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Thread: Our Huawei Ascend Mate 2 review

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    Our Huawei Ascend Mate 2 review

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    When Samsung introduced the first Galaxy Note, (let’s conveniently forget about the Dell Streak 5) it spawn a new class of device; the Phablet. What is a phablet? Phone + Tablet. Back then, it was phone that had screen that was bigger than 5” and to a lesser degree, a phone that doesn’t fit in your back pocket. However, in the 3 years since we started talking about phablets, regular smartphones have been creeping up in size to the point now that there are many devices with 5” or bigger screens which we don’t really think of as phablets. Take for example the Blu Studio 5.0C HD or the ZTE Grand X (review coming soon). Both have 5” displays, and are quite inexpensive at around $150. people don’t usually consider those to be phablets.

    So these days, what makes a phone a phablet? Since many phones are now bigger than 5” and many don’t even try to fit in a back pocket, I’d say a Phablet is anything with a screen bigger than 5.5”. 0.5” doesn’t sound like a lot but it actually makes a big difference.

    Now we have some mild phablets like the Galaxy Note II which has a 5.5” screen. Then we have big phablets like the Huawei Ascend Mate 2 4G which I’m checking out today with is rocking a 6.1” display.

    At 6.1” and $399 from Wind or $299 unlocked from Huawei in the US, the Mate 2 doesn’t have a lot of competitors. Aside from the 6.1” LG G Flex which priced at a much higher price point, I can’t think of any other 6”+ phones available from carriers right now. Last year we also had the high-end 6.44” Sony Xperia Z Ultra and upper, midrange 6.3” Samsung Galaxy Mega. Since then, both phones have been discontinued and are no longer available.

    This pretty much leaves the Mate 2 unopposed in the ‘bigger than 6 inch’ segment of the market. Really, the closest competitors that I can think of are the Acer Liquid S1 and the Samsung Galaxy Note II. The S1 only because it comes with a 5.7” screen which makes it one of the bigger phones on the market. The Note II has a 5.5” screen which is a lot smaller but at $300, it’s priced pretty aggressively.

    You could argue that cheaper phones with better specs like the Nexus 5 are a better buy (and in many ways they are) but sometimes there’s no replacement for a bigger display.

    What about the Acer Liquid S1:

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    The S1 is sold unlocked for around $379.99. To be honest, other than being unlocked, and having a removable battery, there’s no reason to pick one up over the Mate 2. The Mate 2 beats it in almost every other measure. The Mate 2 has a bigger screen, faster processor, more RAM, better build quality, more storage, LTE, bigger battery, better camera, and a more recent version of Android.

    Samsung Galaxy Note II:

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    The Note II is now available for $300. While the Note II has been around for 2 years now and launched with Android 4.1, it’s now rocking Android 4.4.2. Whether it will receive any more updates is anyone’s guess. I’m thinking no, but I’d love for Samsung to prove me wrong. Anyways, 4.4 is one version newer than what the Mate 2 comes with.

    Digging deeper, at 5.5”, the Note II’s screen is a lot smaller than the Mate 2’s though both have the same resolution. The Note II has physical menu buttons, that means you get all 5.5” to play with whereas on the Mate 2, the on-screen buttons reduce the usable screen real estate a little bit.

    The Note II has a Super AMOLED screen which has very deep blacks but other than that, the Mate 2’s is better. It’s brighter and it runs circles around the Note II outdoors in direct sunlight.

    The Mate 2’s Snapdragon 400 SoC has roughly the same general performance and faster graphics performance.

    Both have 2GB of RAM which is more than most people need and 16GB of storage which is expandable with MicroSD cards.

    While both support LTE, the Mate 2 supports more LTE bands which makes it more versatile.

    The Note II has Samsung’s S-Pen stylus which as far as stylii goes, is the best you’ll find on a phone. The Mate 2 counters with a much bigger battery and slightly better cameras.

    To be honest, if I had to choose between the 2, I’d pick the Mate 2. If you’re going to buy a phone that’s too big for one hand, you might as well go all out.

    Specs:

    6.1” 1280x720 LTPS display
    Gorilla Glass 3 covered display
    1.6Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with Adreno 305 GPU
    2GB RAM
    16GB Storage
    MicroSD slot
    13 megapixel rear camera
    5 megapixel front facing camera with 88 degree field of view
    3900mAh battery
    Android 4.3
    LTE
    6.3 x 3.3 x 0.37”
    202g

    Body:

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    Build quality is excellent.

