Huawei Ascend P2 – Almost Fast and Furious

Launch SRP: S$768

Performance and Conclusion

Performance

Like the Ascend Mate, the Ascend P2 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 Ascend P2 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 P2 against the Ascend P1, HTC One and LG Optimus G.

How the Phones Stack Up
Device Huawei Ascend P2 Huawei Ascend P1 HTC One LG Optimus G
CPU Huawei Hi-Silicon K3V2 quad-core 1.5GHz TI OMAP 4460 dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
quad-core 1.5GHz
GPU Vivante GC4000 PowerVR SGX540 Adreno 320 Adreno 320
RAM 1GB 1GB 2GB 2GB
OS Android 4.1 Android 4.0 Android 4.1 Android 4.1

As noted in the review of the Ascend Mate, the Hi-Silicon K3V2 quad-core processor trailed behind the current generation of quad-core processors, such as the one on the HTC One. Even the previous generation of Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processors found in the LG Optimus G, Nexus 4 and Sony Xperia Z fared better in the Quadrant benchmark. While it performed better than the dual-core Ascend P1, the margin was not significant.

Synthetic benchmarks aside, we found the user experience on the Ascend P2 to be slightly sluggish, which is similar to what we encountered on the Ascend Mate. 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 

Still remember the two "firsts" that Huawei claimed on the Ascend P2? Well, both are related to the multimedia aspects of the device. First, Huawei claims that the Ascend P2 utilizes the world's first HD in-cell technology. What is in-cell technology? Here's a brief introduction to display technologies:

Display panels in most smartphones have three layers - a touch-sensitive layer, the actual LCD display panel at the bottom, and a cover layer at the top. There is usually an air gap in between the display panel and touch screen to ensure that both panels do not interfere with each other. However, having multiple layers in between affects color saturation, as light needs to pass through them all to get to the user's eyes. As such, the more layers in between, the less accurate touch feedback becomes.

Recent advancements in display technologies and manufacturing processes have enabled display makers to eliminate the air gap, as well as to either move the touch layer onto the cover layer (on-cell), or put the touch layer onto the display panel (in-cell). In this case, Huawei utilizes the latter technique. 

The LG Optimus G uses Zerogap Touch (G2, on-cell) where the air gap is eliminated between the glass and the LCD panel. The HTC One, on the other hand, uses optical lamination, another technique to remove the air gap. The Apple iPhone 5 is one of the few phones using in-cell technology. So is Huawei's claim true? At this point in time, it is. 

Besides being clearer and 30% thinner than conventional displays, the 4.7-inch display of the Ascend P2 is able to deliver better viewing angles and has lower power consumption. The display is also very bright, where it can be tuned up to a maximum of 500 nits. In comparison, the ASUS PadFone Infinity has a maximum of only 400nits while the PadFone 2 comes with an outdoor viewing mode to boost the brightness of the display up to 550 nits.

Like the Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Ascend Mate, the Ascend P2 can be used with gloves on. Dubbed "MagicTouch", the feature can be enabled or disabled via Settings > Gloves Mode. Overall, the display looks great with sharp text and rich colors. 

The other "first" is its support for LTE Cat 4 speeds up to 150Mbps. Currently, SingTel is the only telco in Singapore to launch a commercial 150Mbps 4G service. So what about the other 4G-enabled smartphones? The Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III LTE support LTE CAT 3 speeds of up to 100Mbps. Theoretically, Ascend P2 users should enjoy faster surfing speeds. In actual usage conditions, it is far from being a reality.

We used the Speedtest.net app to run speed tests at three outdoor locations at different times in the day: Yew Tee (morning), Woodlands and Sembawang (both evening). As you can see from the readings above, the download speeds varied across the board. Of them, the Ascend P2 managed to exceed download speeds of 50Mbps on three occasions. 

When queried on the speed results that we got, a Huawei spokesperson states that the CAT 4 support of 150Mbps is a theoretical value. As we conducted the tests in a loaded, live network with multiple concurrent users, we should refer to the typical speed ranges stated on SingTel website.

We were also curious to know which areas in Singapore can users enjoy such speeds. A SingTel spokesperson told us that users can enjoy these speeds outdoors nationwide. However, the coverage is limited to several indoor locations. SingTel will be rolling out to more sites progressively. Here's the list of indoor sites: 

  • Wisma Atria
  • Bishan Junction 8 
  • Raffles City Tower (High-Rise)
  • Raffles City Shopping Center & Swissotel Ballroom
  • Tampines Mall
  • Singapore Expo (Podium 12) and Hall 7-10
  • DBS Asia Hub
  • Bugis Junction
  • West Mall
  • Forum Galleria The Shopping Centre Mall
  • Funan Centre
  • Suntec Tower 1,2 and 5
  • Far East Plaza
  • NCS Hub Block A, B and C
  • Tiong Bahru Plaza

Generally speaking, we did not feel any significant improvement in the web browsing experience on the Ascend P2. It felt similar to the other 4G LTE devices that we've tested so far.

