Huawei Ascend Mate - Is Bigger Always Better?

Launch SRP: S$638

Performance and Conclusion

Performance

The Ascend Mate is powered by the company's own chipset, the Huawei Hi-Silicon K3V2 quad-core processor which debuted last year at MWC 2012. Similar to why Apple and Samsung design their own chipsets, Huawei believes that the development of in-house processors allows better optimization of both the hardware and software aspects, and this in turn will lead to an overall better performance and longer battery mileage.

To assess how the Huawei Ascend Mate fares against the competition, we ran the Quadrant benchmark. The test evaluates CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics of Android devices. In this comparison, we pit the Ascend Mate against the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Galaxy S4, ASUS PadFone Infinity and Sony Xperia Z.

How the Phones Stack Up
Device Huawei Ascend Mate Samsung Galaxy Note II Samsung Galaxy S4 ASUS PadFone Infinity Sony Xperia Z
CPU Huawei Hi-Silicon K3V2 quad-core 1.5GHz Exynos 4412 Quad
quad-core 1.6GHz
Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
quad-core 1.5GHz
GPU Vivante GC4000  Mali-400MP Adreno 320 Adreno 320 Adreno 320
RAM 1GB 2GB 2GB 2GB 2GB
OS Android 4.1 Android 4.1 Android 4.2.2 Android 4.1 Android 4.1

 

Despite its claims of having better overall performance due to the in-house processor, the Ascend Mate trailed behind the competition in the Quadrant benchmark. To put things into a clearer perspective, the Ascend Mate is on-par with the likes of the 4G-enabled Samsung Galaxy S III (5,260) and ahead of the HTC One X (4,025). 

Synthetic benchmarks aside, we found the user experience on the Ascend Mate to be slightly sluggish. This is surprising since Android 4.1 Jelly Bean should theoretically address the lagging issue prevalent in previous Android versions. There were noticeable instances of apps taking slightly longer to open or close, and the overall user experience wasn't as smooth as we've thought it would be on Jelly Bean devices.

 

Multimedia Performance 

The main highlight of the Ascend Mate is its massive 6.1-inch HD IPS+ display. With LG being the only phone vendor so far to introduce a full HD 5.5-inch display, we are willing to forgive the fact that the Ascend Mate comes with a HD resolution of just 1,280 x 720 pixels.

As it is an IPS+ display, you can expect very good viewing angles and balanced color reproduction. For screen purists, there is an option under the Display setting where you can adjust the color temperature to your liking. It is also noteworthy to mention that the Ascend Mate is one of the few phones (Nokia Lumia 920/925 and Samsung Galaxy S4 being the others) in the market that can be used with gloves on. This feature can be enabled or disabled in the settings. 

Due to its screen size, the Ascend Mate is very well suited as a multimedia device to browse the Internet, play games or watch movies. The only concerns of using a device with such screen sizes are the loss of personal privacy and inviting weird stares from people around you.

It is strange that for a device of its size, Huawei only included 8GB internal storage space. Out of the box, you only have 4.18GB available storage space. Fortunately, the Ascend Mate comes with a microSD card slot that supports cards up to 32GB.

 

Imaging Performance 

The Ascend Mate comes with an 8-megapixel rear autofocus camera with high dynamic range (HDR) support and a 1-megapixel HD front-facing camera. We put its rear camera through our standard imaging test and found that image quality is only about average for an 8MP camera.

