Huawei Ascend P7 review

Huawei's new hero phone isn't going to worry the flagships

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The Huawei Ascend P7 is thin, it's smooth and reliable for the most part, it has a camera that's about as good as you can reasonably expect from a phone.

It's also light and Huawei's interface customisations offer an original take on Android without being as wild as those stuffed into every screen by the likes of Samsung and LG.

But it's hard to get excited about the Ascend P7. I'm always hoping Huawei will one day explode the smartphone market by producing a budget marvel like the astonishing (for its price tag) Moto G.

Instead, it's chosen to battle the upmarket players with a phone that doesn't quite match the polished output of its competitors.

We liked

The lack of an app drawer will SHOCK established Android users to the CORE, but take a few days to get used to it and it works well. A couple of folders can be used to hide unwanted and unremovable apps, plus it's quite nice to know there's only one place to look for all your stuff. It's a bit like a budget iOS 7.

The secondary front-facing camera is shockingly good. The 8MP images come off the phone at 1836 x 3264 resolution, and shame the image quality produced by the main cameras of plenty of other mobiles.

Even the selfie software, with its blur slider and panorama option, is well thought out and quite fun to poke around and explore.

It's so light. It feels like an empty dummy iPhone 4 display unit, plus the tiny side bezel results in a 5-inch phone that's not clumsy to use in one-hand or a burden in the pocket. It's vastly smaller and lighter than most of the competition, so if travelling light is your thing, it's a winner.

We Disliked

The constant power consumption warnings are quite odd. The P7 warned us about the battery use of most of the apps on the phone at one point or another, offering the option to close the app or ignore it via the Android notifications tab. All it means it that, eventually, everything will find itself on the ignore list, making it a pretty pointless exercise.

Battery life's not good at all. With only a 2500mAh battery the P7 lags the likes of similar 5 inchers like the Xperia Z2 and Galaxy S5, with the phone really struggling to make it through a whole day of fairly active use. It also seems to chuck apps from memory all by itself, either to save RAM or battery power.

The user interface isn't as smooth as it could be. The notifications pull-down is often glitchy and slow to respond, which is odd as the P7 clearly has enough power inside it to run things properly.

It's perhaps something Huawei could fix with a patch, but it doesn't have the most glorious past when it comes to supporting phones with OS updates.

Verdict

The Huawei Ascend P7 is a solid phone across the board, but doesn't excel beyond the competition in any particular area.

The camera's not quite as punchy as the units in the high-end Nokias and the iPhone 5S or even Samsung's top Galaxys, the chassis isn't as impressive as the HTC One M8, the price not as low as the Nexus 5, the overall experience not quite as smooth as... loads of other phones.

The only real unique feature here is the class-leading 8MP front-facing "selfie" camera and its tidy custom software, which is indeed quite a bonus for people who like the look of their own faces or use their phones for serious amounts of video chatting.

As for the Ascend P7 as a whole, it's a classic jack-of-all-trades. Nice enough, thin and light and with a bravely different take on Android that veers into iOS clone territory, but without any headline reasons to make it your next phone.

If it was £100 cheaper, had a larger battery or some other amazing key feature not found elsewhere, it'd be brilliant. As such, the Huawei Ascend P7 is simply… quite good.

First reviewed: May 2014