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

Any manufacturer is now likely to be toting a phone with a larger screen. Whether its 5.5-inches or 6.3-inches, the appeal of larger handsets isn't going away any time soon. To its credit, Huawei has created a phone that is more than just a blown-up version of its Huawei Ascend G7 premium device.

The Ascend Mate 7 is the kind of phone you'll come to reluctantly at first. Undoubtedly pre-judging it as a Chinese approximation of what the best tech companies are producing. But spend a bit of time with it and that impression is redefined.

Actually, the fingerprint scanner really does work well. And the aluminium casing really does have the right balance between heft and lightness. And actually, that battery life isn't quite as bad as you thought it would be. See what I mean?

We liked

The fingerprint scanner is a great feature that really adds something here. With a phone this size, it's easier to use it than the power button on the right hand side. The ability to lock apps is also useful, meaning you can hand your phone round to friends for them to look at pictures and know they can't go breezing through your emails.

I also liked the ability to dual-load two different SIMs into the Ascend Mate 7. As someone who regularly carries around too much tech, the idea of a single device to manage both a work SIM and personal one is appealing.

Ultimately though, I just appreciated the way the phone is put together. The metal casing and lack of bezels meant the 1080p screen was given its due. While the slightly curving, thin design and light weight meant that it was comfortable to hold for a long time. Even if I did nearly drop it once. Okay, twice.

We disliked

The Emotion UI still doesn't feel quite as intuitive as iOS 8 or native Android. I kept going for the app drawer, only to realise it isn't there. The level of customisation and selection of themes on offer are both great, but I have to ask myself how often will the average person really use them? Probably not that often, but at least it's grown up a bit from previous versions.

Sound is a bit of an issue with the Ascend Mate 7. In that I kept placing my finger over the speaker grille when holding the phone in landscape mode. Given that I'm going to want to use that big screen for watching movies and playing games, this was a bit of a distraction.

Lastly, and it's a bit of a weak point, I concede, but I just think 6-inches is too big for a phone. The size creates issues that Huawei has tried to solve with a one-handed usage setting and motion control features. But really, I'm just not that way inclined to such a big handset. But hey, at least the battery holds up alright.

Verdict

Emerging from the shadows cast by the likes of Apple and Samsung, Huawei has given us an excellent plus-sized handset to consider. The rear-facing fingerprint scanner is well implemented and other useful features like dual-SIM support through the microSD slot show the Chinese company is innovating nicely.

At its core are a decent cabal of specifications that keep the handset running quickly, if not quite as smoothly or intuitively as its native Android or iOS counterpoints. But the sticky issue of battery life is handled very well by a thorough power management app that lets you tweak and optimise to your heart's consent.

It also remains to be said that in terms of value, Huawei has given us an attractive proposition with the Ascend Mate 7. It's a well-crafted handset and doesn't at all invoke the Chinese knockoff image that many might associate with the brand.

If you've got money to burn then Apple's iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 will edge out the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 as the more popular option. But I enjoyed my time with Huawei's phablet and can easily say that the Chinese firm is now on a level with those aforementioned brands.

First reviewed: September 2014