Huawei Ascend Mate 7 Review

by: Joshua VergaraNovember 4, 2014
722

The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Great industrial design
  • Big display brings good experience
  • In-house performance package is fast and reliable
  • Battery life is where it should be
  • Camera quality is good, especially with a nice 5MP front shooter
  • Fingerprint reader is a very welcome surprise
  • Emotion UI looks great and is really smooth
CONS
  • Size is pretty unwieldy for even large hands
  • Speaker quality is average
  • Camera modes sometimes are useless (HDR in particular)
  • Without an app drawer, Emotion UI not for everyone
8.7
A great fingerprint reader is just one portion of what turns out to be a great package in the Huawei Ascend Mate 7. 

Huawei’s continued attempts to break into Western markets has been slowly showing some results, helped along by the fact that the Chinese company has some fantastic devices on offer. Following a string of solid mid-range smartphones, Huawei unveiled its latest high-end offering back at IFA a few months ago, which has turned out to be a really great phone. In this in-depth review, we take a closer look at the Huawei Ascend Mate 7!

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (9 of 20)

Huawei has had some success in design in the past, and continues to do so this time with the larger offering of the Ascend Mate 7. It’s hard to ignore the large 6-inch screen, but looking around the device, you’ll find a very well constructed metallic frame, with a nice industrial look and feel. The power button is placed below the volume rocker on the side to compensate for the larger size of the phone.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (11 of 20)

There are no capacitive keys below the display on the Ascend Mate 7, making for a very nice screen to panel ratio, and there’s a decided lack of elements used solely for decoration. On the back is where you’ll find the main addition to an otherwise minimalistic body, the fingerprint scanner. This is a press type scanner rather than swipe, and rests squarely below the camera optics. While the device is quite thin, the camera optics do stick out a little bit, which is something to watch out for.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (7 of 20)

Overall, this is a very attractive device, and Huawei has once again proved they have a good grasp on design language. There’s no denying that it is a huge phone though, and it is simply unwieldy when using it with one hand. Even with large hands, getting around to the top elements of the phone is going to be very difficult. Thankfully, there are some software features that help alleviate this.

huawei ascend mate 7 first look aa (2 of 21)

We’ve already mentioned the 6-inch screen and its implications on handling, but this 1080p display, with a pixel density of 368 ppi, allows for a pretty awesome experience. Larger screens often get a bad rap because of the size, but then are equally heralded for bringing a nice media experience, and that’s exactly what happens here.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (19 of 20)

Contrast is where it should be, while the brightness keeps everything quite visible in any condition. You can change what the color temperature of the display is, but the default setting is already good enough and you probably won’t need to tamper with it.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (10 of 20)

Huawei tends to make performance their own responsibility with in-house packages, and that’s what we get in the Ascend Mate 7 as well. A HiSilicon Kirin 925, as it is called, brings a 1.8GHz quad-core Cortex A15 together with another quad-core Cortex A7 clocked in at 1.3GHz, both working in conjunction, allowing for a very optimized performance, similar to what you’d expect from any high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (5 of 20)

Getting through the various elements of the Emotion UI is a breeze, as are all application experiences, including gaming. There have rarely been any instances of lag when doing general multi-tasking, with the only hiccup being in the Recent Apps screen, which has to load screen previews before presenting the grid, which slows things down a bit.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (13 of 20)

Even though the Ascend Mate 7 is available primarily outside of North America, this unit was still able to connect to LTE networks on T-Mobile and AT&T. It does struggle with maintaining the connection from time to time, but the mobile network experience has been reliable for the most part. Call quality is also good, with calls coming in quite clear at both ends of the line.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (15 of 20)

MicroSD expansion does bolster the included 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage, which also determines the RAM you get, with 2 GB of 3 GB of RAM available depending on which option you choose. Including all of the usual smartphone goodies like Bluetooth and NFC, you get a standard high-end hardware package under the hood. Battery life proved to be worthy of the big phone stereotype, with the large 4,100 mAh unit of the Ascend Mate 7 surviving two days before clocking out with above moderate usage. Even if the screen-on time was doubled, a solid day and a half of very heavy usage would still be possible.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (14 of 20)

Nestled right on the body at the back is probably Huawei’s biggest claim to fame with their largest flagship, and that is the fingerprint reader. Similar to the version found on the HTC One Max,, the Ascend Mate 7 requires a touch input rather than swipes, and its setup does look familiar to that of iOS.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 Beautiful

What makes the fingerprint reader on this device so nice is the fact that once set up, you can use it at any time to unlock the phone. Even from the prone standby position, just holding a finger to the area for a second will wake and unlock the device, making access that much easier. Security aside, if it takes much longer to use my finger to unlock my phone, I’m probably not going to use it, which has happened with other devices, but is absolutely not the case with the Ascend Mate 7. Just about everyone can stand to learn a thing or two from Huawei’s great implementation.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 fingerprint reader-7

A 13 megapixel shooter adorns the rear, while another 5 megapixel iteration graces the front of the Ascend Mate 7, with a few different modes available for either camera.

