• Huawei Ascend P7 Review

    We can connect and do more than ever before on the move; and much of this is thanks to the hardware that actually makes this all possible, a very large proportion of which is manufactured by Chinese firm Huawei.

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    Huawei Ascend P7

    Having spent many years making the technology that allows all of the above to happen, you would assume that their smartphones should match in terms of capability and performance. The P7 is their latest handset to hit the UK so lets take a look and see how it compares. The P7 has a solid set of specifications that are certainly comparable if not better than the vast majority of handsets that are used on a daily basis now. It is not all that easy to stand out in the smartphone market at the moment. There are so many devices all offering their own uniques, so Huawei have to offer something special on the P7 to make it capable of competing. From the moment you set eyes on the P7 it is evident that slim and stylish are words you can use to describe it. A glossy slab of electronic engineering, the P7 certainly does not look out of place sat next to the Sony smartphones. Like the recently reviewed G3, hours of craftsmanship have clearly gone into the P7. It is 6.5mm thick, iit feels good as a result. Although this thin profile looks great and feels quite good, a slight curvature to the edge would have gone further to make the device feel more comfortable in the hand. 7 layers of specially treated glass adorns the back of the P7. Using a micro-pattern design never before seen in a smartphone, the P7 has increased transparency and a spin pattern to it. If I had to find fault, it would be with the execution of the plastic fame to the glass. This is most apparent from the bottom of the device. The curved edge is plastic and then you get the obvious look and feel of material difference with this and the glass. The brushed grey banding around the device looks metal, but it is of plastic construction and all the glass makes it a fingerprint magnet. The P7 has a 5″ full HD touchscreen display. The P7 has a pixel per inch density of 445 which is again on par with comparable handsets, although the G3 is somewhat of an exception at over 500! With just 2.97mm bezel to the left and right side of the screen, the frame of the P7 is impossibly thin and the device boasts a screen to body ratio of 72.16%. Huawei have used Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the front, the downside of which is that the screen appears to be quite reflective. The viewing angles are pretty good although at more extreme angles it is apparent that the vibrancy is lost. When used outdoors in direct sunlight the experience is better than many, but not as good as some, so creating a shield with your hand may be necessary in the brightest conditions. The P7 is quite heavily customised in that is it not immediately apparent that it is powered by Android, but it is. Version 4.4.2, which means full access to Google Play Store for downloading you preferred apps. The icons and colours used are very iOS like with curved edges and soft tones. You do not get an app tray like other handsets, the apps are added to home screens, so you scroll right or left to organise and access these. The default icons have been tweaked and even third party apps you add get revised icons to make them fit in with the theme. There are the normal customisation options including changing wallpapers and themes as well as adding widgets and more. Huawei also include a their own theme option to personalise the device. There are different screen transitions and a simple home option which offers a much bigger bolder, windows phone esq look for simplified use. This is great for those who perhaps are hard of sight or want a more obvious user interface. Everything including the settings become a bit bigger and bolder. Huawei have added lots of little apps that make the P7 useful out of the box. Phone Manager – Scans for problems, checks your settings and instantly optimise your P7. Phone Accelerator – Checks your network and improves your connection speed. Storage Cleaner – Scans the P7 and removes unwanted files. Harassment Filter – Blocks unwanted calls and messages by adding numbers to a blacklist Networked Apps – Monitors your network and controls what apps access WLAN 3G/4G for better mobile data usage. Backup – Creates a backup of your phone contents. You choose from apps and media and more as to what you wish to backup locally. Magnifier – Uses the camera as a magnifying glass. Flash used as a light if necessary. Swype keyboard is also included. A recognised aftermarket keyboard, the P7 has this available out of the box. The P7 has a variety of options to control the device by gestures. Flip to mute – Works for incoming calls, timers and alarms Pickup to reduce the ringing – Works for incoming calls, timers and alarms Raise to ear – To answer and make calls Shake – To rearrange icons on home screen when in editing mode Tilt – To move icons and widgets to another screen There is glove mode for increased screens sensitivity when using the device in cold conditions. There is a suspend button too which offers a quick access movable panel of controls. This is great for multitasking and offers shortcuts to calendar, text messages, notebook, calculator and music player which open up in little windows on top of what you are doing when in use. These windows can be moved or increased to full size. You can also continue to work whilst these ‘float’ over what is going on in the background. With extensive network infrastructure experience, the P7 has been built by Huawei to maximise the speeds available on a network as well as reducing power consumption. Whilst 4G is becoming more common, it is still an everyday occurrence to be switching to 3G or even 2G. The P7 switches rapidly between these connections to ensure the minimum of disruption. During my time with the P7 it was apparent that signal was strong and I was most certainly getting better signal on the Huawei than I would on my Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, thanks to dual antennas, one at the top and one at the bottom of the P7. USB hosting and video out using a 5 pin MHL cable is supported on the P7. A small frustration is that the P7 does not support the 5GHz WiFi frequency. The audio experience pleasantly surprised me. Call quality was very good, noticeably so. The single rear speaker is not as loud as some devices like the Xperia E1 but packs a punch The clarity