 

Battery Mileage

Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters:

  • Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

 

Test Phones Compared
Specs/Device Huawei Ascend Mate Samsung Galaxy Note II Samsung Galaxy S4 ASUS PadFone Infinity Sony Xperia Z
Processor
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz
  • Quad-core 1.6GHz
  • Quad-core 1.9GHz
  • Quad-core 1.7GHz
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz
Display Size
  • 6.1-inch
  • 5.5-inch
  • 5-inch
  • 5-inch
  • 5-inch
Display Type
  • IPS+
  • Super AMOLED
  • Super AMOLED
  • Super IPS
  • TFT
Display Resolution
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
  • 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
  • 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Dimensions
  • 163.5 x 85.74 x 9.9mm
  • 151 x 81 x 9.4mm
  • 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm
  • 143.5 x 72.8 x 6.3 - 8.9mm
  • 139 x 71 x 7.9mm
Weight
  • 198g
  • 180g
  • 130g
  • 145g
  • 146g
Battery
  • 4,050mAh
  • 3,100mAh
  • 2,600mAh
  • 2,400mAh
  • 2,330mAh

 

 

 

 

With a 6.1-inch display and a quad-core processor, it is actually quite impressive that the Ascend Mate managed to last 8 hours and 31 minutes in our standard battery test. Its better-than-expected battery life is attributed to its equally massive battery which is rated at 4,050mAh.

Aside from the Sony Xperia Z, the Ascend Mate registered one of the highest power consumption at 2W. The 5.5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note II managed to maintain a low 0.89W. It is however, too early to conclude if such numbers are typical of 6-inch and above devices and we have to see how the Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 fares.

Not surprisingly, its massive dimensions and weight caused the Ascend Mate to rank last in our Portability Index where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage with its size and portability. 

While our battery test is quite strenuous and is used to help us establish a base line for comparing between various smartphone offerings, in an actual usage scenario, we were able to get close to a day and a half of battery life. This included our regular weekday schedule of calls, email, web-surfing and social media usage.

If you are looking to maximize the battery mileage on the Ascend Mate, there is a power management feature on the device. Known as the Power Manager, you can choose between three modes: Intelligent, Normal and Optimum performance. 

  

Conclusion

At the start of the review, we posted two questions on the Huawei Ascend Mate. First, does the Ascend Mate replace the need to have a separate phone and tablet device? Second, is a 6.1-inch smartphone practical in our daily life?

Our answer to the first question is a resounding yes. It's more pocketable compared to 7-inch tablets; at the same time delivering comparable features and functions such as long battery life and large screen estate. We don't foresee its portability to be an issue for ladies since they are usually carrying their handbags around. For the gentlemen, the Ascend Mate will feel like a brick in slim fit or skinny jeans, and is better held in the hands, with maybe a folio case.

As for the second question, the Ascend Mate will not be practical for the average consumer. It appeals to a niche market segment, in particular those who are using the Samsung Galaxy Note II and those who do not mind such mega-sized devices. Why would we advise the average consumer against getting the Ascend Mate? Well, for one, we feel it is too massive for one-handed operation, and the 6.1-inch display is an overkill for basic to moderate multimedia consumption purposes. Then again, many of us were wrong about the 'phablet' that is the Galaxy Note when it first launched.

Priced at S$638, the Huawei Ascend Mate basically undercuts the competition. Samsung recently announced two Galaxy Mega devices, the Mega 5.8 (S$598) and Mega 6.3 (S$798). On paper, the Ascend Mate trumps both devices in the processor department (dual-core vs. quad-core), screen size (compared to the Galaxy Mega 5.8) and battery capacity. On the other hand, Huawei is not particularly known to deliver software updates swiftly for its mobile devices; so Samsung takes the cake in this area. Both Galaxy Mega devices also run on a newer version of Android (4.2.2) and the Galaxy Mega 6.3 is LTE-enabled. The Ascend Mate has neither NFC or 4G support.

All in all, if large screen size is your top priority and you can overlook the flaws we've detailed above, the Ascend Mate can be considered value for money. At the moment, the laggy interface prevents us from recommending it wholeheartedly. Hopefully, this can be resolved via software updates in the near future.

7.5
Design
7.5
Features
7.5
User-Friendliness
7.5
Performance
8
Value
8
The Good
Large, beautiful IPS display
Long battery life
Affordable large-screen phone
The Bad
Slightly sluggish performance
Average imaging performance
Overwhelming size and weight
No LTE support