huawei ascend mate 7 first look aa (1 of 2)

All-focus is another take on the depth of field snapping that takes a few pictures at different focus levels. A great panorama mode stitches together an entire scene quite well and yields some large files. HDR is available, but in my shooting, I found it to do absolutely nothing to enhance most photos. And finally, there is a feature where you can quickly double tap the volume down button in order to get a really quick shot off. It’s definitely more about speed than quality in this instance, so focus will almost always be off and you can only hope you framed your shot correctly. So while an intriguing feature, what the phone will go out of its way to tell you was a 1.2 second capture time, will probably turn into four times that when you then get the right focus and take the proper shot. On the front, the usual beauty mode found on the current crop of “selfie” camera apps returns, bringing real time blemish hiding. For a better looking self portrait, a small box appears on the top left to help you actually look in the lens’ direction.

As far as quality goes, I found the Ascend Mate 7 to have a more than decent shooter. Details are well captured and noise levels, even in night settings, don’t destroy most images. The interface is pretty simple to navigate, and in most cases just picking up the phone and shooting yielded a nice capture. Even the front-facing camera proved to be a good shooter, though I’m still wary of the beauty modes. Nonetheless, having a higher megapixel count for self portraits seems to be the trend now, and the Ascend Mate 7 doesn’t disappoint in this regard.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (8 of 20)

Before diving into the nuances of the software experience, one thing worth mentioning right away is that there isn’t an application drawer. That said, given how much the Emotion UI has matured compared to previous iterations, you won’t find yourself missing it as much. The Emotion UI has kept its flat, simple interface, and as such, you’ll be making use of folders a lot, but getting  underneath the homescreens is where you’ll find a plethora of small, yet useful, additions.

huawei ascend mate 7 first look aa (20 of 21)

For starters, using a phone of this size is helped a bit by a one hand interface that can be moved around by holding a finger down on the screen and tilting the phone left or right. It’s not a perfect implementation, but has come in handy in a one-handed pinch. A button made just for bringing down the notification shade became an immediate and lasting addition.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (16 of 20)

A number of tools are preloaded to help in various situations, like a mirror for checking yourself, or a magnifier that will use the rear camera to make small text easier to view. There were a lot of small details that stood out, like in the Gallery where you can drag down to open a quick camera interface, or in the notification dropdown, which has a nice way of presenting, chronologically, your received notifications.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (17 of 20)

In a lot of ways, elements of the Emotion UI look like what we will find in the Android 5.0 Lollipop release, and the forward thinking on Huawei’s part makes this KitKat powered Android one of the nicest iterations, even if it doesn’t have the app drawer. All of this is theme-able through a built-in application, though only a limited number of themes are available at the moment. Of all the Asian iterations of the Android interface, Emotion might be one of the best we’ve used. With a few key features included that actually prove useful, its snappy minimalism is undeniable.

With no option of subsidized rates available, the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 features an expected price tag of around $700, when imported from markets that the device is currently available in. North American users will have to wait for their official release, but Huawei has expressed a strong desire to move into more Western markets.

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (12 of 20)

HUAWEI ASCEND MATE 7 EDITORS CHOICESo, there you have it – the Huawei Ascend Mate 7! This is the biggest offering from Huawei in more ways than one. After some really solid mid-range offerings, we’re happy to see Huawei succeed in the flagship space, showing off how they do fingerprint reading in particular.

editorschoice_four half starsTheir Android iteration is certainly no slouch and proves to be a snappy, pleasing experience as well. Even the in-house processing package brings the performance you want, with the battery life big phone users require. If you want to get the most out of the Ascend Mate 7, setting up the fingerprint reader is a must, and then you’ll find that its quickness and ease of use permeates throughout the phone, minus the handling experience associated with the large size of course.

Given the direction the smartphone flagship market has been going, we’re not surprised Huawei put everything into their latest and greatest. And their success is exactly why we give it the Editor’s Choice award, for making it crystal clear that Huawei is a real threat to our current smartphone kings.

  • Steve Hartsock

    Sweet looking phone.

  • The_Prodigy

    I hate how a lot of the Asian smartphone companies try to make their Android skins look more like iOS.

    • especially the folders and like of an app drawer. Why the f*** do they do this? It just brings down the reputation of Android as a whole and it makes it feel cheap and unoriginal.

    • fakof

      your just a racist.. that is

      • The_Prodigy

        Please!

    • Bassiou

      totally agreed
      not just the theme, also the body design is similar to HTC

  • I have no doubt that the Ascend Mate 7 is a good looking and pretty fast phablet, however two thoughts:
    1. I agree with the review, the UI is not for everyone. It is a terrible UI that even a good Android launcher has trouble fixing. Nova seems to be the best and doesn’t crash unlike the Action Launcher does on the Ascend Mate 2.