 

Imaging Performance 

The Ascend P2 comes with a 13-megapixel rear BSI camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. It is one of the few camera phones to sport a dedicated camera button on the bottom right side of the device. The camera can be activated from the home screen by pressing and holding the button for a few seconds. Take note though, the phone only has 16GB of internal storage space and offers no expansion capability if you intend to take a lot of photos and videos.

  

Battery Performance

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
Specifications/Device Huawei Ascend P2 Huawei Ascend P1 HTC One LG Optimus G
Processor
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz
  • Duad-core 1.5GHz
  • Quad-core 1.7GHz
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz
Display Size
  • 4.7-inch
  • 4.3-inch
  • 4.7-inch
  • 4.7-inch
Display Type
  • IPS
  • Super AMOLED
  • Super LCD 3
  • IPS+
Display Resolution
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 960 x 540 pixels
  • 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
Dimensions
  • 136.2 x 66.7 x 8.4mm
  • 129 x 64.8 x 7.69mm
  • 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3mm
  • 131.9 x 68.9 x 8.45mm
Weight
  • 122g
  • 130g
  • 143g
  • 145g
Battery
  •  2420mAh
  • 1670mAh
  • 2300mAh
  • 2100mAh

The Ascend P2 lasted 11 hours and 17 minutes, which is by the far the longest battery mileage we've seen from any 4.7-inch smartphone. In comparison, the 4.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S III LTE has a battery up-time of 560 minutes (9 hours and 20 minutes), while the newer 5-inch Samsung Galaxy S4 rakes in a battery up-time of 647 minutes. With these statistics, it is clear that the Ascent P2 has trumped the industry giants in battery stamina and power consumption!

Despite switching from a more power efficient AMOLED display to IPS, the Ascend P2 managed a rather low power consumption of 0.9W compared to the 0.82W on the Ascend P1. Likewise, the Ascend P2 topped the Portability Index, where where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage with its size and portability. Looks like Huawei's gamble to design processors and and everything else in-house is slowly paying off.

Under normal daily usage conditions, we were able to squeeze out about a day of battery life from the Ascend P2. As with all 4G LTE smartphones, battery tends to drain faster if you are browsing the internet on the 4G network. If you are looking to maximize the battery mileage on the device, there is a power management feature called Power Manager. It enables you to choose between three modes: Intelligent, Normal and Optimum performance.

 

Conclusion

By all accounts, Huawei achieved the same degree of success with the Ascend P2 as it did for the Ascend P1 a year ago. The Ascend P2 may not have the latest and best specifications on paper, but it delivered a pretty decent overall performance. 

Its greatest strength is the surprisingly good battery performance, which other Android vendors such as HTC and LG should learn a trick or two from. We also can see Huawei focusing on delivering a good user experience by investing in its own Emotion UI and processor to match up to the competition. At this moment, the Chinese company is still trailing behind, but given time, we believe Huawei is able to refine and polish them to higher standards. Furthermore, its imaging performance is decent, thus making it a good all-rounder. If there is one area where we wish Huawei can improve as soon as possible, that would be the responsiveness and smoothness of the phone. As highlighted earlier, the phone appears to be a tad sluggish when compared to other top tier devices it's going up against.

Available at S$768, the Huawei Ascend P2 is one of the most affordable 4.7-inch Android smartphone that comes with 4G LTE support. While it has its own strong marketing points such as supporting LTE Cat.4 speeds and the world's first HD in-cell screen technology, from an overall package perspective, it still has strong competition.  For example, the $968 HTC One (32GB) gains the upper hand in terms of storage capacity, better performance, more solid design and a sleeker user interface. The S$798 LG Optimus G (32GB) comes with more storage space, slightly better build and a unique user interface. However, if battery life is one of your top criteria, the Ascend P2 easily trumps the two competitors - if you don't mind the slightly sluggish responsiveness.

In short, the Huawei Ascend P2 could have really been a value show stopper if it was more polished.

7.5
Design
7.5
Features
7.5
User-Friendliness
8
Performance
8
Value
7.5
The Good
Slim and lightweight
Excellent battery performance
Bright and sharp display
Decent imaging quality
The Bad
Slightly sluggish performance
Does not offer significant 4G speed boost
No memory card slot - only 16GB built-in
Glossy plastic back