copied those phones in a way, but I don’t care because they took it to a whole new level. The phone is ridiculously thin, but feels very strong and sleek while having very little weight to it. It’s incredibly light. Might be tiny bit difficult to pick it up from a desk, but I personally don’t really have great problems with that. Maybe I have more feminine fingers or something 🙂 It’s Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides and on the back, there is this very subtle, but very amazing texture underneath the glass that creates sort of shimmer when you move it around in the light. If looks are what you’re after, you’ll certainly enjoy this device. It was really one of the top reasons I’ve decided for this smartphone. And I actually feel kinda sad hearing Huawei is planning to drop this design for Ascend P8. Why drop something this gorgeous?
As far as external connectivity goes, it has a standard microUSB port for data and charging on the bottom, 3,5mm audio output on the top and volume rocker and power button on the right side along with microSIM and microSD slot which requires a “can opener” tool to push both out. After all, this phone doesn’t have an interchangeable battery, so that is a design requirement.
Inside of this device, there is a Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin 910T chipset powered by a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor beating at 1,8GHz, supplemented by Mali-450MP4 graphics processing unit and 2GB of DDR3 RAM. Data is stored on 16GB of internal storage that can be expanded through microSD expansion slot. It’s not crazy fast in synthetic tests, but when it comes to real world usage, it’s butter smooth at anything I’ve thrown at it. Be aware that I’m not a mobile phone gamer so I can’t comment on how super latest 3D games run on it. I only play some basic 2D games here and there…
Screen is a traditional IPS with resolution of 1080×1920 which at only 5 inches gives a very high pixel density (441 ppi). The resolution is so high there is no way you can notice any distortions at super thin elements like icons and letters even when you look at it from ridiculously small distance. Colors are very nice and it seems that Huawei has fixed the default cool screen color temperature, because at least in my phone, display appears very neutral and not on the cold side like it was criticized in many bigger reviews. Only slight downside is that image does get a bit dimmer when you look at it from very extreme angles. But colors remain exactly the same, so it’s not really annoying or anything. Maybe that’s normal for IPS screens, but the one I had before was SuperAMOLED, so I might have lost a touch for screen viewing angles a bit with it… Outdoor visibility is very decent thanks to zero gap design (no gap between actual panel and the protective glass on the top). Just make sure you have auto brightness enabled, the phone will boost it to improve visibility in strong sun conditions. And it also comes with a nice feature called “Gloves mode” that boosts sensitivity of the touch screen, so it can be used even with regular gloves. Be aware that this mode drains a bit more battery…
Talking using this phone is always great as sound is always crisp and clear and others will also hear you great thanks to integrated additional noise cancellation microphone that filters out the noises from the surrounding environment. Mono loudspeaker is super loud and has quite some bass to it, however, Huawei made a slight design hash of it because if you place the phone on its back, the speaker will get significantly less loud. You can still hear it alright, but it’s nowhere near the loudness of phone being lifted or on its screen. So, if you want to be sure of hearing the alarm clock or listening to loud music, keep it with the screen facing the table…
As far as sound goes, it also has features that I’ve missed since owning HTC Wildfire. That is automatic ringing volume lowering when you pick up the phone and silencing of the phone by flipping it over. On CyanogenMod I needed extra apps and that was really annoying. But now I have them out of the box again 🙂
One of the major highlights of this phone are the cameras on it. Main camera is powered by a 13 Mpix Sony Exmor back illuminated sensor which in combination with very conservative noise filtering algorithm creates amazingly detailed photos. Some may dislike the lack of extreme image processing and at first it does feel a bit weird, but once you get used to it, it’s really great. Can’t really complain over image quality as it’s really good and up with the best smartphone cameras on the market. Camera is complimented with single LED flash which might not be the most powerful one, but does a decent job when it’s needed. Settings and controls are well laid out and offer fast and easy control without the crappy Google’s original “pie” button which I found to be rather clumsy. Here, controls are more like on traditional compact cameras.