    2. But the main concern would be since Huawei hasn’t updated the Ascend Mate 2 to KitKat (and has announced they wouldn’t), what makes anyone think that Huawei will update the Ascend Mate 7? They talk about updating future products, but they don’t seem to support there current devices. Keep in mind that the Ascend Mate 2 is only 4 months or so old. Not supporting a device for at least 18 months after release makes a device really old, really fast.

    Just a thought.

    • JayMars84

      Even without official updates, you could normally count on a ROM, but this phone will likely have little to no developer support. That’s what turned me away.

      • While all of my previous devices have been rooted with cyanogenmod (you know the dead simple app) — Nexus 7, Galaxy Nexus, SGS2, this one (Ascend Mate 2, not 7) I haven’t and really wasn’t planning on it. I would have preferred not too and just get simply updates.

    • Faux-News

      terrible UI ? Dont tell me your one of those who want the ice cream sandwich looks back.

      Anyway visit “emuidotcom” to see indepth of the UI and its significant features.

      • Have you ever used the Ascend Mate 2 or Ascend Mate 7 UI? To me, its terrible. No app drawer and its not very pretty. Yes it has a few good features including power saver mode, but it just doesn’t do it. So I use Nova Launcher for now and actually I like the Ice Cream Sandwich Google Search bar on top with the app drawer on the top right. Of course mine looks like a simply stock Android look with the app drawer at the bottom.

        • Faux-News

          Ofcourse, been using Huawei for past year and now on the honor 6 with Emui3.0. And loving it. No way in hell will i ever use stock android which is the most boring UI ever, like in the middle of a desert. Ill give an exception for Android L which has finally copied some of the features that other customized UI has been offering for ages, but even than i wouldn’t last long on stock Android L. I just want those base code improvements implemented on Huawei’s rom which will happen with android update.

          Ofcourse i understand many prefer the stock android, but don’t let that bias call other UIs as “terrible” when even the review here says it is one of the best implemented skins.

          • Well like I said above “To me, its terrible”, key being to me and I agree with the review, its not for everyone. And I like the stock Android look. Sure the Huawei UI has a few nice features, but its just not for me. As a matter of fact, I cant even stand Touchwiz, all these skins and extras I don’t need. But keep in mind that I previously owned a Nexus 7 (2012) and Samsung Galaxy Nexus and that is pure stock android. Nothing better to me.

  • samposekroa

    vvv

  • samposekroa

    If you are single, perhaps
    you can have a try~~~B l a ҫ k White Hub. C/ o/ M~~~~

    Bl ȃ
    ck people meeting whîte people is why it here. Then j o i n thousands of
    members sîte find you dream pȃrtner. This is a paradise where love is color
    blind . BEST ONLîNE SîTE Specialîze in bringing together Śîngles who want to
    date different races. If you think black and white is a beautiful
    combinations this site is for you.xcbxcb

  • Heiko Quant

    Its a beautiful Phone and after getting used to the UI, EMUI is pretty nice as well. I switched back to it from Nova. Sure, the missing app drawer is awkward at first. But an App drawer is no perfect solution either. Adding and removing apps constantly changes the position of apps making it hard to remember where to find them. Configured to differnt startscreens you don’t have that problem. The spotlight search is pretty nifty too. After a couple of days, I don’t miss the app drawer any more. The lacking update policy is a valid point though. Let’s just hope Huawei learned from the Mate 2 desaster.

  • Anonymousfella

    Those bezels! *-*

  • oSIRus

    What game is this at 2:23 in the video?

    • oSIRus

      Never mind, it’s Leo’s Fortune.

  • David Košič

    Too bad the gpu isn’t that great. The phone probably deserves a better gpu than it got.

  • I would think by now we’d be sufficiently used to phablets that reviewers would stop listing large size as a “con” – it’s what I’m looking for because I want a mini-tablet not something that is mainly a phone. Anything 5.2 and smaller is too small for me. You could at least that large is a con for those who want small.

  • SexyBadBoy

    Is this phone are good for gaming ? Is that fine when we look at videos ? Is that there are lags and slowdowns ? Is that it is fluid when surfing on the net and between screens ?

  • Lucasa Babarica

    If you want update, walk away. Huawei never updates. They just dropped Mate 2, which is forever stuck at 4.3.

    • souver

      That’s because it is in the us. Phones with huawei’s own chipset gets updated genreally. Ascend P6, mediapad and the honor 3x and 3c all got kikat. Ascend mate 7 will most likely get lolipop.

  • Soulunion4life .

    hello im kinda new to this mobile thing and have had an note 3 for awhile and recently changed to huawei ascend mate 7, and some games are not available to this phone that i could play on my note 3, (like limbo) why is that and is there a way around it?

  • knize10

    Great phone, way to go HUAWEI.

  • LUCKYGIRLSHAZ

    I would avoid buying the Huawei Mate 7, I had one but hated the camera, very poor in low light conditions. It was loaded with bloatware and struggled playing some of last year’s games, eventually it overheated playing real racing, and never switched on again. The Huawei support even at management level was non existent for me. There are better, more powerful phablets at half the price.