- Reliable metal body
- Exceptional display-to-device ratio
- Functional fingerprint reader
- Great battery life
- Screen can get too dim
- Main camera is not up-to-date
- Battery isn't removable
The Ascend Mate7 is massive even compared to other phablets, but it does much more right than wrong. Its quality build, strong chipset, and excellent battery earn it a spot among the best in its class of devices.
Huawei has manufactured its first premium phablet in the Ascend Mate7, an excellent piece of mobile tech that, as Huawei has become wont to do in recent months, finds a good balance between high-quality components and a better-than-usual price tag (in parts of Europe, at least). Also typical of recent Huawei phones, the Ascend Mate7 is a phone that builds your appreciation for it over time, its finer points slowly but surely overcoming the annoyances of its enormous size as you use it.
Despite its name, the Mate7 is a 6-inch device with a largely aluminum frame and a 1080p IPS display surrounded by supremely thin bezels. It’s also equipped with a Huawei-produced chipset with an eight-core processor, a 13-megapixel main camera, a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, a 4100 mAh battery, Android 4.4 coated with Huawei’s Emotion UI 3.0 skin, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader that actually works as it’s supposed to.
This is one of the best available phablets on the market, all told, even if much of its specs aren’t fully up-to-date from a technical standpoint. Let’s take a fuller look at the Ascend Mate7, whose 2 GB RAM/16 GB storage model starts at €499 overseas.
Build and Design
With a body almost universally comprised of metal, you can tell as soon as you look at the Ascend Mate7 that it’s one of the most attractive phones Huawei has put together. It’s impossible not to see the influence of other metallic flagships like the HTC One (M8) and iPhone 5s here, but any lack of originality is mitigated by how tightly constructed and good-looking this build is.
Bearing dimensions of 157 x 81 x 7.9 mm (6.18 x 3.19 x 0.31 in) and weighing 185 grams (6.53 oz.), the Huawei Ascend Mate7 is shorter and slimmer than most phablets with smaller displays like the iPhone 6 Plus, and its curved back also feels more natural than the hand. Of course, it it’s still a full-blooded phablet, so it’s never really usable with one hand, but this relatively light footprint makes it rather pleasing to hold in spite of its inherent unwieldiness. Its unibody frame means that the battery cannot be removed, however, which is unfortunate.
The display dominates an exceptionally large portion of the front, about as much as any phone this side of Sharp’s Aquos Crystal, with almost nonexistent bezels on the left and right. There’s a speaker above the display, along with a 5-megapixel camera and various sensors, while the Huawei logo sits alone under the screen.The control keys are capacitive and take up a decent amount of the active display surface, but it doesn’t feel like much of waste of space on such a large screen.
MicroSIM and microSD card slots are on the left side, but since the Ascend Mate7 also comes with the option of dual-loading SIM cards, the microSD slot can be used as a slot for another SIM card too (including nanoSIM). You’ll have to forego any microSD privileges if you do that, though.
The Power key is over on the right edge, and just like the volume controls, is made out of abraded aluminum. All the external buttons are rather tiny for a phone of this size, but they have a deep press and are sufficiently responsive. The microUSB port and the primary microphone are situated on the bottom, while the 3.5-mm audio jack and the secondary microphone are on the top.
The Ascend Mate7’s back is its most interesting side, as it includes a fingerprint reader in addition to the main camera and accompanying LED flash. It reads fingerprints from virtually any angle, and is even capable of scanning wet fingers. Just a slight touch will activate the phone — no finicky swiping motions needed. In practice, it responds consistently and accurately, mostly blowing away every other mobile reader that’s tried to prove useful in recent months.
With a 6-inch IPS display, the Ascend Mate7’s full HD display results in a pixel density of 368 ppi. Given that big phones like the LG G3 have packed a QHD (2560 x 1440) resolution into slightly smaller displays, the Mate7 falls a bit short on the spec sheet in this regard, especially considering that this panel is big enough to actually make some use of that many pixels. Despite that, the display quality is perfectly fine for the vast majority of people. Only those with abnormal eyesight will be able to discern individual pixels with everyday use, unless you specifically set out to find them.
The Gorilla Glass 3 screen can generally get very bright, but you’ll need to watch out when manually reducing the brightness levels or setting it to automatic, because it can negatively affect color saturation. Luckily, Huawei is one of few manufacturers that allow you to adjust color intensity in its software settings, making at least some measure of a solution readily available. Meanwhile, the display’s contrast ratios are also better than average. White tones are very pure in particular, though black shades could stand to be slightly darker by comparison. The screen also offers very wide viewing angles, but it does have some issues maintaining its contrast and visibility in direct sunlight.
Overall, the screen is a pleasure to work with in most cases, but the display’s greatest selling point is the fact it’s so luxurious in relation to the device’s total size, occupying 85 percent of the front in total. One other appreciated perk: the display can be used with gloves, which is especially nice for this time of year (though this feature is a notable battery hog).