Looking for a low-cost high end premium smart device that circumvents the more lack luster MetroPCS, Boost Mobile and Cricket service providers of the world? China-based Huawei, a lesser known company to us Yanks here in the States, has something truly compelling for the ambitious penny pincher. The Ascend Mate2 4G is a large phablet style device from Huawei. The tech under the hood is definitely mid-range and we’re still on Android 4.3. No KitKat love here. Yet the cost is only $300. That’s a fabulous deal for such a device, which holds no contract restrictions or ties that bind.

1. Design

Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G

The Ascend Mate2 4G is a familiar looking device, like many large screen phablets on the market today. We received the black-on- black model. But the white model is the better looker. The wide 6.1-inch Gorilla Glass IPS panel display is fairly impressive for a 720p window. Colors pop with rich detail and it performs to offer a better viewing experience than, say, last year’s Samsung Galaxy S4. It weighs about as much as the HTC One max, but is lighter than Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It’s also wider and shorter than the One Max. The shorter width makes it much easier to use in a single hand. The removable back is slightly textures and mildly fights against slippage when held, more so than the older Galaxy S4, yet not as much as the S5.

The only physical buttons are on the right side of the device. You have a traditional volume rocker and Power button. Charging and data cable input is found on the bottom, aligned toward the right. Up top we have the audio jack for speakers and headphones.

2. Hardware

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The system-on-a-chip powering this new phablet is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor clocked at 1.6GHz. It’s definitely not the snazziest processor for today’s high end smart devices. But it’s a notable inclusion for such a feature-rich low-cost device. You will find this SoC in handsets like the Moto G LTE and the HTC One Mini. Memory and storage capacity are adequate and less worthy of mentioning here.

3. Battery

Huawei going for distance with the included 3900 mAh battery. I have not tested the extent of a single full charge just yet. But I’m expecting good things. The company purports more than 2 days of continuous use. On paper we have 12 hours of web surfing, ability to stream 3 full movies in a row, 100 hours of music listening or 25 hours of talktime. Impressive stuff. No other off-contract device offers such stamina.

4. New Ways to Interface

Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G_3

There are cool and unique ways to interface with your Ascend Mate2. The UI can be customized in many ways. But a couple of the cooler functions happen to be the ones Huawei has been talking up heavily. The phone W.O.W. feature is kind of neat. Turning on “Windows on Windows” allows you to have a the Calendar, Calculator, Notepad and/or the text messaging app to overlap any other window. Overlapping more than two windows makes the interface much to cluttered for seamless use. But the functions does make is to quickly throw URLs in a text messaging field or tally prices from etailer with the floating calculator overlapping.

Alternatively, the UI has tricks up the proverbial sleeve to simplify the experience as well. You can access One-Hand mode in the Settings. This aligns keyboard functions to the Left or Right depending on whihc hand you prefer for one-hand use. You can also convert the entire UI to a large tile motif much like we find in Windows Phones. There is even a Glove Mode so the unit can receive input commands while you’re wearing your favorite mittens and gloves.

5. Until The Review

Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G_4

I’m leaving it right here for now. Camera performance, more protracted user experience, games and call quality are still awaiting evaluation. Oh one thing… I could not get the unit to work with SIM chips plucked from Galaxy S5, Galaxy Note 3 or the HTC One Max. The first two are Sprint phones, while the latter is a Verizon SIM chip. I’m currently awaiting a SIM direct from Huawei. Fingers crossed I didn’t get a bad unit. Huawei public relations says the Ascend Mate2 should play nice with any SIM chip.

Shawn Sanders

Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.