The Huawei Ascend Mate2 is the latest Android smart device from the China-based mobile company. The looks and specs may paint a familiar mid-range picture of the device. But what’s leading the charge of intrigue with this one is its unlocked, contract-free marital status. The Ascend Mate2 ushers in wide screen phablet style elegance for movie munches for only $200, with no contractual binds or subscription obligations. This places it in a unique class not shared by many similarly spec’d devices unless sold from outlets like the less-than-stellar Boost Mobile or MetroPCS.
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.
The display resolution maxes out at 720 x 1280 (720p) at the UI and across mutlimedia viewing scenarios. The camera can click pick at 4128 x 3096 and you can record video in 1080p. Despite a sub-standard sub-1080p display resolution, images look great behind the Gorilla Glass display. Colors are vibrant and pixel density is sufficient. It shows solid performance for photos and videos. Additionally, browsing the web while outdoors is unhampered and enjoyable. The highest brightness setting may not be enough for some users, but it is sufficient. In fact, I found the display to be superior to that of last year’s Galaxy S4.
A lower resolution display is a smart choice for battery sustainability, if you consider the other goodness whirring under the hood. The unit is running the older Android Jelly Bean (no KitKat yet for this one), which is powered by a Qualcomm MSM8928 Snapdaragon 400 processor. Moto G LTE and the HTC One Mini also use this very same SoC. Here the quad-core Cortex A-7 processor is clocked at 1.6GHz. Video processing is handled the midrange Adreno 305. It handle most games just, however.
The Ascend Mate2 is also equipped with 16GB of internal flash memory but expandable to 64GB with a MicroSD card used in the available slot under the back panel. Other notble inclusion featured are the Stereo FM radio, Two-way charging so you can charge other device with your Ascend Mate2, 13mp camera and a Li-ion 4050 mAh battery that goes the distance.
This is an area that surprised me. The rear-facing 13mp camera will produce very attractive pics. When used in amble naturally lit settings. The colors are vibrant and rich with a great degree of sharpness. Low light images don’t fair so well and none of the camera baked-in editing options can help poorly lit pictures. Capturing video at 1080p produced great videos with lush detail.
The Ascend Mate2 can easily push an entire day’s worth of heavy use on its 4050 mAh battery. After 2 days of light use, it still holds about 60% of its battery life. That is laudable. This supports the company’s claim of 48hrs or general use. Huawei states the batt-life can power 12 hours of Web surfing, streaming three full movies in a row, 100 hours of music listening, or 25 hours of talk time. That is some impressive stamina for an off-contract phablet.
UI and Performance
There are cool and unique ways to interface with your Ascend Mate2. We can thank naked and sexy unskinned Android UI, of which Huawei take great advantage. The UI can be customized in varying styles. The phone’s W.O.W. is the company’s customizable UI stacking. 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 too cluttered for seamless use. But the functions does make it easy to quickly throw URLs in a text messaging field or tally prices from etailer with the floating calculator overlapping.
On the other end of the UI spectrum, users can convert the interface into a much simpler UI; the Settings options reveal a One-Hand mode. This aligns keyboard functions to the left or right, depending on which hand you prefer, for one-hand use. You can also convert the entire UI to a large, tile-style ecosystem, not unlike the many Windows Phones. The Glove Mode will allow the unit to respond to touch while users are wearing gloves.
Honestly, the Ascend Mate2 doesn’t feel as low-end as some of the features suggest. The resolution is sub-1080p but the rich colors and suitable IPS panel display show images with a more contemporary quality than what we might expect from 720p. Camera images are great from the 13mp rear-facing camera with good image quality and color saturation. Pics in low light suffer horribly as they do on most lower-end mobile device.
Commands are registerd in earnest and the unit’s general performance feels faster than I ever gave the Snapdragon 400 chip credit.
I like the Ascend Mate2. Potential customers should shoot for the more elegant white colored model. But you will be hard-pressed to find an 6-inch off-contract phablet device that can perform at this level.