Huawei Ascend P1 Review
The best budget smartphone
Many people have scarcely heard of the manufacturer, Huawei, apart from hearing their name creep up in news stories about cyber threats and espionage. However, the Chinese company has the potential to be one of the best kept secrets, so how will the Huawei Ascend P1, an entry-level smartphone, perform when put to the test?
The first thing I noticed about the Huawei Ascend P1 was just how light it is. Measuring in at 110g, it really is one of the lightest smartphones I have reviewed, and is even 2g lighter than the iPhone 5. However, I did feel that the way Huawei had managed to make the phone so light was by forming the phone’s body entirely of plastic, which does make the handset look and feel slightly cheap.
That said, I didn’t feel as though the device was fragile as with so many other smartphones, like the Nexus 4 or the Samsung Galaxy S3, and the lightweight feel of the device meant that it was completely comfortable to hold in your hand, in spite of its square corners.
The phone has a 4.3 inch screen with pretty impressive visual quality, and while its 256 pixel per inch density isn’t in the same league as the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S3, for an entry-level phone, it’s quite remarkable.
One thing that I didn’t like about the Huawei’s build, however, was its camera lens that protrudes a good three millimetres from the phone’s back casing, which I found caught constantly each time I put it into my pocket. Also, I found that the back of the handset got quite hot when used for a long period of time, which, whilst being a little irritating, isn’t a major detraction, especially as many more expensive models, like the Nexus 4, also suffer with the same problem.
Phone Set Up
The Ascend P1 is pre-loaded with Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich, which still offers all of the same features as the latest Android models, despite being slightly outdated by Jelly Bean.
Because the P1 is an Android phone, it essentially looks like any other Android. It features 5 customisable home screens, centred around one central screen where you can drag and drop all of your favourite apps or widgets.
One feature that I like about the Huawei’s home screens is that as you flit through each screen to get to the next, the pages overlap, and while this doesn’t add anything to the utility of the phone, it is a nice feature which shows a certain attention to detail.
There are three permanent but not physical icons at the bottom of the screen, one which allows you to return to the previous page, another which sends you to your home screen and a third which brings up your wallpaper and theme settings, the latter usually being hard to find on other Android phones.
What does make the Ascend P1 stand out from other similarly priced smartphones is just how fast the device switches from one application to another. Whereas other similar models such as the HTC Desire C take a couple of seconds to react, the Ascend P1 is operates at lightning speed due to its 1.5GHz dual-core processor, which in itself is massively impressive for a handset marketed at just £234.
Being an Android, the Huawei Ascend P1 offers many of the same Google apps and widgets as any other Android smartphone, such as Google maps, YouTube, Google Play Store and Navigation. However, there are also a few apps which make the Huawei stand out against other entry-level phones.
It is rare to see games pre-loaded onto Androids nowadays, and with the ease of the Google Play Store, most phones allow you to download any game of your choice at the touch of a button. However, the Huawei Ascend P1 offers Riptide GP, a water-ski racing game, which really makes the most of what the device has to offer.
Because you have to rotate the device in order to steer your way through the course, you really get to appreciate how sensitive and sophisticated the phone’s sensors are. Also, I was really impressed by the quality of the phone’s sharp display, which made playing on games extra enjoyable.
The Huawei’s built-in file manager is a great app that, whilst not being ground breaking or even that exciting, sure is a useful addition to the device. The app allows you to store all of your audio, video and images in one place alongside your documents and apps. If you like being organised and knowing where all of your files are, Huawei’s File Manager is a welcome feature of the Ascend P1.
Camera & Video
Pre and post production
Another surprise about the Huawei Ascend P1 is the fact that it has an 8 megapixel rear facing camera. Whilst other similar priced smartphones usually offer just 5 megapixels, Huawei has gone the extra mile in packing its best specs into its entry-level device.
Before taking any photos, the Ascend P1 gives you the option of selecting from one of 11 filters, such as black and white, sepia and blue, green or red overlays. Once you have taken the photo, you can even add a post-production filter, choosing from 7 options, in addition to editing the lighting, shadows and colours of the image. By selecting the ‘Doodle’ option, you can even draw over the top of your pictures, which can be a great way to stylise your images before sharing with friends.
Another function which above all makes the Huawei Ascend P1’s camera fun is the ability to play around with your friends’ faces, distorting their most prominent features by choosing from modes like big nose, insect, wide smile and big face, to name a few! Whilst this can contribute to much hilarity and endless hours of fun, it’s an odd feature to be built into a smartphone camera, and isn’t one that’s too useful in serious photography.
Now let’s get down to the photo-taking process itself. I found that the camera, while being of a fairly high quality, was quite slow.
It takes a few seconds for the lens to focus on the object, and it takes a further two seconds or so to actually take and save the photo after you have pressed to capture it. Because of this lag, it meant that taking successive shots was really difficult to do, and I found myself getting annoyed at missing the moment waiting for the phone to catch up with itself. Again, the process of switching from the camera to the video mode was incredibly easy, though annoyingly slow.
As for the options when taking photos, the Ascend P1 allows you to select from single, group, HDR, burst, smile, beauty, panorama, and low light mode, giving you the ultimate choice when taking your photo, especially for such a reasonably priced smartphone. However, when I tested the panorama mode, it didn’t measure up to other smartphone cameras, such as the Nexus 4 or HTC One, and created a rather blurred panoramic image.
I was fairly impressed with the quality of the photographs themselves, especially compared with other entry-level smartphones which tend to offer average to poor quality cameras. And with so many pre and post editing options available, I didn’t think that the Huawei Ascend P1 performed too badly. Just take a look at the photo gallery on the left to decide for yourself.
In all honesty, I was enthralled with the Ascend P1’s battery life. Making a smartphone survive more than just a day is a thorn in a phone manufacturers’ side, and is a huge downfall of many devices. However, I found that the Huawei performed extraordinarily in this category, lasting for almost a week when used to a minimal extent, which is a mean feat compared with most handsets marketed at a much higher price.
After being left idle for 5 days, the Huawei’s battery had only discharged by 58%, and when used more frequently over the following days, I didn’t have to charge the device until day 8.
Again, this is where Huawei stands out from all the rest of the entry-level and mid-range smartphones on the market, and with a 1670mAh battery, the Ascend P1 performs far better than the iPhone 5’s 1440mAh battery.
Although I wouldn’t put money on it, I would suggest with trepidation that this could well be the best smartphone battery that I have seen in recent times.