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    The sides have a slick metal finish while the back has a pattern on it that’s covered with a clear coat. The back cover is removable.

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    I was pretty excited when I noticed this because I’ve always wanted to see how big a ~4000mAh battery is but as it turns out, while the cover is removable, the battery isn’t because it’s hidden behind a metal shield. I suppose the shield is there to provide the Mate 2 with some extra rigidity.

    Despite the large size, the Mate 2 is a really easy phone to handle. The bezels and sides are the perfect shape and size. You’ll never press the screen by accident. Like the Mate 2, Huawei has ditched the dedicated menu buttons in favor of on-screen ones which is great for a usability standpoint.

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    Since we’re talking about size, the Mate 2 is way too big to fit in most back pockets; then again, you could say the same about all the recent Android flagships. It fits in my front pockets just fine but you might have trouble if you you wear skinny jeans. So if you pick one up, make sure you either have a big pocket to put it in, or a purse.

    The side buttons stick out and have a knurled finish on them so they’re easy to find.

    While it’s not a super thin phone, it’s the right thickness so it fits nicely in your hand.

    The power button is halfway down the right side which is the right place for it given the Mate 2’s size.

    The Mate 2 is easily one of the easiest phones to use. It’s ergonomics are tablet like - while you do need to use 2 hands; 2 handed usage comes very naturally to it.

    Display:

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    Like the original Mate, the Mate 2 has a 6.1” 1280x720 LCD display with a ppi of around 240ppi. 240ppi isn’t terribly sharp but the thing is, most people tend to hold bigger displays further away. So while 240ppi isn’t ideal, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

    Practically speaking, I do see that text is a little jagged but I’m not really bothered by it because the large screen size keeps everything readable. By default, the Mate 2 also uses fairly large fonts and frankly, everything on it is pretty big which partially mitigates the lower ppi.

    It’s a fairly bright display which is almost as bright as many Android flagships.

    They’ve taken a page from Sony and installed a PET plastic screen protector over the display. The idea is that this makes the screen pretty much shatter proof. The problem is that plastic scratches pretty easily so the Mate 2 screen will look scuffed up pretty quickly.

    What’s puzzling is that Huawei claims that the Mate 2 has a Gorilla Glass 3 screen - aside from making a display shatter proof - I also find that plastic screen protectors are used because the manufacturer is trying to cover up the fact that they saved a few bucks by using an inferior screen. So I’m not sure why they put it on.

    Viewing angles are excellent as is outdoor performance.

    The screen works well outdoors in direct sunlight.

    Overall, the software on the Mate 2 and the size of the screen are a good match.

    One feature that's been mentioned about the Mate 2 is that it can be used to charge other devices. To do this you'll need an USB OTG cable and a Micro USB cable. I tried this and it works but the thing is, you can do this with almost any Android phone so it's not an ability that's specific to the Mate 2.

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    Nothing to see on the left side


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    Volume and power buttons on the right side

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    Microphone and headphone jack on the top

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    Microphone and MicroUSB on the bottom.


    Camera:

    The camera has been upgraded to a 13 megapixel unit.

    It focuses quickly. there is virtually no shutter lag. Shot to shot speeds are very good - the Mate 2 might have the fastest camera out of all the various Snapdragon 400 phones I have tried.

    Image quality is good for the price. The 13 megapixel unit takes pretty decent pictures even when there isn’t a lot of light. Dynamic range isn’t as good as some Android flagships but it’s still very usable. Noise levels are reasonable and colour is usually good.

    The only thing I didn’t really like about the camera is that it tends to pump the focus when it loses facial recognition lock.

    Video looks fine but the microphone is pretty terrible. It picks up lots of handling noise plus it makes everything sound like it’s in a box. This is one of the worst things about the Mate 2.

    The front-facing camera is a 5 megapixel unit has a really wide angle. This is good if you want to use the camera to take a picture of a group of friends. If you want to just take a selfie you can zoom in or just hold it closer. Just watch out, moving it closer may cause some perspective distortion since you have to hold it fairly close.

    Image quality seems fine but I wish it was a little more sensitive in case you’re using it when it’s dark. Since the Mate 2 has such a large, bright screen, I kind of wish there was an option to use edges of the screen as a light source for when it’s dark like you can on the LG G3.