was the big thing, it was much better than I expected with a relatively good balance. The positioning is not too bad either. When held in portrait mode there is little chance of muffling the sound. It is more possible in landscape mode, but you will soon learn where to position your hand. It does not beat the M8, so HTC retain that crown. There is an FM radio for those who require such. There are two cameras in the P7. The rear is home to a 13 megapixel camera with a 28mm wide angle, 5 piece aspherical lens that works in conjunction with a 4th generation Sony backside illuminated sensor and IMAGESmart Engine 2.0, to capture rich detailed images, inside or out, day or night. There are a variety of shooting modes within the camera to give you quite a broad range of functionality and control. Normal mode is equivalent to manual mode, whilst smart is an automatic intelligent mode picking the best settings. Beauty offers a 10 level auto face enhancement, ideal for portraits. Filters applies a colour scheme or tone to an image live rather than after capture. Audio Note takes a 10 second audio clip with a single image. Audio Control triggers the camera when a certain decibel reading is achieved. Best Photo takes 10 photos in quick succession from which the best one can be picked. Watermark allows you to leave a mark on the image. Based primarily on your location, it can be edited. Panorama and HDR are also present. Advanced settings include control of object tracking, timer, ISO, White Balance, stabliser for video and more. You can set the volume button as zoom controls or to take photos or video. This is a nice addition when there is no dedicated camera button. A double press of the volume down key can either just open the camera or open it and take a picture. It is this feature that allows you to capture a picture within 1.2 seconds. The front camera is 8 megapixels. It has a 5 piece aspherical lens which incorporates a Blue Glass infrared sensor that enhances the clarity of photos and aims to reduce deformation and purple fringing to images. It has an F2.4 aperture. There are few nice touches here to including a smart preview window which tells you where to look in the effort to get the most natural and best looking photo. To aid with the selfie craze and portrait shot, there is a 10 level face enhancement tool that can be adjusted to help get the ideal skin tone balance. Use the camera as a mirror with the mirror function and capture a panorama shot with the front camera too, so you can put yourself at the heart of the image. With both front and rear cameras you can take advantage of the 4x digital zoom, which was generally quite good when you need it. Not as grainy as some, but still best avoided unless absolutely necessary. Once captured and you are reviewing images you can make a few tweaks with the comprehensive built in photo editor to perfect the images. Overall the image results were perfectly acceptable, better than the majority but not as good as some of the flagships. Some cameras have the ability to draw you into the shot and the P7 did not do that for me, although I would happily share many of the shots I took. Some shots look a little over exposed with others looking a little over saturated with blues being particularly blue and whites being very white. Zoom in and they quickly lose clarity and noise in the image becomes more apparent, this is particularly evident in lower light shots. I took the majority of shots on the ‘smart’ mode as this is likely the mode that most of us will shoot in. Capture HD video footage too through both the front and rear camera and with the variety of connections, you can easily share this online. The results were pretty good. I felt results were actually better from the front camera than the rear. Sound picked up on the microphone is really clear, far better than the Sony Xperia Z2. The reproduction of colour and clarity on the rear camera in my mind was not as good. Colours did look a little over saturated at times but this was made up for the generally good audio quality picked up by the microphone. A nice feature is the ability to pause video recording, so that you can change scenes or let time pass, but still have one complete video clip. The P7 does not support 4K like many flagship phones. The P7 did ok on battery life but not as well as I hoped. Whilst my usage will be different to yours, I found that I just got through a normal working day (8-10 hours) with the P7 without having to worry about closing apps and being careful to conserve power. I was not filed with the confidence that I could really go a full 12+ hours though without becoming worried and adjusting my usage to accommodate it. Making use of some of the clever management tools such as networked apps, you should be able to achieve longer usage times. Ultra Power Saving mode is available to shut off functions that drain the battery the most, leaving the more essential calling and texting and giving you up to 24 hours on just a 10% charge. You will be pleased to know it worked. To conclude, the P7 looks very similar to the Xperia Z2, but I think the P7 is a better design than the bulkier Z2. It has the specification to make it desirable and generally performs to a standard that one expects. The P7 just ends up sitting in a slightly odd position in comparison to the more talked about smartphones of today. It is more expensive than the low end devices like the Moto G but considerably cheaper than the high end ones. When you take everything into account the hardware,software and performance is slightly better and slightly worse in respect to both categories. The P7 is most closely matched to the Samsung Galaxy S4 of last year all be it better looking, but whilst it may be 12 months old, the S4 remains a popular handset that many desire, so the P7 could be a winner for many. What the P7 does is craft a space in the market that few others have. It gives an all round package that delivers, failing to match the flagships but for that you can be in the region of £200 better off; and that is a big saving that is justifiable for many unless you really need the benefits the high end phones deliver. The P7 does do away with many of the ‘gimmicks’ that some manufacturers build into the phones, focusing on giving more of what you really need and want. The P7 is Huawei’s best attempt yet to make an impact on the smartphone market and it has what it takes to be for many, their mobile of choice and I am sure they will not be disappointed.

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