Huawei Ascend Mate 7 review

Is big beautiful again?

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 review
A metal body, fingerprint scanner and a clever microSD slot

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 review

Samsung's Galaxy Note series is credited with starting the phablet trend

For a relatively new segment of the mobile phone market, there are already a good number of decent plus-sized handsets to choose from. The original master is, of course, Samsung's Galaxy Note series.

The latest iteration boasts improved S-Pen functionality that includes two separate modes for the infamous stylus accessory: calligraphy and fountain. The fountain option is the more interesting, coming closer than ever to matching your own handwriting on the screen.

I don't feel a stylus is as necessary a tool as Samsung seems to think it is and the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 doesn't come with one – although you can pick up a third-party option cheaply enough. Simply speaking, it's a nice touch, but don't allow it to sway you away from the Ascend Mate 7.

While the Galaxy Note 4 boasts a fingerprint scanner, and the ability to assign apps to a registered fingerprint, the feature doesn't seem as well thought out as Huawei's offering. The Chinese company has added the scanner as a physical feature with haptic feedback and placed it nicely on the back of the phone. I feel it's more accurate and easier to use than Samsung's version – which itself feels like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to Apple's Touch ID.

While the Ascend Mate 7 may win over in terms of features, it doesn't really compete on terms of spec, specifically, the display. Samsung's screens have always been great and the QHD Super AMOLED screen on the Note 4 is excellent. It's smaller than Huawei's, at only 5.7 inches, but there's a higher pixel density and sharper colours.

Moreover, Samsung's take on Android 4.4 is easier to get to grips with than Huawei's. Although I would argue that the Emotion UI actually looks nicer.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 review

Sony's screen is premium quality

Sony's entry into the phablet market is looking a little dated now, but it still has some interesting features going for it. Notably, the fact that it boasts IP58 water and dust proof certification – so you can take it out into the wild should you wish.

It's also massive, with a 6.4-inch Full HD display. It's larger than the Ascend Mate 7 and, I would argue, too big for a phone. But then, if you're really just looking for the biggest screen you can get, it's worth a look.

Sony's screen and camera tech have always been highlights and the Xperia Z Ultra uses the X-Reality Engine from Bravia TVs in its display. The image is sharper and colour reproduction is better than Huawei's Ascend Mate 7.

Meanwhile, the 8MP camera, although less than Huawei's 13MP beast, does provide similarly good pictures and the front-facing camera on the Xperia Ultra will hit 1080p compared to the 720p managed by the Ascend Mate 7's.

However, this isn't a phone for future-proofing, and that's where it shows its age. The Huawei Ascend Mate boasts LTE Cat 6 with speed for 300mbps downloads while the Xperia Z Ultra is reliant on LTE Cat 4 with download speeds of 150mbps.

Given that you're looking at, potentially, a 2-year contract with this handset, it's something to take into account. I'd have to say the Ascend Mate 7 is the better choice here.

iPhone 6 Plus

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 review

Apple's iPhone 6 Plus has excellent build quality

So, here it is: Apple's plus-size iPhone with 5.5-inches of iOS 8 goodness waiting for you at just the price of a mid-range laptop. The iPhone 6 Plus is, I'm afraid, simply a much more premium phone than what Huawei is offering.

The design is excellent and the way it integrates with iOS 8 means that you can pick one up on a 24-month contract safe in the knowledge that it'll be running just as smoothly come 2016.

The app selection is fantastic and Apple's features, from Touch ID to HealthKit and Apple Pay are well thought-out and not mere gimmicks. The full specifications don't match up to the Ascend Mate 7 – there's only 1GB of RAM in the iPhone 6 Plus and no expandable storage but you do get a better user experience.

Unfortunately though, it's a user experience you're going to have to pay for. If you're on a budget and want a plus-size phone at a reasonable price then the Ascend Mate 7 is certainly where you should be looking. If money is no object then I would suggest looking at the iPhone 6 Plus as a contender.

But, the very fact that Huawei is now making a device that can legitimately be compared to Apple's flagship phone is, in and of itself, a sign of how very far the company has come.