    Software:

    Like other Huawei phones, the Mate 2 uses their Emotion UI which swaps the Android, home screen/app drawer paradigm with just a bunch of home screens like iOS. If you don't’ like it, go download a different launcher.

    There is an option for one-handed mode. I didn’t look very hard but the only time I noticed it is when I’m making a phone call, the options are pushed to one side so that they’re easier to reach with one hand.

    As I’m writing this, the Mate 2 is running on Android 4.3. If you’re the type of person who wants to always have the latest version of Android you might want to keep looking because Huawei doesn’t have a great track record of updating their devices. I have a the original Mate which launched with 4.1. In the year I’ve had it, it never received a single over-the-air update. That said, if you’re willing to do a little bit of leg work, there is an official 4.2 update which you can download and install yourself (just put it on a MicroSD). It’s not 4.3 or 4.4 but it’s better than nothing. I expect keeping the Mate 2 up to date will require similar effort with similar results.

    The screen is the perfect size for using an on-screen keyboard. If you’re a fast typer, I find the haptics on the Mate 2 throw me off. If you type fast do yourself a favour and turn the haptics off.

    I thought it was really strange that the Mate 2 doesn't have any switches when you pull down the notification area. As it turns out, there's an option for it in the menu but it's grayed out.

    Performance:

    Inside is a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400. Typically, 400’s are clocked at 1.2 or 1.4Ghz but on the Mate 2 it runs at 1.6Ghz.

    Compared to the Exynos SoC in the Note II, the 400 in the Mate 2 is very similar.

    In browsing benchmarks the Note II pulls ahead slightly.
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    Ditto for FFmpeg (an encoding program):
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    The 400 does pull ahead convincingly in gaming benchmarks:
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    Here’s the Antutu score:
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    Media capabilities:

    The headphone amp is insanely powerful, I don’t have an HTC One M8 around to compare with, but I think the Mate 2 is almost as loud as the M8.

    Sound quality isn’t bad. It’s very meaty sounding with powerful but not boomy bass, while still retaining a lot of clarity. Some may be turned off by this but I think most will like it.

    There is a “DTS” setting in the sound settings but to be honest, I don’t think it does anything to the headphone out.

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    The speaker on the back is also quite loud and it does have slightly more bass than your average speaker but overall, it’s a little sloppy sounding.

    Included is 16GB of storage of which 12.7GB is available. If that’s not enough you can also add MicroSD cards.

    If you watch a lot of video, then you’ll love the 6.1” screen. Since the Mate 2 lacks physical menu buttons and isn’t too thin, it’s very easy to hold for extended periods of time.

    As a Phone:

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    Sound quality is good balance between clean (processed) and harsh (neutral sounding). Maximum earpiece volume is below average. The speakerphone maximum volume is also below average which is puzzling. I assume that its easier to make a larger phone louder.

    RF performance is very good.

    Included is a large 3900mAh battery. It will last the full day for pretty much anyone and depending on how much you use your phone, a second day for some too.

    Connectivity:

    • 802.11AC
    • 2.4/5Ghz WiFi
    • LTE: Band 2, 4, 5 and 17
    • LTE Cat 4 support
    • Bluetooth 4.0
    • No NFC


    I’m not sure how it goes in the US but most phones sold here in Canada that support LTE show ‘LTE’ when they’re connected to a LTE network. The Mate 2 just shows ‘4G’ when it has an LTE connection.

    Conclusion:

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    Overall I really liked the Huawei Ascend Mate 2. While it’s $399 ($299 in the US) price tag doesn’t have high-end pretensions - it’s a solid, well rounded phone.

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    The ergonomics are almost perfect for a phone of its size and it doesn’t really have any glaring weaknesses. I like how Huawei includes 2GB of RAM - a feature that isn’t very common at its price point.

    A 6.1” phone does take some getting used to but once you do, it’s a very intuitive device. The 1280x720 may make some people think twice. But remember, the Mate 2 has a big display which you’ll naturally hold a little further away. When you do that the lower resolution isn’t a big deal.

    I’ll be honest, I really like the Mate 2 and despite it’s mid-range specs, I thought it was more than the sum of its parts. I’d give it 4 out of 5 Howies but I have to take off half a Howie because the earpiece and speakerphone aren’t loud enough and because the microphone is appalling when you’re recording video.

    3.5 Howies out of 5.

    Pros:
    • Large screen
    • Long battery life
    • Screen


    Cons:
    • Quiet earpiece
    • Quiet speakerphone.
    • Microphone sounds weird and picks up a lot of handling noise when recording video
    Last edited by howard; 09-04-2014 at 10:38 AM.

