Huawei Ascend Mate7 review: Raising the phablet bar

The best value for money phablet. Period.

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Huawei Ascend Mate7
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Well implemented finger scanner
  • Long lasting battery
  • Metal body
  • Dual-SIM capable
  • Performance hardware
  • Undercuts rivals on price

Cons

  • Camera performance
  • Heavy at 185 grams
  • Awkward to make calls

Would you buy this?

Huawei has taken off the gloves with its Mate7 phablet. The 6-inch smartphone wraps a bevy of cutting-edge tech in a coat of metal armour and tops the recipe off with simplistic software inspired by none other than Apple.

The Mate7 is all screen. The front is dominated by a 6-inch display that has a Full HD resolution. It is a vast amount of real estate primed for the consumption of content.

The bordering bezel has been shaved down, grounded until the expansive display could fit into a body that is as tall as the 5.5in iPhone 6 Plus. It brings to mind the feat achieved by LG’s G3.

Sealing the deal is the quality of the panel. Each inch is populated with 367 pixels, the viewing angles are wide and the colours are vibrant.

The body warrants more praise for 95 per cent of it is cold, hard metal. The design follows function and form, but even at its immense size, it’s a good looking smartphone.

The Mate7 weighs a hefty 185 grams, is 7.9mm thick and stands 157mm tall
The Mate7 weighs a hefty 185 grams, is 7.9mm thick and stands 157mm tall

Little details add to its charm. On the side are two metallic trays: one for 4G SIMs and another for expandable microSD memory. People who are content with the on-board 32GB of storage can make use of the memory tray as a secondary 2G SIM slot. Space for a second SIM means one can be used solely for voice calls, while another can be set to handle your Internet connection.

Located on the back of the Mate7 is a finger scanner. Up until now Apple alone has nailed this form of biometric security. Other renditions from Samsung and HTC have left us wanting for a reader that is more accurate and easier to use.

The finger scanner works at 360 degrees
The finger scanner works at 360 degrees

The finger scanner gracing the rear of the Mate7 easily rivals what’s found on Apple’s iPhone 6. Activating the screen and unlocking the smartphone happens in one swift motion. This is the finger scanner Android deserves. No gimmick here: it’s the real deal.

Large displays with rich resolutions are often accompanied by horrid battery life. The usual benchmark manufacturers strive to achieve is 24 hours. Many fall short. Huawei has tended to this gripe by integrating a 4100 milliamp-hour battery.

Good Gear Guide found the Ascend Mate7 could hold charge for 33 hours under heavy use. Switching on the ‘smart’ power saving mode helped us squeeze more than 48 hours of use from the smartphone. No doubt this phablet inherits battery life from its tablet side.

Charging the Ascend Mate7 with the included charger takes approximately 3 hours from flat to full
Charging the Ascend Mate7 with the included charger takes approximately 3 hours from flat to full

Two versions of the Mate7 will be released in Australia. The version reviewed by Good Gear Guide is the premium model, which has more RAM and internal storage at 3GB and 32GB respectively. Both models share an 8-core CPU developed by Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon. It consists of four economical 1.3GHz cores and another four powerful 1.8GHz cores. A ninth core clocked at 230MHz is featured for non-demanding tasks, such as music playback.

These numbers tell a good story. The 6-inch display proves ideal for gaming and the CPU works with a Mali-T624 GPU to make sure the on-screen action runs smoothly. Playing Real Racing 3 was genuinely enjoyable, characterised by immediate response time and plenty of volume from the rear speaker. A couple of frames were dropped over long gaming sessions, but we nonetheless maintain the Mate7 can handle heavy games.

It handles the operating system with finesse too. The Huawei runs 4.4 KitKat coated with a heavy overlay the company calls EMUI. The overlay is visually pleasing and, weirdly, has the texture of Apple’s iOS.

The Mate7 combines the application draw with its homescreen, so that widgets and icons rest besides one another. Swiping down at any time on this homescreen initiates a search styled much like Apple’s Spotlight. This is the most blatant imitation of Apple’s software to be found on the Mate7, although other subtleties too source inspiration from Apple.

The homescreen, task manager and the notification blind
The homescreen, task manager and the notification blind

Messages, dialler and dual SIM settings
Messages, dialler and dual SIM settings

Wanting software like Apple is akin to wanting to look like Brad Pitt — it’s hardly a crime. Huawei deserves commendation for differentiating its EMUI from Android so well. We only worry about future software support, which is often delayed or abandoned when smartphones carry such heavy overlays.

Huawei’s Mate7 might run Android, but between the finger scanner, the iOS inspired software and its size, this smartphone is proving a worthy alternative to the iPhone 6 Plus.

There is a downside to the Mate7, although we don’t fancy its shortcoming a deal-breaker. The smartphone packs 13- and 5-megapixel cameras that can’t compete with the best from Apple and Samsung. Most photos are free from fatal flaws; however, high contrast situations suffer, with details flushed out in whites or hidden in a uniform black.

Taken with the Huawei Ascend Mate 7
Taken with the Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Taken with the Huawei Ascend Mate 7
Taken with the Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Taken with the Huawei Ascend Mate 7
Taken with the Huawei Ascend Mate 7

A crop of the photo above at 100 per cent - Taken with the Huawei Ascend Mate 7
A crop of the photo above at 100 per cent - Taken with the Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Videos can be recorded in Full HD resolution by both cameras on the Mate7. The quality echoes the performance of its still photos, although the microphones used to record audio are easily overwhelmed by wind and other interferences.

Final Thought

Right now customers are spoiled for choice in the smartphone space with fantastic flagships from Apple, Sony, HTC, Nokia and Samsung. This is a space Chinese newcomer Huawei is struggling to compete in, and this is in spite of its noteworthy efforts with the Ascend P7 and G6.

But the phablet space…

Apple and Samsung are the only real hallmarks in the phablet space, and the Mate7 is a good enough phone to give the iPhone 6 Plus a run for its money. It even stands a chance against the pioneering Note 4 with a far superior finger scanner and fantastic battery life. The reality is fans of the phablet category should lend serious consideration to the Mate7, even more so than usual as the top-of-the-range model retails for $250 - $300 less than its Samsung and Apple rivals.

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