And with current selfies craze, Huawei went big and integrated a massive 8 Mpix sensor camera on the front. I’m apparently already very old since I don’t like doing selfies, but some might and this can be an interesting factor. It also has interesting software support in terms of image filtering using beauty filter which smooths out your skin and imperfections so you look prettier.
There is one another really great feature only found on Ascend P7 as far as I’m aware of it. An “Ultra Snapshot” feature that takes a photo from a turned off display to a snapped photo in ~1,2 seconds. All you have to do is to configure this feature in camera settings. Then you just point the phone at thing you want to capture and double press the volume down button. The phone will instantly wake up, auto-focus, snap the photo and show it to you. In a bit over 1 second time! Brilliant feature to capture those special moments where every millisecond counts.
Ascend P7 might slightly disappoint in this regard as it only shoots at 1080p @ 30fps, but it does well when it comes to that, so it’s not really that bad if you don’t need more than 1080p. I do have a 4K LCD TV and it would be nice to record stuff like that, but do I really need it? Frankly, I don’t. So far I’ve only made 2 Youtube recordings with a phone and I feel like 1080p is plenty. My upload isn’t fast enough to work with 4K anyway so 1080p feels like plenty for me. Good thing is that it records audio in stereo mode, so at least that’s pretty decent.
Like I said in the design segment, the battery is non user replaceable, but packs a 2500mA Li-poly unit, which at least for my usage can last to record 6 days and 8 hours and I still had 14% left. I’m not a super power user, but I quite regularly check e-mails, this blog using the app and browse internet. And I’m using a 4G network so that’s quite surprising considering I could never reach such long periods without charging with Samsung Galaxy S2 (even with CyanogenMod). There is also Ultra power saving mode available which disables all the features apart from calls and texting. Even the interface switches to a minimalistic mode with low brightness which should supposedly give you another full day out of just 10% of remaining battery!
OS and software
Phone arrived with KitKat 4.4.2 which is not the latest KitKat and getting to know Huawei a bit more, there is not much hope for Lollipop update. Still holding fingers crossed though, as I’d really like to see at least lollipop 5.0.1 on it sometime soon. And this phone, like so many others comes with heavily modified custom GUI which Huawei calls “Emotion UI”. It’s a really drastic modification which might not be liked by everyone, but I personally love it. It packs nearly everything you’ll ever expect from a phone out of the box. It also has no app drawer, so it works more like Apple’s iOS with everything placed on main screens. You can tweak so many things out of the box, including themes, icons, lock screens etc I didn’t really feel a single need to download customizations or power tools and tweaks. It’s all already there and Huawei went even as far as to provide you with tools otherwise only found on rooted phones. Like “low level” integrated task killer which ensures nasty power hungry apps never drain your battery, but also never kills apps that you want them to be running. Or a software firewall where you can control what apps are allowed to connect to 3G/4G, WiFi or neither. I only had that using avast! Mobile Security on a rooted phone and now I have it available by default on a factory phone. How cool is that. As much as I generally dislike heavy modifications, I actually really like Emotion UI. Took a day or two to get the hang of it from CyanogenMod and Apex launcher, but now I wouldn’t want to replace it with anything. It’s just pretty, smooth, super configurable and simply pleasurable to use. Can’t really ask for more.
While some will argue that it’s not really a proper flagship considering few shortcomings, it’s still an amazing device packed with really awesome goodies and price that is hard to beat. If you’re looking for a phone that oozes style and still delivers pretty much everything others do, for basically half the price, Ascend P7 is what you want to have.
– beautiful slim design
– very good display
– very good main and front camera
– quick Ultra Snapshot photo capture
– very loud loudspeaker
– heavily modified OS is actually very good
– very decent battery
– extra apps/features usually only found on rooted phones
– non replaceable battery
– quiet loudspeaker when phone is on its back
– only records 1080p videos
– might not get Lollipop update
If you have any other more specific questions about it, feel free to ask. I’ll try to answer all of them as detailed as possible.