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    Would have loved to see how the Mate 2 compares to the Mate
    If any improvements over older model or even if battery lasts longer
    It is sad I need to state the obvious but some people just don't get it. Any posts I make are my own OPINIONS and in no way represent the views of my employer

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    Howard, is there an issue for your Mate 2 when you turn on and off the wifi? On my Mate 2, whenever i turn off the wifi and i checked the battery stats, The wifi stays on despite turning it off. The only solution to fix it is to turn on airplane mode and turn it back off.

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    Howard

    So even with a screen over 1/2" bigger and thus a lower PPI than the Note 2, the Mate 2's display looks better? Is that your assessment?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie500 View Post
    Howard

    So even with a screen over 1/2" bigger and thus a lower PPI than the Note 2, the Mate 2's display looks better? Is that your assessment?
    Yes, because it's brighter and works better outdoors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RSX View Post
    Howard, is there an issue for your Mate 2 when you turn on and off the wifi? On my Mate 2, whenever i turn off the wifi and i checked the battery stats, The wifi stays on despite turning it off. The only solution to fix it is to turn on airplane mode and turn it back off.
    I'll try this tomorrow and report back.

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    I've been on the fence on this device..

    Wish it was $299 and not $399... everywhere else has it for 299.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dc2000 View Post
    I've been on the fence on this device..

    Wish it was $299 and not $399... everywhere else has it for 299.
    Just take a quick trip to the States to get reduced price

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    Quote Originally Posted by RSX View Post
    Howard, is there an issue for your Mate 2 when you turn on and off the wifi? On my Mate 2, whenever i turn off the wifi and i checked the battery stats, The wifi stays on despite turning it off. The only solution to fix it is to turn on airplane mode and turn it back off.
    I have this problem too. But when the WiFi is off (even when the power manager says it's on), I'm not able to get online via WiFi.

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    Quote Originally Posted by howard View Post
    I have this problem too. But when the WiFi is off (even when the power manager says it's on), I'm not able to get online via WiFi.

    Strange, doesn't seem to happen on mine with the issue you have.

    Thanks Howard, I sent a message to the people at Huawei Usa about the issue already. Hopefully they will fix this problem with the Kit Kat upgrade. On their Huawei blog, they confirmed that the Mate 2 will be upgraded to Kit Kat.

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    Great review, as usual, Howard
    If you really wan't a phablet on the cheap, even cheaper than this one, try out the Blu Life View. It's got a huge 1280x720p 5.7" screen, has a 12mp rear/5mp front camera, is running 4.2, has a good sized battery(I get over a day of usage easily), Quad core MediaTek processor, and is built really well for the low price of around $200.00-220.00US. It's also a dual sim phone for those who need that function. The drawbacks are only 16GB of ram/1GB rom, no sd slot and the battery is as fixed as the Mate's is. But if you use cloud storage, the lack of an sd slot isn't that bad, and at least the battery is a good one with above average life. It's also strictly 4G, no LTE here, but it's really fast on T-Mobile's network. For the money, it''s a sweet phone I'll do a video/ written review of it next week and put it up on here if anyone is interested.

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    Great review Howard! The specs for the price for this phablet is an amazing value. In real life, price is always a factor, so it's great that you compared it to similarly priced phones off contract.
    Best Value Flagship Phones - OnePlus 3T, Huawei Nexus 6P, ZTE Axon 7
    Best Value Low Cost Phones - ZTE ZMax Pro; Moto E4

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    Quote Originally Posted by kav2001c View Post
    Just take a quick trip to the States to get reduced price
    I can't :'(

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    Quote Originally Posted by dc2000 View Post
    I've been on the fence on this device..

    Wish it was $299 and not $399... everywhere else has it for 299.
    no need to take a trip, it is $299- here as well via CanadaGsm http://www.canadagsm.ca/products-Hua...-4G-61-Phablet
    Phones using: Honor Play 6GB 128GB,wife using LG G7 One, son using iPhone XR,daughter using iPhone XR, Youngest son using Xiaomi Redmi 5.

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    After seeing the Mate7 from IFA, I'm going to hold out for that but the Mate 2 really does look like quite a phone for the price. Only thing I've picked up though about the 7 is that the outdoor performance with the 1080p screen isn't as bright as the 2 so that may come into play.

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