This year’s CES saw a fleet of Android flagships sail into view from a range of manufacturers. The Huawei Ascend D2 has an impressive set of specs and it’s looking to make a splash as a premium Android smartphone. There’s plenty of competition in this space so what does the Ascend D2 bring to the party that makes it worthy of your attention? We decided to throw it into battle against the HTC Droid DNA, one of the last big releases of 2012. Both devices are big and powerful, but there can be only one winner. Let’s get started.
It seems that 5 inches is the line. A 5-inch display is as big as you can go before you stumble into “phablet” territory. Both the Droid DNA and the Ascend D2 boast 5-inch touchscreens with full HD 1080p resolutions. That’s 1920×1080 pixels breaking the 440ppi mark. In simple terms, these displays look amazingly sharp and detailed.
There’s no separating these devices on display, they both look gorgeous. We’ll need some more time with the D2 to really determine whether it’s every bit as good as the DNA’s display, but at first glance it appears to be.
Design and feel
These are both big smartphones and they might be a little too big for some people. There’s very little to choose between them when it comes to the tale of the tape. The Ascend D2 is very slightly smaller, but you won’t be able to see much of a difference. The Droid DNA measures 140.9 x 70.6 x 9.7 mm and the Ascend D2 measures 140 x 71 x 9.4 mm. There’s a much bigger discrepancy when it comes to weight. The DNA is 140g while the Ascend D2 is a hefty 170g, we’ll come to the reason for that later.
In terms of build quality any assumption that the Ascend D2 might feel cheap would be erroneous. Huawei has used glossy plastic for the backing, but there’s a stainless steel trim and it looks and feels quite classy, if a bit chunkier than its competitor. The Droid DNA maintains HTC’s usual reputation for quality. The backing is tapered, soft-touch plastic and it comes in classic black with red highlights.
The most obvious difference is that Huawei has opted for on-screen buttons on the D2 whereas the DNA has touch sensitive buttons beneath the display. A nice touch by Huawei allows you to tap to slide the on-screen buttons out of sight, so they don’t need to steal any screen real estate. One minus point for the DNA is the power button placement on the top of the phone; it should really be on the side like the D2.
This one is tight, let’s call it a draw.
User interface and platform
Both smartphones are rocking Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The difference is HTC’s Sense versus Huawei’s Emotion UI. Huawei’s overlay lacks a traditional app drawer and seems a bit more quirky at first glance. Would stock Android be better? Probably, yes.
It’s a matter of personal taste which UI you prefer.
Processor and RAM
We have a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset with 1.5 GHz quad-core Krait processor in the Droid DNA versus Huawei’s own 1.5GHz quad-core K3V3 processor in the Ascend D2. Both devices have 2GB of RAM. They both seem very fast to navigate and load apps, this is a photo finish. We’ll have to wait for benchmark tests to reveal the winner here.
It’s another draw.
The DNA has just 16GB of internal storage and, horror of horrors, there’s no microSD card slot. By the time you account for all the bloatware that comes on the DNA you have about 11GB of storage. That’s really disappointing from HTC.
By contrast the Ascend D2 has 32GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot. Well done Huawei.
The Ascend D2 wins this one hands down.
The megapixel ratings on smartphone cameras seem to be climbing fast and the D2 boasts a 13-megapixel rear-facing shooter and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. The DNA has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera. They can both record 1080p video.
We’ll need some real world photos and videos to really compare these two properly, but the D2 has a better main camera on paper.
There was a bit of a fuss when the Droid DNA launched with a 2,020mAh battery. The general consensus was that it was underpowered considering the 5-inch display, but battery tests revealed decent performance in practice. The Ascend D2 is not going to fall victim to the same claims as Huawei has packed in a 3,000mAh battery. We suspect that, along with the steel, accounts for the extra weight.
Again we’ll need real world tests to prove how long the D2 can last, but it’s a safe bet that it will outlast the DNA.
Value for money
The Droid DNA is $199.99 with a two-year contract at Verizon. Off contract it’s $599.99.
Huawei has promised a U.S. release for the Ascend D2 at some point, but there’s no word on carriers or pricing. All we know for sure is that it will release in China this month and Japan soon after. The rest of the world will have to wait and see. We’d be surprised if it was priced very differently to the DNA.
…and the winner is
These devices are actually very similar on a number of counts, but the Ascend D2 grabs the win with superior storage, a better camera, and a bigger battery. Huawei had problems last year especially with breaking into the U.S. market after the dubious claims about espionage related to router security (never backed up with any facts). It will be interesting to see if the company can secure a good distribution deal and which carriers will pick the D2 up.
Whatever way you slice it the Ascend D2 is a beauty. It’s a really impressive Android smartphone and at the right price, it should perform very well in the market.